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Texas Guinan’s 300 Club 1920

by Mary "Texas" Guinan, 1884-1933

Mary Louise Cecilia “Texas” Guinan was an American actress, producer, and entrepreneur.

Guinan was one of seven siblings born in Waco, Texas to Irish-Canadian immigrants Michael and Bessie Guinan. In 1906 she moved to New York City, 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 a silent film called The Wildcat. She became the United States’ first movie cowgirl, nicknamed “The Queen of the West.” She claimed she had a sojourn in France, entertaining the troops during World War I.

Upon the introduction of Prohibition, she opened a speakeasy called the 300 Club at 151 W. 54th Street in New York City (1920). The club became famous for its troupe of forty scantily-clad fan dancers and for Guinan’s distinctive 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 close to the customers. Guinan maintained that she had never sold an alcoholic drink in her life.

At this hangout of the 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 Gloria Swanson, Clara Bow, Irving Berlin, John Barrymore, Dolores Costello, and Rudolph Valentino.

Ruby Keeler and George Raft were 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 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.

Guinan has been credited with coining a number of phrases: she referred to her well-off patrons as “butter and egg men,” she often demanded that the audience “give the little ladies a great big hand,” and she traditionally greeted her patrons with, “Hello, suckers!”

Today, 151 West 54th Street is the site of the London Hotel.

edited from Wikipedia

Reference Links

internal gDoc TBC
internal Art Nerd article
internal Texas Guinan bio
internal Bowery Boys blog article
internal The London Hotel
internal Wikipedia