The Madams of Central Colorado arrived in Buena Vista last night for the opening sold-out show of the 2017 summer season. This show, in its 11th year, was written by cast member Kathi Perry as an educational and historical theatrical production. Each character is based upon a true life painted lady who lived and worked in the Upper Arkansas Valley at a time when there was a shortage of women.
Belle Brown, portrayed by Carrie Carey, had one of the most popular parlour houses in Buena Vista early in its history. She bottled her own beer and sold it to her patrons at 500% her cost. She would dress up her girls in their finery and take a buggy ride down the middle of street, as a form of advertisement, of course. Belle’s business declined and she left town soon after she staged the brawl that damaged Cockeyed Liz’s eye.
Lizzie Spurgeon, also known as Cockeyed Liz and portrayed by Kathi Perry, arrived in town in her silk & satin and everyone knew who she was when she stepped off of the train. She opened her house, The Palace of Joy, and enjoyed a successful career in the profession until she married one of her customers. She was married for over 30 years and when she passed away, no church in town would hold her service so her beloved Alphonse held her service under the tree in the front yard of the Palace.
Laura Evens, as portrayed by Renee Graner, arrived in Denver with her one year old daughter Lucille after fleeing an unhappy marriage. She soon realized that she didn’t know the first thing about taking care of a baby and with no money, job or skills, she chose to “turn out” to pay for her daughter’s care & upbringing. Laura moved on to Leadville before settling in Salida where she opened her own parlour house. Ms. Laura had the longest running house in Colorado and finally shut her doors in 1950.
Lillian Powers, as portrayed by Bonnie Schwam, was a good friend of Ms. Laura. Ms. Laura had asked Lillian to work in her parlour house, however, Lillian was a crib girl and wished to remain in Ms. Laura’s cribs. Lillian eventually moved to Florence and opened her own house where she was soon Florence’s most famous madam. Lillian chose the life of a fallen angel rather than remain in her first profession as a school teacher.
Silverheels Jessie, as portrayed by Morgan Mahala, worked in Ms. Laura’s parlour house in Salida. Jessie had the highest regard for Ms. Laura and the way she ran her house. At one point, during the influenza epidemic, Ms. Laura closed her house down and sent her girls out into the community to act as nurses. Silverheels Jessie ended up at the home of a local baptist minister who had tried for years to close Ms. Laura down. After she nursed his wife back to health he offered her a job as his wife’s companion. Silverheels Jessie turned him down and returned back to the parlour house to continue her life as a bride of the multitude.
Laverne, as portrayed by Whitney Tidwell, was also a parlour house girl in Ms. Laura’s house. Not a lot is known about Laverne before or after her life as a soiled dove, but she too enjoyed and loved working for Ms. Laura. She and Silverheels Jessie enjoyed a competitive rivalry for both Ms. Laura’s attention as well as those of their “friends”. She likes to tell the audience what it was really like living and working in a parlour house, without offending those with tender sensibilities.
The Professor, as portrayed by Teresa Roorda, pleases and entertains the crowd with her musical skills. Cockeyed Liz was progressive for her time and employed The Professor, a woman, as musical entertainment for her gentlemen callers. It was well known to the madams that music could hasten the turnover of clients.
If you missed last night’s show, (July 8, 2017) the ladies will be back in Buena Vista on August 12th, as well as September 9th. They will then be off to Pueblo to perform for the Medal of Honor Recipients before taking the “cat wagon” to Lamar to set up their tent at the historical encampment.