A City of Steep Hills and Steep Dreams
In the mid-1880s a wealthy widow arrived in San Francisco in search of "good man" to marry and oversee her vast fortune which was described as too large to count. Many local men volunteered to be her suitor. All she asked was that they transfer some of their own money, which she would match, into an investment account of hers. This was only to assure their worth and financial standing. It wasn't long before the woman had amassed thousands of dollars from a score of prominent men and was arrested for fraud. But when it came time to prosecute, all of the victims were too embarrassed to step forward and the charges were dropped.

Her new-found fame led to a career in show business where she was billed as 'Big Bertha, Queen of the Confidence Women.' She appeared on the stages of the famous Bella Union saloon, the Cremorne, and Bottle Koenig's in the city's Barbary Coast. The 280-pound Big Bertha achieved considerable fame as a dancer who couldn't dance, a singer who couldn't sing, and an actress who couldn't act. Her crowning moment was starring in Romeo and Juliet opposite a well-known local crackpot named Oofty Goofty. The play drew huge crowds of the curious locals.

As her fame and girth increased she was featured in a production of Mazeppa, in which she made her entrance strapped to the back of a donkey. Unfortunately one night the donkey, blinded by the footlights and overburdened, toppled over into the orchestra pit taking Big Bertha with him. After that she confined herself just to singing. Eventually Big Bertha obtained ownership of the Bella Union but by 1895 her star had faded and when she lost her liquor license she quietly left San Francisco and was never heard from again.
[ MAP E-13 ]


Blogger Tomate Farcie said...

Cool story and even better picture! Thanks.

10:05 AM  
Blogger AphotoAday said...

Great info -- I am going to watch out for any ladies named Bertha from now on...

And what a terrible thing to do to a donkey -- poor thing...   I've heard of donkey acts in Tijuana, but...

And that's a great photo...   I've never gotten on one of those things -- just a bit too touristy for even me -- but I certainly am not above shooting them (and their passengers) as they pass by...

6:40 PM  
Blogger Aunti Juli said...

Another great shot. I read that Oofty and Bertha traded places for the balcony scene, with him in the balcony and her below. Where was YouTube??? :)

6:41 PM  
Blogger FogBay said...

I've been wanting to post about Oofty Goofty but am unsure of the right photo to use.

8:25 PM  
Anonymous dutchbaby said...

I adore this photo - it would make a great postcard!

8:09 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home