Your Mistress of Ceremonies
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?
"Let's give the
little lady a great big hand!"
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 One month to the day after her death, prohibition was repealed.
Photoof Texas Guinan's grave.
Would you like to visit
Guinan's Social Club part of a 1920s history site.
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