In this chapter from his 1932 book, Times Square Tintypes, Broadway columnist Sidney Skolsky profiles Mary Louise Cecilia “Texas” Guinan, a woman who was one of the most legendary figures in Prohibition-era New York.
Known for her signature phrase “Hello, suckers!”, Guinan was a former showgirl, vaudeville performer and movie actress—she was the first female Western star in motion pictures—who went on to own a string of speakeasies. Perhaps no woman was better known on the Great White Way in the late 1920s and early ’30s than Guinan.
“GIVE THIS LITTLE GIRL A GREAT BIG HANDCUFF”
Never eats meats, but must have at least a dozen oranges a day.
She was raised in a convent. Loretta Convent, Waco, Tex. Was the same old kid even in those days. She would climb to the top of the church steeple and take the dinger out of the bell. Her real name is Mary Louise Guinan.
Once was in motion pictures. Made Westerns and was konwn as the “Female William S. Hart.”
Her home is New York is on Eighth Street. Just on the northern edge of Greenwich Village. Claims she wouldn’t live anywhere in this town of ours.
She possesses the quickest feminine wit on Broadway.
Lives alone. Her mother lives several doors away. Spends most of her time at her daughter’s place.
Her house looks like an antique shop. Pictures. Bric-a-brac. Mirrors. Odd furniture. Cushions. Gilded draperies. They all clutter the place. Chinese incense burns continuously.
There are nineteen floor lamps in the living room.
Recently she abandoned the expression, “Hello, sucker!” Customers began to take it seriously.
When she finishes at the club she goes horseback riding in Central Park or visiting. It is nothing for her to drop in on friends at seven in the morning and sit on their beds talking until noon.
She likes noise, rhinestone heels, customers, plenty of attention and red velvet bathing suits.
The hardest thing in the world she finds is sleeping. Always takes an aspirin tablet to quiet her nerves before retiring.
When not certain of a man’s name she calls him Fred.
Has a parrot who can say only two things. One is “telephone.” The other is “go to hell.”
At home she never drinks coffee. At the club black coffee is her favorite drink.
She never touches liquor.
Is very proud of her press clippings and keeps a scrapbook. So religiously does she keep this book that reference to the “Texas Chain Gang,” an article by Ernest Booth which appeared in the American Mercury, is clipped as personal publicity.
She takes three puffs of a cigarette and it is gone.
She once lost thirty-five pounds in two weeks by taking pepper and mustard baths.
In an interview she once stated that she wants her funeral to be the speediest ever given. A cop on a motorcycle is to lead it.
Since, she has more plans. Jazz syncopators are to render torrid tunes. College songs are to be sung boisterously as the coffin is lowered into the grave. The wake is to be held at her night club.
In her bedroom there is only one window. It is covered by four curtains to keep the sunlight out.
She is very fond of jewelry. The bigger it is the better she likes it. She wears jewelry on her bosom, fingers, wrists, arms, ears and occasionally the heels of ehr slippers.
She frequently wears red stockings.
Was shot once. By herself. It was a stage accident while she was on the road in The Gay Musician. She was rushed to a hospital in a locomotive engine. Today all that remains of that incident is a slight blemish, the only mark on her body.
She is only comfortable when sitting on two chairs.
She has six uncles. They are all Catholic priests.
Recently it was state that she sleeps on her left side and likes carrots. To which Mme. Guinan retorted:
“I wonder how that guy knew I liked carrots.”
She sleeps on her right side in a long silk gay colored nightgown and like strawberries.
She makes funny noises with her teeth when she laughs.
Her luck charm is a padlock.