Born in Texas in 1884 to Irish parents, some sources say one or both of her parents were born in Dublin, Ireland. Mary Louise Cecilia Guinan, better known as Texas Guinan was a movie star and star of the New York stages. But she is probably best known for being the Queen of the Nightclubs.

At an early age she wanted to be a star and she would be, in 1898 she received a scholarship from a wealthy Chicago businessman to attend the American Conservatory of Music, where Texas would develop her singing and vocal skills, when she graduated she then joined a touring act.

 

 She moved to New York and initially found work as a chorus girl and start using the name Texas Guinan, within a year of being in New York she landed the lead in a production called Simple Simon Simple, she accidentally shot herself during a performance. She would also appear as a lead vocalist in productions like The Gay Musician, The Hoyden and The Lone Star. Through the 1910’s she would be a star of the stage and appear in many productions.

However, scandal was to follow, Texas was caught up in a weight loss scheme. She allowed her name and image to be used in advertisements that appeared in newspapers and other media outlets that claimed that she had lost 70 pounds using this plan. An investigative reporter from the Chicago Tribune claimed that Guinan had knowingly committed fraud upon the public by making these claims. This led to the US Postal Service investigating the claims and would ban Guinan from receiving any mail.

This scandal did damage her career but she moved to California to start a film career and in 1917 she would star in her first movies, Western movies. Its said that she had the map of Texas on the door of her room instead of her name. Her best known movie The Boss of the Rancho but would appear in many throughout 1918. Indeed she would even set up her own production company and produce a few movies.

The Queen of the Nightclubs, moved back to New York right at the start of the Prohibition Era and would become part of the nightlife and the speakeasies that were popping up everywhere. Her first job in a speakeasy was singing for which she was paid 50,000. This would propel Guinan into the world of mobsters, bootleggers & speakeasies, she was given a job as an emcee for a floor show named the Ziegfiled Follies, a group of dancers who included the girlfriend of Jack “Legs” Diamond

It was her partnership with a bootlegger and speakeasy owner Larry Fay which would cement her place in the showbiz world. Larry Fay offered to feature her at the El Fey club on West 47th Street in Manhattan, it was there she would come up with her famous catchphrase “Hello, Sucker! Come on in and leave your wallet on the bar.” Guinan would receive 50% of the profits.

Throughout the Prohibition Era Guinan would open speakeasies, which would be raided and shut down and reopened again. Another club she ran was the Club Intime @ Harding Hotel alongside Owney “The Killer” Madden, the Duke of the Westside, this club would also be raided and shut down.

Its said that whenever the place was raided, the orchestra would play “The Prisoner’s Song” as she was taken away to jail.

Guinans downfall began when the Assistant Attorney General ordered raids on speakeasies in 1928, Guinan along with over 100 others would be arrested, she would be acquitted in a trial in 1929. During the Great Depression she decided to go back to showbiz, she attempted to bring the show to Europe but was banned from entering France, when she returned to the US she produced another show, Too Hot for Paris. She contracted dysentery in Chicago and died in 1933.

Owen Forsyth

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