July 15, 2011

Soapy Smith Wakes overview.

Ashley, Jeff alias "dad," and Jefferson R. Smith
Ashley and Jefferson are great-grandchildren of Soapy Smith

Sorry for the delay in posting about the three Soapy Smith wakes held across the states.  I guess all the excitement wiped out my immune system and I came down with something that kept me out of the mood and ability to write much.

As I have been reporting there were three main events this year, Skagway, Denver, and Hollywood.


The cast of The Days of '98 Show
with one of Soapy's markers

The wake in Skagway has been going on since 1977. The Eagles and the cast of the Days of '98 Show put on a dance as no one is allowed to party in the cemetery at Soapy's grave. Even so, Ashley Bowman, of Skagway wrote to me and said that six of them

"went to the cemetery and memorialized Soapy on July 8th with some Robert Service, eulogies, and music. It wasn't a very big event, but it was definitely a good time!"
Ashley, please thank all who were there for the Smith family. It's quality not quantity.


Laura Oster alias "Dewliscious"
sings a tribute to Soapy

Dave Elstun writes,
Denver's First Annual Soapy Smith Wake was a smashing success! A big thank you to all the participants, Darrin Ray, Matt Vander Meulen, Laura Oster (Dewliscious), Reid Belstock and most of all to Walter Keller for allowing us to use The Lumber Baron Inn as a facility. Look for photo's to hit these pages in the next few days.

Reid Belstock juggles
in honor of Soapy

The two Soapy's
Darrin Ray and Matt Vander Meulen


Once again, in fact for the 8th year in a row, the Magic Castle was home to the Soapy Smith wake in Hollywood, California. Everyone who attended seems to agree that this year's event was the best one yet. I wholeheartedly agree! The event is a charity drive for the Dai Vernon Fund, a worthy cause considering Dai was a huge fan of Soapy Smith. I have photographs of him taken in the 1980s at my parents home before we knew who he was and before the event started.

Karin Mckechnie, the goddess of sewing
shows off her latest 1890s attire.

There is simply not enough I can say about this event. The music was nineteenth century favorites played by Dave Bourne and his Medicine Show band. The costuming this year was even better than the last, and included steam-punkers (think Wild Wild West). I made a slew of new friends and connections.

The proud parent (me) watches his children gamble at faro

My daughter Ashley was present for the third year in a row and this was the first time for my son, Jefferson Randolph Smith. His age (15) is a reason for not being able to attend previously but I am hopeful that he now has that spark.

Jan Harness won "most authentic"

The main event for the charity is an auction. Actor, Neil Patrick Harris, the current President of the Magic Castle, donated a "walk on" part on his hit show "How I Met your Mother." It went for something like $600! Also included in the auction to bid on were

  • Tickets for Two to PENN and TELLER LIVE AT THE RIO.
  • Tickets for Two to the Brookledge Follies – Produced by Erika Larsen.
  • Genuine authenticated soil from the grave of Soapy Smith.
  • Personal Pool Lesson with Two-Time U. S. Trick Shot Pool Champion Chef Anton – The winner gets to visit Chef in his beautiful Canyon Lake home, enjoy a personally prepared gourmet meal, then settle in for two hours of intense training at the hands of the Master!
  • Personal Magic Lesson with “Pop” Haydn – Six-time AMA Award Winning Magician Whit Haydn, recipient of the Stage, Parlour, Close-up and Bar Magician of the Year Awards, engages you in a one-on-one intensive learning session focusing on the Shell Game, Fast and Loose, Three-Card Monte or General Magic – the choice is up to the winner.
  • HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER Poker Set, signed by the entire cast of the hit CBS Comedy Series
    This rare collectible was a gift to members of the crew of the TV show during its first season on the air, and contains a card signed by every member of the cast. It's been donated by Neil Patrick Harris, President of the AMA, who plays the role of Barney Stinson on the series. A personally signed photo of Neil completes this highly desirable package.
*One of the items I would have loved to have won was an original sketch of Soapy Smith by artist Daniel Urbach. This piece was just fantastic! It captured an intense personality in the eyes.

I was so happy to be a costume judge this year!

Throughout the night there was period gambling, complete with 3 faro tables, all thanks to my good friend, Phil Gessert and his lovely wife Jo. They trucked in Wyatt Earp, Morgan and Doc Holliday from Tombstone.  Guests to the Castle received $100 in Soapy Money and play-gambled at various games set up by Phil, which included faro, blackjack, craps, and a wheel of fortune. My kids learned how to play faro and while they were playing I told them stories of Soapy and faro, like the time he knife-slit a faro layout in Denver's Arcade saloon.
There were also several in-house contests going on during the night. Before the event several people signed up for the contest in which the winner of the most Soapy bucks would win a set of solid silver shells (three shell and pea game) worth $300. The contestants could operate any game they wished. But what the guests did not know is that honesty was not a requirement.

Ashley and Jefferson gambled until the very end!
Jefferson was the very last player at this table

William Draven operated a lottery in which guests gave $20 of their Soapy money for the chance to win a brand new car. He even had a photograph of the car. Whit Haydn, the main sponsor of the event wrote that the "favorite comment heard more than once at Soapy Smith Night: "You mean there really isn't a lottery for a car? He said you could win a car...he took all my Soapy Money!"

Giuseppe Aliott ran a shell game but near the end of the night he was behind William Draven in total count so he came up with a brilliant idea to win the contest.  He went around and collected the Soapy dollars from guests, telling them that the sponsors of the event wanted them back so they could use them again next year!

Whit Haydn said he figures William and Giuseppe each robbed about 150 people of all their Soapy Money. Oh what cons these two characters are... Soapy would be so proud.

"I can't wait for next year" was hear at all three events. I have to concur!

Some of the items for sale and auction

Jeff Smith


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