The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, based on Larry L. King’s The Whorehouse Papers, was a seminal work of sex work-themed pop culture. The successful 1982 film version of the musical, starring Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton, included “I Will Always Love You,” a ballad that would later become Whitney Houston’s signature showstopper in The Bodyguard, and “A Lil’ Ole Bitty Pissant Country Place,” a showtune that would become the go-to performance choice of future musical theater strippers across America. Undoubtedly, many young children of the 80s were first introduced to the very idea of prostitution by the film.
But before all that, the Chicken Ranch in La Grange, Texas, was a real place, and a massive news story in 1970s Texas. The brothel was brought down thanks to the, ahem, consumer advocate reporting of Geraldo Rivera precursor Marvin Zindler. During its final days, the Chicken Ranch was run by Edna Milton (later Chadwell), who had started working (yup) at the brothel in the 50s and later bought it for $30,000. The real life Miss Mona said she’d never had an affair with the local sheriff and that their relationship was all business. Somehow, this doesn’t make her story any less interesting.
Edna died this week after sustaining injuries in a car crash last October. Unfortunately, she never published an autobiography, but went on the record whenever she was asked. Although she often said the fictional stories about the Chicken Ranch were sensationalized, it’s hard to imagine her actual story was in any way boring.