I grew up with a small antenna TV in my room that did not have a remote. It received maybe 7 stations, depending on the antenna position. It weighed maybe 25 lbs, was obtuse to carry or move around, and seemed to waver back and forth on whether or not it would work at any given time. The 3 thick plastic knobs located down the right hand side of the front of the television snapped at each click of a station change. If trying to watch programming quietly at night, I would avoid watching the 3 stations on the far end of the dial as to not wake up the rest of the house. In most cases, the 4 stations bunched closest together that the TV received were local Houston affiliates of NBC (2), PBS (8), CBS (11), and ABC (13). NBC had Saturday Night Live, PBS had Ghostwriter when I arrived home from school weekdays and Mr. Bean on specific late nights, CBS was spotty on reception to that little set and ABC had the news and usually a midnight movie.
Mainly, it was something that lulled me to sleep after I would convince myself that I wasn’t tired, with commercials between programming or a C-list movie that the station showcased to fill the airtime. But, far more often than not, I was dozing off after catching a flamboyant consumer advocate newscaster moonwalk across the screen to “Slime in the Ice Machine”. If you grew up around Houston, I undoubtedly believe you know exactly whom I am referencing. That passionate presenter is no other than Marvin Zindler (Eyewitness News). That sign off, including the broadcast title, is etched into my mind. Marvin rocked a large white pompadour hairpiece, a spray tan (before they were in fashion), a blue 3 piece suit and coke bottle thick blue tinted glasses. The glasses allowed you to see Zindler’s eyes as he would report on the week’s restaurant inspections. By the time that I was watching him broadcast, he had earned an illustrious career over his many years.
Possibly most notably, for his coverage of The Chicken Ranch outside of Houston near La Grange, a basis of inspiration for the play and film “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”. With a film review, Zindler was invited to Late Night with David Letterman. What ensued, in my opinion, is television gold.
The link to the Late Night interview is located here.
Marvin always came off by my estimation as a charismatic man. He had a heart for the elderly and did everything in his power to keep viewers informed of consumer rights. As a recipient, Marvin was a champion for speaking freely about cosmetic surgery during a time when discussion on the subject was quietly hushed. Based on his interview with Letterman, Zindler was more upset by the assistance of law enforcement to the houses of prostitution than the actual existence of The Chicken Ranch. There is an old school feeling of justice that I think Marvin carried with him in his reporting. Viewers counted on Zindler to tow a tough but fair line, and he did. But that approach didn’t always make friends, despite how friendly of a person Zindler came off as. In the interview, Zindler recalls broken ribs from a police entity as he was on the trail of getting the bawdy houses shut down.
And, spurring from the reporting on The Chicken Ranch, we have another prime example of a song to that effect. Bellowing from Gaylen Ackley, “Hello Marvin Zindler” is a dissenting opinion on Zindler’s presence in town across a small pressed batch of records. It’s basically an ode to telling someone to mind their own business. It’s a country song, but with a certain swing and break. In a way, this 7″ vinyl find, which I picked up from a fellow record collector and Houston aficionado (IG: @cufilifi). The tune fits so well with our location this week. KTRK is where Zindler reported for years between his runs around town for stories and charity work.
Marvin passed away in 2007 after inoperable pancreatic cancer also spread to his liver. In trying to find ways to showcase the Houston I grew up in, I knew that I wanted to highlight both the station that was near my childhood apartment, but also one of the people who filled our world with color. Even nearly 12 years after Marvin Zindler’s passing, I am inspired by the legacy he left behind and can think of no better way than to sign off from this post the way he did nightly;
Marvin Zindler, Eyewitness News.