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

Early life

Guinan was born in Waco, Texasmarker to Irish-Canadian immigrants Michael and Bessie Duffy Guinan. At 16, her family moved to Denvermarker, Coloradomarker where she was active 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. No children were born from this union.

Moynahan's career took them to Chicago, Illinoismarker, 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.

Career rise

In 1906 she moved to New York Citymarker, 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 the silent movie The Wildcat. She became the United Statesmarker' first movie cowgirl, nicknamed "The Queen of the West." In addition to her film career, she also claimed that she had a sojourn in Francemarker, entertaining the troops during World War I.

Prohibition years, "300 Club"

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 unique 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.

At this favorite hangout of the city’s 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 like Gloria Morgan and her sister Thelma, Vicountess Furness. Ruby Keeler and George Raft were both 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 out 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.

Ms. Guinan is 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!".

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 (which cost her a lot of her fortune), Ms. Guinan 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 entitled Too Hot For Paris.

While on the road, she contracted amoebic dysentery in Vancouver, British Columbia and died there on November 5, 1933 at age 49, exactly one month before Prohibition was repealed. 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 dying 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 Cemeterymarker in Queens County, New Yorkmarker.

Fictional portrayals and homages

Guinan has been portrayed in a number of movies, including the biography Incendiary Blonde (1945) - played 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's first leading role; Raft campaigned to cast Guinan 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.

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. The James Cagney character is loosely based on Guinan's partner, Larry Fay.

The number "All That Jazz" in the musical Chicago pays homage to her.

In addition, 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 catch phrase 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.

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


  • Louise Berliner, Texas Guinan: Queen of the Nightclubs.
  • Obituary in Rocky Mountain News, 5 November 1933.

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