Friday, December 22, 2023

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Best Christmas song? Or best Christmas song ever? The Kinks' "Father Christmas".

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Amadeus Electric String Quartet.

Now Playing: Kacey Musgraves A Very Kacey Christmas
Chicken Ranch Central

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Kaiju theater: Godzilla Minus One

I finally saw Godzilla Minus One. I went on a Tuesday night and was equally surprised and delighted to see the screening was maybe 75% full. Contrast that with my previous experience of seeing a first-run Japanese Godzilla in theaters, when I was the only person there for a showing of Godzilla Millennium back in 2000. I have to report, with no degree of exaggeration, that Godzilla Minus One is easily the best Godzilla movie ever made. The conventional wisdom with Kaiju films is that the human characters/plots don't matter, that they are merely filler between monster fights. This is the first GOdzilla film where not only are the human characters compelling, but they are critical to framing the sheer scale and terror of Godzilla's rampage. This is what I was hoping we'd get (but didn't) with the U.S. Godzilla/Kong films (not in terms of plot, but rather in compelling human narrative, ie a smart script).

This is a film that has a LOT to say thematically about Japanese culture, WWII, PTSD, found family, the ease of dying vs. the difficulty of living, forgiveness, vengeance... I'm still processing it all.

The cinematography is lush and sophisticated. The direction is confident and intentional. The script is tight, thoughtful and very smart. The performers are all acting in an intense period drama... that just happens to have a giant Kaiju destroying cities. I won't go so far as to say this is the best film of the year as others have, but I will say it is among the best films of the year. It should absolutely earn a Oscar nomination in the best foreign film category.

While I don't think this is technically a remake of the original 1954 Godzilla, it is absolutely a remake. There is no way this film exists without that predecessor. So many story beats and visual cues are direct callbacks to that landmark movie. That said, this is its own film that is not slavishly retreading the trail blazed by the first. A significant part of the narrative was recycled from 1991's Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (a very fun film, but also a very dumb one) far more effectively than in that earlier film. Also, Isao Takahata's 1988 masterpiece Grave of the Fireflies echoes throughout. I never thought I'd say that about a Toho Godzilla film, but the comparisons are inescapable. My one complaint is that the monster design is influenced by 2016's Shin Godzilla, an interesting film but not my favorite Godzilla interpretation.

Not all in this film is doom and despair, however. I literally squeed in the theater when I saw what plane would be used in the finale. No spoilers, but this is literally my favorite fighter design of World War II and was the clearest sign that the filmmakers are 1) history buffs and 2) were pulling out all the stops.

Godzilla Minus One was produced for a reported $15 million. It looks like a $150 million film. Seriously. It is magnificent. Like Colossal did in 2016, it resets expectations of what stories Kaiju films are capable of telling. Among Godzilla Minus One, Shin Godzilla and the Godzilla anime trilogy, Toho is pushing the proverbial envelope with its Godzilla films. There is an inventiveness in these films, a willingness to think outside the box and take risks with a franchise recognized around the world. For this, I applaud them and hope they continue to surprise us for decades to come. If you have even passing interest in giant monster movies, so see this one. It's that good.

Now Playing: Various artists Ultra-Lounge Christmas Cocktails
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, November 17, 2023

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Ever since Wustfest last week I've been on a Falco kick. Which isn't unusual, as I have long enjoyed the music of that late Austrian pop star ever since he hit it big in the U.S. with "Rock Me Amadeus." So it is understandable how baffled I am that I am only now discovering this cover of "Rock Me Amadeus" by the supremely talented group, Amadeus-The Electric String Quartet. This is a magnificent interpretation of the song, combining Falco's pop hooks with Mozart's classical compositions in an elegant, high-energy, gonzo presentation. Seriously, this is gloriously nuts.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Julie London.

Now Playing: Ethel Azama Exotic Dreams
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, November 10, 2023

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Julie London started out as an actress but made an unplanned foray into jazz, where she became an absolutely dominant torch singer in the 50s and 60s despite having only a handful of actual hits. "Cry Me A River," is probably her best-known song, although she recorded close to three dozen albums in her career before smoking ruined her voice and forced her to stop singing. This sequence from the 1956 film "Girl Can't Help It" gives a hint of the charisma that made London such a star.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Shel Silverstein.

Now Playing: Various Artists Music for a Bachelor's Den, vol. 2
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, October 27, 2023

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

And now for something completely different: Shel Silverstein performing "Show It At The Beach," with a cameo from Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show (for whom Shel wrote several popular hits as well as multiple album cuts). Silverstein's prowess as a poet is well-lauded but his songwriting skills are often overlooked. His wry social commentary may be more relevant today than it was back in the 1970s when he recorded this.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Peter Gabriel.

Now Playing: Brian Wilson Smile
Chicken Ranch Central

Chicken Ranch anniversary: Sheriff T.J. Flournoy (1902-1982)

On this date in 1982, Fayette County Sheriff T.J. "Jim" Flournoy died at the age of 80. Big Jim, as he was known, was the longest-serving sheriff in Fayette County history, had a two-year run as a Texas Ranger during World War II and several stints as a deputy in various jurisdictions. He shot to fame, of course, by defending the Chicken Ranch brothel when KTRK-TV newsman Marvin Zindler campaigned to shut it down. Zindler returned to La Grange on December 30, 1974 to do a follow-up story, and that's where he encountered Sheriff Flournoy. The altercation ended with the Sheriff stomping on Zindler's toupée in the middle of the street, and Zindler heading back to Houston with several cracked ribs. Lawsuits flew back and forth for years, before the two eventually settled out of court.

Autographed copies of Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse 50th anniversary edition are available from my Big Cartel shop. It's also available as an ebook in the following formats: Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks and Kobo.

Now Playing: Buffalo Springfield Retrospective
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, October 20, 2023

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Peter Gabriel played Austin earlier this week. I wanted to see the show, as he's one of my favorite performers who I've yet to see live, but the stars did not align for me. Bummer. So instead I'll share the song of his that I love above all others "Shock the Monkey." My freshman year in college I dressed up as the "tribal" Peter from the video. I looked amazing with full face paint. Sadly, absolutely nobody knew what I was supposed to be. Typical.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Mike Curb Congregation.

Now Playing: Don Henley California Desperados
Chicken Ranch Central

Thursday, October 19, 2023

I watched all of Clone Wars so you don't have to (but maybe you should)

Darth Maul and Ahsoka Tano lightsaber duel from The Phantom Apprentice
So I watched the entirety of the Clone Wars animated series. I know there are many who are passionately devoted to this show and Dave Filoni is drawing on significant elements of continuity established therein for the live-action Disney+ shows, so I wanted to grok all the interconnected threads.

Being the obsessive that I am, I started with the Genndy Tartakovsky Clone Wars shorts. I didn't get Cartoon Network when they first aired so had never seen them. I'm glad I made the effort. Highly stylized and action-oriented, these shorts introduce character who play significant roles in Filoni's Clone Wars series, even if Tartakovsky's version is no longer canon.

The animated Clone Wars movie that launches the series introduces Padawan Ahsoka Tano and pairs her with Jedi Anakin Skywalker. This movie was met with much criticism upon release. It's not great. It tries very hard to be hip and edgy for pre-teens but only manages to come off as annoying. Quality wise, it's about on par with the direct-to-video animated sequels Disney used to pump out for their classic films. It is understandable why this one is not held in high regard. It almost put me off watching the series, but I soldiered on.

Seasons 1-4 of Clone Wars is much better, relatively speaking. I didn't feel it great, mind you. Compared to the animated shows aimed at kids from the 80s and 90s, yes, these episodes are more sophisticated and polished. There's still an echo of shoehorned "life lessons" apparent throughout, though. It's still a kid's show, albeit one parents can watch with their kids and not get too restless. The mid-Atlantic newsreel voiceover to start the episodes was certainly a choice, but I don't think every Star Wars project needs to replicate the opening crawl from the original films. The stylized animation took some getting used to but I came to accept it. So yeah, light years ahead of Ewok Adventures and Star Wars Droids.

Season 5 sees an interesting shift. Stand-alone and two-part episodes are abandoned in favor of five story arcs. Some are juvenile with those pesky life lessons, but others... Darth Maul returns. There is intrigue on Mandalore. Ahsoka is framed for murder and expelled from the Jedi Council. The series takes a serious turn and stops being a kiddie show. I take exception to George Lucas' revisionist history that Star Wars was "always a kids show." No, the original Star Wars was an "all ages" show. There's a big difference. In season 5 Filoni took Clone Wars from being a kids show to being an all ages show. It started feeling more like Star Wars and less like a Star Wars spinoff.

Season 6 and 7 came about after Clone Wars had been cancelled by Cartoon Network. At the time, they had 65 unfinished episodes in various stage of production for (presumably) three more full seasons. 25 of these unfinished episodes were ultimately completed (heavily referencing some of those other unfinished episodes that weren't so fortunate) to comprise two final seasons of 13 and 12 episodes. Again, these seasons lean heavily on multi-episode story arcs. What's more, they directly reference events from the prequels and build on the personalities of various clone troopers established earlier in the series. There are stakes here. Even a casual fan of Star Wars knows the ultimate outcome of many of these plotlines, but it's engrossing because we don't know how it will play out, who will live or who will die or who will fall somewhere in between. The final four episodes take place concurrently with events from Revenge of the Sith and presented as a story distinct from the rest of the Clone Wars series. And it works so well. The final two seasons of Clone Wars elevate all three of Lucas' Star Wars prequels, flawed though they may be. This isn't some backhanded compliment like saying JJ Abrams' sequel trilogy making the prequels look better in comparison. No, these final 25 episodes genuinely make the prequels better, filling in certain plot holes and adding context and character and a great deal of "what if?" for roads not taken.

It's doubtful seasons 1-4 could ever had achieved that level of sophistication and depth given the corporate and studio mandates Filoni was operating under, but the early cancellation likely gave him the freedom to go for broke and tell the stories he truly wanted to tell, corporate pushback be damned. If that's the case, then bravo, sir. Success on all counts.

Now Playing: The Moody Blues Time Traveller
Chicken Ranch Central

Sunday, October 15, 2023

2023 Annular Eclipse

Jayme in front of telescope during annular solar eclipse Oct. 14, 2023
So, the 2023 annular eclipse has come and gone. I have long harbored interest in astronomy, and by extension, astrophotography. Alas, due to a number of frustrations my efforts have dwindled almost nil over the past decade. The coming double-whammy of the anular eclipse and total solar eclipse sparked a stirring of ambition in me, and I resolved to photograph both. As New Braunfels is outside the zone of totality for both eclipses, I had to travel west to experience the full effect. Unsure of how many people would turn out for this thing (many otherwise free public parks were charging admission!) I hit upon setting up my viewing in a somewhat obscure picnic area on Interstate 10 between Boerne and Comfort. Sure enough, when I arrived shortly before 10 a.m. on Oct. 14, the picnic area was mostly deserted save for a handful of truckers pulled over to grab a bit of sleep.

I quickly staked out my preferred site and set up. For those intersted in the techical aspects, I used a Meade 645 Newtonian telescope with a basic, worm-screw tracking drive. I plugged the drive into a inverter connected to a deep-cycle marine battery for power. I rough aligned the tracking mount using a compass to determine north. Over the front of the scope I attached a filter I constructed using Baader Planetarium AstroSolar Safety Film--the same setup I used to photograph the transit of Venus a decade ago. The camera I used is a Rebet T3i modified for astrophotography. Camera settings were 100 ISO with a shutter speed of 1/2000. Aperture is f/5 set by the telescope. Focus was manual and seeing (turbulence in the atmosphere) was only fair, hampering my efforts to get really detailed images. To the camera I attached a Neewer remote programmed to trigger the camera once every 20 seconds, resulting in three photographs per minute.

The clouds stayed mostly away. I managed to capture some sunspots in my images but beyond that there was almost no detail for my simple setup to capture. In hindsight, I did better with focusing than I thought at the time. I'll be better prepared what to expect next April for the total eclipse. Ultimately, I ended up with 566 photos, start to finish. I'm working on a detailed edit of a selection of them, but here's a sampling with a quick bit of processing:

Annular eclipse from Texas Oct. 14, 2023

Annular eclipse from Texas Oct. 14, 2023

Annular eclipse from Texas Oct. 14, 2023

Annular eclipse from Texas Oct. 14, 2023

Annular eclipse from Texas Oct. 14, 2023

As i said, the picnic area was mostly deserted when I set up but it didn't stay that way for long. By peak eclipse I'd been joined by dozens of folks who pulled off the highway to watch. One guy from Houston had a nice little Celestron scope he was shooting the eclipse with--he hadn't set up any alignment but was using the electronic controls to slew the scope and manually track the sun. Another guy brought his daughter all the way from New Jersey(!) to see the spectacle--they'd originally planned to go to Hondo, but early morning weather reports indicated cloudy skies so they decided to head to Kerrville instead. Unfortunately the rental agency botched their reservation and they almost missed the show. We had a good talk and he took selfies with myself and the Houston astronomer before rushing back to San Antonio to catch a departing flight. Another couple sat on the picnic tables behind me and chatted amiably during the event. Once the "ring of fire" broke and the moon began to uncover the sun the crowd dissipated quickly. Only myself and the Celestron guy from Houston stuck around to the very end.

All in all, I quite enjoyed the experience. I've only experienced partial solar eclipses before and had never gone into any with purpose. I'd planned my strategy, packed my car the night before and everything went as planned--whick is unheared of for me. I learned some valuable lessons this outing and am hopeful that I will be better prepared for the total eclipse in April of 2024. We shall see.

Now Playing: Andre Kostelanetz Lure of Paradise
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, October 06, 2023

Book signing news

Pecantown Books and Brews in Seguin
In the "let's try this again" category, I have a book signing and discussion for my book, Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch, coming up on Oct. 7 from 1-3 p.m. at Pecantown Books and Brews in Seguin. Those of you who've been following along may recall a previous attempt at a signing here back in September had to be scrubbed because of an unexpected conflict. But we're back and looking forward to seeing folks turn out on Saturday. Pecantown is a nifty shop with several rooms filled with books plus a wine and beer bar. I think every bookstore should have a wine and beer bar incorporated into the general layout. Everybody wins!

Monkey and Doge Books logo, Fort Worth
I also have fresh news to share--as in just confirmed minutes ago. I'm finally coming to the Metroplex for a signing event! After many false starts, misfires and schedule conflicts dating back to 2016 I am delighted to announce that I will be at Monkey and Dog Books in Fort Worth on Nov. 4 for a 2-4 p.m. signing and discussion. The Dallas-Fort Worth area plays such a significant role in the history of the Chicken Ranch--both in Miss Edna's early days as a sex worker before she found her way to La Grange, to the start of that brothel's weird afterlife when the parlour section was shipped to Dallas to become a short-lived, chicken-themed restaurant. I mean, it's crazy I haven't made it up there, isn't it? Well, I go where I'm wanted and Monkey and Dog Books want me, so I hope to see you there in November!

Now Playing: Various artists The Virtuoso Trumpet
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

"Kelly's Heroes" is probably my favorite war/heist movie. Its lunacy and irreverence brings me unconditional joy. I love it unconditionally. And you know what else I love? The film's defacto theme song, "Burning Bridges" by the Mike Curb Congregation. This group never really did anything else that managed to hold my attention, but this one song is certainly a relentless earworm. And Mike Curb himself carved out an interesting and varied career.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Greg Kihn Band.

Now Playing: Martin Hummel Eternal Love: 17th Century German Lute Songs
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, September 22, 2023

Friday Nigt Videos

Friday Night Videos

I am so happy to share this with you. In high school I went through a Greg Kihn phase. I literally wore out the cassette I had of Citizen Kihn because I thought it so great. Lots of cool, trippy, moody songs on that one. Alas, the first single off that album, "Lucky," struck me as one of the weaker tracks. It was a minor hit, barely cracking the Billboard top 20. Then the second single, "Boys Won't" came out. I saw this video on either Night Tracks of Friday Night Videos when it came out and thought it amazing! I told my friends about it in school. I was certain it would be a huge smash. Folks, I NEVER saw that video again until about eight years ago, and that was a grainy, Nth generation copy on YouTube with terrible audio. Kihn's career cratered after that, and I'm still baffled to this day how that album--which I thought the best of his career--just went nowhere. Regardless, this video is a hoot, from Kihnnedy High School to Nurse Canker, there's a playfull joy here with fun visuals and a catchy song. Enjoy!

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Jim Stafford.

Now Playing: Arthur Lyman The Legend of Pele
Chicken Ranch Central

Chicken Ranch anniversary: Happy birthday Sheriff Flournoy!

On this date in 1902, Thomas James Flournoy was born to Tom and Etta Flournoy on a ranch near Rock Island. He would grow up to work as a ranch hand on the famous King Ranch, a Texas Ranger patrolling the Big Bend region during World War II and--most famously--as the long-serving sheriff of Fayette County. Sheriff Jim famously defied political and media pressure to close down the infamous Chicken Ranch brothel outside of La Grange in 1973 before acquiescing to a direct order from Governor Dolph Briscoe. A year later, Sheriff Flournoy confronted Marvin Zindler on the town square, ripping off the reporter's hairpiece and throwing it in the street. The resulting lawsuits and counter suits were eventually settled out of court with a large donation to the Shriner's Children's Hospital.

Sheriff Flournoy died on October 27, 1982, from heart problems. He would've been 121 years old today.

Autographed copies of Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse 50th anniversary edition are now available from my Big Cartel site.

Now Playing: John WIlliams The Phantom Menace Original Soundtrack Recording
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, September 15, 2023

Dirty, Sexy History and Brenham

Dirty Sexy History podcast
I've got a quick information drop to share with you good folks. First up, I've gone and committed another one of those podcast things. This time out I speak with Dr. Jessica Cale on the Dirty, Sexy History podcast. It's quite an interesting discussion, as Jessica asks me more about the origins of the Chicken Ranch and the general history and conditions under which prostitution operated under during 19th century Texas than I ever have been before. There some interesting stuff about malaria in there as well, perhaps timely as malaria has experienced a comeback in Texas of late. You can't tell from the amazing editing of this episode, but we had several odd interruptions that threatened to derail our entire effort for a time, but fortunately, Jessica pulled me through and we managed to stick the landing. On the other hand, there's really no excuse for the weird, long pauses I take in the middle of sentences. I know this has been a verbal tick of mine for a while, and I suppose it happens as I collect my thoughts to finish my statement, but still. It's quite prominent this time out and comes off as an over=the-top William Shatner impersonation. Yikes!

The Book Nook, Brenham, TX
The other news is that on Saturday, September 16, I will be at The Book Nook in Brenham, Texas, for a signing and discussion of all things Chicken Ranch. I've been trying to get to Brenham for a signing for several years now--the manager informs me that Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch has become a perpetual bestseller for them. Whether this is because of Brenham's proximity to La Grange and the eponymous brothel of the title, or the fact that Brenham gets a mention in the book for its own brothel, the barely-remembered Dutch Lane that burned down under mysterious circumstances, I cannot say. Perhaps the answer will present itself on Saturday. I hope to see you there!

Now Playing: Jimmy Buffett Boats, Beaches, Bars & Ballads
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Let's change things up a bit this week. Jim Stafford is a singer-songwriter who had his greatest success in the 1970s with songs that had an often humorous bent. In 1980 he wrote and recorded "Cow Patti" for the Clint Eastwood movie "Any Which Way You Can." I can't find information online if it was a hit or not, but I can attest that it received significant airplay on the country radio stations of the day. I was 10 or 11 at the time, so naturally I thought this song was one of the top 2-3 pieces of music ever recorded (I'm older and wiser now, and will allow that it may be only in the top 10). Eight years after it first came out, Tom and Dick Smothers had a revival of their old television show and invited Stafford to perform. Stafford, the classy guy that he is, chose to sing "Cow Patti." The rest is history.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Jimmy Buffett.

Now Playing: Jimmy Buffett A-1-A
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, September 08, 2023

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Jimmy Buffett died last week from a rare form of skin cancer. This news has hit me surprisingly hard. I'm not one who normally obsesses over the lives (or deaths) of celebrities. I liked Buffett's music--or a significant portion of it--although I wouldn't consider myself a Parrothead. My affinity for Buffett certainly preceeded my love of tiki by a couple of decades (although Buffett isn't tiki, strictly speaking). I'd always wanted to see him play live, and for Christmas in 2019 Lisa gifted me with tickets to his show in San Antonio--for March 2020. We all know what happened next. First, the show was rescheduled. Then it was cancelled outright. When his tour ran through Austin last year at the new Moody Center, tickets were twice the price and I was in no position to go. Opportunity lost forever. Still, many of his songs speak to me in a way that's hard to articulate, but one stands out: "We Are the People Our Parents Warned Us About." With this one, there's no difficulty in articulating. As I grow older I increasingly identify with this song, and the recognition of the ever-widening gap between who I am and who my parents wanted me to be will never be reconciled. Were I able to travel back in time 45 years, I really don't think my parents would like me much at all, regardless of whether they knew my identity. We are just very, very different people, and I wasted many, many years in a futile quest to try and please them. Knowing what I know now, I would live my life much differently and make different decisions. And I'm fine with that, mainly because this silly song helped me recognize blind spots in my own life.

Plus, Jimmy gets bonus points for the Gardner McKay reference.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Howard Jones.

Now Playing: Jimmy Buffett Boats, Beaches, Bars & Ballads
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, September 01, 2023

Seguin signing!

Pecantown Books and Brews
I've had a whirlwind of Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch book signings and appearances of late, but I'm not finished yet! Tomorrow, September 2, I'll be at Pecantown Books & Brews in Seguin from 1-3 p.m. These are great folks and they've got a good thing going in Seguin (which has a lot of good things going there, come to think of it. Maybe I'll show up early for some barbecue...). Believe it or not, Seguin is the closest bookstore to me. That's true--the Book Haus in New Braunfels closed last year, as did the Half Price Books in San Marcos. Of course, we all know the sad demise of Hasting's in both New Braunfels and San Marcos back in 2016. The moral of this story? Support your local bookseller! Especially if they're cool and have a wine bar in their store!

In related news, I will also have a signing on September 16 in Brenham, at the Book Nook. I've been talking with them about scheduling an event since March, so it's great to finally make our calendars jibe. I hope to see you at one or both of these appearances!

Now Playing: The Tikiyaki Orchestra Swingin' Sounds for the Jungle Jet Set
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Wow, it's been a while since I put together an installement of Friday Night Videos. Did you miss me? Ha, loaded question. But you know someone I'm missing? Howard Jones. Surprisingly, out of the decade-plus I've been doing Friday Night Videos, ol' HoJo himself does not show up even once. Let's rectify that now with "No One Is To Blame," which was a striking departure from his earlier work when it first came out in 1986. The arrangement really captivated me and prompted me to buy the album based on the strength of this song alone. Spoiler alert: The album did not quite live up to the promise of this one song.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Bob Seger.

Now Playing: Chaino Jungel Echoes
Chicken Ranch Central

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Chicken Ranch road show!

Deborah Duncan and Jayme Blaschke
If you ever get the notion to have book-related events in Houston and Waco on the same day, I suggest you reconsider. Particularly if you are starting out from New Braunfels at 4 a.m. Exhaustion is a thing. Other than that, yesterday was a blast!

A quick recap: Months ago I scheduled a book signing with Fabled Bookshop & Cafe in Waco to promote the 50th anniversary edition of Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch. Shortly thereafter, I received an invitation from KHOU-TV to appear on the morning show, Great Day Houston to promote my upcoming book signing at Murder By The Book (which is 3-5 p.m. on Saturday, August. 26. Thanks for asking!). Trouble is, Great Day is a morning show and I'd have to be there by 8 a.m. Because of Houston's notorious rush-hour traffic and the fact that New Braunfels is 150 miles away, I had to depart shortly after 4 a.m. I'll confess I am not a morning person, friends. That was rough.

But never let it be said I do not rise to a challenge. I made it to KHOU-TV studios with time to spare, hung out in the green room while various producers and guests came by to chat about the Chicken Ranch and Marvin Zindler. Then it was showtime and I'll tell you there wasn't a wasted moment, with host Deborah Duncan jumping right into the interview as soon the national programming ended. She's worked with Marvin Zindler in her formative years as a television journalist, so she had stories. She was also quite adept at keeping me on track and nipping any tangential ramblings in the bud (I'll admit I tend to take the long way around when relating any type of story). It was a fun experience and I am flattered they decided I was interesting enough to warrant two segments on their show (separated by a commercial break). If you want to see for yourself, the whole shebang is online: Jayme's Great Day Houston Chicken Ranch Interview.

Then I headed up Highway 6 to Waco. Because my signing wasn't until 7 p.m. I was able to take my time. I pulled over in Hempstead to marvel at the sprawling monument to garden statuary that is Frazier's Concrete. I hadn't driven this way for more than 30 years, so seeing all those life-sized concrete dinosaurs caught my attention, see? After working up a sweat (literally) hiking around their property, I continued on to College Station where I had a late lunch at Freebird's World Burrito. At least I assume that's still the name. Tavistock has watered that place down so much, and cut so many corners since they purchased the chain that it's barely one step removed from Chipotle at this point. I remember when Freebird's was a great place to eat. Now, it's merely adequate. Sad. After lunch, I headed up to Waco and was baffled to see the locally famous "Aggie barn" was now closer to the road and on the opposite (?) side of the highway. Is that just me? Am I misremembering geography? Is the old barn gone and replaced by a facsimilie? Getting old sucks when you can no longer trust your memory. In Waco I had some time to kill, so I wandered around a couple of antique malls for a bit before heading over to Fabled for the signing.

Folks, I have to say I was blown away. I've been to more than a few indy bookstores, and by and large they have to make do with a retail space that is far too small for a full-blown bookstore. Not Fabled. It's spacious (see below). Actual stacks. Wall shelves. Display tables. Reading and work spaces. Plus a beer and wine bar that's coupled with an actual cafe. I'm telling you, Waco is lucky to have it. I'd be over the moon if San Marcos or New Braunfels had something even half as nice. And the staff was great as well--my host for the eveing, Kai, was delightfully enthusiastic and led a Q&A session with me before the 20 or so folks who'd turned out for the event. I signed lots of books--some brought multiple copies to give as gifts--and then signed all the remaining stock in the store. Hey, I may not have Neil Gaiman's drawing power with folks lined up around the block, but any time I can help a bookstore sell a few copies, I count that as a win.

Speaking of which, I hope to see you folks at Murder By The Book on Saturday!

Now Playing: The Martini Kings Intoxicating Sounds
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, August 18, 2023

Speaking of the Chicken Ranch...

Dr. Stephen Sloan and Jayme Blaschke discuss the Chicken Ranch on Waco History Podcast.
Interest in the story of the Chicken Ranch continues to run high. Next Tuesday, Aug. 22 is going to be packed for me. First up, I am appearing on Great Day Houston, KHOU-TV's morning show in Houston where I will discuss the 50th anniversary closure of the infamous Chicken Ranch brothel of La Grange. I'm looking forward to it, although I'm not looking forward to getting up quite a bit earlier than I'm used to in order to make it to Houston on time! But that's not all, because that evening starting at 7 p.m., I'll attend a book signing at Fabled Bookshop and Cafe in Waco. There's already been a great deal of interest in the signing and I'm looking forward to meeting history buffs from Waco, Temple, Hillsboro and beyond. As if that wasn't enough, on Saturday, Aug. 26, I'll be back in Houston for a signing at the great Murder By The Book 3-5 p.m. The last time I was there we had a packed house and sold out, so I'm looking forward to my return engagement. My appearance on Great Day Houston may alert a few more folks to the shindig. At least, that's my hope.

Waco History Podcast logo American History Hit Podcast logo
My signing at Fabled Bookshop is not without media attention, either. I am interviewed by Dr. Stephen Sloan of Baylor’s Institute for Oral History on the current episode of Waco History Podcast from Rogue Media. Dr. Sloan is known for his discussions with others about Waco’s known and unknown past, and this time out we do a deep dive into the life of Fay Stewart, aka Jessie Williams, aka Aunt Jessie, the madam who made the Chicken Ranch into the most important brothel in Texas. She was also born and raised in Waco, so there's a lot to unpack. (That's Dr. Sloan and myself in the photo at the top of this post.)

I am also a guest on American History Hit Podcast, an international production that delves into all manner of historical curiosities large and small, hosted by Don Wildman. I was humbled to be invited onto their show, and despite some initial concerns on my part that I'd babbled like a fool, I'm quite surprised by my rational-sounding self in the end result. Give it a listen if you have a chance!

Finally, if you're looking to get your own autographed copy of Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse 50th anniversary edition, but cannot attend one of my bookstore signings, you can order it here, from my Big Cartel site.

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Chicken Ranch Central

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Chicken Ranch anniversary: Happy birthday Marvin Zindler!

On this date in 1921, KTRK consumer affairs reporter Marvin Zindler was born.

Zindler, of course, is forever linked with the Chicken Ranch, as his series of exposés on the brothel directly led to its closure. Marvin clashed with his father (who owned the well-regarded Zindler's clothing store in Houston) growing up and went on to try his hand at a host of different career options. He was a drum major (briefly) at Tarleton State, served in the Marines (again, briefly) before being discharged as 4F, was a radio reporter for defunct Houston radio station KATL, was a reporter for the defunct Houston Press, ran for mayor of Bellaire, was fired by one TV station because he was "too ugly for television" and was a Harris County deputy sheriff for years, where he worked in civil fraud and fugitive extradition before setting up the consumer fraud division.

Had he not died of pancreatic cancer in 2007, Zindler would've been 102 today.

Autographed copies of Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse 50th anniversary edition are available at

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Monday, August 07, 2023

Armadillocon in the rearview mirror

Jayme Lynn Blaschke (left) and Howard Waldrop at Armadillocon in Austin, 2023
Armadillocon this year was a great deal of fun. I went in with the intent of taking a bunch of photos, and the image to the right of myself with the incomparable Howard Waldrop is the only one I managed the entire three days. Best laid plans and all that. Jennifer Juday and Marshall Ryan Maresca put on an excellent, well-balanced convention that offered seemingly something for everyone. The only real hiccups that occurred were an unusual number of panels swapping rooms at the last minute which led to a great deal of confusion. I'm sure they'll get that sorted out, because it was weird and I can't recall anything similar happening in recent history.

One thing I want to bring up before I forget about it is the fact that a significant percentage of the attendees were 30 somethings, and more than a few folks looked to be in their 20s. There's been a great deal of hand-wringing about the graying of fandom in recent decades, for good reason. Armadillocon itself has lost some of the oldguard to the ravages of time in recent years, and even more of the regulars have endured health scares. We won't be around forever to shake our fists at clouds. Whatever Armadillocon is doing, they're doing it right, because the next generation of fandom is here and engaged. That makes me happy.

Beyond that, a few highlights that stood out for me was Toastmaster Tonia Ransom, who turned out to be a funny, witty dynamo on every panel she was on; outstanding readings from Sim Kern and Jessica Reisman; running into old college friends, some I've seen recently and others not for 30 years; late-night conversations with Joe R. Lansdale and snarky banter with Mark Finn; and too many others for my age-addled memory to recall with any degree of accuracy. The absolute highlight of the weekend had to be the screening of "Night of the Cooters," a 30-minute film based on Howard Waldrop's 1987 short story (which also inspired the anthology, War of the Worlds: The Global Dispatches), produced by George R.R. Martin, starring and directed by Vincent D'Onofrio, from a script adapted by Lansdale. The animated film is just as weird and wonderful as one would expect from Waldrop's brand of Texas Weird, and I was happy to learn more about no fewer than four other Waldrop works currently in various stages of production. The reception to "Night of the Cooters" has been so positive that there are negotiations to develop into a limited run series for streaming. That'd be fun.

Can I wait until the next Armadillocon rolls around? No. No, I cannot.

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Friday, August 04, 2023

Armadillocon weekend

Armadillocon 2023 guest of honor lineup

Starting this evening I'll be attending Armadillocon in Austin. This is my favorite science fiction/fantasy convention to attend every year and they've got a great guest lineup this year. If you're in the area and this piques your interest, drop in to say hi and meet an incredible group of talented authors and artists. My weekend schedule is below. And yes, I'll have copies of the the 50th anniversary edition of Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch with me:

4 p.m. Welcome to ArmadilloCon 2023! (Ballroom D)
10 p.m. Monster Mash-Up (Conference Center)

2 p.m. Reading (Conference Center)
5 p.m. Fannish Feud (Ballroom D)

11 a.m. Autographing (Dealers Room)
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Chicken Ranch Central

Tuesday, August 01, 2023

The Chicken Ranch looks at fifty

Edna Milton in parlour of the Chicken Ranch brothel, La Grange, Texas
Fifty years ago today the infamous Chicken Ranch brothel of La Grange, Texas, closed forever. If you're a regular around here, you may know I wrote a book about it. Unsurprisingly, Texas media has put together a number of stories to mark the occasion. There's one here. And here. And here. I'm sure there will be more before the day's out.

Honestly, 50 years is a long time. That a small, no-frills country brothel generated such attention at the time of its closure and continues to maintain a grip on the public's imagination half a century later confounds all logic. I feel like I should write something profound but averything that comes to mind strikes me as trite. I don't actually remember the closure--I was three years old at the time, after all. Instead, I share below an excerpt from the book, chapter 12 to be specific. It may not qualify as profound but I like to think it is insightful and offers a more detailed an nuanced account of the actual events that transpired 50 years ago than anything else that's likely to appear online today:

“Why don’t you call Sheriff Flournoy yourself, Dolph?” Colonel Speir suggested out of the blue.

As the trying day turned into an equally trying night, Governor Briscoe continued to talk with Colonel Speir to find some way out of the impasse. During their discussion, the governor—a long-time South Texas rancher—realized he’d known Big Jim from way back, when the sheriff worked as the foreman of the McGill Brothers Ranch. Big Jim clearly resented outside interference in what he considered a strictly local matter, but Marvin had shone a glaring spotlight on it. Clearly, things could never go back to the wink-and-nod tolerance of before. The sheriff didn’t accept that the DPS had any authority over him, but if Governor Briscoe himself gave the order...

“Sheriff, it’s just too much. We’ll just have to close it down,” Governor Briscoe said as soon as he got Big Jim on the line.

“You know, there’s a lot of furniture out there and we have to get those girls moved out,” Big Jim answered in his slow drawl. “Why don’t you let us run two more weeks just to let things taper off?”

“No sheriff, you’re just going to have to shut it down. That’s all there is to it. There’s too much heat. Everybody’s embarrassed by this thing,” Governor Briscoe said. “Sheriff, I am ordering you to close what is known as the Chicken Ranch.”

Big Jim paused a long moment, then answered with a simple, tired, “Okay.”

“He and I both knew that I had no authority to order him to close the place, but it was a practical way for us to get the law enforced in that county,” Governor Briscoe said later. “For several days afterward I kept waiting for someone to point out that I had no legal authority to close the place down, but no one did.”

All that remained was for Big Jim to inform Miss Edna, a phone call he loathed to make. Miss Edna’s nephew, Robert Kleffman, was visiting the evening of July 31 when his aunt disappeared into her office to take the call. When she returned, her mood was grim.

“She said, ‘Dang it Robert, Mr. Jim’s got to shut us down. He’s got to. The Governor’s on his way,’” Kleffman said. “She sent all the girls home except for two. I went and got a shirt—Edna’d bought me some new shirts, she was always buying me clothes—and I pulled the cardboard out of it and I drew the block letters of CLOSED. I stuck it on the front screen door with a bobby pin and shut the door and locked it.

“Edna had everybody get their cars and took ’em around back. In a little bit, there was a knock on the door, and we just didn’t answer it,” he said. “We sat back in the back. There was a bottle of Cold Duck, and me and those two girls sat back there drinking that bottle of grape juice, watching TV in the dining room.

“Edna sat back there, kinda daydreaming and looking out the window, thinking the way she does. We just refused to answer the door,” he said. “That was the end of it, because we were told the Governor and the Texas Rangers—that’s the story as I remember it—were coming down and were going to close the place. So we just put a closed sign on the front and didn’t answer. We made like we weren’t there.”

The news hit Miss Edna like a ton of bricks. She sent the few customers there that night home, then called the girls together and told them the story. Most of the women packed their bags that night and left by morning.

“One or two little girls—they were young but they were not kids—I got tickled with them. They came in and got in my lap and put their arms around my shoulders and neck and everything. I had to kind of grin,” Miss Edna said, smiling at the bittersweet memory. “It was sweet of them, you know. They’d been there long enough where I was family to them. Those little girls, I’ll remember forever.

“Later, another one came in I wasn’t expecting and did the same thing, nearly. It wasn’t quite rehearsed, but nevertheless it could’ve been,” she said. “If something had happened and I could’ve reopened and gotten those girls back... well, I wouldn’t have made pets out of them, but it would’ve been hard for me to ever raise hell with them [if they misbehaved].”

Despite all of Marvin’s publicity, Miss Edna never truly believed the Chicken Ranch might close down. Since the brothel claimed origins dating back to the 1840s—before Texas became a state—she believed the Chicken Ranch had a grandfathered exemption to any modern anti-prostitution laws. Armed with that, as well as a long list of powerful business and political clients that stretched from Austin to Washington, D.C., she considered fighting the order that long, dark night following Big Jim’s call. Even if she didn’t win, she could bring a whole bunch of cowardly hypocrites down with her—and probably take out half the Texas legislature and congressional delegations. By morning, though, Miss Edna threw in the towel.

“The whole damn thing, in a nut shell, was that I didn’t want to keep it open and I sure didn’t want to guilt somebody to mess up or sell to somebody even if they got somebody to finance it or otherwise. I was just tired,” Miss Edna said. “It needed more hours than is humanly possible for a person to do. If you’re putting in 14, 16 and 18 some days 20 hours. You get a little tired after a while. And it doesn’t take very many years to kill you.

“After awhile you get so tired, and I did. Toward the last, so damn tired of everything. I was ready to get the hell out of there,” she said. “If I hadn’t been so terribly tired I might’ve fought them, to keep it open. But I was just tired.”

~excerpted from Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse 50th anniversary edition.

Now Playing: Original Cast Recording The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
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Sunday, July 30, 2023

Sad Chicken Ranch news

Edna Milton (ledt) and Carlin Glynn
July has not been a kind month for Chicken Ranch alumni. Specifically, those folks connected to the famed brothel through the mega-successful Broadway musical, "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." Carlin Glynn, who won a Tony Award for her portrayal of Miss Mona Stangley (which was based on real-life madam Edna Milton Chadwell) died on July 13 at the age of 83 after battling dementia and cancer.

That's Glynn on the right, facing Edna Milon (left). This was a publicity shot Milton gave me from the musical. The production wanted to promote the fact that Glynn and Milton looked similar. They really don't look very similar but I suppose when the alternative Miss Mona is Dolly Parton, this bit of trivia becomes much more plausible.

Obituaries have led with the fact that she played the mother to Molly Ringwald's character in the 1980s John Hughes teen film "Sixteen Candles." She's also the real-life mother to actor Mary Stuart Masterson, who she had with husband Peter Masterson--who co-authored the book to Whorehouse on Broadway and shared background information on that whole experience with me for my book (Peter Masterson died in 2018). Glynn's first film role was in "Three Days of the Condor" but what jumped out at me was that she played First Lady Meg Tresch in the 1987-88 Fox sitcom "Mr. President" opposite George C. Scott in the title role. I remember watching this at a teen and liking it quite a bit, but also realizing that the series was never as good as it should've been with all the talent involved.

Pamela Blair, center, portrayed Angel in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
The other big loss is that of Pamela Blair, who originated the role of Angel in "The Best Little Whorehouse..." If you've seen the play, you'll know the role is much more substantial than the blink-and-you'll-miss-her role from the movie. Angel shows up at the Chicken Ranch early on, a jaded sex worker who's cynical and has abandoned any effort at nuance (that's her in the center of the image to the left). She undergoes a significant character arc through the play and by the end leads the cast through the finale of "Hard Candy Christmas," vowing at the end to leave prostitution behind her for good. Here's a fun bit of trivia for you: Angel was originally named Amber in the script, but the name was changed at Edna's insistence. Masterson and co-author Larry L. King hand found some discarded letters in the trash pile at the Chicken Ranch and used the names from those letters for the characters in the play. Edna thought that an invasion of the women's privacy and would have none of it.

Despite the success of Angel in "Whorehouse," Blair is better known for originating the role of Val in "A Chorus Line" two years prior. Her other Broadway credits include "Mighty Aphrodite," "Of Mice and Men" and "A Few Good Men." She also had stints on the daytime soap operas Ryan's Hope and All My Children.

Blair died July 23 from complications related to Clippers disease. She was 73.

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Thursday, July 13, 2023

Alpine loves the Chicken Ranch!

Austhor Jayme Blaschke book signing at Front Street Books
Wow! I didn't know what to expect in Alpine for my Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch signing at Front Street Books, but the end result was a fantastic evening! There was a great turnout, I signed lots of books and answered lots of questions about the Chicken Ranch brothel of La Grange, which closed 50 years ago. I like to tell people that after every book signing I have, there's always at least one person who finds his way over to me and whispers quietly, "I don't want everyone to know, but I went there the summer of '68." Guess what? This signing was no different!

I'd never been to Alpine before, which seems absurd now that I think of it. My best friend growing up had an older brother living in Alpine, so I've known about it as long as I've known about pretty much any town in Texas. We almost bought a house in New Braunfels 10 years ago from folks who lived in Alpine. I've been to Big Bend, the Davis Mountains, Terlingua and McDonald Observatory but never quite made it to Alpine, until now. I'm happy to report that it's a charming little town, reminding me a little of Winslow, Az., with some Flagstaff and artsy Marfa thrown in for good measure. I'm staying in the historic Holland Hotel, which has been renovated but not to the point of being a generic Motel 6 clone. It feels vintage. The character is preserved.

Jean Pittman (pictured below), the owner and manager of Front Street Books, was a delight. I don't know if I've ever met a more enthusiastic bookstore owner. She has build a fantastic bookstore here in West Texas and I am not ashamed to admit I am jealous. New Braunfels and San Marcos, each 10 times Alpine's size, have no bookstores whatsoever. That's sad. I hope the people of Alpine appreciate what they've got.

Author Jayme Blaschke with Jean Pittman, proprietor and general manager at Front Street Books

I was also fortunate to see longtime friends Sandy and Scott Cupp. They've been in Alpine for the better part of the past decade, but Scott's nearing retirement and they plan to return to San Antonio before the end of the year if everything works out. It'll be great having them nearby again.

Author Jayme Blaschke with Scott A. Cupp and Sandy Cupp at Front Street Books
And can you say "good omen"? This is the first thing I saw when I checked in at the historic Holland Hotel: A poster advertising my book signing. A couple from New Orleans who are road tripping across the U.S. happened to stop in Alpine for the night, saw the poster and came to my signing on the spur of the moment. Being from New Orleans, they knew all about Houston's Marvin Zindler and could not pass up the opportunity to learn more about the infamous Chicken Ranch. They had me sign several copies of the book they bought as gifts for friends and relatives. Talk about great timing!

Book signing poster for Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch in the Holland Hotel, Alpine Texas

I have to say, Alpine is charming and Front Street Books is a top-notch bookstore. If you ever find yourself in West Texas and have the opportunity, stop in and pay them a visit. It's well worth your time!

Next up on the signing tour is Armadillocon in Austin Aug. 4-6, Fabled Bookshop and Cafe in Waco Aug. 22 and Murder By The Book in Houston Aug. 26.

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Chicken Ranch Central

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Pflugerville signing was pfantastic!

Front Street Books, Alpine Texas
FIrst things first, I have a book signing coming up at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 13 at Front Stree Books in sunny Alpine, Texas. I will, of course, be signing copies of the 50th anniversary edition of Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse. This is likely to be the farthest west I travel on my current book tour, so if you're in West Texas (I realize that covers a lot of geography) and want to see me in person, this is you chance! I'll likely do a short reading and then go into a Q&A session--the Q&A is always the highlight. Hopefully, I'll have some good photos to share afterward.

And speaking of photos, my signing last week at The Book Burrow in Pflugerville was a blast. I did a reading, answered quite a few questions and signed lots of books. Some of my Austin-area friends showed up and mercifully did not throw fruit and/or vegetables at me. Folks I'd never met before turned out. Even some tiki folk showed up. It was a lot of fun even if it was so hot outside that the AC couldn't quite keep up. People came and went all night long. We stayed way longer than the alotted time, but that's to be expected when the bookstore is inside a wine bar. It was great fun and I can't wait to return in the future (and I signed a stack of Chicken Ranch books before I left, so if you're in Austin and can't make it to Front Street Books on Thursday, Book Burrow can probably fix you up).

Jayme Blaschke book signing for Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch at the Book Burrow in Pflugerville, TX.

Jayme Blaschke book signing for Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch at the Book Burrow in Pflugerville, TX

Jayme Blaschke book signing for Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch at the Book Burrow in Pflugerville, TX

Jayme Blaschke book signing for Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch at the Book Burrow in Pflugerville, TX

Jayme Blaschke book signing for Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch at the Book Burrow in Pflugerville, TX

Jayme Blaschke book signing for Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch at the Book Burrow in Pflugerville, TX

Jayme Blaschke book signing for Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch at the Book Burrow in Pflugerville, TX

Jayme Blaschke book signing for Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch at the Book Burrow in Pflugerville, TX

Jayme Blaschke book signing for Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch at the Book Burrow in Pflugerville, TX
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