The Final Full Decade of Marvin Zindler’s TV Career and “Slime in the Ice Machine”
There isn’t a Houstonian living between the 1970s and the mid-2000s who hasn’t heard the famous words “slime in the ice machine,” which are entertaining to some and terrifying to others.
For decades, Houston restaurant owners were terrified of being featured by consumer reporter Marvin Zindler‘s Rat & Roach Report, which aired on the evening news every Friday.
However, it wasn’t until the 1990s, Zindler’s last decade of TV. The oft-repeated slogan was formalised in the Houston canon, complete with its own jingle and very ’90s visuals.
The KTRK Series
The KTRK series was first aired in the late 1970s. This series included a round-up of Houston eateries that had just been warned by the health authority for a variety of violations.
It ranges from mice and roaches to improperly kept meat to, yep, slime in the ice machine.
From 1980 until his death in 2007, Zindler had the same producer, Lori Reingold. “He was a stickler about cleanliness,” Reingold stated.
Since the report started before she started working at Channel 13, she didn’t know much about it other than the fact that it was definitely his idea.
Zindler’s Rat & Roach Report
On Fridays at 6 p.m., Zindler’s Rat & Roach Report would air on Eyewitness News. Families all around Houston started gathering on Friday nights to watch him.
They winced when they saw the places they visited on TV but otherwise enjoying his offbeat personality and delivery.
“He was the same guy on and off camera,” Reingold said. “Marvin would do what he wanted to do regardless of what anybody told him to do.”
According to Texas Monthly, by the time Zindler started his television career in 1973, he had owned three or four $300 toupees that he kept meticulously styled in elaborate updos.
His eye twitching disorder, blepharospasm, required him to wear blue-tinted eyeglasses even while he was inside or on air.
Zindler said that some people did not know where to keep their food supplies (his “rest-uh-runts”). His remarks were easy to memorise because of the segment’s repetition and his distinctive voice pattern.
Zindler’s signature sign-off, “Have a wonderful weekend, good golf, excellent tennis, or whatever makes you happy.”
It has been at the conclusion of his reports for more than 30 years. Then, with a flourish, he said, “Maarvin Zindleeer, Eeeeeeyewitness News.”
Zindler and his team followed a health department inspector inside the restaurants during early Rat & Roach reports.
Summary of the Inspection Report
But Reingold claims the Houston Restaurant Association ultimately objected. In the ’90s, Zindler would read a summary of the inspection report, It included b-roll of the restaurant’s exterior and occasional images, and then describe it live on television.
From 1990 through 1999, Zindler’s insatiable fear of germs caused her to systematically attack hundreds of Houston eateries of varying quality. There were no “holy cows,” as Reingold put it.
Fast food restaurants like Jack in the Box, Popeye’s, Wendy’s, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Burger King, Starbucks, Church’s, and Whataburger, as well as local Houston staples like Shipley’s, James Coney Island, Luby’s, Pancho’s, Luther’s BBQ, and Timmy Chan’s, were all common sights.
Possibly Dangerous Tuna
Perhaps foreshadowing the current tuna case against Subway, inspectors noted “possibly dangerous tuna” in September 1990.
Tepatitlan Mexican Grill, Express Wok, Bravos, Frank’s Grill, and CN Seafood Market (1997), King Palace, Thomas BBQ, and Grotto Ristorante (2003), are just a few examples of the many independent eateries that are still there today (1998).
Both the Houstonian Hotel (1994) and the defunct Greenspoint Club were uncovered by the Rat & Roach Report (1997).
In July 1991, Zindler reported 13 infractions in the City Hall restaurant.He joked on live, “I’m sure the people in City Hall greatly welcome roach activity in their coffee shop.”
Channel 13 Coffee Shop
But the ABC13 cafeteria, which first aired in October 1991, was the best example of Zindler’s fair coverage of restaurants.
The script said, “Our Channel 13 coffee shop, located in our studios in the 3300 block of Bissonnet, was inspected on October 2.”
According to Health Officer Harrison, “there were slime deposits on the water fountain and spouts of the ice machine; burned residue on the oven; dried food residue on the slicer; and corroded cooling racks.”
Melanie Lawson, a well-loved anchor who just marked 40 years at KTRK, said, “The woman who worked down there didn’t talk to him for months.”
Nobody was safe from his fury, as he often put it: “I spare no one.” Reingold claims that Zindler was blacklisted from many local eateries, including the Palm.
They stated Mrs. Zindler was welcome, but he never was,” she added with a chuckle. In response to the negative press, he began awarding “Blue Ribbons” for “Best Kept Kitchens” in the mid-1970s.
Many long-lasting Houston eateries were honoured, including Shanghai River, Pino’s Italian Restaurant, Kenny & Ziggy’s, and Niko Niko’s.
Slime in the Ice Machine
According to Reingold, Zindler’s catchphrases grew organically out of his showmanship.
The “slime in the ice machine” reference was moved to the conclusion of the report in its own section in the early 1990s, having previously been included into the report’s central portion together with all the other breaches.
The climax that followed established the slogan dramatically.
Graphics and visual effects from the 1990s such as a color-changing ice machine, marching roaches, and Zindler’s visage in a speech bubble livened up the programme.
The Elliott Walter Band apparently composed a catchy tune about “slime in the ice machine.”
When Zindler finally marked the moment everyone had been waiting for with “and now, for the big-big-big-big-big S.” The music started. It continued to play throughout the list of eateries and the “What did they have?” segment.
An “Okay, everyone, listen up!” call to action. All of this built up to the unforgettable climax, which by then usually included a “Slime Choir” made up of pupils from the primary school of the week.
Although Zindler is most known for his contributions to the Houston food industry, he left an indelible impression on the city in other areas as well.
Some of the reader letters that Reingold retained as memories are part of a large collection he donated to the University of Houston’s Special Collections.
Taylor Burns, then a third-grader, wrote and sent him a limerick about a mouse in a stew in May of 1990.
Another admirer sent him an anonymous, undated message in which he wondered how many other viewers had sent him the same newspaper clipping with the roach joke.
Work for the Cypress Fairbanks School District
The date of Arlene Stripling’s letter to Zindler is March 1992. It was while conducting work for the Cypress Fairbanks School District that she learned that the fear of slime is called blennophobia.
“Perhaps some of the eateries that you inspect need this fear,” Stripling stated in her letter. “I appreciate your series of restaurant reviews and thought you would find this interesting.”
An overflowing, coffee-stained manila folder with the label “Marvin’s 70th birthday celebration” is part of the unedited Marvin Zindler UH collection that may be seen by appointment.
The event took place in the Sheraton Astrodome Hotel on August 10, 1991, as shown by the printed copies of the program’s detailed run of show.
Chuck Norris and Kathy Whitmire, the mayor of Houston, were just two of the well-known people who were there.
Zindler’s achievements, which extend well beyond his Rat & Roach Reports, were commemorated through speeches and video excerpts shown to the audience.
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
In 1973, Zindler’s first year at KTRK, he revealed the Chicken Ranch brothel in La Grange, which inspired the 1982 musical “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he went to Vietnam, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Nicaragua in search of story ideas.
Before he became a TV journalist, Zindler was a consumer advocate who formed the Harris County Sheriff’s Department’s consumer fraud section.
He was praised for his big and small acts of kindness, such as making sure that many children in the Houston area got free medical care.
“As boisterous and flashy as he was, he was a loving and kind guy, ” Lawson recalled. “I mourn him every single day; he was the essence of this town.”
Zindler filed his very last Rat & Roach Report on July 20, 2007, from his hospital bed at MD Anderson, where he died from pancreatic cancer nine days later.