In Memoriam: Marvin Zindler

If you live anywhere in the vicinity of southeast Texas, your world is not so bright as it was: Marvin Zindler, the most-iconic television news personality our area has ever had or ever will have, has passed away this evening from complications of pancreatic cancer. He was 85.

Prior to joining KTRK ABC 13 in 1973 as a consumer fraud reporter, he was a deputy sheriff in Harris County. Rather than try to summarize or whatever, here is Channel 13’s official statement on Marvin’s passing:

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(7/29/07 - KTRK/HOUSTON) - Legendary television broadcaster Marvin Zindler died this evening at M.D. Anderson Hospital from complications of pancreatic cancer. He was 85.

Marvin is survived by his wife Niki, his five grown children, nine grand children and one great-grand child.

Known for his trademark white hairpieces, blue lenses and signature sign-off, Marvin was a fearless, flamboyant and trail-blazing broadcaster. His nightly reports helped create a new genre of broadcast journalism that became a staple in television newsrooms across the country.

Marvin Zindler made his mark as a consumer advocacy reporter and was one of the first in Houston to investigate controversial issues and institutions. He became a household name for exposing a brothel in La Grange known as The Chicken Ranch. The nationwide notoriety over the brothel’s closing inspired the Broadway musical and movie, “Best Little Whorehouse In Texas.”

Marvin went on to use his nightly Eyewitness News segments to expose substandard care at nursing homes, obtain special medical care for those who couldn’t afford it, help thousands cut through bureaucratic red tape and help many more successfully resolve their consumer problems. Ranking high among Marvin’s accomplishments was his investigation into restaurant health violations that resulted in a nationwide requirement for salad “sneeze bars.” His weekly “Rat and Roach Reports” improved cleanliness and food safety in restaurant kitchens. Marvin traveled extensively documenting how Houston doctors helped alleviate pain and suffering in poor countries around the world. One of his recent noteworthy accomplishments was assisting seven Iraqi men with getting replacements “hands” for the ones cut-off during Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Henry Florsheim, KTRK-TV President and General Manager, said, “Marvin was one of the most valued and beloved people in Houston. For nearly 35 years he was welcomed into the hearts and homes of millions of local viewers. This is a deep loss for me both, personally and professionally, my prayers are with his family, friends and co-workers.”

David Strickland, Vice President of News, said,” Marvin never hesitated to question the status quo or to take on the toughest problems for folks who had no one else to help them. He was an inspiration in our newsroom and will be missed by everyone at Eyewitness News.”

Dave Ward, Eyewitness News Anchor said, “Marvin was one of kind. He was one of the most compassionate people I have ever met and deep in his heart he believed in helping folks who needed someone on their side.”

Marvin Zindler joined KTRK-TV on January 1, 1973 after a colorful career with the Harris County Sheriff’s Department. He brought a unique on-air presence and reporting style to his Action 13 segments on Eyewitness News. Many credit his nightly reports as one of the major contributors to KTRK-TV’s long time reign as Houston’s most-watched television station. His Action 13 office says for many years they received nearly 100,000 requests for assistance on a variety of consumer issues. As recently as June of this year, Marvin, at age 85, was still reporting five days a week.

Marvin has been recognized with awards from every news organization, many charity groups and from several in the medical fields. A medical award of special note was presented by the Plastic Surgeons of America. They honored Marvin for his openness and honesty in talking about his cosmetic surgeries and for the help he obtained for charity patients who desperately needed reconstructive surgery. Marvin had the Scottish Rite Masonry 33rd Degree conferred upon him, the highest honor one can receive in the Masonry. In 2003, Marvin was inducted into the “Silver Circle” of the Lone Star Emmy Association for his historic contributions to broadcast journalism in Texas.

Marvin began his broadcasting career in 1943 as a part-time radio disc jockey while working in his family’s clothing store business. In 1950, he became a reporter and cameraperson for Southwest Film Production Company, which produced the 6:00 PM news for KPRC-TV. Two years later, Marvin joined the Scripts Howard Houston Press to work part-time as a crime reporter and photographer. He joined the Harris County Sheriff’s Department in 1962 and handled Civil Process for two years before moving over to the Fugitive Squad where his work took him all over the world to extradite fugitives. While working for the Sheriff’s Department, Marvin was responsible for establishing the Consumer Fraud Division within the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. The Fraud Division is still in operation today.

Marvin Zindler was born on August 10, 1921 in Houston. He attended public schools and went to John Tarleton Agricultural College in Stephenville, Texas. He joined the Marines in 1941 and received an Honorable Discharge. In that same year, Marvin married Gertrude, his wife of 56 years. They raised five children before she passed away in 1997.

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I remember watching him continuously as a kid and growing up — I’ve never known life without Marvin’s reassuring presence on the air. “Sliiiiiime in the ice machine!!!!” And his signature “Maaaaarvin Zindler, Eyyyewitness News!” “It’s hell to be poor, and it’s hell to be old!!” “Good golf, good tennis, or whatever makes you happy” was
his sign-off line on Fridays. Yes, the man was 85. Yes, he had a kind of cancer that kills with regularity. Yes, we all knew this was coming. But it’s still a shock.

It will be interesting to see what Channel 13 does for its consumer fraud reporting now, because no-one will do it nearly as well as Marvin. He was always good to use as a threat: “If you don’t get this done/pay me/whatever, I’m gonna call Marvin Zindler!”

He was a throwback to a different time - a different era. In this new age of polished soundbites, perfect words put in just the right places, and beautiful people, Marvin was an abberation. I’ve heard tell that the network execs hated him because he was so unlike the beautiful-person-professional mold people crave so much nowadays in their newcasters. Marvin was colorful. He was himself. He was an original, and there will never again be anyone like him on television.

I echo what Dave Ward always said when Zindler’s reports were done: “Thank you, Marvin”!

Channel 13’s full coverage on Marvin’s life and passing

2 Responses to “In Memoriam: Marvin Zindler”  

  1. 1 Jeff

    Channel 13 has set up a forum where you can send messages to Marvin’s family at

    Here is what I wrote:

    Subject line: No slime, rats, or roaches where you are now, Marvin

    Marvin Zindler = the only bored person in heaven

    Oh my… The old Channel 13 crew is going bye-bye: first Ed retires, and now this. I knew this would come, but I still don’t have to like it.

    I’m not Jewish, but I think it’s safe to say your whole life, Marvin, was just one big, long mitzvah. I never got to meet you, but I wish I had. I remember watching you back in the late ’70s when I was but a wee lad, and I wish I had watched more of you in later years. You trying to read the word “voila” — ROTFLOL!!!!

    I remember my friends Arthur and Sue Hensley going to your 50th anniversary wedding parties year after year after year. I also remember you talking ever and anon about your beloved Gertrude.

    You were and are not just a Houston icon. You ARE Houston.

    And we will miss you more than words can say. Echoing Dave Ward tonight and at the end of every report you ever did: “Thank you, Marvin”!

    Jeff Ragsdale
    native Houstonian

    Message was edited by: jeffrags
    Posted: 7/29/07 11:59 PM

    As sick as he was and as old as he was, I am still in shock. Channel 13 without Marvin Zindler is just another TV station, now.


  2. 2 Ken Robertson

    Jeff, I am a local artist looking for photos of Marvin to use for a portrait. I’ve been talking to Dan, Marvin’s son, for photos, and while he’s sent me a few, they don’t capture the Marvin I want to paint. I like the photo (2nd from right) that you use in your montage and wonder if you can provide the source of that image. Thanks, Kenny

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