Sunday, July 29, 2007

R.I.P.: Marvin Zindler (1921-2007)

With all due respect to the recently deceased: The first time I visited Houston nearly three decades ago, and channel-surfed to a KTRK-TV “Eyewitness News” segment hosted by Marvin Zindler – or, as he was wont to say during intros and exits, “Mahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh-vin Zindler, Eye! Witness! News!” – I assumed I had stumbled onto some kind of local comedy show, maybe a Lone Star version of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

But no: Zindler was the real deal, an indefatigable consumer reporter and tireless champion for the ill-served elderly and the exploited working class. After moving to Houston in 1982, I soon realized that, if the guy came across as a bit bombastic – well, what the hell, he was larger than life, but never too big for his britches. For every sloppy restaurant owner who bristled because Zindler regularly reported on health code violations – Houstonians have long enjoyed his apoplectic tirades about “slime in the ice machine” -- dozens of others had cause to be grateful for his quixotic quests to obtain medical aid for those who couldn’t afford it, and legal redress for the inaccurately billed and the deliberately ripped-off.

It’s a pity that most folks outside Texas know him only as the real-life inspiration for the crusading moralist who looms large in the stage and movie versions of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. To his credit, Zindler actually was amused by his caricature in the original Broadway musical. But he was far less pleased by the way Dom DeLuise played him in the movie version. And, really, who could blame him?

1 comment:

frank peters said...

I'm currently a student over at HCC with Joe Leydon. I really like the tribute to M.Z. I had the opportunity to meet him once 5 years ago. He was finishing dinner at his favorite place, Churrasco's Restaurant. He talked for a half hour with me about the poor children in Central America.

-you're kindness stands high-