According to the official pamphlet, the Birdcage Theater was named for “the 14 bird cage crib compartments that are self-suspended from the ceiling overhanging the gambling casino and dance hall”.
Trust Chatty – as creepy as this photo is, looking at it is WAY less nasty than actually being there. Imagine, if you will…the closed room, the smells Chatty firmly believes date from the 1880’s, the whole hideous atmosphere…there aren’t enough gaslights or honky-tonk tunes in the world to have ever made this a happy place to work.
Men had to pay $45 for the privilege of “an evening” with one of the “birds”, which included her company, the entertainment onstage, and a quart of whiskey.
If you read Chatty’s previous post about the $1,000 stake to get into a poker game there, you will have an appreciation of what $45 meant in the 1880’s – it translates to about $750 in 2008.
All things considered, Chatty is guessing $45 was a fairly cheap evening at the Birdcage.
Please note – NO FOOD was offered or included. Just a swell night of boozing with a girl by your side, whilst eyeing the players at the faro table below (often manned by Doc Holliday), and enjoying the continuous floorshow. And, it must be noted that each cage had velvet drapes that could be drawn closed for privacy.
The only way to get to the cages was by way of a stairway on the right of the bar as you came in. That stairway led only to the cages on the right. If you had a tryst with a dove on the left, you had to make your way across an open catwalk over the top of the room. Once there, you made your way to your cage-du-nuit, and whiskey was lifted up to you on a dumb-waiter system that was basically a basket on a rope.
But, as charming as all this sounds, Chatty is now wondering. Since the Birdcage operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – of what did “an evening” actually consist? If a gentleman – and Chatty uses the term loosely – arrived at, say, 10 a.m. – how long was he actually allowed to stay?
And when did any of these people eat?
Get those vulgar thoughts out of your mind – Chatty is talking about actual food.
Inquiring minds want to know – but the problem with the self-guided tour at the Birdcage is that it is just that – self-guided. The only one Chatty can ask is herself, and she has no answers. *sigh*
And were any of these “birds” ever arrested for prostitution?
Tune in to Chatty’s next blog to find out…