Friday, July 29, 2016

Chicken Ranch anniversary: Marvin Zindler (1921-2007)

On this date in 2007, KTRK consumer affairs reporter Marvin Zindler died of pancreatic cancer.

Zindler, of course, is forever linked with the Chicken Ranch, as his series of exposés on the brothel directly led to its closure. And for that reason, many people (mostly men) who are old enough to remember curse his name. Despite being a raging egomaniac, he was a powerful champion of the downtrodden in his lifetime, and did a tremendous amount of good. Where the Chicken Ranch was concerned, he let his lust for fame and the spotlight get the better of him, and this allowed people with a vendetta against the Chicken Ranch to manipulate him from a distance. Zindler was a person who firmly believed in his own righteous infallibility, and once it became clear the vast organized crime conspiracy behind the Chicken Ranch's operation did not exist, well, Zindler doubled down on the conspiracy angle rather than admitting he'd been duped. He went to his grave insisting on criminal conspiracy and corruption, although he was never able to prove any of his claims.

Despite this, nobody could argue Zindler wasn't committed to his job. Despite constant pain from the cancer destroying him, he insisted on delivering his restaurant report from his hospital bed on July 20. It proved to be his final report. Just over a week later, he was dead. [Hat tip to Dan Zindler for catching a date error in my initial post.]

Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse is now listed on both and for pre-order.

Title: Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse
Author: Jayme Lynn Blaschke
Publication Date: August 1, 2016
ISBN: 978.1.46713.563.4

Now Playing: Pink Floyd Animals
Chicken Ranch Central


  1. This article is Gibberish, he passed away on July 29th (I was there), so how could he have delivered his restaurant report on August 20 from his hospital bed as you say. You have no clue about what you are writing.

  2. Howdy Dan. Thanks for the catch! You are, of course, correct. Your father delivered his final report on July 20, not August 20. Forgive my typo--I will correct the oversight.

    I've tried to locate your late father's archives/papers, but have not been successful. I recall vaguely that they were donated to an archive/library/museum some years ago, but have not been able to identify the repository. If you could point me in the right direction, I'd be grateful.

    1. I donated several items unrelated to La Grange to the Houston Library. Your article seems to be based more on the play Best Little White house than reality. If you'd actually had known my father your blog might have a different point of view. His last story actually aired on JUly 28, Saturday evening. The staff at 13 joined us in the hospital room to watch it with us.

    2. That's very interesting. I tried contacting your family repeatedly during the years I was writing the book, but never received any response. Your father seemed to have the only surviving copy of the DPS investigation report from 1971-72 (at least, he seemed to still have it at the time the Agris book was published). The Broadway musical was painted in very broad strokes (Larry King was interested more in telling an entertaining story than documenting history) and the Burt Reynolds film is pretty much a Burt Reynolds film.

      I'd very much have liked to interview your father, but alas, it was his death that made me realize there'd never been a comprehensive history written of the place and its closure. I'm under no illusions that my book is flawless, and more than welcome any corrections to the record. But I'm pretty proud of my research. For instance, to my knowledge, nobody had previously connected the Wagon Wheel outside of Sealy with the Salvato family of Galveston County casino infamy, or the Houston DPS Criminal Intelligence Office recruiting Assistant AG Herb Hancock into its sketchy vendetta against the brothels.

      Any way you slice it, the events that summer were very complicated and not at all black and white. The one-note punchline the affair has become doesn't do any of the history justice.

  3. I'm not aware of any documents he had from the DPS. It was the DPS that tipped him off. He was very transparent about his investigation which had nothing to do with being "egotistical". The man was passionate about the law and since you you did not know him personally your opinion about him can only be based on media or third party accounts. One day I'll need to take a look at your book.

  4. Fair enough. I'm always open to correcting factual errors. Nice speaking with you.