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!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Texas Guinan: Beaux Arts Cafe

Oh those days when TEXAS GUINAN offered world-class whoopee at Café des Beaux Arts  (80 West 40th Street) — — a Greek-themed speakeasy on the second floor — — until she built up a following and a better offer came her way.
• • The Beaux Arts • •
• • Completed in 1901, the apartments in this 12-story structure were designed as residential and working space specifically for artists.  There were two dozen double-height studios on the West 40th Street side, generously windowed.   Architect Charles A. Rich worked with pink brick along with terra cotta and stone trim to create a unique Beaux Arts-style blend of residential and industrial elements that still engages the eye.
• • A famous French eatery, the Café des Beaux Arts, was established there by the Bustanoby brothers Andre, Jacques, Pierre, and Louis. 
• • As Louise Berliner explained in her book, "Texas Guinan: Queen of the Nightclubs," one evening, Texas showed up at a party at the Beaux Arts Café on West 40th Street, a high-class haunt for affluent swells and theatrical grand eminences. But, alas, the party was desperately dull. Then a person asked Texas to step up to the microphone.  "I didn't need much coaxing, so I sang. . . . First thing you know we were all doing things. Everybody had a great time."
• • The new owners Emile Gervasini and John Levi, realizing they had been losing money but this Waco native was a hit, hired Texas Guinan as Mistress of Ceremonies.  This change of vocation for Tex, from acting in silent films to making whoopee in noisy nightspots, occurred in the autumn of 1923, according to an item in The New York Clipper, dated 9 November 1923.

• • Lovely Lina Basquette was one of the showgirls who worked with Tex there.
• • However, other club owners were observing her success and her following.  In due course, Joe Pani, owner of the King Cole Room at the Knickerbocker Hotel (West 42nd Street), invited Texas to liven up his show and she accepted.
• • With minor alterations (such as the obliteration of the street level facade details along Sixth Avenue), the Beaux Arts Studios has been left intact. 
• • Happily, this intriguing structure was designated a New York City landmark in 1988.
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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
• • news from 1923 • •

Texas Guinan.

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