The community publication Current in Fishers recently published an article by John Cinnamon about Elaine’s Salon and the movie script about Elaine Townsend – the salon’s namesake – set to be written by Pamala L. Hall.
The article focuses on the discovery by Robin DeTrude, owner of Elaine’s Salon in Fishers, that her great aunt (her paternal grandmother’s sister) led the kind of life that you read about in People magazine – or see in the movies.
Based on research conducted by Robin and her husband Kevin, it became clear that Robin’s great aunt, who changed her name from Margaret Helgerson to Elaine Townsend, was not only a successful entrepreneur in the post-Pearl Harbor era in Hawaii and the pre-Revolution era in Cuba, but she may also have been a double-agent for both the U.S. and Cuban governments. As the operator of a casino in Havana during the 1940’s, Townsend rubbed shoulders with the famous and infamous alike at very high levels.
The DeTrudes also discovered that a Hollywood movie based on Townsend’s life actually began production in the late 40s, but the project was suddenly halted for an unknown reason. They hope to resurrect that project with Ms. Hall’s new script treatment.
The Current in Fishers article is yet another example of the intrigue that still surrounds the mysterious life of Elaine Townsend. Stay tuned for the next chapter.
Gambling Ladies is pleased to announce it has recently completed an agreement with Lionhawk Productions to write a screenplay based on the true life story of Elaine Townsend. The script will be written by noted scriptwriter Pamala L. Hall, who has developed dozens of projects for film, television and theater.
The working title for the film is Razzle Dazzle, which is quite appropriate for a story about the original Gambling Lady, who rubbed shoulders and conducted business in the post-World War II era with a ensemble of famous personalities that included Hollywood stars, politicians, underworld figures, and Castro-era revolutionaries.
The unknown reason for halting production after Lucille Ball had already agreed to play the starring role is just one of the many fascinating aspects of the mysterious and adventurous life of Elaine Townsend, the glamorous woman who was born Margaret Helgeson in Wyoming, changed her name and made her first foray into business in Hawaii in the days before and after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and then eventually ran the casino concession at the Grand Casino Nacional in Havana just prior to the revolution.
Margaret Helgeson changed her name to Elaine Townsend while residing in Hawaii during the 1940’s. She was there when Pearl Harbor was attacked and throughout WWII.
In early 1947 she became the license holder for craps and chemin de fer (baccarat) at the only legal casino in Havana: Gran Casino Nacional. By late 1949 she had an interest in the Jockey Club at Oriental Park and the Montmarte Casino. After 1950 I don’t know what, if any, interest she had in Cuban gambling.
The story of how she got into the gambling business in Havana reads like a Hollywood script. I guess that’s why Hollywood screenwriter Virginia Kellogg wrote a screenplay about her life after visiting her in Cuba in the late 40’s.
Hollywood producer Wolfgang Reinhardt wanted to make the movie and have Rita Hayworth play the role of Elaine.
This didn’t happen and Reinhardt was going to make the film with Lucille Ball as Elaine and her Cuban native hubby Desi Arnaz. But this never happened either—not sure what happened. The movie was to be a comedy and was initially entitled “Hotbed in Cuba” then “The Elaine Townsend Story” and then “That Townsend Girl.”
Elaine Townsend died at Miami Beach, FL and was interred Mount View Cemetery in Billings, Montana on August 11, 1965 (although she had never lived in Billings, that’s where her family had moved from Wyoming).
I’ve attached an article in PDF from the Sept.9, 1948 issue of “The American Weekly” (it was a Sunday supplement similar to Parade Magazine today). Has a nice pic of Elaine sitting in front on a lot of chips. The article says that, since Elaine knew nothing about gambling, she hired a former New York nightclub owner named Connie Immerman to manage her games. Immerman was an associate of Lucky Luciano in Cuba (Frank Sinatra said that Luciano was first introduced to him by Immerman). Luciano was deported from Cuba about the same time Elaine get’s there.
How she managed to get into the thick of the gambling world in Cuba with no experience whatsoever, while some of the most experienced, big time gamblers and underworld figures on the planet are all around—it’s strange.
By Richard Hanover
Thanks for your interest in Gambling Ladies. To learn more about this mysterious lady and the historic time and place in which she lived, read The Elaine Townsend Story.
GamblingLadies.com is the internet home of Gambling Ladies apparel.
While creation of the full site is completed, we thought we would give you a little preview. Gambling Ladies apparel was inspired by Elaine Townsend, Great Aunt of the founder of Gambling Ladies apparel.
Elaine Townsend was the ultimate gambling lady owning two casinos in Havana Cuba during the 1950’s. She became the only female gambling impresario in the world. By age 31, Elaine was managing the two hottest nightclub gambling halls in Cuba, Montmartre and the Jockey Club. These two swank casinos dominated the market during Elaine’s era and she was handling twice the business of her nearest rival. Her gambling interests in the Montmartre and the Jockey Club earned her a fortune to match her million-dollar figure.
Elaine brought energy and passion to her business and was quite the mover and shaker. Seven nights a week this tall demure beautiful blonde could be seen strolling gracefully among her dice and roulette tables. Her hallmark was a long ivory cigarette holder and an icy politeness that was befitting of a veteran gambler.
“I never gamble,” she would say in a gentle voice as she waved her cigarette. “I only invest in a sure thing.”
If Elaine were alive today she would be honored to see what we have built in her name, which is an elegant and timeless line of apparel and accessories paying homage to her gambling heritage. If you are interested in obtaining information about our apparel or what is currently available, please email us using the link below.