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, 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.