Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Gary Cartwright (1934-2017)

Well, hell. Legendary Texas writer and hellraiser Gary Cartwright died today following a fall in his home. An Arlington native, he attended the University of Texas briefly before transferring and graduating from TCU. He went into newspapers, but didn't stay there. A decades-long contributor to Texas Monthly, he wrote all sorts of fantastic magazine articles and books, but specialized in true crime. His Cullen Davis trial work is the stuff of legend.

More personally, he talked with me quite a bit when I was working on Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch. Truth be told, he tried to discourage me from the project for a time, telling me that Larry King had already written all there was to know about that topic, and that nobody could ever top King. I respectfully disagreed. Thinking my Chicken Ranch research amounted to tilting at windmills didn't stop Cartwright from sharing some great stories with me, however.

Growing up between Dallas and Fort Worth, Cartwright was no stranger to brothels. The lower end of Fort Worth had more brothels than anyone could shake a stick at, with a handful of prostitutes working each of the old flophouse hotels that dominated that part of the city. The big thing to do for boys in high school in Arlington was to drive over to Fort Worth and pay the going rate of three dollars to spend a few quick minutes with one of the flophouse whores.

“It seems like nothing now, but at the time three dollars was fairly dear. At La Grange the price was five dollars, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh, my God, this must really be a classy joint!’” Cartwright said. “This one girl came over and started talking to me. Her name was Patsy, and she was from Highland Park in Dallas. Highland Park was kind of the ritzy, silk stocking area of Dallas, so I was impressed. Here was this hooker from Highland Park! That added a little cachet to the situation.

“She was skinny, blond, not particularly attractive but not unattractive. The other girls in the room were about the same—no real knockouts but no dogs, either. Eventually, we went to one of the rooms, and the whole thing lasted three minutes, four minutes, then it was over,” he said. “I went back and sat in the waiting room. The socializing in the living room section was probably more memorable than the actual sex, which, as I said, lasted almost no time.”
Cartwright's literary archive is curated by the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University.

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1 comment:

  1. One of my writing heroes. I started following his career when he and Bud Shrake (another of my heroes) were writing sports for the Dallas Morning News and continued right along. I was lucky enough to meet him once and tell him how much I'd enjoyed his work over the years. Met Shrake once, too. Wish I'd had more time to talk to both of them.