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A Site For Tired Eyes
Frank Deford
April 18, 1977
Stanley Marsh's Amarillo spread—what with those buried Cadillacs, Night Tree and all—is something that will alter your vision forever. Intentionally
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April 18, 1977

A Site For Tired Eyes

Stanley Marsh's Amarillo spread—what with those buried Cadillacs, Night Tree and all—is something that will alter your vision forever. Intentionally

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One of the latest things that Stanley Marsh 3 has gotten himself into is professional wrestling. He refereed the Dory Funk Jr. vs. Dennis Stamp match last Oct. 31 at the Bull Barn in Hereford, Texas. Perhaps because he is an esthetic type, Marsh keeps calling it "judging," not refereeing, and for the occasion he wore red tie and tails and sneakers. The promotional flyers fairly shouted: HALLOWEEN SPECTACULAR SPECIAL REFEREE—STANLEY MARSH 3. Stanley Marsh 3 is chairman of Marsh Media, and one of the largest landowners in the Panhandle. He was donating his services as part of a drive to keep the children off the streets during the holiday.

Before the match, Dory Funk Jr., former world champion, showed Marsh such tricks of the trade as how to count very deliberately when a guy is getting pinned. Count too fast, the match is over too soon. There is a certain rhythm to it, but Marsh is attuned to oscillations—"I'm best at holidays," he says, sipping coffee, "and I've always been a Halloween man especially"—and he rises to most any occasion. In Philadelphia one Halloween, when he was attending the University of Pennsylvania learning how to be a vacuous businessman in the natural-gas game, he and a girl friend dressed up like gypsies, hired a horse-drawn wagon and sold pumpkins, which cost them 25� wholesale, for $5 apiece around Rittenhouse Square. It will come as no surprise, then, that Marsh did an outstanding job of wrestling judging in Hereford—this according to no less an authority than Dory Funk Jr., who emerged victorious in the contest.

The next stop for the Marsh wrestling cartel is Albuquerque. The big time. While it is certainly not incorrect to say that Marsh is pleased to devote his energies to diverting the mischievous youngsters of Hereford on Halloween, he is not altogether altruistic. The Hereford gig was a warmup for Albuquerque. A stepping stone. "They hate me in Albuquerque," Marsh says with glee, now drinking a Tab. "Despise me. I can hardly wait to get over there and judge. They'll scream at me and shout. We'll draw a great crowd. I love it."

The reason the citizens of Greater Albuquerque so abominate Marsh is because he owns the contract to tear down their beloved Civic Auditorium. That is where they hold wrestling judgments and rock shows. The contract was duly granted by the city, and Marsh didn't mean to get involved in the first place—but he is forever getting carried away and into things. For example he owns television stations, four of them, in the Panhandle and in Texas at large; he owns the biggest bookstore in Amarillo, at which he acquaints himself with the literate public—"Romantic novels today are read mostly by plain women who want to be seduced by their tennis pros"; he still keeps his hand in natural gas and helium; and then there is also some ranching and some banks, and something or other to do with microwaves and warehouses.

Obviously, then, Marsh didn't need the Albuquerque Civic Auditorium caper. But a very slick fellow came along and caught him off guard. At about the same time Marsh went on President Nixon's enemies list, so maybe he was temporarily discombobulated. The reason Marsh was so honored was he was thinking about opening a Museum of Decadent Art, and he wrote Pat Nixon about the project, saying that he wanted samples of her wardrobe to fill up the entire first floor.

Well, as you can see, Marsh had a lot of things on his mind. And to get right to the point here, the sharp cookie who wanted Marsh to come in on the Civic Auditorium deal used, as collateral, a volcano he owned, but not lock, stock and lava. He had already mortgaged the volcano to another party. So, to Marsh's chagrin, he not only ended up in second position for a volcano, but also was himself faced with tearing down the Civic Auditorium. It gets more complicated, but don't worry: with or without volcano, they will hate Marsh in Albuquerque whenever he finds the time to judge some wrestling there.

Also, if he can work it into his schedule, Marsh is going to try to breed an animal, a whole new species, that would be three-quarters striped donkey. This enterprise involves several steps but the main ingredients are his zebra, whose name is Spot, and any albino donkey he can turn up. (Once Marsh dyed his Clydesdale blond and painted its hooves pink, but that is another story altogether and has nothing to do with albino donkeys.) Marsh is also out of lion and tiger cubs now. Lots of times circus people drop them off at Marsh's ranch for R and R. He is out of camels now, too. He has a thing about camels. Two-hump camels. But not everything is slow. True, the new de-smelled skunk bit two visitors to the ranch recently, but the pet yak didn't bite anybody, and the pet llama likewise passed an uneventful time. They hang around a lot with the modest beginnings of what Marsh calls "the scruffiest herd in the world." He would like to purchase scruffy cows and steers. He also has regular steers and an old-fashioned longhorn. And there are peacocks, guinea hens, donkeys—regular ones—some South American ostriches called rheas, buffalo, assorted cats and dogs, miscellaneous homo sapiens collectively referred to as "cowboys and hippies," five young children and a wife named Wendy who rides herd over all this madness with a bemused tolerance seldom found in this world.

The name of the Marsh ranch house is Toad Hall, and it lies hard by the Amarillo city limits. Its major landmark is visible from some distance. It is known as Night Tree, a soaring neon tower that lights up this color and that, depending on the wind currents. Night Tree is particularly admired by the adolescent swains of the Panhandle, who park nearby so that they may examine it better: "Hey, wanna see Night Tree?" Round the other way, out front of the ranch, pointing toward where the alleged new housing development is supposed to go, is this large sign: FUTURE HOME OF THE WORLD'S LARGEST POISONOUS SNAKE FARM.

Marsh pours brandy into a paper cup. He is in the back seat of his truck, on the way to visit his world-famous Cadillac Ranch and then his World's Largest Phantom Soft Pool Table, which he humbly describes as "my gift to mankind." As he says, "I fulfill whims. Most people have whims and dreams, and I'm just lucky enough to be able to carry out my whims. But, you know, the quantity of your fun does not have to depend on your means. If more people were like me, it would be a more interesting world."

Stanley Marsh 3 is the self-proclaimed United States Professional Fun Champion. He could be classified as the top sportsman in America except that sportsman has generally come to refer to people who kill animals. Marsh is a Texan who wants guns outlawed and animals bred. He genuinely concerns himself with his yak's love life. Marsh does just about everything inside-out. He is a progressive thinker who just happens to live in old-fashioned baronial style.

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