Born on 12 January 1884 in Waco, Mary Louise Cecilia "Texas" Guinan played a gun-slinger and rode bareback in silent films, took New York by storm in 1906, and earned a salary of $700,000 as a speakeasy hostess. Here are highlights from a life led at full speed until 5 November 1933. Meet TEXAS GUINAN!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Texas Star in Lancaster, PA

Tell 'em Joe sent you
Puppet theater plays to adults with a speakeasy cabaret. Famous (notorious) human co-stars
By_Sunday_News_Correspondent Laura Knowles

- excerpt from the Sunday News Published: Oct 03, 2005 -
LANCASTER COUNTY, PA - The Hole in the Wall Puppet Theatre's next presentation is aimed way over the heads of its usual audience. The target audience of Friday night's "Hello, Sucker!" is the parent, not the child. You must be 21 or over to attend this special, interactive entertainment. You may even bring along your favorite alcoholic beverage without fear of getting busted like those who patronized its historic role model, the legendary speakeasy acts of the Roaring '20s.

* * Rob Brock's Brainstorm * *
Presented under the banner of the intimate Victorian theater's brand-new Over 21 Club, "Hello, Sucker!" stars Hole in the Wall proprietor and puppeteer Rob Brock as the medium for his custom-built muppetlike star, real-life speakeasy performer Texas Guinan.

Brock's sassy, brassy reincarnation of the vaudeville madame is loaded with glitzy rhinestones, a deep-red halter gown, blue eyeshadow with spidery black eyelashes, and trademark bleached-blond hair.

Brock has played many a flashy role on stage, from a Teddy Roosevelt delusionist in "Arsenic and Old Lace" to the Cowardly Lion in "The Wizard of Oz." But Texas Guinan is more than just another, larger-than-life role.

"My grandmother was adopted, and the story was that Texas was her real mother," Brock revealed. "Maybe it's just a rumor, but I like to think it's true."

After all, Guinan DID send a layette to his grandmother when she had her firstborn child, Rob's uncle Jim.

True or not, it's clear Brock has an uncommon passion for this adult puppet creation. He seems to be channeling his would-be great-grandmother in a bawdy, irreverent, interactive production filled with anecdotes, one-liners, '20s music, Charleston dancing, and even a little speakeasy liquor swigging.

The name of the show was inspired by Guinan's famous greeting, "Hello, Sucker!" The wisecracking dame loved to tell her tall tales to anyone who would listen. She even managed to convince the media she had broken bucking broncos, rounded up cattle on a 50,000-acre ranch, attended finishing school, and run off to join the circus.

"She had a great personality, a sort of magnetism that no one could resist," Brock said, with obvious admiration for the gal whose act he is imitating in song and patter.

In reality, Guinan's past was a bit more tame than she let on. Born Mary Louise Cecilia in Waco, Texas, in 1884, she was educated in Catholic schools. By the time she set off to New York City as a young woman, she had reinvented herself as a celebrated nightclub siren who was as much a symbol of the 1920s as Babe Ruth and Lucky Lindy.

"Texas Guinan was known as Queen of the Nightclubs, and in her day she was as famous as any celebrity," Brock said. "Today, few people know who she was, and I want to change that."

The flamboyant star, who spent her life touring the United States, was a master of one-liners, with comments like, "Three cheers for Prohibition. Without it where the hell would I be?"

Ironically, she was not a drinker herself, Brock said. She was even known to say that too many people "drink to forget, but forget to stop."

Guinan claimed to have been in 300 movies, but the number was more like 36, and mostly two-reeler shorts. She told stories of entertaining the soldiers in France during World War I, but she never went overseas.

Her marital material was more reality-based though. Married three times, she was known to quip, "It's having the same man around the house all the time that ruins matrimony."

She fought old age by bleaching her hair and getting her face lifted long before that was common. But she never had the chance to grow old. She died in 1933, at the age of 49, after suffering an attack of colitis while on tour in Vancouver [Canada].

"At first the Catholic Church refused to bury her, but after they found out how much money she had given to the church, they finally agreed," Brock said.

She even played to her audience after death, ordering a facelift for her viewing so she would look her best.

Brock's puppet star is equally zealous in courtingher audience. He/she gets a lot of help from a small group of friends: books-on-tape star Norman Dietz as director; Barbara Snyder as flapper-dancer Ruby Lamour, who engages the audience in a Charleston contest; guitarist Matt Johnson; and percussionist Dan Zdilla.

Together, they are recreating the ambiance of a Prohibition-era nightclub.

Patrons are encouraged to wear strands of pearls, spats and buckle shoes, and carry their own personal flasks to the 60-minute B.Y.O.B. event.

In the true spirit of a 1920s speakeasy, you've gotta know the password to get in -- a key provided along with the price of admission, $10.
Because seating is limited to 40, reservations are definitely in order, especially since . . .
Article written by: Laura Knowles, Sunday News Correspondent
- excerpt from the Sunday News Published: Oct 03, 2005 -
- - visit Lancaster, PA online * - -