Monday, April 25, 2011

Texas Tidbits: Mrs. Swine's Brothel....Seriously

If You've Got a Ten to Get Yourself In...*
ZZ Top did a song about it. Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton did a movie about it and Houston news guy Marvin Zindler was instrumental in getting the joint shut down. We are, of course, talking about the infamous Chicken Ranch outside La Grange. Wikipedia continues the story : "The brothel that became the Chicken Ranch opened in La Grange in 1844. Run by a widow known as "Mrs. Swine," the brothel operated out of a hotel near the saloon and featured three young women from New Orleans, Louisiana. The ladies used the hotel lobby for entertaining and rented a room upstairs for conducting their business. The brothel was successful for over a decade, but was forced to close during the Civil War, when Swine and one of her prostitutes were forced to leave town as Yankees and American loyalists. After the war, prostitution was endemic in the local saloons, but no official records were kept." At least the good folks of La Grange had the sense to run the Yankees out of town. :)  Am I the only one that finds humor in the fact that a house of ill repute was run by a lady named Mrs. Swine?

During the Great Depression the number of "visitors" to the Chicken Ranch dwindled, so the "lady" who ran the place started charging one live chicken instead of cash for the favors of the working girls. Business as usual went on at the Chicken Ranch until late 1972 when the Texas Department of Public Safety got a tip that the brothel was a front for organized crime. That rumor was quickly proven false, but in 1973 Marvin Zindler, a consumer reporter for KTRK-TV in Houston, began an investigation that involved the Governor of Texas and eventually lead to the closing of the now-world famous Chicken Ranch. An interesting and more in depth history of the Chicken Ranch can be found here.  (Cue ZZ Top) "...if you've got a ten to get yourself in...."

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