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Out Director Brings “Uncut” Version of “Best Little Whorehouse” to Pearl Theater

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El Campo’s Nathan C. Hand extends uber-gay locker room scene to nearly 10 minutes. 

By Don Maines
 
Bigger, longer and uncut describes “The Aggie Song” number in the production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas at Pearl Theater from Friday, May 26 through June 18.
 
“At almost 10 minutes, most theaters don’t do the full song and dance,” says Nathan C. Hand, the openly gay director/choreographer of the show. “It is, if not the longest ‘break’ in musical theater history, [then] one of the longest.”
Nathan C. Hand
Nathan C. Hand

Only five-and-a-half minutes of the risqué routine were shown on the 1979 Tony Awards, but its moves were downright scandalous, even compared to the très gay, boy-toy, locker-room-and-shower display in the 1982 Dolly Parton-Burt Reynolds musical-comedy film. 

Many of the song’s lyrics were even “censored” by a xylophone on the Tonys.  
 
Six guys (two of whom are openly gay) perform the number at the Pearl, boot-scootin’ and tap-dancing in cowboy boots as Aggie football players who are headed to the “Chicken Ranch.” Their destination is a one-time pleasure palace based on an infamous bordello that operated in plain sight in LaGrange until TV reports by the late Channel 13 newsman Marvin Zindler got the place shut down in the 1970s.
 
“I always knew of its existence, but I wasn’t born until 1980,” says Hand, who lives in El Campo. “I read about it and did research about it because of Marvin Zindler. I was 5 or 6 when I spotted him on the news, and I wanted to know how this man who was so flamboyant and outspoken and outrageous was so successful on TV. In the fourth or fifth grade, I investigated it on my own accord, and I couldn’t believe this man who wore a wig and the colors of the Texas flag was on the news, telling the truth about the Chicken Ranch.”
 
Meanwhile, long-legged, openly gay Houston native Tommy Tune banded with fellow Texans Larry L. King and Peter Masterson, who adapted King’s chronicling of the demise of the “Chicken Ranch” in Playboy magazine into a Broadway show with music and lyrics by Carol Hall.
 
Tune choreographed the show’s dance numbers, including “The Aggie Song,” to six 1979 Tony Award nominations. Scandalously omitted was a nomination for Best Score for the outstanding music and lyrics for songs that include “A Lil’ Ole Bitty Pissant Country Place,” “Good Old Girl,” and “Hard Candy Christmas,” among others.
 
You can imagine what I thought when Hand told me he “shouldn’t have picked up that whore today at choreography rehearsal, and now I’ve been up all night and strained my back.” But it turns out he was talking about hoisting an actress in the show who plays a prostitute at the Chicken Ranch. 
 
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
Pearl Theater
14803 Park Almeda Drive
May 26-June 18
 

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Don Maines

Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.
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