The real-life TV reporter who helped shutter the infamous Houston-area brothel known as the Chicken Ranch -- the inspiration for the musical, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas -- will attend the July 16 opening of the musical at the Country Playhouse, a Houston community theatre.
Marvin Zindler, who helped expose the brothel and its links to Texas celebrities and officials, is still active and on the air on KTRK-TV in Houston some 30 years after becoming a celebrity for shining light on the brothel. He and a group of his colleagues from KTRK-TV (where he is known as Action 13) will attend the show and be introduced.
Zindler is represented in the Larry L. King-Peter Masterson-Carol Hall musical as "Melvin P. Thorpe," a flamboyant reporter in flashy suits and a silver wig who is a moral and consumer "watchdog" for a TV station. In real-life, Zindler is known for his big voice, toupee, white suits and sunglasses. Scott Kilgore plays the role at the Country Playhouse.
Show spokesman M.G. Perez told Playbill On-Line Zindler, who is thought to be in his late seventies, is "a Houston institution" who began as a news reporter but became the station's consumer reporter following the Chicken Ranch expose in the early 1970s.
A cake will be presented to Zindler at intermission. In the show, Thorpe, backed up by his young "watchdogs" (a group of fresh-faced singer dancers) sings "Texas Has a Whorehouse in It," a rousing, evangelical revival turn. Christopher Ayres directs the production, which continues to Aug. 21 at the Country Playhouse, 12802 Queensbury in the Town & Country Village Shopping Mall. The troupe had a big hit with Whorehouse 10 years ago. Call (713) 467-4497 for information.
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas originally opened in the 1978 79 season, directed and choreographed by Tommy Tune. Carlin Glynn and Henderson Forsythe won featured-performer Tony Awards for the show, but Hall's country-rich score failed to pick up a nomination despite such tunes as "Doatsy Mae," "Bus from Amarillo" and "Hard-Candy Christmas." Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds starred in the film version, which included songs penned by Parton.
-- By Kenneth Jones