Chatty was all over Tombstone – the history of the American West! Cowboys! Gunfights! Poker! Loose women!
Chatty immediately gravitated to the famous (well, infamous) Birdcage Theater. A genuine glimpse into the west of the 1880’s, it is the only historical building in Tombstone that has remained virtually untouched, unaltered, and un-“improved” by modern hands. The theater opened in 1880, but closed down in 1889 – because of the flooding of the silver mines – at which time it was basically locked and left to molder until 1931. It was re-opened to the public in 1933, but is, and has always been, displayed warts (or, more accurately, gunshots – 140 of them) and all.
In the nine years it was open – it NEVER closed. That’s right. NEVER closed. The action was 24/7, and the entertainment was apparently spectacular, even by today’s standards. “Fatima”, the belly dancer, appeared there in 1881. In fact, there is a 9-foot painting of her in the bar. It has 6 bullet holes in it – presumably made by drunken cowboys trying to shoot out her belly button, amongst other body parts. This “Fatima” was pretty famous in the old west, and is even more famous if we are to believe that she later settled in Europe and changed her name to Little Egypt – which she may have done.
Other national headliners appeared there during The Birdcage’s brief reign as “the wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast” (New York Times) – like Eddie Foy, Sr. (father of the 7 little Foys – and who was reportedly playing The Birdcage when the shoot-out at the OK Corral occurred) and Lotta Crabtree, both household names to this day (well, at least in Chatty’s household).
The longest continuous poker game in the history of the west was played in a downstairs room in the Birdcage. You had to bank $1000 – at the Birdcage, mind you, not the local Wells Fargo – just to get put on the list to play. That “deposit” would only get you a seat at the poker table once one became available. When a spot did open up, if you were next on the list, a runner would be sent (at any hour – day or night) to find you wherever you were – and you were then expected to appear forthwith, and to play for as long as you wanted – or until your money ran out.
In case you were wondering, as Chatty was, what that means, well – according to the Consumer Price Index at Measuring Worth – $1,000 in 1881 is the equivalent (as of 2006) of $20,343.09.
Yes, you read that correctly. $20,343.09 got you a seat at the table.
This poker game ran continuously for 8 years, 5 months and 3 days.
Yes, you read that correctly as well.
These penny-ante celebrities and pros nowadays who think they can play poker just because they show up a few times a year to play in tournaments that are televised on The Travel Channel probably wouldn’t have lasted long at The Birdcage!
Chatty’s just sayin’…