Poker Alice featured in SD Magazine She's been dead for seven decades, but we're still inventing her. That's what Spearfish writer Paul Higbee found when he went looking for the real Poker Alice.
In the January/February issue of South Dakota Magazine, Higbee tells what is known for sure about the dour-faced, cigar-smoking poker dealer, explores the ever-evolving myth of the Sturgis madam and probes the territory in between, territory inhabited by Clay County's Poker Alice Band.
"Poker Alice Tubbs is the only South Dakota ever portrayed by Elizabeth Taylor," Higbee writes. "On the other hand, she's played by a chicken in a trained animal act at Reptile Gardens. That's Poker Alice for you. Seventy-three years after her death, her legend retains remarkable staying power, whether interpreted by Hollywood royalty of Rapid City poultry."
But what parts of the legend are to be believed? Is she most accurately remembered as a brothel madam or a professional gambler? A hard-working homesteader, a quick-trigger killer, a Sunday school teacher, a Sturgis political power or a Sturgis embarrassment?
"The stories contradict one another at every turn," Higbee said.
Searching historical records, talking to experts and visiting Alice's haunts, he answers these and other questions about the Black Hills enigma. The story is complete with historic photographs.
Accompanying Higbee's story is a sidebar by managing editor Jerry Wilson about the modern Poker Alice � the now-legendary Clay County band that for 20 years has performed across the region under her name.
"Poker Alice as an astute businesswoman, and she liked to have a good time," said guitarist Nick Schwebach. "I think she'd love the Poker Alice band." South Dakota Magazine is a statewide magazine, published bimonthly in Yankton. It is available on newsstands throughout the state and by subscription at 800-456-5117.