Wild Women of the West: Cad Wilson
What it was like for Klondike Entertainer Cad Wilson and life at Dawson City’s Monte Carlo.
Cad Wilson was no beauty, and she could not sing. Yet her personality was such that the miners in Alaska’s Gold Rush area threw nuggets and gold watches onto the stage as she ran about laughing and picking up loot, all the while holding her dress up to display her skinny legs. Eddie Dolan, the stage manager at the Tivoli, would close her act by pretending he was reading a letter from Cad’s mother which said in part; “Be sure and be a good girl and pick nice clean friends.” Then he would cry out, “I leave it to you, fellers, if she don’t pick ‘em clean! Cad wore the largest nugget belt in the Klondike, given to her on July 4, 1897, by a group of Klondikers who had argued for months as to who found the biggest nuggets. Each put his biggest nugget into Cad’s belt and it was so large it went around her waist one and a half times. Cad Wilson’s theme song, “Such a Nice Girl, Too,” was a byword until one enamored miner filled her bathtub full of wine. Not only did Cad not allow the fellow to scrub her back or watch her splash about in the grape – Cad had the wine rebottled and sold. Though the dance halls were of differing levels of morality, in outward appearance they were all the same – hastily erected two-story building with large plate-glass windows in front. Upon entering, one found oneself in a small dark room dominated by a sheet-iron stove, a long, polished bar, and a mirrored backbar. Several bartenders – in their starched shirts, white aprons and waistcoats, and diamond stickpins – served thirsty men. Behind the saloon was a smaller room for faro, poker, dice, and roulette. Further back was the crude theater, with its ground floor, balcony and small stage. Part of the second floor contained a dozen bedrooms which could be rented, by the day or by the hour. A large sign on the balcony of the theater section reminded, “Gentlemen in private boxes are expected to order refreshments.” That bit of barroom etiquette was never breached, for it was a mark of a man’s affluence to be seen in a box with a bevy of girls, drinking wine at sixty dollars a bottle. A private box in a Dawson dance hall became the status symbol of the miners. One night at the Monte Carlo, a miner had $1,700 worth of wine sent to his private box. (It was Skagway, Alaska, however, that the art of dance-hall box-rushing was developed to its greatest efficiency. After the stage show, the female singers and dancers rushed up to the boxes like a gaggle of vultures, shrieking, laughing, and demanding drinks. Without any invitation from the man who would have to pick up the tab, they would ring the bell for the waiter and order wine at twenty dollars and upward a pint.) Looking for more Wild Women stories?