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, February 26, 2006

Texas: Hop o' My Thumb

In 1913, Texas Guinan was weighing her fat and her fate.

• • By September 1913, the American Medical Association was investigating Texas Guinan, Inc., the company that was advertising the weightloss scheme cooked up by Walter Cunningham, an infamous supplier of "bust development" creams, "wrinkle eradicator" miracle gels, and other frauds. Walter's surname suited him; he was a CUNNING HAM, loving publicity that resulted in quick profits. Now the AMA had sent for a sample, and was analyzing the contents of a fat-loss fiction for suckers that Texas had attached her name to via a shady deal with Cunningham. Yikes!
• • By November 1913, the AMA's scientists had submitted a report: the formula branded under Texas Guinan's name had no weightloss ingredients at all. Even worse, ingredients in the mixture varied from bottle to bottle. A report was being prepared for the AMA's journal.

• • Meanwhile, back in New York, the night before Thanksgiving 1913, Texas would open at the Manhattan Opera House - - a huge structure that straddled West 34th and West 35th Street - - in "Hop o' My Thumb."
• • To make the old fairytale suitable for adult theatregoers, the production was a razzle-dazzle mix of myth, ballet, New York sarcasm, pantomime, and political humor.
• • Playing the role of Zaza the Queen, Texas Guinan had a solo number in the production: "For a Girl Has a Living to Make." Surely, this song was prophetic.
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• • photo: Texas Guinan in costume [1913] • Manhattan Opera House, 311 West 34th Street

Texas Guinan.