It’s a little disconcerting to walk into a Comfort Inn and find a casino, but then again, this is Deadwood.
After the government closed up the brothels, Deadwood, S.D., was, almost literally, dead. In the late 1980s, the town talked with government into allowing gambling … the first place outside Las Vegas and Atlantic City to do so. It made some sense: Deadwood had been a gambling center back in the Wild West days of the late 1800s. The proceeds – about $180 million so far, said local Tom Griffith – go to historic preservation, both of homes and the now-thriving downtown, and about 1 million tourist come here each year.
I got in just before sunset. Tom, a local businessman and travel writer, and wife Nyla, who sits on the town commission, took me to dinner with a couple of other locals, Pat and Jean. It was a fun night, proof that despite South Dakota’s conservative reputation, there’s no shortage of opinion on all sides of the key issues. (As someone pointed out, this is the state that gave us George McGovern.)
This is the same Deadwood as in the HBO series, and just in case you’ve missed the point, there are daily reenactments of the murder of Wild Bill Hickock in the Old Style Saloon No. 10. The saloon was once down the street, but that was before the town’s megafire a century-plus ago, and today’s bar may not be an exact replica, but the spirit is authentic.
The place is covered with animals heads and historic photos, including ones of Wild Bill – he’s buried up on the hill at Mt. Moriah Cemetery – and Calamity Jane, who is buried next to him.
The Wild Bill story goes like this: Jack McCall got off murder charges by telling the judge that Bill had killed his brother. Then the courts found out McCall had no brother, so the law tracked him down and hung him.
No. 10 Saloon isn’t the town’s only high-profile establishment. After Kevin Costner filmed Dances with Wolves in the area, he opened The Midnight Star. The three-story operation is classic Deadwood: gambling, dining, bar, plus movie memorabilia to boot…well, to the killer boots Whitney Houston wore in The Bodyguard. Too bad they’re not my size.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Posted by DARCOS CRUZ at 6:53 AM