Waiter turned theatre mogul got his start in the Klondike

Friends always know best. Diamond-Tooth Gertie Lovejoy told Klondike Kate Rockwell that she was "plum crazy to fall for a patent leather kid who will love her, take her gold and leave her.

Friends always know best.

Diamond-Tooth Gertie Lovejoy told Klondike Kate Rockwell that she was “plum crazy to fall for a patent leather kid who will love her, take her gold and leave her.”

Unfortunately for Kate, Gertie was right about the man she called the “patent leather kid”—Alexander Pantages.

Alexander Pantages was born Pericles Pantages in Greece in 1876.

After he heard the story of Alexander the Great, Pericles started calling himself ‘Alexander’ to reflect his ambition to conquer the world.

After running away from home at age nine, Alexander drifted through Cairo, Panama and northward through North America working a number of jobs until he ended in Skagway in the late 1890s.

He arrived in the frontier town with 25 cents and a pair of boots wrapped in a copy of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper.

When he got off the ship, men began offering him money for the newspaper—$5 and $10, according to the book Good Time Girls of the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush.

“‘Not for sale,’ snapped Alexander, and that night hired a hall and a reader, selling tickets for one dollar a head to the news-starved public.”

Though he had come to the North to find his fortune he quickly realized that it was easier to take the gold directly from the prospectors rather than go out on the creeks and mine it himself, so that’s what he did.

Alexander moved on to Dawson and got a job slinging drinks in a saloon, where he assisted Klondike Kate in parting many miners from their hard-dug gold dust.

Soon after, Alexander opened the Orpheum Theatre with Kate as one of the biggest investors in the venture.

Kate quit her job performing at the Monte Carlo to star in the show Alexander, who was by then her lover, mounted at the Orpheum.

“Alex Pantages and I laughed, danced and worked hard during those months at the Old Orpheum. We opened it together and it became the brightest spot north of the International Boundary Line,” Rockwell wrote later in an article entitled I was Queen of the Klondike.

“In the spring we’d go picking poppies together on the banks of the Klondike. And we’d make plans for the day that we would marry.”

While Kate was guided by her love for Alexander, he was guided by his love of money.

“Meanwhile, Alexander focused on making his fortune, not only watching his audiences intently to figure out what they wanted, but after hours sweeping the floors and sifting out the gold dust,” according to Good Time Girls of the Alaska-Yukon Gold Rush.

Over the next few years Kate performed in shows all over the United States, while Alexander went to Seattle and started building a chain of theatres.

In 1905 Kate was performing in a show in her hometown of Spokane, Washington, when she heard that Alexander had married another woman – Lois Mendenhall.

In a subsequent interview with the Seattle Times Alexander denied even knowing Kate.

Despondent, Kate sued Alexander for damages and breach of promise to marry her. Kate later said she was awarded less than $5,000, while other sources claim the settlement was as large as $60,000.

By 1907, Alexander had three theatres in Seattle, and in 1908 he opened another in Vancouver.

By the 1920s he owned stock in dozens of theatres across Canada and the United States.

In 1929, Alexander was convicted (and then acquitted) of raping a 17-year-old girl. The trials broke him financially and spiritually.

He died in 1936.

This column is provided by the MacBride Museum of Yukon History.

Each week it will explore a different morsel of Yukon’s modern history.

For more information, or to comment on anything in this column

e-mail lchalykoff@macbridemuseum.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

d
Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

City councillor Samson Hartland in Whitehorse on Dec. 3, 2018. Hartland has announced his plans to run for mayor in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillor sets sights on mayor’s chair

Hartland declares election plans

Premier Sandy Silver speaks to media after delivering the budget in the legislature in Whitehorse on March 4. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Territorial budget predicts deficit of $12.7 million, reduced pandemic spending in 2021-2022

If recovery goes well, the territory could end up with a very small surplus.

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25 after two masked men entered a residence, assaulted a man inside with a weapon and departed. (Black Press file)
Two men arrested after Dawson City home invasion

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25.… Continue reading

Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn speaks to reporters at a news conference in Whitehorse on Dec. 21, 2017. New ATIPP laws are coming into effect April 1. (Chris Windeyer/Yukon News file)
New access to information laws will take effect April 1

“Our government remains committed to government openness and accountability.”

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Most Read