Texas Guinan & the Undead
Since October 31st is All Hallows Eve, it is the season to highlight Texas Guinan's fascination with the occult, the unseen, and the undead. When she was 42 years old, Texas Guinan met Rudolph Valentino [6 May 1895 — 23 August 1926] at her brother's nightspot.
• • It was Sunday 25 July 1926 when Texas Guinan met Valentino at Tommy Guinan's speakeasy. Larger than the average ginmill, The Playground was on West 52nd Street (east of Broadway). Its generous square footage made it ideal for events and James R. Quirk, editor-publisher of Photoplay, hosted a Reception in honor of Valentino's new silent movie "Son of the Sheik" there. When Photoplay first began publication, Quirk's staff had included handsome Julian Johnson, Texas's lover.
• • Mae West and Texas Guinan were there to greet the Apulian heartthrob. No doubt Texas fancied Jadaan, a superb Arabian stallion Valentino had ridden in this melodrama. An expert equestrienne herself, the following year Texas would ride an Arabian stallion into the Shubert Theatre at the start of "Padlocks of 1927."
• • Maybe Mae West was charmed more by the Italian stallion himself — — and piqued by the abrupt end to his life that occurred one month later when the actor was only 31. Something about Rudy impressed Mae, encouraging her to think that he could link her to the unquiet dead up and down Times Square.
• • According to Whitney Bolton, a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, a week after the Italian-born actor Rudolph Valentino died [1895-1926], Mae West and her friend Texas Guinan arranged for a séance in a Manhattan loft. Suspicious that the 31-year-old heartthrob was secretly poisoned by a rival, Mae summoned an Italian Medium to officiate. At the table sitting opposite Mae were Texas, her brother Tommy Guinan, and the gangster Owney Madden who owned The Cotton Club, a man remembered more for violence than his spiritual side.
• • And the rendezvous with Rudolph in 1926 must have been memorable because two years later Mae was holding séances in the smoking room of the Royale Theatre to communicate again with him. Visiting New York to see “Diamond Lil” on Broadway, the actor Jean Hersholt was invited backstage and yanked into a darkened room where a Medium was channeling Caruso and Valentino. Hersholt recalled that Rudy called upon Mae and said: “Mae, you have a lot of enemies and don’t trust any of them.”
• • During the 1920s, Texas Guinan continued to host séances in her nightspots — — especially in Club Abbey on West 54th Street. It was easy for Mae West to attend these sessions, too, since she lived right upstairs.
• • To stay in touch with the other side, Texas Guinan also regularly attended St. Joseph's, a Roman Catholic Church on Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village.
• • Illustration: Valentino and "Son of the Sheik" • • 1926 • •
Labels: 10019, 1926, Broadway, Club Abbey, Mae West, New York, Padlocks of 1927, Photoplay, Rudolph Valentinto, Shubert Theatre, speakeasy, Texas Guinan, Tommy Guinan, West 52nd Street, West 54th Street