Red velvet curtains, wood floors, games of chance, and cold Yukon beer greet each visitor of this unique gambling hall. Smiles crawl across the faces of new visitors and only enlarge at the sight of Gerties Girls, a beautiful bunch of cancan dancers who take stage three nights a week. Welcome to Dawson City’s famous gambling hall – Diamond Tooth Gerties – a unique blast from the past that continues to dominate the nightlife of of this small Gold Rush town.
Timing is Everything
As with most gambling halls, the atmosphere in Gerties changes with the clientele. Show up too early (say the 6pm or 9pm show), and expect to see the PG rated version of the Yukon. RV Tourists and Cruiseline Crusadors fill the hall for a very tame taste of Gerties. However, if you’re able to pump your brakes for a few hours, you’re in for a completely different show.
I was amongst a loyal group of comrades, hell-bent on seeing every side of Dawson City. Being fans of beer and gin & tonics, we felt obligated to sample drinks coincidentally close to 2 separate showings of Gerties Girls. The 9pm was quiet, we observed people that were well over 20-30 years our senior gamble and drink. The girls danced, embarrassed a few older gentlemen, and smiled as wide as possible. While it was nice to see some Baby Boomers throw a beer or two back, it was still rather family-friendly in my eyes.
The Midnight Show
Returning at Midnight, the crowd had drastically changed. Lights seemed a little more dim, and Gerties Girls seemed a lot more scantily clad. Locals lined the bar and filled the poker tables. Men with beards longer than the hair on my head slugged beer back like water. The show started, and the bar cleared to watch. Beautiful girls doing sexy things on stage can make the most honest man stop and stare.
Once Gerties Girls left the stage to change outfits, a male performer took stage – clearly trying to seduce the opposite sex in the same manner that Gerties Girls do. It didn’t appear to be working; however, it was then that I figured it out. I looked back at the bar & every inch of standing room around the bar had filled with men seeking refills. As the man-dancer got off stage, the man-drinkers returned to their observation stations. This was genius – Gerties was using the man-dancer to get the men to drink more & also allow the lady-dancers time to change. Yukon ingenuity at it’s finest!
A Run-in with an Angry Fellow
I joined the flock and learned the rhythm of the bar – it would appear timing out your next drink required accurate planning. Showing up too late meant you missed a song and dance with Gertie & her Girls. After refilling my beer I managed to bump into a local Dawson City gentlemen who didn’t like the cut of my jib. With the assistance of his friend, I was able to convince this rather angry fellow that smashing my face in wouldn’t do either of us any good. In lieu of his act of kindness I was merely encouraged to buy the three of us a shot. That seemed like a fair trade, “Three Tequila’s it is!“.
A Beautiful Venue
As the final set of Gerties Girls finished up, I did an ocular pat-down of the gambling hall. Men and women were playing blackjack against traditionally dressed dealers in suspenders. The sound of a slot machine spilling it’s guts into the cup of a lucky winner rang through one corner of the bar, lights flashed, people drank, smiles were all around, and the floor was filled with people enjoying a show that could have been put on in the early 1900’s.
Dawson City is this little hidden town in it’s own bubble. Time doesn’t appear to have had much of an affect on it. The beer tastes good, the locals are friendly (even the drunk one that wanted to fight became an ally after drinking tequila with him), and the amount of things to see and do around this little town is astounding. Find a way up here if you’re ever in Whitehorse and see what I feel is the “real Yukon”. A little rough around the edges & jammed full of sexy history, beautiful scenery, and an ample supply of alcohol.
Entry Cost: $10.00
Special thanks to the kind folks at Tourism Yukon for helping arrange this excursion, and to the fine people of Diamond Tooth Gerties who let me snap photos of this unique piece of Yukon culture.