North Texas Daily

Winkler to play Denton kingpin in upcoming HBO series ‘King Rex’

Winkler to play Denton kingpin in upcoming HBO series ‘King Rex’

Winkler to play Denton kingpin in upcoming HBO series ‘King Rex’
June 10
14:00 2022

Emmy award-winning actor and comedian Henry Winkler is set to play Rex Cauble, a Denton self-made millionaire and local business tycoon, in HBO’s upcoming miniseries “King Rex.”

The series will depict Cauble’s history as an anti-drug advocate who was simultaneously affiliated with the ‘70s marijuana smuggling organization, “The Cowboy Mafia.”

Cauble’s reputation preceded him as a flamboyant Texas businessman who was a successful wildcatter — someone who drills wells in places not previously suspected of having oil. He also worked in horse racing with his prized racehorse Cutter Bill whose success would drive the creation of Cutter Bill’s Wild Western Wear in Dallas and Houston. Cauble also owned several large ranches and later opened multiple banks in Houston, Dallas and Denton.

In 1978 Cauble was indicted on 10 counts of racketeer influence and corrupt organization charges after a shrimping boat carrying over twenty tons of marijuana arrived on the Texas coast was busted by law enforcement. On the boat was Les Fuller, Cauble’s friend and former Cutter Bill’s employee, whose trial would expose Cauble’s involvement with the group’s operation.

Cauble was a prominent figure who was very well-liked, according to Denton Resident and Courthouse Museum Archivist, Kim Cupit.

“Rex was a big local guy,” Cupit said. “He was hard on drugs, he hosted [events] at his arena [and] was just really big in the community, which is why it was such a big scandal.”

Cauble would often have guests at his Denton ranch, spent thousands of dollars to keep Denton “drug-free” and was friends with the sister of President Jimmy Carter, actor Dale Robertson and the late Texas Governor John Connally.

He had a reputation of being a good and honest person, according to Mike Mulligan, Denton Mini Mall Employee who was 23 the first time he met Cauble.

“He had a big ranch outside of town,” Mulligan said. “I worked for a place and we would do barbecues for him,” Mulligan said. “He would have all the attorneys [in attendance], I mean [they were] big time barbecues.”

Cauble’s indictment came as a shock to Mulligan and other Denton residents, as Cauble was often involved in law enforcement and local politics.

“One of the problems was, politically, that he received an honorary membership into the Texas Rangers,” Mulligan said. “They get real upset when you don’t follow the line.”

William Trantham, Cauble’s personal lawyer for 13 years and one of the last living witnesses from his trial, maintains Cauble was “a nice guy.”

“[Rex] let me and my wife get married on his ranch at Cutter Bill [arena],” Trantham said. “When Willie Nelson was going to perform at the North Texas Fair all those years ago, Rex offered to pay the $25,000 it would cost to book him. When Nelson found out they were from the same place, he told Cauble to keep the money, but he would still perform.”

After being released from prison in 1987, Cauble remarried and spent the rest of his life in Oklahoma where he died in 2003. Cauble proclaimed his innocence until the day he died at the age of 89, according to his widow.

Nearly 20 years later, HBO is giving Denton and the rest of the world a look into Cauble’s story. Max Winkler, producer and son of Henry Winkler, is set to direct the series based on Lawrence Wright’s “Rex Cauble and the Cowboy Mafia,” which was published in Texas Monthly in 1980. The series is one of the two projects known to be produced under a new partnership between Texas Monthly and HBO.

Since the series’ announcement, only a few things are known about the show. William Trantham has taken phone calls with screenwriters and is the only known contact thus far. It is not yet known whether the show will film in Denton. The series is still in the pre-production stage and does not have a set release date yet.

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Lauryn Barron

Lauryn Barron

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