Due to the title of this post, you might assume this article is about La Grange, Texas’ infamous “Chicken Ranch,” made famous by the Broadway play (1978) and movie (1982): The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas. If so, you would be partly correct.
This is actually a story in two parts:
- Part 1: The Chicken Ranch and La Grange, as it is today.
- Part 2: Marvin Zindler – A Texas Icon, the man who closed the Chicken Ranch, and the man who came to my rescue.
KTRK-TV & Marvin Zindler:
To begin this story, I must take you back to 1979, when my family relocated from Chicago, Illinois to Houston, Texas. My parents and brother made an earlier trip to check out the region, and when I joined them in the move, the first thing my family insisted I do was watch the evening news to see the man who did the consumer reports segment on KTRK-TV.
They were absolutely in stitches about him, and the way he closed each segment with, “Marrrr-vin Ziinnndleeerrr, Eeeyeee Witnessss Neeeeewsss!” Over and over again they tried to mimic his voice, and I was convinced they were exaggerating for my benefit.
So there we were, sitting in our room in the La Quinta off Interstate 10, west of Houston, watching KTRK-TV Evening News’ Marvin Zindler report. It turns out my family were not exaggerating, and by the end of the broadcast we were all in stitches. Having just relocated from Chicago, Illinois, none of us had ever seen someone like Mr. Zindler before – we became his newest fans.
At the time I moved to Texas, I was unaware of Marvin Zindler’s role in the demise of the “Chicken Ranch,” or that the ranch even existed, and simply thought he was the most unique person I had seen on the news. Little did I know then, that 20+ years later, Mr. Zindler would be sitting in the dining room of our new home, and I would be the subject of one of his consumer reports. I will share that story with you in Part 2: Marvin Zindler – A Texas Icon, but for now, let’s take a quick tour of La Grange, and the remains of “Chicken Ranch.”
La Grange, Texas and “The Chicken Ranch”:
This past spring, my husband and I took a drive out to La Grange to stay in a local Bed & Breakfast, Brendan Manor, located near the town square. My husband and I truly enjoy staying at B & B’s for their history and the food! Brendan Manor did not disappoint – on both counts. The city of La Grange has about 4,700 people, and makes a great B&B weekend retreat. It is located in Fayette County, near the Colorado River, about halfway between Houston and Austin on Highway 71.
Unaware to most, even Texans, is that La Grange almost became the capital of Texas. In 1837 Congress passed a bill to make La Grange the Capital of the Republic of Texas (from 1836-1846 Texas was its own nation), but the first regularly elected president, General Sam Houston, moved the capital to, where else, Houston. However, President Sam Houston’s placement of the capital in the city that shares his name didn’t last for long, when, in 1839, Mirabeau B. Lamar, moved the capital to Austin, where it is to this day.
As for a tour of the “Chicken Ranch,” hopefully you are not disappointed, as these images show the closest you can get to the ranch without meeting up with the current sheriff of La Grange. As I’ve stated in past posts, as a Texan, I respect no trespassing signs.
But the truth be told, the “Chicken Ranch” no longer exists at this site, having been physically moved to Dallas long ago to become a restaurant (which did not succeed). All that is left are a few broken down sheds and a lot of brush.
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas put La Grange on the map, and created several Texas Icons, including Mr. Zindler. In Part 2, I will share my personal visit with him when he came to the rescue of my family, filming a segment for the evening news from my dining room.
Until then, might I suggest you listen to “La Grange” by ZZ Top, those good ol’ boys from Houston, Texas.
It has been 40 years since the ranch closed on August 1, 1973, as reported in a recent article by the Houston Chronicle. This article has several great pictures of the ranch in its heyday, along with one of Mr. Zindler.