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!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Texas Guinan: Lost - Found

TEXAS GUINAN stars in "Broadway Through a Keyhole" which can be found onscreen this month at Film Forum [in Manhattan].
• • Meanwhile, here is a "lost film" that few can boast about seeing: "Queen of the Night Clubs" [1929].
• • To sophisticated filmgoers of 1929, the designation "queen of the nightclubs" could mean only one person: Colorful Manhattan speakeasy proprietress Texas Guinan, of "Hello, Sucker!" fame. More or less playing herself, the brash, blowsy Guinan is cast as Tex Malone, a New York nightery owner who hires innocent young songstress Bee Wallace (Lila Lee) to perform in Tex's club. This effectively breaks up Bee's vaudeville act with hoofer Eddie Parr (Eddie Foy Jr., the brother of director Bryan Foy). Feeling put-upon, Eddie is the most likely suspect when Tex's close friend Don Holland (John Davidson) is murdered. In the course of the trial, Tex discovers that Eddie is actually her own son. Without ever revealing her relationship with Eddie to the world, Tex manages to prove that the actual killer was rival club owner Andy Quindland (played by veteran movie "drunk" Arthur Housman, in a rare sober characterization).
• • George Raft makes his film debut by re-creating the "hot" Charleston dance solo that first brought him Broadway fame (the details of Raft's move to Hollywood, and his friendships with such gangsters as Owney Madden and Bugsy Siegel, would later be fictionalized in Francis Ford Coppola's 1984 production The Cotton Club). ...
Add to Google

• • Photo: Texas Guinan • • 1929 • •

Texas Guinan.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Texas Guinan: Retiring

Edith Head designed many memorable gowns - - eye candy for the silver screen. An announcement from Hollywood on 28 November 1960 heralded the retirement of a "collection of the best known clothes in the world . . . now heading for its final public appearance." This "million dollar collection" included gowns created for TEXAS GUINAN and her friend Mae West.

• • "I'm only managing to hold them together with emergency sewing now," said Edith Head (in mid-November 1960). A diminutive but dynamic brunette who is twice as busy as most Hollywood producers, Head added, "This will be about their last time out."
• • A score of Paramount Pictures costumes have been sentimentally preserved because they contributed to movie history.
• • These beauties included extravagant confections for TEXAS GUINAN, Mae West's emerald-green, jewel-embroidered come-up-and-see-me-sometime gown from "She Done Him Wrong," Clara Bow's outfits, and Ginger Rigers' mink dress from "Lady in the Dark" . . .
• • To have seen these dresses in full color during their heyday - - after viewing them in a black and white film - - must have been a startling contrast.
Add to Google

• • Photo: Texas Guinan • • 1931 • •

Texas Guinan.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Texas Guinan's Funeral 1933

Chatting with reporter Sidney Skolsky in 1928, TEXAS GUINAN insisted, "I want my funeral to be the speediest ever given. A cop on a motorcycle is to lead it."

• • Tommy Guinan went to Vancouver to sign the papers and accompany his sister home.
• • Twelve thousand turned out for a final viewing. Show business buddies filled Frank Campbell's Funeral Chapel in New York with flowers. Movie cameras recorded it all.
• • The New York Herald Tribune noted: "She was a master showman, and accomplished psychologist. . . . She had ability, too - - and would have been successful in any one of a dozen more conventional fields. To New York and the rest of the country Texas was a flaming leader of a period which was a lot of fun while it lasted. . . ."
• • Texas Guinan often said: "I would rather have a square inch of New York than all the rest of the world." Non omnis moriar.
Add to Google

• • Photo: Texas Guinan • • her funeral in Times Square, November 1933 • •

Texas Guinan.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Texas Guinan: Nov. 5th

When the news of TEXAS GUINAN'S sudden demise in Canada (on 5 November 1933) spread through Times Square, it was clear that the 49-year-old entertainer had touched many people. Said her friends: To know her is to love her.

• • What was it like to spend a night at Texas Guinan's club?
• • An evening was chronicled for Time Magazine (issue of Monday 16 November 1925).
• • | The Press | Back to Back |
• • • • When that aged Pittsburgh viveur, Harry K. Thaw, feeling in his veins the thrill of a new spring, went to Manhattan and began to conduct himself in a manner that ill benefitted his grey hairs (TIME, 28 September 1925), the New York Daily Mirror "crusaded" against him, asking, "Why is a rich lunatic a free lunatic?" Some of the Mirror's chicle-masticating readers may have thought it a breach of taste, a blatancy, to make so much of the fact that an old rake wanted to chuck a dancing girl under the chin. Little did these readers know the courage that went into the writing of that crusade.
• • A fortnight ago the Editor and Publisher brought to light a new fact: The story about Thaw was written by no ordinary reporter, but by the "Tabloid Ringmaster" of the New York Mirror — Editor Philip Payne.
• • All the evening a reporter had been following Harry Thaw and the members of his seraglio. At length the pursued taxi, careering down a dark side street, drew up in front of the Del Fey Club; Thaw followed a drugget of light on the pavement; a door closed behind him.
• • When the reporter's knuckles a moment later belabored that door, a panel in its upper section slid back and in the slit appeared the bulldog brow of a surly doorkeeper. The reporter was a man typical of his kind, a seedy fellow, drearily accoutred. No evening shirt fluted his meagre bosom. No glittering lady stood beside him. He was obviously not wealthy. He was not a member of the "Club."
• • "Beat it, Buddy," said the grim face at the slit.
• • In Editor Payne's apartment a few minutes later the telephone rang. Over the wire came the voice of the reporter, telling how he had been refused entrance to the Del Fey Club; how Thaw sat within, busy with his tiddling, all unseen by the press.
• • "I'll come down myself," snapped Mr. Payne. He, 33, a viveur himself in a controlled fashion, is a member of the Club. His face — curly-mouthed, snub-nosed, the face of a bespectacled Puck — is well known to "Texas" Guinan, famed proprietress.
• • Also, it is known, most unpleasantly known, to Harry K. Thaw. That is why the other patrons of the club gasped when they saw the waiter place Mr. Payne at the table next Mr. Thaw's, back to back with the killer. In every mind beat a terrible question.
• • Harry K. Thaw, everyone knew, had shot Stanford White. If Harry Thaw discovered Editor Payne, his enemy, the man who had publicly vilified him, scraping elbows with him in a night club, what then?
• • Mr. Thaw's hand began to move steadily, cautiously toward his hip pocket. A woman at a nearby table caught a cry to her lips; a fat man upset his drinking glass. Editor Payne sat quiet, tense. In the emergency, his courage was supreme. The slayer's arm moved. He drew from his pocket a handkerchief. . . .
• • In a few minutes intrepid Mr. Payne was chatting with him. "That conversation," stated Mr. Payne, "convinced me that the man is insane and ought to be locked up." Next day all gum-chewing Manhattan read his furious attack on Thaw. . . .
Source: Monday 16 November 1925 TIME Magazine
Add to Google

• • Illustration: Texas Guinan • • from Times Sq Tintypes, 1930 • •

Texas Guinan.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Texas Guinan: 3 Nov. 1930

On Monday 3 November 1930, TEXAS GUINAN noticed her name mentioned in an interesting item printed in Time Magazine:

• • Daily columnists in Manhattan's English-speaking press are the following: Calvin Coolidge, Herald Tribune; Arthur Brisbane, American; Mary Louise ("Texas") Guinan, Graphic; Franklin Pierce Adams, World; Frank Sullivan, World; Will Rogers, New York Times; Neal O'Hara, Evening World; Harry Irving Phillips, New York Sun; Karl Kingsley Kitchen, New York Sun; Beverly Smith, Herald Tribune; Heywood Broun, Telegram; Russel Crouse, Post; Harry Acton, American; Leo T. Heatley, Journal; Louis Sobol, Graphic; Sidney Skolsky, News; Mark Hellinger, N.Y. Daily Mirror; Walter Winchell, N.Y. Daily Mirror.

• • A weekly columnist on Zit's Theatrical Newspaper is its managing editor, Paul Sweinhart. Last week he wrote: "I've just heard . . . that the crack was made the other morning in a night club that a certain daily newspaper columnist will be bumped off within six months."
• • Broadway's news-wise readers associated this warning NOT with the columnists Coolidge, Brisbane, Guinan, Broun, nor a dozen others, but instinctively thought first of gossip-cop Walter Winchell (TIME Magazine, 17 June 1929). New York has heard before the rumor of threats against his life. Not loath to dramatize his position, Winchell himself has helped circulate the impression that "some day. . . ".
• • Characteristic is the legend that he has placed in a safe deposit box the names of those who might cheerfully see him "rubbed out," with a detailed account of their motives.
• • Some Walter Winchell "cracks" during the past two months:  "Evelyn Dallas, who got all that publicity when Geo. White discovered her in Florida, was dumped with others . . . Harry Richman, however, diamond-wrist watched her, and she likes . . . [excerpt from the article].
• • N.B.: Walter Winchell, Mark Hellinger, Sidney Skolsky, Heywood Broun, and Franklin Pierce Adams were among the best customers at Texas Guinan's night clubs. Tex inherited this following from her close friend in Greenwich Village, the first person arrested for violation of the Volstead Act.
• • During the 1920s, night club was always two words as in "Queen of the Night Clubs."
• • There's more to the story so come back to see us and please support our campaign.
• • "In the Footsteps of Texas Guinan" on SEED&SPARK
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
• • The legal battles fought by Mae West and Jim Timony are dramatized in the play "Courting Mae West: Sex, Censorship, and Secrets," set during the Prohibition Era. Texas Guinan is in some scenes, too.
Watch a scene on YouTube.

• • Website for all things Mae West 

• • Exciting Texas Guinan news is on the horizon. More anon.
Add to Google

• • Photo: Texas Guinan
• • her good buddy Walter Winchell • •

Texas Guinan.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Texas: Wild about Harry

TEXAS GUINAN knew some shady characters - - and Harry "Champ" Segal had a special blaze in his heart for the two-gun woman.

• • Harry "Champ" Segal, a former boxer and bookie, ran a little joint in midtown that was disguised as a barbershop but was really an underground bookmaking and loan-sharking operation. Champ's bosom buddies included Legs Diamond, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, and other gangsters who were on familiar terms with New York's fearless "girl of the rancho."
• • Although Champ Segal never won a title in the ring, the dapper hoodlum managed many prizefighters - - Bantamweight Champion Charley "Phil" Rosenberg [1902-1976], Ace Hudson, Phil Kaplan, Heavyweight Champion Freddy Beshore [1922-1981], Sal Belloise - - and had 118 fights himself, 78 of which he won by knock-outs.
• • Texas Guinan enjoyed his patronage and she got a kick out of the always impeccably dressed wheel-dealer. Champ Segal admired Texas, a fellow independent operator, and included anecdotes about their friendship in his book.
• • Born in Harlem in 1899, by 1917 he had an arrest record for possessing narcotics. In 1927 he was locked up in connection with a homicide at his restaurant on St. Nicholas Avenue and West 112th Street. Throughout his hair-raising past he must have been taking notes for this biography that his brother published in November 1959, which was called "a daring and exciting book about the world of sports, gambling, gangsters, and politicians from the 1920s to the present day." Though Champ was as solitary a figure as Charlie Chaplin, astonishingly he did have a brother; Hyman's name appeared on the dustjacket: They Called Him Champ: the Story of Champ Segal and His Fabulous Era by Hyman R. Segal [NY: Citadel Press, 1959; 480 pages with b/w photographs].
• • Texas Guinan, Mae West, Al Capone, Larry Fay, Legs Diamond, Bugsy Siegel, Primo Carnera, Mayor Jimmy Walker - - they've all made book, so to speak.
• • November 1959 there was a book launch at Lindy's Restaurant with his buddies from Stillman's Gym.
• • That was a better November than nine years earlier for Champ Segal. On 1 November 1950 the 51-year-old bookie was arrested outside of the Park-Sheraton Hotel, where he'd been living. This was part of a Times Square round-up of gangsters by the police. Champ Segal slipped through the grasp of the city's legal eagles, however. The colorful con man was still being indicted in 1974 when he was age 77.
Add to Google

• • Illustration: Hyman R. Segal • • 1959 dustjacket • •

Texas Guinan.