Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Who's tired of hearing about the Chicken Ranch?

I'm sure some folks are tired of hearing about the Chicken Ranch, but not too many of them are voicing that concern to me. Take last week, for instance. On Thursday, I found myself in San Antonio speaking at the Stone Oak Rotary Club. What a great bunch of people they were! Dean Bentle had caught my presentation last month at the Woman's Club of San Antonio and was, I suppose, entertained enough to invite me over to regale his Rotarians. They made for an engaged, interested audience and once all was said and done, presented me with the nice certificate there to the right, along with a Rotary emblem made entirely out of chocolate! Do they know how to treat a guy right, or what?

When I wasn't speaking to the Rotarians, it seems I was speaking with Joe Holley at the Houston Chronicle, putting him in touch with various sources for his November 19 column "Will Fayette County ever outlive its Chicken Ranch history?" The short answer: No.

Some people are reporting trouble with the link, so here's my key quote from the write-up:

"I'd say 45 percent of the population think it's part of Texas history, and they should exploit it," [Blaschke] said from his office at Texas State University, where he's director of media relations. "Another 45 percent don't give it any never mind. And maybe 10 percent of the population just about spews blood out of their eyeballs if you even mention it."
The article goes on to quote County Judge Ed Janecka as opposing any public acknowledgement of the Chicken Ranch, any marketing of it as a tourist attraction. Instead, he wants tourists to come to town for the Texas Quilt Museum, Monument Hill and the Krische Brewery State Historic Site. Here's the thing: Although those are all worthy things in and of themselves, a quick Google search turns up dozens of quilt museums across the country. The National Quilt Museum is in Paducah, Kentucky. There are others in Colorado, Nebraska, Virginia, New England... How many of those has Judge Janecka personally visited? That's the thing--very few people are going to visit La Grange specifically for the attractions he and his supporters believe tourists should visit for, rather than the one famous attraction they do visit for. Even though it is long gone, the Chicken Ranch is never going away. Instead of fighting it, that 10 percent should use it as an enticement to tourists. Give them a map to a Historical Marker to look at and make them happy. That's maybe 15 minutes out of the tourist's visit, but what next? Include on that map information about Monument Hill and the Quilt Museum, plus Rohan Meadery and Rosemary's Vinyard. There's excellent dining options in La Grange, plus Weikel's Bakery serves up some pretty darn good kolaches. See where I'm going with this? Instead of complaining for 40-plus years that visitors only come to town to see the Chicken Ranch, use the Chicken Ranch to leverage their interest in all the other great things the town has to offer. It's a piece of history La Grange owns that no other city can touch, and the sooner they get over their faux-shame, the better off everyone will be. Heck, Dallas converted the Texas School Book Depository to a museum a very long time ago, and I guarantee that episode of history cast a far darker shadow over the city than the Chicken Ranch could ever match.

Enough of that soap boxing--I've got more interesting things coming up. In addition to the Houston Chronicle article, I've got another feature scheduled (I am told) to appear in the upcoming issue of Waco Today, due to be published by the Waco Tribune Herald November 23. This just happens to coincide with my book signing at the Waco Barnes and Noble 2-4 p.m. Saturday, November 26. There were some pretty strong ties between Waco and the Chicken Ranch, starting with the fact that the madam Jessie Williams, otherwise known as Fay Stewart, was born and raised in Waco. It should prove to be an entertaining afternoon, and I'm looking forward to having a good turnout. See you there!

Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse is now available from both Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com. It's also available as an ebook in the following formats: Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks and Kobo.

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