November 5, 2007

November 5 | Texas Guinan

January 12, 1884 - November 5, 1933: Age 49

Texas Guinan was one of those amazing Americans who redefined womanhood for generations to come. She was a singer, actor, saloon keeper and entrepreneur who ended up in the movies when a producer saw her on stage riding a horse. But she is best remembered for recognizing the entrepreneurial opportunities afforded by Prohibition, and opening a speakeasy in New York, a couple of blocks west of the present-day site of the Museum of Modern Art. The speak was a hangout for the greatest names in entertainment of the day, including Pola Negri, Al Jolson, Gloria Swanson, John Gilbert, Clara Bow, Irving Berlin, John Barrymore, and George Gershwin. Ruby Keeler and George Raft were "discovered" as dancers there. Guinan used to greet her customers with the cheery cry, "Hello, suckers!"

(Yes, Guinan of the Star Trek: TNG series was named after her. Completely different personality, but a nice homage.)

In the late 1920s Texas returned to films, playing herself as a night club owner in several. Click here to see her doing the intro to a number by Frances Williams in Broadway Through a Keyhole.

The Depression hit her hard, financially, and she took her show on the road. She tried to tour Europe, but her reputation ensured she was denied entry at every European sea port. Of course she turned it to her advantage, naming one of her shows "Too Hot For Paris". In 1933 she contracted amoebic dysentery in Vancouver while touring, and died, just one month before Prohibition was repealed.

Sources: Wikipedia,

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