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, January 24, 2016

Texas Guinan: Belle Livingston

Oh those days when TEXAS GUINAN offered world-class whoopee along with her rival hostess, Belle Livingston, who ran a four-story speak at 158-160 East Fifty-Eighth Street.
• • "Men are nicer to the women they don't marry." — Belle Livingston
• • "I looked always outside of myself to see what I could make the world give me, instead of looking within myself to see what was there."  — Belle Livingston
• • "Belle Out of Order" by Belle Livingston [NY: Holt, 341  pages]
• • Reviewed by William Leonard
• • Belle Livingston was a showgirl in the 199Os, an international courtesan in the Edwardian era, proprietress of a gilded and exclusive speakeasy in the 1920s, a jailbird for 30 days in the 1930s, and a penniless "has been" for many years before her death in 1957.
• • All those stages in her career except the final one glitter entertainingly in her autobiography, written in 1948 but unpublished until now because she wasn't satisfied with it.
• • Belle knew the magnetism of mystery, and seldom fretted too much about the facts. She claimed to have started life as a foundling discovered under a sunflower, and liked to call herself the "sunflower girl." She consorted with kings and millionaires, statesmen, and bartenders, but no one ever knew whether she was fabulously wealthy or flat broke. The element of uncertainty that pervaded her life pervades her book.
• •  It's a lighthearted, singing life story, full of color as well as fibs. As a member of the champagne and lobster set in the days before World War I, Belle seems to recall that she was an intimate buddy of every important male from Kitchener to Theodore Roosevelt, from Edward VII of England to King Leopold of Belgium. She went through four husbands and spent many years intimating that if the right man came along he might be the lucky fifth.
• • From 1927 to 1931, the period in her life when she won most fame, Belle was a friendly rival of Texas Guinan in the operation of fancy illegal saloons. But, whereas Tex greeted the patrons with "Hello, sucker!" Belle described her joints as salons of literature and the arts.
• • "Texas had the masses while I had the classes," Belle writes. "There was enough for both of us in New York.  Texas and l were two women who passed vigorously rather than happily through prohibition. Although temporary figures, we were clearly visible."
• • When Belle's fanciest Manhattan speakeasy was raided in January 1931, she fled across the rooftops in flashy red pajamas but was captured and given 30 days. Strangely, her description of that month in the old Harlem jail is sympathetic. And that was just about the end of Belle's career [sic], for she outlived her time.
• • She was a hell raiser in a genteel fashion, and her book manages to be scandalous without being vulgar.
• • [Ed.: No, that was not the end of her career. After she served time in NYC, Belle went to Reno, Nevada and opened a speakeasy there.]  
• • Source: "Belle Out of Order" reviewed by  Chicago Tribune; published on 2  August 1959 
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• • 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.
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• • Photo: Texas Guinan
• • rival hostess • •

Texas Guinan.

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