Wednesday, March 22, 2006

205 West 54th Street

Manhattan > Midtown > West 54th Street

Spirits that broke the law of probabilities rather than the Volstead Act appeared early yesterday morning at Texas Guinan's Club Intime [203 West 54th Street, between Broadway & 7th Avenue] to entertain a selected circle of Manhattan celebrities.

Miss Guinan was giving a party, and it took the form of a spiritualistic seance, reported The N.Y. Times [5 March 1929].
• • As actress Ethel Barrymore, The New Yorker's Heywood Broun, and Park Avenue swells held hands, apparitions appeared. According to The Times, "First the spirit of Rudolph Valentino strummed the gay guitar. Then the ghost of Arnold Rothstein avoided astutely a question as to who shot him." [It's known where the gun was found but what does that prove, right?]

• • Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Ziegler (of 575 Park Avenue) left early with a Viennese guest Margot Colin, who didn't like spooks and "all that darkness with white hands in the air and everything." That's when Margot discovered her jewels were missing.
• • Curiously, Mae West's name doesn't come up. However, the Broadway headliner was living here in April 1928, right after "Diamond Lil" opened on Broadway to great acclaim. Then called the Hotel Harding, this 12-story building also housed the mobster Jack "Legs" Diamond and Texas Guinan's gun-toting nightclub manager Hyman "Feets" Edson. Also located here was the speakeasy Club Abbey, where Dutch Schultz was shot in a turf battle over Broadway beer-running rights in 1931.
• • Texas Guinan got Mae West interested in seances in 1926.
• • Certainly, since the residents witnessed enough bloodshed, murder, and mayhem on the premises, it must have been child's play to summon up at least a few ghosts.
• • During the run of "Diamond Lil," Mae bought her own townhouse and moved out.
• • Subsequently, the Hotel Harding was renamed "Hotel Alba" to distance the building from all of the horrifying rub-outs and scandals that occurred here when the area was known as the Tenderloin.
• • Have all the prostitutes, druglords, crack addicts, and unsavoury types moved out? Ha-ha-ha. The ghosts don't believe that for a minute.
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• • Photo: 205 West 54th Street •

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