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!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Texas Guinan: Gonfarone's 50-Cent-Special

The year was 1908. Texas Guinan was living on the same shabby block as 61 Washington Square South, a boarding house whose lodgers included aspiring authors such as Willa Cather, John Dos Passos, Max Bodenheim, and Stephen Crane. Since Texas was spending many hours at unpaid rehearsals, listening to her stomach growl, neighbors confided that you could get a decent meal at Gonfarone's for a few cents.

***50-Cent-Meal, Gonfarone's Restaurant, New York, 1920s***
A pint of California red wine, assorted antipasto, minestrone or spaghetti with meat or tomato sauce, choice of main dishes (boiled salmon with caper sauce; sweetbread with mushroom gravy; broiled spring chicken or roast prime ribs of beef), vegetables and salads (spinach, potatoes, green salad), a dessert (biscuit, tortoni or spumoni), fresh fruit, assorted cheeses, and coffee [a 'demi-tasse'].
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Photo: Hotel Gonfarone, 38 West 8th Street at MacDougal Street [circa 1913]

Texas Guinan.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Texas Guinan: Wishbone

The year was 1908. Texas Guinan was hired to play the part of Rita Santacierci, a supporting role in the three-hour comedy with music "The Hoyden."
The play had been written for the sublimely talented Elise Janis, who had starred onstage since the age of 8. Texas Guinan joined the production when the show was in Chicago at the Studebaker Theatre, May 17 - June 20, 1908.
Chicago critics noted that Texas was "handsome, clever, and a decided feature in the reckoning of support." Texas Guinan was getting her wish: the critics were paying attention.

Illustration: Elsie Janis [1889-1956] in "The Hoyden" -- a song sheet from 1908
Texas Guinan.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Texas Takes to the Fifth

The year was 1909. In May, Texas Guinan was appearing in her own act, engaged as a "Lone Star Novelty" at Keith and Proctor's Fifth Avenue Theatre [27-31 West 28th Street, between Fifth Avenue and Broadway].

Nightly, the 25-year-old performer floated above the audience, inside an airship. Her songs included "To the End of the World with You," "Pansies Mean Thoughts," and "Shine on, Harvest Moon." Jack Mason did the staging for Guinan's first attempt as a soloist.
Variety applauded her "good soprano voice."
An anonymous theatre critic advised his readers to "keep your eyes on that girl. She has zip and fizz, and that's what the public wants. . . ."

Illustration: Fifth Avenue Theatre: 27-31 West 28th Street [1891-1939]

Texas Guinan.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Texas Guinan with Fatty Arbuckle

Before the death of Virginia Rappe in 1921, before the non-stop media coverage of the murder trial, Roscoe Conkling "Fatty" Arbuckle [March 24, 1887 – June 29, 1933] was an established silent film star. Here he serenades two women whose careers were not yet established: Vivian Duncan [of the "Duncan Sisters"] and Texas Guinan. Their court room days would alter the picture. After the trial, however, Fatty Arbuckle appeared several times on the same stagebill as Texas Guinan.
Coincidentally, he suffered a fatal heart attack at age 46 in the summer of 1933, the same year that Texas would die at age 49.


Illustration: Sixth Avenue El on West 8th Street: Edward C. Caswell
Texas Guinan.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Texas Guinan & the 6th Avenue El

On November 22nd, 1908 the newspaper New York Telegram printed an interview with Texas Guinan, asking her about her unusual first name. Mary Cecilia Guinan had taken to telling New Yorkers that TEXAS was her real first name.

She loved creating myths about her background and this was only one of the tall tales she would start spreading around.

Meanwhile, as a fledging actress onstage, Texas was still riding public transportation to and from the theatre. Her station was 8th Street on the Sixth Avenue Elevated line. It was located right opposite Jefferson Market Court House, a place she would come to know well during Prohibition. This is how the 8th Street station looked when she used it every day.

Illustration: Sixth Avenue El on West 8th Street: Edward C. Caswell
Texas Guinan.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Texas Guinan in Greenwich Village

By 1907, Texas had tucked out to the East Coast to take to the stage. Reginald DeKoven had said he'd give her a job if she ever came to New York, and Tex finagled her way into his current production: The Snowman [a.k.a. The Girls of Holland, which is the new title it used when it arrived on Broadway in November 1907].
Tex had gotten herself a room in a run-down Greenwich Village boarding house at 72 Washington Square South. She paid $2 a week for rent and breakfast.

Illustration shows Judson Memorial Church and the buildings east of it around 1900. Situated between Wooster and Thompson Streets in 1907, 72 Washington Square South was a 4-story brick building on a lot size of 23' x 104.8' -- not far from a rooming house known as "The House of Genius" [61 Washington Square South].
Texas Guinan.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Texas Guinan Says: 14-K Wisdom

In her popular newspaper column, Texas Guinan Says, the nightingale of nightlife often fictionalized mundane episodes in her life to amuse her audience. But tossed in with the gossamer, the white lies, and the flights of fance would be a nugget of solid stuff.
Here's timeless advice from Texas:
If you want anything bad enough, go out and fight for it. Work day and night in order to achieve the goal. Sacrifice your time, your peace, your sleep. Sweat for it, fret for it. Plan for it. Lose your terror of God or man for it. Hold fast to the pillars of faith, hope, confidence, stern pertinacity. Defy cold poverty, pain of body and brain. Besiege and beset for it, and you are bound to win.
Doncha love her madly?

PHOTO: Jefferson Market Night Court or Bust [Texas in 1926]

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Texas Guinan & Mae West in Court

In 1930 Texas Guinan was asked by the New York Journal [a daily newspaper] to do some freelance reporting. Her first assignment: cover the Mae West trial at Jefferson Market Court House on Sixth Avenue.
Actress Mae West had been charged with writing many of the skits in the homosexual-themed play "Pleasure Man" that New York's police and prosecutors declared were too shocking for the stage.

In her popular syndicated column "Texas Guinan Says" [The New York Daily News, 12 April 1929], Texas had playfully mentioned her friend: "Mae's a good girl at heart -- but she's got a bad heart." Of course, Texas Guinan was also a repeat offender [repeat "attender"], frequently on trial in the very same Greenwich Village court house.
Texas Guinan died on 5 November 1933.
Mae West died on 22 November 1980.

Texas Guinan.

PHOTO: 1 April 1930 Mae West, Alan Brooks, Texas Guinan, and another gentleman pose for the press during a recess at the "Pleasure Man" trial, Jefferson Market Court

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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Texas Was Against Going to War

The posters for many of her 2-reelers depicted the Texas Guinan character as a two-gun gal. Though she was not anti-gun, Guinan was solidly anti-war.

In her popular syndicated newspaper column Texas Guinan Says, she declared her feelings on January 5, 1931. [War] is unnecessary, it is costly, and in the end, nobdy knows what he has been fighting for. It seldom (if ever) kills off the right people. The history of war is brief as to its origins and consequences: daft, draft, graft . . . .

Texas Guinan.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

In November We Remember

"All you need to make a movie," the filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard once said, "is a girl and a gun."
* * * Texas Guinan [1884-1933] appeared in several silent films as the gun-slinger.
* * * Mae West [1893-1980] appeared in films as the gun-moll.
* * * During the 1920s, both wound up in Jefferson Market Court.

* * * Both rated a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. [Mae's star is at 1560 Vine Street.]
* * * Eventually, both died in the West during November.
* * * While on the road, Texas Guinan contracted amoebic dysentery in Vancouver, British Columbia and died there on November 5, 1933 at age 49, exactly one month before Prohibition was repealed. She is interred in the Calvary Cemetery, Queens, New York.
* * * Mae West was 87 years old when she suffered a stroke. She died in Los Angeles, California on November 22, 1980. She is entombed in the Cypress Hills Cemetery [833 Jamaica Avenue], Brooklyn, New York.

During November, stop in Jefferson Market Library and check out Texas Guinan: Queen of the Night Clubs by Louise Berliner and Becoming Mae West by Emily Wortis Leider.
PHOTO: September 1930 -- Mae West and Texas Guinan take a recess in the judge's chambers during Mae's "Pleasure Man" obscenity trial at Jefferson Market Court.

Jefferson Market.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Texas Exits: 11-5-1933 R.I.P.

It was in Vancouver, Canada when the curtain came down on Texas Guinan.


Texas Guinan.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Piece of Texas: Live Auction Nov. 12

Auction Date: Nov-12-05
Roaring Twenties (Warner Brothers, 1939). Midget Window Card (8"X 14").
Heritage Gallery described this item: This last of the '30s gangster films, with James Cagney in the thinly-disguised (and humanized) lead role, was based upon the real-life rise and fall of New York mobster/ racketeer Larry Fay who had a business relationship with his brassy, frowsy saloon singer-promoter and hostess Texas Guinan [Gladys George's role as Panama Smith]. Humphrey Bogart co-stars as Cagney's ruthless second-fiddle lieutenant and then as his rival. This would be the last film in which they would co-star. This great midget card is identical to the one sheet and has a small chunk out of the upper left corner. . . . Printed on the linen-finish paper Warner's used prior to the war, this card glows with its deep colors and dynamic image. . . .
Auction to be conducted on a live auction floor [over the Internet] through eBay Live.

Texas Guinan.