Ken Wise 0000-00-00 00:00:00
The Balinese Room For many years, Galveston was one of the largest, most prosperous cities in the southern United States. As Galveston’s virtue grew, so did its vice. Many of life’s less wholesome diversions existed in the city. Not the least of these was gambling. The acknowledged kings of Galveston gaming were brothers Rosario “Rose” and Salvatore “Sam” Maceo. The Maceos emigrated from Sicily to New Orleans in 1910. They both moved to Galveston shortly before World War I, where they were gainfully employed as barbers. During Prohibition, however, the brothers saw an opportunity to improve their fortunes. The Maceos opened the Hollywood Dinner Club in 1926. One of the first establishments to utilize the new technology called “air conditioning,” the Hollywood quickly became one of the most elite establishments in the United States. The brothers also took over a restaurant called the Chop Suey Club, located at Seawall Boulevard and 21st Street. They changed the name to Maceo’s Grotto, and, in 1932, remolded the Grotto into a Chinese restaurant and club named the Sui Jen, adding a 200-foot pier to the rear of the building. In 1942, the name was changed to the Balinese Room. The Balinese became one of the premier gaming and entertainment clubs in the country. Some claim that in 1948 Balinese bartender Santos Cruz invented the Margarita, naming it after singer Peggy Lee. Entertainers such as Phil Harris, Frank Sinatra, George Burns, Mel Torme, and Duke Ellington appeared on the Balinese stage. The casino was the highlight of the club. It was located in the rear of the establishment and required a long trip to reach. In the event of a raid, the alarm would sound in the casino and the band would strike up “The Eyes of Texas” (not solely in tribute to the Texas Rangers heading toward the casino). By the time law enforcement personnel made it to the casino, all they found were a few innocent (and perfectly legal) games of bridge or dominoes being played. By 1954, both Sam and Rose Maceo had died, but gambling continued at the Balinese. The Rangers decided to use a little finesse. Company A Captain Johnny Klevenhagen made sure two Rangers entered the Balinese Room every night when it opened, found a good table, and made themselves at home until the establishment closed for the evening. By 1957, the customers had gone away and one of the most active and famous gambling halls in the country was forced to close. The document file from the Galveston County District Court contains indictments and witness lists of some of the parties affiliated with the Balinese Room. By Judge Ken Wise
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