lot of people have benefited in one way or another from the fabled
dinner club that was owned and operated by Rose and Sam Maceo and
their family, and was called the Balinese Room.
It was located on a wooden pier that extended out over the Gulf of
Mexico at the corner of 21st Street and Seawall Boulevard. For most
of the 1940s and 1950s its main interest to members was its illegal
|The photo shows
the Seawall looking east from 25th Street. The first pier...the big
wide one is Murdock's. It was the oldest one on the island, and it,
too, was totally destroyed by Ike. The second pier, the long one,
is the Balinese Room. In was across from the Galvez Hotel. This photo
is rather rare since it also has in it the famous Mountain Speedway
roller coaster. The Mountain Speedway was made totally of wood. It
was destroyed by Hurricane Carla in 1962.
|What's left of
the Balinese Room after Hurricane Ike
Photo courtesy Julian A. Levy, Jr., Nov. 2008
raid after raid tried to wipe it out. And one hurricane after another
tried to blow the house down, but the flame would continue to smolder
and eventually resurrect in one form or another.
But Hurricane Ike dealt it the true fatal blow. When the winds subsided
and the gulf returned to calm waters, there was no longer anything
out over the water at the corner of 21st and Seawall. The Balinese
Room was gone.
If you’ve lived around Galveston
and Houston, even Texas,
for more than 5 minutes, you know the legends of former Houston sheriff
Johnny Klevenhagen and hard living, drinking and womanizing criminal
defense attorney Percy Foreman.
But there was another Johnny Klevenhagen. He was Sheriff Klevenhagen’s
father. And he rode into the gulf coast in 1941 as Texas Ranger Capt.
One time Capt. Klevenhagen was on the stand and Percy Foreman was
cross-examining him. Percy was up to his old tricks, impeach the witness
at all costs. So he decided he’d start by questioning Capt. Klevenhagen’s
integrity. The jury was sitting there taking it all in.
Finally the Texas Ranger had had enough. He flew out of the witness
chair, drew his gun and chased old Percy out of the courthouse. No
one seems to know for sure what happened after that. But the next
day as the trial continued, the jury saw Foreman was bandaged everywhere,
was on crutches and complaining about his broken leg. And he didn’t
mention a thing about the Texas Ranger’s character again.
and tourists like to talk about the Island’s days of debauchery –
the gambling, drinking, prostitution and high-style living. Lots of
authors, including me, have written books about it. My friends Dr.
Robert Wilkins and Broadway’s Mark York even wrote a musical about
But I don’t recall that any of us ever got around to revealing how
it got closed down and who did it.
Well let me right now give that credit to Capt. Johnny Klevenhagen.
Here’s how he did it.
In the mid-1950s, he brought in his troop of rangers, known as Company
A. And they just walked into the Balinese Room every day when it opened,
and they just sat down, ate dinner, drank coffee and enjoyed the show
and stayed till closing time. They did this for months. In fact to
make their point, they moved into the Buccaneer Hotel across the street,
and they lived there for 2 ½ years!
With those guys chowing down and hanging out at the Balinese and the
other Maceo gambling joints on the island, how could the other patrons
And while we’re at it, how could the houses of ill-repute operate
with a Texas Ranger sitting in the cat house’s living room night after
night drinking coffee? They were there, too.
Texas Ranger Johnny Klevenhagen did what no other lawman before him
had been able to do. It was his last accomplishment as a lawman. He
took gambling out of the Maceo empire for good.
And while I love the story and memory of Capt. Johnny Klevenhagen,
quite frankly I’m sorry that he showed up.
Bill Cherry's Galveston
November 1, 2008 column
Copyright William S. Cherry. All rights reserved
by Mike Cox ("Texas Tales" column)
The Texas Rangers finally succeeded in eliminating gambling at Galveston’s
famed Balinese Room in 1957, but it took a Category 2 hurricane to
cashier the old casino-on-a-pier once and for all. Coming ashore on
Galveston Island in the predawn hours of Sept. 13, Hurricane Ike...
> Book here
Bill Cherry, a Dallas Realtor and free lance writer was a longtime
columnist for "The Galveston County Daily News." His book, Bill
Cherry's Galveston Memories, has sold thousands, and is still
available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com and other bookstores.
Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered
and vanishing Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local
history, stories, and vintage/historic photos, please contact