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Journal

A Bird in a Gilded Cage

Since the release date for Love in Disguise has officially arrived, my thoughts have been focused on southern Arizona and the research trips I made to that area in preparation for writing the story.

I shared some research tidbits during a recent guest-blogging stint on Writes of Passage, and I thought you might be interested in hearing about Tombstone’s Bird Cage Theatre, one of the sites that inspired several scenes in the book. (To be honest, my husband is the one who suggested I blog about the Bird Cage. I think he hoped it would spare him having to listen to me rattle on about the book. You’d think he would know better after nearly 38 years!)

Ellie, our heroine, has to make a lot of adjustments when she moves from Chicago to wild-and-wooly Arizona to go undercover for the Pinkertons. Ellie has moved in theatrical circles all her life, but a place like the Bird Cage Theater was not at all what she was accustomed to.

The Bird Cage had a unique business strategy. While it did serve a portion of the community as a theater, it also operated as a combination saloon, gambling hall, and brothel during the height of Tombstone’s silver boom.

Bird Cage Theatre - Carol Cox

 

In the area in front of the stage is the faro table where Doc Holliday spent many profitable hours. He and Johnny Ringo got into a shooting match here, but both men were so inebriated that they missed each other, at nearly point-blank range.

 

Bird Cage interior - Carol Cox

 

Out in the lobby hangs a painting of “Fatima,” an exotic dancer who performed at the Bird Cage in 1881. I’m only showing you a portion of the painting here. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination. Fatima, by the way, graciously consented to make a cameo appearance (as the painting, not the dancer) in one of the scenes in Love in Disguise.

 

Fatima - Carol Cox

 

I was thrilled to be able to visit an area downstairs that had recently been reopened after being sealed off since 1889. This is the site of the longest poker game in Western history, which ran for 8 years and 4 months (some historians credit it as lasting 8 years, 5 months, and 3 days), nonstop.

 

Bird Cage poker table - Carol Cox

 

A New York Times article from 1882 labeled the Bird Cage as “the Roughest, Bawdiest, and most Wicked night spot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast.“ Today, 140 bullet holes in the walls, ceilings, and floors attest to its boisterous clientele.

And yet, with all the rowdy, unsavory activity that went on within the Bird Cage, some of the most noted stars of the American stage made appearances here. Photos of Eddie Foy, Lotta Crabtree, Richard Mansfield, and Enrico Caruso hang on a backstage wall.

 

Caruso, Crabtree, Mansfield - Carol Cox

 

What a disparity! No wonder poor Ellie was taken aback. How about you? Have you ever been thrust into a new environment where you had to adapt in a hurry?

If so, how did you handle it? Do you have a strategy to share with us? I’d love to hear from you!

 

Don’t Forget!!

To celebrate the release of  LOVE IN DISGUISE, my wonderful publisher Bethany House is holding a giveaway, which begins today!

The LOVE IN DISGUISE Giveaway- Coming June 5th!

Grand Prize:

A $200 Pinkerton prize box.  Win a trunk full of items Ellie used in her undercover work as a Pinkerton detective.  This vintage wood & brass mini travel trunk contains:

  • An embossed, western leather journal – so the winner can record their own secret observations, just like Ellie did
  • Two luxurious scarves – one of lace, and one of shimmering cobalt cashmere, for speedy outfit changes
  • An antique hand mirror – for quick character touch ups
  • A green agate and filigree brooch – just like the one “Jessie” wore on the cover of the book

 

Second Prize:

A bar of the stolen loot. The sheriff hasn’t recovered all the missing silver bars, but he found one that fell from the back of the coach as it sped away, and he’s giving it away to the lucky second prize winner.  This package contains:

  • 1 ounce bar of fine silver

 

Third Prize:

An armchair travel pass to Arizona. Ellie visited Arizona on a bumpy stagecoach, but you could experience the sites from the comfort of your favorite chair.  This prize contains:

  • Arizona – A Video Coffee Table Experience
  • Arizona Ghost Towns & Mining Camps Tour Book

 

Go to the Giveaway page now to get started!

 

 

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1 Comment

    OOOOOOOoooooooooooo… I am anxiously awaiting a list today! Be anxious for nothing… I am excited to see a list you are posting today!!! Kathleen


    Lane Hill House

    Jun 9, 2012 | Reply



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