Happy 133rd Birthday, Texas Guinan!

Actress and Queen of the Nightclubs Texas Guinan was born Mary Louise Cecilia Guinan 133 years ago today in Waco, Texas. Here are 10 TG Did-You-Knows:

  • Guinan was one of seven children. Her parents were Irish-Canadian immigrants. She attended parochial school at a Waco convent.
  • When Guinan was 16, her parents moved the family to Denver, Colorado. There she began to appear in amateur stage productions before marrying newspaper cartoonist John Moynahan at age 20. The pair moved to Chicago, where she studied music. She eventually divorced Moynahan and began to perform in vaudeville as a singer.
  • Guinan’s singing was reportedly no great shakes, but she had lots of pep and she soon found that she improved her prospects as a performer by regaling the audience with (perhaps exaggerated) tales of her “Old West” upbringing.
  • In 1906, Guinan moved to New York City, where she worked as a chorus girl before finding additional work in vaudeville and on the New York stage.
  • In 1917, Guinan made her movie debut and soon was a regular in western pictures. She is said to have been the first movie cowgirl (her nickname was The Queen of the West). Guinan would go on to appear in more than 50 features and shorts before she died in 1933.
  • With the passage of the 18th Amendment, Guinan became active in the speakeasy industry, serving as hostess and emcee for a long string of illicit (but very popular) nightspots. Her outsized, sassy personality and her skill at evading justice, despite her many arrests for operating a speakeasy, made her a legendary figure in Prohibition-era NYC.
  • Guinan’s speakeasies featured an abundance of scantily clad fan dancers and showgirls, but her penchant for pulling the legs of the rich and famous served her just as well. “Hello, suckers!” became her standard exclamation for greeting customers. Her well-to-do patrons she referred to as her “butter-and-egg men” and she coined the familiar phrase “Give the little ladies a big hand” while serving as emcee.
  • Texas Guinan’s nightclubs were often backed by gangster Larry Fay and such legendary bad guys as Arnold Rothstein, Owney Madden and Dutch Schultz frequented her establishments—alongside relatively “good guys” such as George Gershwin, Walter Chrysler, Pola Negri, Mae West, Al Jolson, Gloria Swanson, John Gilbert, Clara Bow, Irving Berlin, John Barrymore and Rudolph Valentino.
  • Ruby Keeler and George Raft both got their starts in show business as dancers as Guinan’s clubs, and Walter Winchell acknowledged that the inside access Guinan gave him to Broadway’s cornucopia of colorful characters helped launch his career as a gossip columnist.
  • Guinan died of amoebic dysentery in 1933, one month before Prohibition was repealed. She was just 49. Bandleader Paul Whiteman and writer Heywood Broun were among her pallbearers.

Happy birthday, Texas Guinan, wherever you may be!

Texas Guinan

Times Square Tintypes: William A. Brady

In this chapter from his 1932 book, Times Square Tintypes, Broadway columnist Sidney Skolsky profiles William A. Brady, prominent actor, theatrical producer, and sports promoter and father to Hollywood actress Alice Brady.


William A. Brady. Everybody calls him “Pop.”
He owns five watches but never carries one. Always guesses the time, and is fairly accurate.
Was born in San Francisco, June 19, 1863. Until he was five years old he had a Chinese lady for a nursemaid.
Lost a million dollars many times. He owned Within the Law and sold his rights to Arch Selwyn for $10,000. The play netted over a million. Jeanne Eagels brought him the script of Rain to produce. He said: “I no like.” Had Broadway in rehearsal and shelved it on the advice of George M. Cohan. That was another million. He was to be one of the promoters of the Carpentier-Dempsey fight. Had words with Jack Kearns and withdrew. The gate for that battle was a million and a half.
Last year while in a hospital nursing a broken leg, his doctors allowed him to read plays instead of taking sleeping tablets. He the much rejected Street Scene. He is now on his way to another million.
That A in his name is for Augustus.
Always has been interested in sports. He managed James J. Corbett, Jim Jeffries and Youssouf, “the terrible Turk.”
He wears a large brown felt hat. Always has a cigar in his mouth. Even when sleeping. Once was discovered in bed in a mass of flames which a friend put out with a fire extinguisher.
His idea of a good time is to buy champagne for the house. His favorite drink is a tall glass of rye. During the Corbett-Sullivan fight he consumed two quarts of whiskey.
Never carries a cane. Except when looking for a fight.
Alice Brady is his daughter by his first wife, Rose Marie Rene. William Brady, Jr., is his son by his present wife, Grace George.
Hasn’t an automobile, although he did own one for twenty years. His doctor ordered him to give it up because he never took a walk. He seldom crosses the street alone. Always waits for the red light.
He once cut cards with Arnold Rothstein. One cut for $45,000 and won.
Is sad because he isn’t allowed to attend prize fights. He takes and gives every blow himself. The last fight he saw was the Dempsey-Sharkey encounter. After it was over he was so exhausted that he had to be carried three blocks to a taxi.
Loves music. His favorites are “Faust,” “Killarney,” “Massa’s In The Cold, Cold Ground” and “Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms.”
He likes to act and resents being called a ham. His most recent performance was in A Free Soul. Jumped into the leading role on only an hour’s notice. Placed the script on a table in the scene. Whenever he forgot a line he walked to the table.
When a young man he was a natty dresser. Today clothes don’t interest him. Used to wear many diamonds. Recently gave them all to Grace George for a necklace.
Reads all newspapers, trashy magazines and the highbrow ones. His favorite reading matter is the Congressional Record. Reads every line of it during sessions of Congress. Senator Heflin is his favorite comic.
Cleveland, Harrison, McKinley, Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson, Harding, Coolidge and Hoover are the Presidents he knew and knows personally.
His choice of food depends upon what he is drinking. Has a cast-iron stomach. Is especially fond of Mexican tamales.
He claims the toughest job he ever had was managing Louis Mann for five years.
With Sir August Hannis he sneaked into Windsor Castle and disguised as a chorus man appeared before the King and Queen of England in a command performance of The Bohemian Girl.
Once desired to be the youngest man to climb Pike’s Peak. Halfway up he changed his mind and took the train back.
Can recite offhand any speech that Shakespeare ever wrote. Loves to see Shakespearean plays, but not to produce them.
Was arrested and put in prison once. That, when he broke up a street meeting of Dowie, the Evangelist, who was lecturing in front of the old Madison Square Garden.
He started wearing glasses at forty. He was told to do so when he was twenty.
Lives in a penthouse atop a fifteen-story building owns in Fifty-Fifth street. Spends his evenings there listening to the radio and looking out over Broadway. Wants the last thing he looks at before he dies to be a flash of the White Lights.
His credo is, “The Lord is always good to honest gamblers.”

In Your Hat, pt. 1

If you’re at all like us (and honestly, who wouldn’t want to be?), the celebrity gossip of the 1920s, ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s is a lot more interesting than the blather that’s bandied about today.

So we’re excited to share with you the introduction (contributed by Louis Sobol, a longtime Broadway columnist for the Hearst newspapers) and first chapter of a 1933 memoir by Renee Carroll, a woman who, in her role as hat check gal at NYC’s Sardi’s restaurant (and this is when Sardi’s was Sardi’s, friends), got to know the rich and famous (and occasionally even talented) on an intimate basis.

Even the title of the book, In Your Hat, has a gum-snapping sassiness that we like. And there are the celebrities who appear in the book: Ernst Lubitsch, Peggy Hopkins Joyce, Maurice Chevalier, Al Jolson, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Flo Ziegfeld, the Marx Brothers, and so many more. And the illustrations throughout the book, rendered by Alex Gard. We think you’ll find this book a real treat.

Just consider it a loan from the Cladrite Library, and don’t fold the page corners to mark your place. Use a bookmark, for Pete’s sake.



     RENEE CARROLL, a red-headed beauty, who smiles you out of your last quarter in exchange for a hat and coat which wouldn’t lure a quarter out of the most philanthropic pawn-broker in town, has written this book about the people whose names (and some of the names are awfully uneuphonious) hit you smack in the face every time you pick up a newspaper, stare up at a billboard or cluster of theater incandescents, or go into a huddle with other gossipy neighbors. In other words, it’s a book about celebrities, and take it from me, Renne knows her celebs.
     I wish she hadn’t written this book. I wish she had gotten it together and then delivered it, paragraph by paragraph, to me. It would have made my daily task of columning such a simple thing. I turn green with envy at the names and the anecdotes she’s woven about them. Lubitsch, Peggy Hopkins Joyce, Maurice Chevalier, Harry Richman, Al Jolson, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Lou Holtz, Lee Shubert, Flo Ziegfeld, Daniel Frohman—oh, what’s the use. Such names—such stories!
     There’ll never be another book quite like this. I know of no one else in this town, and that includes the Broadway columnists, who has contacted the people of the stage and the screen and what was once known as Tin Pan Alley quite as closely or intimately as Renee of the flaming coiffure and the ingratiating smile. They drop their masks for Renee.
     And Gard has drawn the illustrations. Gard, the cynical, whose crayon caricatures catch the soul of you. Cruel, grotesque caricatures, they but don’t, don’t mind that. Gard will tell you in that unaffected manner of his, “I draw you like that because I am loving you like a brother.” And then he’ll sharpen your ears and hook your nose and twist your lips but the likeness of you is there—and, as I’ve said, the soul.
     Hats off, then, to Renee Carroll, for a grand book, and to her associate Gard for the pictures. I hope it’s the first of a series.


     WHEN Arnold Rothstein, kingpin gambler, peeled that thousand-dollar note off his roll and threw it in my direction, I couldn’t quite make up my mind whether I was a success on Broadway or a failure in life. I don’t know today why he did it. Maybe because I wasn’t wearing any stockings, or maybe he felt that knowing a redhead might bring him luck in his much-publicized profession.
     We were at Tex Guinan‘s club. There were Tex and Tommy Guinan at the table, “Feet” Edson, one of Owney Madden’s mob; Jake Horwitz, a friend of Rothstein’s, and my girl friend. The reason for my presence was that I was supposed to be chaperoning my girl friend because she didn’t want people to be thinking that she was Jake’s woman. I don’t know how my being there made any difference in the situation because then people would be thinking that Jake was maintaining a harem on the Main Stem,—and we were two of the battalion. But that’s the way they figure things on Broadway, where “captive” is spelled “keptive.”
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