Houston Babylon: Dean Goss, Houston's Jackie Gleason, Houston's Bluebeard or Both?

Houston Babylon, the feature coming out this week, dissects a few of the creepiest and most chilling events in Houston history. In coming up with four of those tales, we stumbled over many more -- too many to fit the print edition.

All this week we'll bring you some extra, online-only stories. Check out Part 1 about Avenging Angels: A Failed Revenge and Part II: Early Victorian Houston and Texas: Suicide City for the Elite. Without further ado, here is the third...

Circa 1970, Dean Goss was riding high on the hog. An enormous man -- Goss packed around 450 pounds on his six-foot-plus frame at his peak -- Goss was also a huge success.

Back when South Main was Houston's swanky mini-Vegas Strip, when the Shamrock was glowing green in the humid skies and the Astrodome was still the Eighth Wonder of the World, the Dean Goss Dinner Theater (2525 Murworth) was the place to see and be seen, laugh and be laughed at.

There, the hard-drinking, cigar-chomping Goss would hold court and crack jokes from the stage, often gags that would be considered wildly offensive today. One example cited in a lengthy 1993 Houston Chronicle remembrance of the man and his troubled life -- Goss loved to dispatch waitresses over to tables full of black patrons with trays of watermelon mai tais, but it was all more or less accepted, because as Texas Monthly noted in 1979, his insults spared no ethnicity.

The city loved him, so much so that he landed cameos in The Thief Who Came to Dinner and Brewster McCloud, director Robert Altman's murder mystery and portrait of Houston and the Dome. (Goss is the giant security guard attempting to run at 1:52 below)

His popularity did not, however, extend to the political arena: His 1979 city council bid failed, despite his ever-popular "law and order" platform.

Perhaps that failed attempt at a career change shows he knew that though he was only 46, Goss's comedic glory days were long past by 1980. That was when his landlady raised the rent on his supper club, causing the lights to go out for Goss on South Main. (The Chron article states Candace Mossler was his landlady, but the notorious River Oaks socialite and incestuous nephew-lover died in 1976.)

A far worse blow came on March 16, 1982, when Elaine Karen Goss, his wife of 22 years, was found dead in an upstairs bedroom of their faux-Tudor Meyerland-area home from a single gunshot wound to the back of the head.

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John Nova Lomax
Contact: John Nova Lomax