Your Mistress of Ceremonies


Texas enters the paddy wagon.
"Let's give the little lady a great big hand!"
--Texas Guinan


     Texas Guinan is at the bar, serving " ginger ale"  and introducing one of her 40 -- count 'em -- 40 beautiful fan dancers. Texas always claimed that her girls never fooled around with the customers; but then, she also claimed that she never sold a drink in her life. She sold mixers. If a customer brought in his own hip flask, what was she supposed to do, throw him out?
     Mary Louise Cecilia Guinan was born in Waco, Texas.  She was given a parochial school education and sang in the church choir.  But Texas always wanted to be a performer. She ran off to New York City as soon as she could, and eventually had a nice little career going as a Broadway singer.  Her big chance, however, came in that brand new medium, the movies. Her initial film, The Wildcat (1917) introduced America's first movie cowgirl. She was soon the pistol packing, barrel riding Queen of the West.
     Texas was an enterprising young woman, which is how she wound up behind the bar. When prohibition came in, she spotted a real money making opportunity. She was soon running a speakeasy  called the 300 Club that served illegal booze, accompanied by pretty hostesses  and chorus girls who served mainly to distract customers from how much their drinks were costing. She was arrested several times, but always claimed that any liquor had been brought in by the customers themselves. She was also accused of providing pornographic entertainment. At one time, police produced a six by three inch square of material and noted that it was the entire costume of a dancer who was entirely too lewd. Texas replied that the club was so crowded that the poor girl just had to dance very close to the patrons.
     Texas contributed a number of phrases to the popular vernacular. She coined the term "butter and egg men" to refer to her well-heeled customers, and noted that "a man could get hurt falling off a bar stool." She always demanded her patrons "give the little ladies great big hand" after the floor show.
     When the Great Depression bit into profits, Texas folded her tent and took it on the road (with her fan dancers). Unfortunately, she contracted amoebic dysentery while on tour in Vancouver, and died there. One month to the day after her death, prohibition was repealed.
scaredy cat
button Photoof Texas Guinan's grave.
button Texas Guinan's Social Club  part of a 1920s history site.
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