Originally published at Vegas Cannabis Magazine
SHWA LAYTART - DECEMBER 1, 2020
The improvisational burlesque dancer CANDY BARR was the persona of a young Texas girl named Juanita Slusher who loved to dance.
At a young age, Juanita Slusher had been molested then forced into sex service, trafficked, and coerced into nonstop underage prostitution. Used sexually by the elite upper class, a story not unlike the modern-day girls that Jeffrey Epstein trafficked to the rich people of the world.
Texas in the 1940s and ‘50s was a very cruel place to live if you were from a poor, unprivileged family. For Juanita Slusher, her story starts out tragic. She was the youngest of a hard-working but poor family that was looked down upon by the religious upper class who believed in the ridiculous prosperity theology. Her parents worked nonstop and with the rest of her siblings out of the house, Juanita was left in the hands of a neighbor who ended up molesting her and allowing his friends to do the same. Her mother died in a car accident when Juanita was still very young, and soon after her father remarried. It wasn’t long before her stepmother began taking advantage of her sexually as well. A pattern that would haunt Juanita for many years to come.
After years of sexual abuse, even though she loved her father dearly, a very young fourteen-year-old Juanita ran away from home and headed to Dallas, Texas in hopes of finding a job as a waitress or maid. However, when she arrived, she was quickly kidnapped, raped, and forced into a world of prostitution.
Forced sex work, something completely acceptable at the time in Dallas, was called the “Capture”. The Capture was when an economically underprivileged girl was kidnapped or tricked and forced into prostitution. The men in the area used sex-slaves as a rite of passage and believed that most of these teens would be killed or die of drug abuse, so they never worried about their perverted lustful ways getting out to the public.
The many men who “hired” the underage, captured girls were the generations of men from just about every career in the Texas area, businessmen, the extremely rich, even politicians, judges, and law enforcement, as well as the clergy. People who, when Juanita became a famous dancer, felt threatened she would tell of their sexually deviant behavior using her, a teenager, as an unwilling sex toy.
It would take years before Juanita was able to completely escape her captors. Even when she was able to be free for months, even years, the fact that she was so young, she was constantly targeted and forced back into sex slavery.
In the early 1950s, Juanita finally gained her freedom and after a quick marriage to a brutal thief who ended up in jail soon after, she was able to pick up a job as a waitress in a Dallas cafe. When she wasn’t working, Juanita would spend all her free time dancing; the dance floor being the one place she felt truly free.
Club owners noticed that men of all ages loved to watch Juanita dance and would stay in the bar longer when she was on the dancefloor. Because of this and the fact that Juanita didn’t drink, use hard drugs or hustle the customers, they let her stay and dance even though she was under twenty-one.
One of the places Juanita would dance was Eva Ruby’s nightspot, The Silver Spur, in Dallas. Here is where Juanita would catch the eye of Eva’s brother, Jack Ruby. Jack would become a big brother to Juanita and do his best to make sure anyone getting out of hand with her in the bar would be quickly dealt with; at the Silver Spur, Juanita was safe. She never wanted to drink alcohol but was known for her love of candy when she got off the dance floor.
Then out of nowhere, Juanita, in her late teens and without any family to rely on, was again kidnapped and forced into prostitution. Each time Juanita would get free, she would head straight to the dance floor. Each time, she would be found and forced back into sex work. She was even drugged and forced into one of the first and most popular pornography films of the time, Smart Alec, making Juanita even more sinister in the eyes of the Dallas law enforcement, and even more profitable by her latest pimps.
Juanita, being a hard worker like her mother and father, excelled at whatever job she was given and was soon allowed to continue her love of dancing in her free time, even though she was back working as a prostitute. It was on the dance floor that Juanita caught the eyes of club owners Barney and his wife Mae Weinstein. They believed her when she said she was older than she really was, and gave her a job as the cigarette girl, knowing good-and-well that she would draw in customers. From there she was asked to dance as a paid stripper. Barney’s brother Abe, also a club owner, opened a school for strippers which Juanita attended and where Candy Barr emerged. Named after her love of Snickers and the $100,000 Bar.
Juanita, now Candy Barr, and fresh from the Weinstein’s school for strippers, would find herself dancing at Abe’s upscale club, the Colony, and it was there that the dancer and entertainer Candy Barr, started becoming a burlesque superstar.
Abe Weinstein quickly realized Candy Barr was a star and guided her professional burlesque career, helping her rise to the top within four years of starting at the Colony Club.
Having achieved fame in Dallas, those elite politicians, law enforcement, judges, and businessmen of Texas were afraid Candy Barr would talk about how she was sexually abused over the years by all of them, starting when she was barely a teenager. It didn’t help that Candy Barr kept a little black book with names and numbers of past clients. They absolutely feared Candy Barr and wanted, needed, her to disappear.
Candy Barr was constantly harassed and being used by men. In self-defense, she once shot her drunk, abusive ex-husband, who had pimped her out for years. Abe Weinstein saw an opportunity to use this publicity and after having Juanita’s bail raised to $100,000 to create headlines (then quickly paid it), took Candy Barr, dressed as a cowgirl, to a press conference and declared the whole arrest preposterous. Now all eyes were on Candy Barr.
The Weinstein brothers would use the publicity to get work for Candy Barr doing everything from dancing to lingerie modeling. She was making a little more money and the Weinstein brothers were making a killing.
During all of this, Candy Barr had become the embodiment of evil to one obsessed Dallas police chief, Captain Pat Gannaway. Gannaway, along with those elites who had once sexually abused the underage victim of “Captured” slavery would do whatever was needed to remove Candy Barr before she spilled the beans.
Then a man named Jack Newton was accused of murder. He was not guilty, but the police needed someone to prosecute and Newton was as good as any. Fortunately, the night of the murder, Newton had been out with Candy Barr, and she came forward to help make sure the cops knew it. This embarrassed the Dallas law enforcement, putting Candy back in the hot seat.
Now, completely fed-up with the prostitute who became a famous dancer, law enforcement along with the help of the ladies of the local Chamber of Commerce, the prominent citizens of Dallas were looking for any excuse to lock-up Candy Barr for good. Even if they had to create one.
Helen Smith went by the stage name of Pixie Lynn and for several months, lived with Candy Barr in the spring of 1957. An acquaintance had given Helen a “can of marijuana” which she asked Candy to hold on to. It was no surprise when a knock at her door revealed a lieutenant who quickly entered demanding she turn over the illegal contraband- a can of marijuana left behind by her part-time roommate. It turned out, the “large quantity of marijuana” was not even enough for two joints. Nonetheless, Candy Barr was headed for prison.
Having spent years being hassled by law enforcement, everything from being arrested for “vagrancy” to being requested to dance at private stag parties for the officers, Candy was not surprised when she found herself being framed for having reefer. The police were illegally staking-out her apartment, so when she saw the officer at the door, Candy knew she was going down.
While on trial, even the judge couldn’t help himself from being a sexist pig and took Candy into his chambers and took pictures of her, and referred to her as “the shapely defendant.” Candy Barr’s arrest was considered an obvious miscarriage of justice and the national press was amazed the trial was happening.
Even after obtaining a search warrant illegally, as well as wiretapping Candy illegally, the “good people” of Dallas looked passed this injustice and Candy Barr was sentenced to fifteen years in jail.
When she was released on bail, reporters asked Candy about her future, which she replied, “Future? The nearest thing I can see is they’ll run me out of town.” Freed on a $15,000 bond, Candy wanted to dance, just not in Dallas. So she made her way to the city she was destined for- Sin City, Las Vegas.
In Las Vegas, Candy Barr quickly rose to fame and was known for having many flings (even with a young Mickey Rooney and Bing Crosby’s son), also for hanging out with nightclub businessman and Mafia’s own Mickey Cohen, as well as bouncing around town wearing the shirt of her dear friend Sammy Davis, Jr. She was living the glamorous life in Las Vegas and the whole time no one knew that her teenage years were spent being sex trafficked to the elites of Dallas.
Candy’s relationship with Sammy Davis, Jr. was another middle finger to the 1950s standard of “morals”. She wasn’t bothered by the scrutiny. She and Sammy both were outcasts struggling in a world coming at them from all sides. Their friendship was no doubt a comfort to both.
It was in these months in Las Vegas, before going to jail for reefer (which was not hers), that Candy Barr would indulge in a toke or two with friends. “One night I was at the El Rancho and there were two girls from the chorus line I hung out with when I wasn’t with the guys, and we decided we’d sit in the back of a car and smoke a joint. We were living dangerously.” *
Smoking reefer was the least of Candy Barr’s dangers. The FBI had Mickey Cohen under investigation, and they figured Candy might turn on Cohen like how prostitutes in the past turned on Luciano. She was arrested one night and brought to L.A. for questioning. Candy told the Feds nothing, but now, fearing for her life, she turned herself into the Texas State Prison system for a crime of cannabis possession, a crime she didn’t commit, just to make sure she was safe and avoided a Mafia hit on her life.
For Candy Barr, doing time was just another thing, like forced sex, that she had to endure.
Even in prison, Candy Barr was exploited. While being over-drugged with the tranquilizer Thorazine, she learned that she would be forced to perform in the annual Texas State Prison Rodeo, and they had already used her name in the publicity. Since she knew it was not mandatory for her to be there, she said “no” to the warden. Candy then negotiated her presence at the prison rodeo for a position in the library, and it worked. Candy Barr was learning how to manipulate those who had been constantly using her. She would spend the rest of her time in prison educating herself and staying out of trouble.
On April 1st, 1963, Juanita Slusher AKA Candy Barr was released from prison at age 27. She spent three years and ninety-one days behind bars for possession of two joints worth of cannabis.
Released from prison, Candy Barr left her dancing life behind and moved back to her little hometown of Edna, Texas. She did have a dance contract that still needed to be fulfilled, but it had been eight years since she lit-up the stage. Though she still drew crowds, the dancing, the music, and even Candy Barr had changed. Once the contract ended, Candy Barr retired. Juanita Slusher was finally free.
Candy Barr was the inspirational, improvisational, burlesque dancer of Las Vegas in her time. Her act was her dancing. With endless energy, she moved to the beat, and the sound, and the vibration in such a seductive, sultry way it was as if she was making love to the music on stage, for everyone to see.
Juanita Slusher AKA Candy Barr never ratted anyone out. She took the numerous beatings from both cruel people and an unjust system, yet she persisted and survived, becoming what some referred to her as, with all due respect- a “tough, hard bitch”. Throughout her life, all Candy Barr wanted to be remembered for was being a dancer and entertainer.
Candy Barr is not only a Las Vegas icon; she is the spirit of Las Vegas. No matter how many times you knock us down, we get back up, stronger and better every time- setting the stage on fire and entertaining the world.
Want more? Read- *Candy Barr The Small-town Texas Runaway Who Became A Darling Of The Mod & The Queen Of Las Vegas Burlesque by Ted Schwarz & Mardi Rustam
Buy the Book Now at Bookshop.org
CANNABIS CANDY BARRS RECIPE
Here’s a quick and simple way to make infused Cannabis Candy Barrs to get you through hard times, or just a night of hard dancing!
What you’ll need- total ingredients:
1.25 lb infused butter
1.5 lbs sugar
1 lb. Chocolate (get a mix of light and dark or dark and darker)
2 cup peanuts
1.5 cans evaporated milk
12×9” casserole dish or cooking sheet
Start by making your chocolate:
0.25 Cup Cannabis Butter
4 Cups Chocolate
In a double boiler pot on low heat melt your infused butter with your chocolates. Mix thoroughly until the butter has blended with the chocolate. Turn off heat and let it remain in the double boiler.
Be sure to keep your heat on medium/low so as not to burn your chocolate.
Then make your infused caramel:
1 lb. infused butter
1.5 cans evaporated milk
1.5 lbs. sugar
0.5 tbsp salt
1 Tbsp vanilla
Heat butter, sugar, salt until melted and boiling. Slowly stir in the evaporated milk and continue mixing until you reach 240F.
Be sure to keep your heat on medium/low so as not to burn your sugars.
Pour chocolate into a casserole dish, then layer caramel, peanuts, caramel, and cover with chocolate.
Cut into bars when cooled and store in the refrigerator.