Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas


We saw a production of this by a local theater company, guest starring Russ Tamblyn as Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd. He was really terrific, as was the whole production. They changed a lot of the plot here to make the movie a star vehicle for Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds, which was inevitable, I guess, but it didn’t do the story any good. The music and the dancing are pretty good, though I could have done without Burt singing a duet with Dolly.

The whole show was stolen by two supporting players. The first is Dom DeLuise as “Melvin P. Thorpe,” a muckraking TV “journalist” who forces the closure of the Chicken Ranch. The real TV guy was Marvin Zindler, an asshole whose old broadcasts are so awesomely awful they almost defy belief. His number is “Texas Has a Whorehouse in It!” and it’s a showstopper.

The other is Charles Durning as the Governor of the Great State of Texas, and his number, “The Sidestep,” is even better. They filmed him singing and dancing in the Capitol Building in Austin. For a rather large man, he is able to trip a little light fantastic with the best of them. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Lewis Gossett, Jr,. won, yet another case of a great performance … but hardly a supporting role, in my opinion.

In the extra material on the DVD there are short clips of both Sheriff Ed Earl (real name, Jim Flournoy) and Miss Mona (Edna Milton). Suffice it to say that Edna looked very little like Dolly Parton, and nobody ever mistook Sheriff Jim for Burt Reynolds in a dim light. And I’ll admit that I was dubious about some of the claims Dolly made in the opening number, “A Lil’ Ole Bitty Pissant Country Place.” But it seems that Edna really did implement some good and firm rules, such as no drinking, no tattoos, no visiting bars in town, no pimps, getting weekly medical checkups, and being fingerprinted and photographed by Sheriff Jim. She bought everything locally and supported things like Little League. The town loved her. As a bonus, if any customers bragged about committing a crime, she would pass the info along to the authorities. Zindler claimed he started his crusade because the place was run by the Mob, an assertion backed up by no one at all. In fact, the place helped cut down on crime.

There is currently yet another debate about the idea of legalizing prostitution. Feminists are split, some in favor, some maintaining that it is evil in and of itself, and needs to be wiped out. Myself, I believe that prostitution will vanish on the exact same day that people stop having sex. Doesn’t it make sense to get the women in off the streets, where they are easy prey to the scum of the earth, and into an environment where their safety can be assured by brawny bouncers? It’s a no-brainer to me.