The Big Rich Tells the Story of Texas Oilmen Who Lived Large

I’m reading a fun book called The Big Rich by Bryan Burrough, in which the fortunes of the men who created the Texas oil industry are chronicled. It’s a story of rise, then fall, fantastic tales of men who clawed their way into the business and again and again, lose it all, then start anew.

The Big Four who put Texas on the money map are Sid Richardson, Clint Murchison, Roy Cullen and Howard Hunt. These names might be familiar, since Murk’s descendants went on to own the Dallas Cowboys…and Howard Hunt’s kids became famous for trying to corner the market in silver.

One oilman named Glenn McCarthy decided that he’d build the largest hotel ever built right outside of Houston in 1945, and he named it the Shamrock. His opening gala would be the stuff of legends…he used a plane he bought from Howard Hughes to fly in movie stars, along with a chartered train with Ginger Rogers, Van Johnson, Eddie Rickenbacker and other big shots on board.

McCarthy had invited 2000 to the big spare-no-expense hotel opening, including setting up an NBC live radio broadcast to listen to Pat O’Brien do the honors. But after 3000 people packed in the opulent lobby, things began to go badly, and tables were knocked over and panic ensued. The PA was broken, and NBC soon cut away giving up any idea of broadcasting the mayhem.

McCarthy, like his oil tycoon brethren, never lost his confidence even as the banks were trying to call in their huge loans. He got his picture on the cover of Life Magazine, and continued to spend, lose and spend long after the Shamrock was forgotten.