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!

Monday, October 31, 2005

Dallas Morning News: 6 November 1933

Texas Guinan, the 49-year-old speakeasy hostess and entertainer, had confided to a reporter:
I like noise, rhinestone heels, customers, plenty of attention, and red velvet bathing suits. I smoke like a 5-alarm fire. I eat an aspirin every night before I go to bed. I call every man I don't know "Fred" and they love it. I have six uncles. I sleep on my right side. I like carrots. I eat a dozen oranges every day and I once took off 35 lbs in two weeks. I guess that settles my personality. . . .
- Dallas Morning News * * 6 November 1933 -
Note: Prohibition was repealed one month after Guinan’s death.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Texas Died from a Drink of Water

Did diamond-draped rebel Texas Guinan really die on November 5th, 1933 from a drink of water? The 1942 obituary of cafe king Jacques Bustanoby [who claims he gave Guinan her high-heeled start in his nightspot] quotes the speakeasy superstar herself.

May 10, 1942 (The American Weekly)
Strange pages from the guest book of New York's most famous restaurateur (better known as 'Bust Anybody'), who originated the women's bar, dance floors, gigolos (including Rudolph Valentino), sidewalk cafes, and entertained more notables (including Reggie Vanderbilt's horse) than all the modern night clubs combined.
Descendant of a long line of French chefs, Jacques Bustanoby was "born to the purple" of the restaurant business and he ruled it, in New York, during its golden age, when dining out was not only an art but almost a sacred ritual. This great genius of the culinary art died the other day at the age of 62. He had outlived his era and strangely enough, had probably done more than any other person or thing - - even Prohibition - - to kill the age of the royal dinner. He had introduced to the dining room two deadly enemies, bound to be as devastating to the fine art of his ancestors, as they would be to the sermon, if introduced into church services. One was the cabaret, which his horrified competitors called, "din with dinner"; the other, perhaps even more fatal to serious eating, the modern custom of jumping up every few minutes to dance, while the food gets cold. . . .
* * Enter "a blonde of the buxom, corn-fed, Wild-Western type" * *

A blonde of the buxom, corn-fed, Wild-Western type breezed into New York but could get no work until she saw Jacques, who immediately put her on his payroll. She was Texas Guinan who lived through the twilight of the great dinner days, adapted herself to the Prohibition night club, as the famous "Howdy, Sucker!" greeter, and finally died, of all things, from a drink of water. Joking, even on her deathbed, Guinan said: "The water rusted my iron constitution." The doctors, however, blamed it not on the tap water, but on the germs of amoebic dysentery in the water.
Retribution also began to catch up with the Napoleon of novelty. Jacques, having introduced the tea dance and the first bar for women, blamed them for the divorce from his first wife, Ruth Boyd. ...
- excerpt May 10, 1942 (The American Weekly) -

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Texas Guinan: Public Nuisance?

Texas GUINAN to Be Heard July 19 on Nuisance Charge
Denies She Owns Night Club or That She Ever Sold Liquor

publication: Brooklyn Standard Union
1 July 1928

Having furnished bail to the extent of $1,000, Texas GUINAN is free until July 19, when her presence will be desired in the Federal Court to explain why her latest night club is not a nuisance.
This [it will be remembered] will be the fifth time since the blonde night club hostess first hit the street of twinkling lights, that she has had to explain away a similar charge. Yesterday in the Federal Courts Building, she seemed very cheerful and refused to take the matter seriously.
"I don't own a night club and never have." she declared. "So far as liquor is concerned, I don't care if they never make another glass of whiskey. I offered District Attorney Buckner a certified check for $100,000 once, if he could prove that I had ever either taken or sold a drink in my life."
With her in the court was Helen MORGAN, a sister night club hostess, for whom court experiences are not quite so frequent, and who seemed somewhat subdued by it. She, too, denied that she was ever an owner of night club and adding that since she did not own the club or any part of it, how, she demanded, could she be maintaining a public nuisance. . . .
- Brooklyn Standard Union * * 1 July 1928 -

Texas Queen of the Night Clubs

Queen of the Night Clubs
[Warner Brothers, released in March 1929]
Legendary speakeasy queen Texas Guinan plays a character - - "Texas Malone" - - who is very much like herself.

Queen of the Night Clubs photo: Texas Guinan and Lila Lee
"You understand English, don't you?"
"Yes, but I'm so much more familiar with Scotch."
Dialogue Source: Texas Guinan as "Texas Malone" in QUEEN OF THE NIGHTCLUBS (WB-1929)

Director: Brian Foy. Cast: Texas Guinan (Texas Malone); John Davidson (John Holland); Lila Lee (Bea Walters); Arthur Housman (Andy Quinland); George Raft (Gigola); etc. Black & white. Vitaphone.

Texas Guinan.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Give a Little Girl a Big Handcuff

This article was published in The Villager:

From activists and authors to madams and madwomen: The prisoners of Sixth Avenue

By LindaAnn Loschiavo

PHOTO: Texas Guinan at Chumley's [a speakeasy at 86 Bedford Street in New York]

Hollywood is embracing an armful of women’s history attached to the crooked elbow of W. 10th St. west of Sixth Ave. In April, “House of D” by David Duchovny commemorated the Women’s House of Detention, which overlooked Village Square (now Ruth Wittenberg Triangle) until the prison was razed in 1973. A movie musical “Hello, Sucker” due out this year revisits the same location during the 1920s with Madonna as diamond-draped “Texas” Guinan, a Village resident and rodeo queen whose speakeasies landed her behind bars at Jefferson Market Jail. Sandwiched between those two premieres, the 30th anniversary of a garden established on that very site was celebrated this April. . . .
- - continued at - -

Monday, October 17, 2005

Texas: "The Moonshine Feud"

Speakeasy superstar Texas Guinan made a 1920 film -- The Moonshine Feud -- 5 years before she started promoting bootleg liquor. In the summer of 2004, a rare poster from that film was sold in Texas. It fetched $1,955.00. Here's how the Dallas auction house described this collectible for buyers:

Born in Waco, Texas to a wholesale grocer and his wife, Texas Guinan rose to stardom as "Queen of the Nightclubs" and built a reputation of a fiercely independent, totally outspoken party girl. Guinan found work in Hollywood in the mid-teens, making two-reel westerns (with several poverty-row studios) about a tough, gun slingin' woman. When that dried up, she moved to New York and built the "Hello, Sucker" reputation and notoriety that would follow her for the rest of her life. In the late twenties, Warner Brothers hired her to star in a talking film called "Queen of the Nightclubs." It is believed that when this was released, this stock poster was produced to cash in on her renewed popularity, and thus her ten-year-old short films were reissued with sound effects and a musical score.
Auction: Offered here [July 16, 2004] is a very rare one sheet to one of the Texas Guinan reissue short films. This poster was linen backed, but prior to that had a piece missing which ran from the right border into the "c" and the "k" in "Sucker." The poster has been conserved and restored, and it is hard to tell that it was ever damaged. Fine-on Linen.
* Rare Movie Poster Auction *
Item: The Moonshine Feud (Unknown, 1920). One Sheet (27" X 41").
Sold for: $1,955.00
[The floor auction was held in Dallas, TX on Saturday, July 17, 2004.]

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Texas Guinan & Ruby Keeler

Texas Guinan jump-started the career of a talented teenager in 1926 at the El Fey Club on West 45th Street.
- excerpt: "Al and Ruby" by David Hinckley, New York Daily News -

Child labor laws being enforced about as rigorously as Prohibition during the Roaring Twenties, 16-year-old Ruby Keeler took the stage around 2 a.m. at midtown's El Fey Club - at 107 West 45th Street - one night in 1926. Ruby was a hoofer, and a swell one at that. Starting when she traded school for showbiz at age 13, she had built up a solid reputation for her fast feet and the shapely legs directly above them.

Her act ran half an hour, and thanks to the patronage of Texas Guinan, the coolest saloon keeper of the day, Ruby did it at two or three clubs a night, shuffling back and forth. It ran the kid ragged, but by week's end she pocketed $150 or more, which came in real handy because her father, Ralph, an iceman on the upper East Side, had medical problems that ran up whopping doctor bills and left the Keeler family and its six kids without their breadwinner.

Ruby was Ethel Hilda Keeler while she was growing up in Yorkville. She never cared much about singing and dancing, she always said; it just happened to be the best-paying job she could land. When she left St. Catherine of Siena after the sixth grade, she didn't have a lot of other choices. Fortunately, this one was working out. Besides having Texas Guinan on her side, she also had Johnny Irish.

Johnny Irish was a dapper character who ran mobster Owney Madden's clubs and had taken a shine to Ruby. He was older and married, and the official word was that he and the kid were never an item, particularly because eagle-eyed Mother Keeler chaperoned her daughter around the clock. When he was around, she never lacked job offers.

Then, on that midsummer night in 1926, the equation changed. Into the El Fey Club walked Al Jolson, the biggest singing star in America.

At the age of 40, Jolie had reached a level of fame and fortune that only the man himself, who lacked neither modesty nor ambition, could have foreseen.

The ebullient Guinan, spotting this super-celebrity, called him by name and tossed him a wooden noisemaker. But she tossed it too enthusiastically and it sailed into Jolson's forehead, causing him to say something like "Ouch."

Mortified, Guinan took him to the downstairs room, where the good booze was stashed and the mobsters and millionaires got to hang out with the girls.

When Ruby joined them, she profusely apologized to Mr. Jolson, who said forget it, it was nothing, have a drink. So she had an orange juice and they chatted amiably for a few moments. When she left, Jolson reportedly mused aloud whether she was old enough for this job.

To which Texas Guinan reportedly replied: "She's old enough. But forget it. She's Johnny Irish's girl."

Ruby went on to Broadway. Jolson went on to Hollywood. Then Ruby got an offer to do a Hollywood short herself and happened to take the same westbound train as Jolson's old friend Fanny Brice. When the train gotto Los Angeles, Jolson was waiting to meet Brice. Whereupon he spotted Ruby, and soon invited her to the premiere of "Lilac Time" with Colleen Moore and Gary Cooper. As Jolson was divorced, the columnists climbed all over this date, not failing to note that he was 41 and Ruby was 18.

Jolie kept Ruby in town by setting her up with a dancing job for $350 a week. He sent her flowers nightly. Ruby, however, was no pushover. She had mingled with fame and fortune in New York, come up on the club circuit with the likes of George Raft and Barbara Stanwyck. She also knew Jolson had a reputation as a runaround.

But he wore her down and things got serious enough that he arranged a private meeting with Johnny Irish to discuss his intentions. Rumor, or maybe just the romance of Broadway, says Irish told him that if he ever did Ruby wrong, he'd end up facedown in the Suwannee River.

Whatever was said, back in New York, Jolson and Ruby drove to Port Chester on Sept. 21, 1928, and were married by a justice of the peace. The next morning, they boarded the Olympic for a honeymoon cruise to Europe. Broadway columnist Mark Hellinger was invited along to chronicle the trip, and Ruby's mother said Jolson gave Ruby $1 million as a wedding gift. . . . Broadway oddsmakers gave the marriage six months tops, figuring that's how long it would take one of the biggest egos in showbiz to crush this teenage flower. . . . When a film biography was made of Al Jolson in 1946, Ruby Keeler refused to allow the use of her name.
- - excerpt by David Hinckley - -
Published: November 2, 2004
Printed: The New York Daily News . . .

Friday, October 14, 2005

Texas Guinan's "Salon Royal"

Today the 19th century building on 8th Avenue at West 58th is the sedate West Park Hotel. During the 1920s, celebrities who wanted to make whoopee and sip champagne filled the place, attracted by the famous hostess of this "speak" - Texas Guinan.

Denying in court room testimony that she referred to this profitable nightspot as the "Saloon Royal," Texas Guinan situated her club in the Acropolis Hotel [310 West 58th Street, near Eighth Avenue] in 1928. The Greek owners, her partners, got dragged into every trial, however, Texas was acquitted by the jury. If you've been paying attention, you've noticed that Texas often established her speakeasies inside a HOTEL. Reason: By virtue of its being in a 50-room hotel, the premises could stay open all night. :-D

Betty Hutton Portrayed Texas Guinan

Will Madonna do justice to the Texas Guinan story?
Here's Betty Hutton's star-turn in 1945.

Incendiary Blonde
Publication: Variety [Monday Jan. 1, 1945]

Incendiary Blonde is a sound musical drama based on the life of Broadway's Texas Guinan. Script picks up the Guinan career in Texas in 1909 when she first joins a Wild West show to aid her financially busted father. Production injects considerable spectacle into the early Wild West show sequences but gives picture a slower start than necessary. Her switch to Broadway musicals to escape an unhappy love affair and then desertion of the Great White Way for Hollywood are spanned more quickly. When misunderstandings again chill love, she returns to Broadway and launches her night club career. The part racketeering and kindred Prohibition ailments of the nation played in her life are all shown and these give dramatic wallop and tenseness to the concluding portions of the story.
* Excerpt from a review printed in 1945. *
Incendiary Blonde
Betty Hutton * Arturo deCordova * Albert Dekker * Barry Fitzgerald
Running time: 113 minutes
Paramount. Director George Marshall; Producer Joseph Sistrom; Screenplay Claude Binyon, Frank Butler; Camera Ray Rennahan; Editor Archie Marshek; Music Robert Emmett Dolan; Art Director Hans Dreier, William Flannery
- - Variety - -

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Texas Guinan & St. Joseph

Who is the "Mystery Baby" [an heiress?]baptized in this church on March 27, 1927?

March 28, 1927 - The New York Times:
Texas Guinan, night club hostess, and Lew Ney, "Mayor" of Greenwich Village, stood as godmother and godfather respectively at the christening of a three-months-old "mystery baby" yesterday afternoon in St. Joseph's Church at Sixth Avenue and Washington Place.

Miss Guinan said she intended to adopt the baby, following receipt of a letter from te mother and a subsequent interview with her.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Texas Guinan's Club: 117 West 48th St.

In 1925, Texas Guinan and her business partner Larry Fay launched the Texas Guinan Club at 117 West 48th Street. When police padlocked that club, the Del Fay opened its doors at the El Fay nightclub's old address, serving drinks until the feds came around to serve a summons for violating the Volstead Act.
By 1934, the restaurant Hoy Yuen opened in the same location off Sixth Avenue. Since Prohibition had just been repealed, the Chinese eatery advertised its "Luxurious Cocktail Lounge" as well as "Our intimate Ming Room available for private parties."
Hoy Yuen's telephone number: Circle5-5959

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 * - -

Texas Guinan: Queen of the Quotable

In 1907, after divorcing her first husband -— newspaper cartoonist Jack Moynahan -— after five years of marriage, Texas Guinan moved to Manhattan, though she did not settle down there for another decade. She became a vaudeville gypsy, touring and performing onstage in far-off outposts of the American hinterlands.

Eventually, she would have two more husbands: newspaperman Julian Johnson and actor David Townsend [although her biographers have questioned the legality of these marriages]. Even when she took a lover, Texas remained the mistress of her fate.
"It's having the same man around the house all the time that ruins matrimony!" she would wisecrack.
- -
Texas Guinan.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Texas Guinan portrayed by actress Gladys George

The Roaring Twenties (1939) is action director Raoul Walsh's first gangster film (and first film for Warner Bros.).... This newsreel-like, semi-documentary, authentic-looking film, with both hard-hitting gangster genre action and romantic sentiment, shares a lot of similarities and is reminiscent of the greatest gangster films of the 30s, including Little Caesar (1930), Scarface: The Shame of the Nation (1932), and Public Enemy (1931). All of these films portray bootlegging, numerous murders, gangster life, and the death of the hero at the conclusion.

. . . At the end of the thirties, Walsh's 'social history' film eulogizes and recreates the entire Jazz Age decade, Prohibition, and its repeal (including the process of manufacturing bathtub gin), and the Depression era (through the mid-1930s) with an expansive, eulogistic perspective within an historical framework.
. . . The screenplay for the film [written by Jerry Wald, Richard Macaulay, and Robert Rossen] was based on an original screen story by Mark Hellinger. Hellinger's prohibition saga, originally entitled The World Moves On, was based on his experiences as a New York newsman during the Roaring 20s, and his familiarity with the illegal clubs of the day (i.e., the Hotsy-Totsy, Dizzy, and Blackbottom). This last of the gangster films in the 30s, 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 (actress Gladys George's role as Panama Smith). [Texas Guinan was famous for her shout-out to patrons - "Hello, suckers" - which was changed to a less abrasive greeting "Hello, chumps" in the film.]
. . . This superb film was not nominated for a single Academy Award. During the opening scrolling prologue after the credits, Mark Hellinger (in a voice-over) apologetically informs the audience that the film ("a memory") is based upon facts, real people, and true events that he covered as a reporter during the 1920s - - when Prohibition, speakeasies, and gangster life pervaded the land:
. . . Mark Hellinger says: "It may come to pass that, at some distant date, we will be confronted with another period similar to the one depicted in this photoplay. If that happens, I pray that the events, as dramatized here, will be remembered. In this film, the characters are composites of people I knew, and the situations are those that actually occurred. Bitter or sweet, most memories become precious as the years move on. This film is a memory - - and I am grateful for it." . . .
- - excerpt from "The Roaring Twenties" on - -
Texas Guinan.