Texas Guinan

Texas Guinan
Texas Guinan
Born Mary Louise Cecilia Guinan
January 12, 1884(1884-01-12)
Waco, Texas, U.S.
Died November 5, 1933(1933-11-05) (aged 49)
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Occupation Actress, saloon keeper, entrepreneur
Years active 1906–1933
Spouse John J. Moynahan (1904–1906; divorced)
Julian Johnson (1910–1920; divorced)
David Townsend (19??-19??)

Mary Louise Cecilia "Texas" Guinan (January 12, 1884 – November 5, 1933) was an American saloon keeper, actress, and entrepreneur.


Early life

Guinan was one of five siblings born in Waco, Texas to Irish-Canadian immigrants Michael and Bessie (née Duffy) Guinan. She attended parochial school at the Loretta Convent in Waco. When she was 16 years old, her family moved to Denver, Colorado where she was in amateur stage productions and played the organ in church. Guinan married John Moynahan, a cartoonist for the Rocky Mountain News, on December 2, 1904. The union was childless. Moynahan's career took them to Chicago, where Guinan studied music before divorcing him and starting her career as a professional singer. She toured regional vaudeville with some success, but became known less for her singing than for her entertaining "wild west"-related patter.[1]

Career rise

In 1906 she moved to New York City, where she found work as a chorus girl before making a career for herself in national Vaudeville and in New York theater productions. In 1917, "Texas" Guinan made her film debut in a silent film called The Wildcat. She became the United States' first movie cowgirl, nicknamed "The Queen of the West". She claimed she had a sojourn in France, entertaining the troops during World War I.

Prohibition years, "300 Club"

She was one of the first female emcees. Upon the introduction of Prohibition, she opened a speakeasy called the 300 Club at 151 W. 54th Street in New York City. The club became famous for its troupe of forty scantily-clad fan dancers and for Guinan's distinctive aplomb, which made her a celebrity. Arrested several times for serving alcohol and providing entertainment, she always claimed that the patrons had brought the liquor in with them, and the club was so small that the girls had to dance so close to the customers. Guinan maintained that she had never sold an alcoholic drink in her life.[2]

At this hangout of the wealthy elite, George Gershwin often played impromptu piano for wealthy guests such as Reggie Vanderbilt, Harry Payne Whitney, or Walter Chrysler, and celebrities such as Peggy Hopkins Joyce, Pola Negri, Al Jolson, Jeanne Eagels, Gloria Swanson, John Gilbert, Clara Bow, Hope Hampton, Irving Berlin, John Barrymore, Dolores Costello, Leatrice Joy and Rudolph Valentino, as well as socialites such as Gloria Morgan and her sister Thelma, Viscountess Furness.

Ruby Keeler and George Raft were discovered as dancers at the club by Broadway and Hollywood talent scouts. Walter Winchell credited Guinan with opening the insider Broadway scene and cafe society to him when he was starting as a gossip columnist. Guinan capitalized on her notoriety, earning $700,000 in ten months in 1926, while her clubs were routinely being raided by the police.[3]

Guinan has been credited with coining a number of phrases. "Butter and egg men" referred to her well-off patrons, and she often demanded that the audience "give the little ladies a great big hand". She traditionally greeted her patrons with "Hello, suckers!"[4]

Return to film

Guinan returned to the screen with two sound pictures, playing slightly fictionalized versions of herself as a speakeasy proprietress in Queen of the Night Clubs (1929) and then Broadway Through a Keyhole (1933, written by Winchell) shortly before her death.

During the Great Depression (in which she reportedly lost a sizable amount of her personal wealth) she took her show on the road. She made a sally towards Europe, but her reputation preceded her, and she was denied entry at every European sea port. She turned this to her advantage by launching a satirical revue, Too Hot For Paris.[5]


While on the road with Too Hot For Paris, she contracted amoebic dysentery in Vancouver, British Columbia and died there on November 5, 1933 at the age of 49, exactly one month before Prohibition was repealed. 7,500 people attended her funeral. Bandleader Paul Whiteman was a pallbearer as well as two of her former lawyers and writer Heywood Broun.[6]

She was survived by both of her parents. Her mother died at age 101 in 1959 and her father was 79 years old at his death in 1935. Her family donated a tabernacle in her name to St. Patrick's church in Vancouver in recognition of Father Louis Forget's attentions during her last hours. When the original church was demolished in 2004, the tabernacle was preserved for the new church built on the site. Guinan is interred in the Calvary Cemetery, Queens, New York.

Fictional portrayals and homages

Guinan was portrayed on film in Incendiary Blonde (1945) by Betty Hutton, and in Splendor in the Grass (1961) by Phyllis Diller.

Mae West's first screen appearance was as a wisecracking character based on Guinan in Night After Night (1932), featuring George Raft. Raft campaigned to cast Guinan herself but the studio opted for West since she was nine years younger. Raft believed that the part would have launched a major film career for Guinan, which proved to be the case for West instead. (West was reportedly a fan of Guinan and incorporated some of Guinan's ideas into her own acts).

In the 1939 film The Roaring Twenties, directed by Raoul Walsh and Anatole Litvak, the character played by Gladys George is based on Guinan. In the film, she goes by the name of Panama Smith.

In the 1984 film The Cotton Club, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, the part of "Vera" played by Diane Lane is loosely based on Guinan.

Madonna had a musical in the works in late 2004 with her in the lead role. The film was to be called Hello Suckers!, a catchphrase Guinan said often. The movie was canned but Madonna kept some of the songs and released them on her 2005 Neo-Disco album Confessions on a Dance Floor.[citation needed]

In 1969, Martha Raye toured in a musical called "Hello Sucker", which played at the Westbury Music Fair on Long Island, Casa Mañana in Fort Worth, Texas and the Oakdale Musical Theatre in Wallingford, Connecticut. The show was directed and choreographed by Larry Fuller and closed after its run in Wallingford.

The Enterprise-D's bartender Guinan (played by Whoopi Goldberg) on Star Trek: The Next Generation was named after Texas Guinan.[7]

In 1960, Texas Guinan was portrayed under the guise of Sally Kansas in "The Larry Fay Story" episode of The Untouchables, the original series. Sally Kansas was played by veteran actress June Havoc.

Guinan appears in her own character in Patrick Culhane's "Black Hats" (April 2007). Culhane is a pseudonym of Max Allan Collins.


  • "I would rather have a square inch of New York than all the rest of the world." - Texas Guinan[8]


  1. ^ Sizer (2008), p 83.
  2. ^ Sizer (2008), p 96.
  3. ^ Sizer (2008), p 99.
  4. ^ Popik, Barry. "Texas, The Lone Star State: "Hello, sucker!" & "Give this little girl a big hand!" (Texas Guinan)". Barrypopik.com. http://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/texas/entry/hello_sucker_texas_guinan. Retrieved 2008-12-06. 
  5. ^ "Texas Guinan". Texasescapes.com. http://www.texasescapes.com/FallingBehind/Texas-Guinan.htm. Retrieved 2008-12-06. 
  6. ^ Sizer (2008), p 103.
  7. ^ "Guinan". Memory Alpha. http://memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/Guinan. Retrieved 2008-12-06. 
  8. ^ "Texas Guinan". Texasescapes.com. http://www.texasescapes.com/FallingBehind/Texas-Guinan.htm. Retrieved 2008-12-06. 


  • Louise Berliner, Texas Guinan: Queen of the Nightclubs.
  • Sizer, Mona D. (2008), Outrageous Texans: Tales of the Rich and Infamous, Taylor Trade Publishing. ISBN 978-1589793385
  • Obituary in Rocky Mountain News, 5 November 1933.

External links

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  • Texas Guinan — Mary Louise Cecilia Texas Guinan (12 janvier 1884 à Waco, Texas aux États Unis 5 novembre 1933 à Vancouver au Canada) était une chanteuse, une comédienne de cinéma et une célèbre tenancière américaine de cabarets. Sommaire 1 Biographie 2 Anecdote …   Wikipédia en Français

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