by Pinky Gonzales
…This was the standard greeting you’d likely receive from the jovial, peroxide blonde manning the house at one of several Manhattan speakeasies during Prohibition. Of course, this would foreshadow the spending of all your dough, on illegal hooch and tips for the showgirls. You’d happily fork over $25 (back then no chump change) for a fifth of Scotch, or $2 for a pitcher of water if you brought your own “booster”, and whatever else followed. The place would probably be packed, open a few hours later than all the rest, and the wisecracking, witty pal of Mae West named Texas Guinan would be seeing to it you were having a darned good time.
Before being seduced into the world of club ownership through bartending and guest emceeing, Texas started out in Vaudville, then in Westerns as an actress and producer. 1917’s The Wildcat introduced America’s first movie cowgirl.
Her nite club career included “the grandaddy of speakeasies,” the El Fey Club, opened in 1924 with gangster Larry Fey. Later came Club Intime, a Dorothy Parker hangout and subterranean spot near Times Square where entry would involve a steep staircase, two bouncers and a peephole. There was also the Rendezvous, the 300 Club, the Argonaut, the Century, the Salon Royal, and Tex Guinan’s. Infamous for being hauled off to the pokey on a regular basis and having her joints shut down by Feds, Texas enjoyed having the band strikeup “The Prisoner’s Song” on her way out the door. And always would she deny selling anything but “mixers” to at her clubs, noting “a man could get hurt falling off a bar stool!” Re-opening after raids, she would sometimes wear a necklace of gold padlocks just to show the cops there were no hard feelings. She worked tirelessly until age 49, when she was stricken by illness and passed away. 12,000 attended her 1933 funeral procession in Manhattan, and a month later to the day of her death, Prohibition was repealed. Looks like a Women’s History Month toast is in store for this gal!
SCOFF LAW COCKTAIL (what else?)
1 oz rye whiskey
1 oz dry vermouth
.75 oz fresh lemon juice
.75 oz green Chartreuse (or pomegranate grenadine according to some recipes – also excellent)
2 dashes orange bitters
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.