The Password? Definitely not Swordfish

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Can you imagine a time when it wasn’t possible to go to a bar or to have a drink with your dinner, because alcohol was illegal?  

Doubtful, because you’d have to be at least 100 years old to remember Prohibition (well, and maybe you are, and if that’s the case, good for you! We should all be so lucky.)

I didn’t realize this, but I just looked it up: Prohibition ran in the United States for 13 years, from 1920 to 1933. Of course, that wasn’t the case in Canada (there were various bans on booze, but none as long or as broad as in the States).  And during that era, there was some serious rum running and whisky smuggling going on above the 49th parallel.  

Rumour has it that Al Capone hid a bunch of his booze in the tunnels underneath Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan--of all places (and if you’re ever there, you have to take the tour—it’s a hoot).  Then of course there is the tale of Filumena, a tragedy told by the Calgary Opera of a young woman in the Crowsnest Pass who got roped into running bootlegged liquor.  Crazy but true story from the era, Filumena was caught and hung in 1920’s Alberta—a tale that makes for a great story, and a decent opera.

So you can just imagine the sense of illicit excitement you might feel heading into a speakeasy…the kind where you need to know the boss, and even if you do, you still need to know the password.

Fast forward to 2017…go on line, send a short message asking to be let into Betty Lou’s "Library" and you’ll be sent a password that is just for you and your group.

And I can promise you it won’t be “swordfish” (which, by the way, if you care, comes from the 1932  Marx Brothers’ movie Horse Feathers).

At Betty Lou’s Library, you’ll been given a password that connects to the literary (which makes perfect sense, it being a library and all).  And when you get to the speakeasy (if you can find it; I’m not telling where it is, except to say that it’s somewhere in the Devenish Building on the corner of 8th Street and 17th Avenue, SW…hint: follow someone else who looks like they’re headed that way….you’ll still need your password, but half the battle will be won).

Pick up the old phone behind the velvet rope and be ready to say your secret word…the bookshelves will part, and you’ll be escorted into another time.

Heavy dark curtains, dimmed lights accented by candles on the tables, Tiffany-style lamps, cushy chairs like your grandma had in her "parlour", a long bar, and music you can talk over; people in shorts, people in sequins, people in everything in between; a literary-themed drink menu with amazing concoctions—lots of gin, lots of whisky, a bit of vodka and some curious items too.  

I mean, I actually looked at a bottle of chartreuse for seven years behind the bar in New York—which was, now that I think about it and given this piece, ironically named after a Marx Brothers movie (The Big Store)—I never lifted it up, except to dust, I never cracked it open, I never poured anyone a drink.  And here I was, sipping a really intriguing cocktail with the yellow-green liquid on a Saturday night in a speakeasy.  Karen, Melanie and Jim joined in as we took in the room and learned more about the goings-on at Betty Lou’s. 

While it was full and we were lucky to get in, we learned that the real action is on, of all nights, Wednesdays, when the entertainment alternates between a jazz quartet…and a burlesque show.

Well, I’m not even sure I know what that means anymore (not jazz, I know what that is), so I know I have to return.

Ten days later, on the appointed Wednesday, we have a reservation and I’m joined by Candace and Lissa and Angie and her husband Perry.

No pictures during the show, kids, but what I will tell you is that there were three performers, all women, and they wore—and took off—exactly what I think they would have worn and taken off at a private club behind a private door all those years ago.  I do suspect these ladies had a little more body art than those of days past, but the fans, the veils,  the pasties (if you don't know what that is, you're too young to be reading this), they were all in full view.  It was entertaining and fascinating at the same time.  And the chartreuse was as good as it was the first time.

I’m pretty sure we’d all agree this is a fun place and one to return to.  Manager Blaine is the perfect host who keeps a close watch on his guests to make they are having a good time (while behaving themselves) and the servers are top notch.

Great fun, excellent concept, unique spot, well worth the intrigue!

NOTE to those who have asked: the password changes with every don't ask for mine!