Gunfighters and brass bed races on Main Street thrill spectators
By Randy Beaudette
It all started some 42 years ago in Central City, with the filming of “The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox” with Goldie Hawn and George Segal, released in 1976. With a lot of help from the local folks this event remains alive and well in honor of Madam Lou Bunch.
This annual event kicked off at noon on historic Main Street with the band “The Blast,” which featured Gilpin’s own Jeff Tiner on lead guitar, with Kelly Watson on bass guitar, and Robert Harris on the drums. Included was a plethora of festivities, including a Sporting House Girls Revue, a staged shootout over a very shady card game, a parade, pedigrees, and of course, the famous and popular brass bed races. Events continued into the evening, with a party at the Miners’ & Madams’ Ball. Locals and city folks mingled with the miners, madams, Victorian highbrows, Sporting House Girls, and of course Dandy Dan’s.
In the opening ceremony, Master of Ceremonies Madam Sandra Hines explained who Lou Bunch was and why is she honored in Central City today. Lou Bunch was the last operating madam in Central City. She was born in 1872 and came to Denver at age 17 with another madam Mattie Silks. Rather than making a living through normal working jobs, they chose the oldest working profession. Lou married George Bunch, a gambler, and around 1900 they had a child and moved to Denver. Their child died around 1910 of an unknown cause, then George disappeared. So Lou got back into “the business” in Central City and had two other ladies who worked for her. She is fondly remembered for stopping business as usual and turning her house into a hospice and, along with her girls, nursing sick and dying miners through a tuberculosis epidemic. Lou is described as not the prettiest gal around, but she was the best fed gal around. Weighing in at 300 pounds and only 5 feet tall she could have landed a job as a sumo wrestler if her sporting house ever failed.
Entertainment included The Wild Bunch with their shootouts, The Sporting House Girls who sang and danced several numbers for the crowd, and the multitude of characters. Undertaker Tom Matthews offered visitors a chance to climb in his coffin for a snapshot. The Century Casino offered a spin on the roulette wheel for great prizes.
Food and drink vendors included something for everyone. JKQ BBQ & Smokehouse offered tasty pulled pork sandwiches, loaded fries and spicy polish sausage. Dane’s Fresh Lemon-aid offered cool refreshment while Ms Kara would squeeze fresh lemons right in front of you. At the Century Casino tent you could get buffalo and elk brats, grilled corn on the cob, and much more.
After talking to several of the folks, the favorite and most anticipated event is the Famous Brass Bed Race. Seven teams were entered in the race this year – they were Century Casino, Red Dolly Casino, Johnny Z’s Casino, Famous Bonanza Casino, Central City Opera, 1859 MJ, and The Reserve Casino.
The bed races did not disappoint, with out of control beds getting dangerously close to the crowd and a sporting girls dress getting wrapped around the bed wheel axle forcing a wardrobe repair and the Century Casino team to re-start.
Red Dolly received the slowest team time but most fun, clocking in at 116.5 seconds – a new record. Third place and $100 along with the Youngest Team Award went to Johnny Z’s. Second place and $200 went to 1859 with a time of 83.7 seconds. First place and $300 went to Bonanza, with a blistering time of 82 seconds! Central City Opera received the Best Dressed Team Award, and finally the Reserve Casino snatched up the Oldest Team ward. If you missed it this year, plan ahead to attend next year, and maybe enter your own bed racing team!