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

365 Nights in Hollywood: Bunk Boulevard

Jimmy Starr began his career in Hollywood in the 1920s, writing the intertitles for silent shorts for producers such as Mack Sennett, the Christie Film Company, and Educational Films Corporation, among others. He also toiled as a gossip and film columnist for the Los Angeles Record in the 1920s and from 1930-1962 for the L.A. Herald-Express.
Starr was also a published author. In the 1940s, he penned a trio of mystery novels, the best known of which, The Corpse Came C.O.D., was made into a movie.
In 1926, Starr authored 365 Nights in Hollywood, a collection of short stories about Hollywood. It was published in a limited edition of 1000, each one signed and numbered by the author, by the David Graham Fischer Corporation, which seems to have been a very small (possibly even a vanity) press.
Here’s “Bunk Boulevard” from that 1926 collection.


Hollywood Boulevard. . . .
Late afternoon. Women shoppers with tiny beads of perspiration on once powdered noses. Magazines used as fans. Coatless men. Heat waves make a pale blue haze come from the black asphalt. Car tracks glisten in the sun.
Cahuenga Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard . . .
The Forty-second and Broadway of the movie village. A thin man, coatless,but with open vest, smelling of sweat, shouts from across the street:
“Joe, didja’ get me that gang for th’ night shot?”
“Yeh,” comes the hasty answer from someone in the movie crowd.
The thin man scuffs from sight around the corner.
The sun is tired. As it sinks a shadow remains. Shop owners crank up their awnings.
Seven giddy schoolgirls with books and papers make a sudden loud entrance into the drug store. There is a rush for the cosmetic and soda counter. Some believe in interior decorating first.
Four tall glasses with syrup concoctions slide along the marble counter.
One with pimples on her forehead sucks hard on the chocolate in the bottom of the glass.
A rosy-cheeked youth enters in striped flannels.
Five pairs of sparkling eyes greet him.
His cheeks become redder and his chest swells a bit—and probably his head. He has no hat for a test.
There are muffled giggles, and the girl with the prominent teeth lisps something.
A fat lady with a rabbit neck-piece fanning herself with a theatre program has difficulty in getting on the high soda stool.
More giggles.
The youth pays the cashier for a stick of pink make-up.
A man with checkered pants and gaudy shirt calls for a “cherry-coke.”
There is almost a cool breeze outside.
A flivver truck with steaming radiator skids around the corner. The driver dumps out stacks of green evening papers.
Instantly familiar newsboy shouts pierce the hot silence.
A long, heavy under-slung street car rumbles to the corner and stops, discharging groups of high school students.
The screaming brakes on a taxi cab, the sound of sliding rubber on warm pavement, a tiny girlish squeak, a muffled scream of the fat lady and he hoarse cry of the crippled newsboy.
A crowd collects from nowhere. Girls shut their eyes—afraid to look.

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