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A Wyoming Tribute to Actor Powers Boothe

Kevin Winter, Getty Images for AFI
Kevin Winter, Getty Images for AFI

Television and movie fans were shocked to hear about the passing of actor Powers Boothe this weekend. Booth was well-known for several iconic roles, including one fictional character with a “real-life” Wyoming connection.

For three seasons, from 2004 through 2006, Boothe portrayed Cy Tolliver, the owner of the Bella Union Saloon in the HBO series Deadwood.

In 1872, four years before it became one of Deadwood’s favorite watering holes, the original Bella Union opened on 316 Sixteenth Street in Cheyenne. It quickly established a reputation among high rollers as one of the classiest gambling halls in the west. In 1876, notorious gunslinger Doc Holliday worked as a Faro dealer in the Bella Union “gold room”.

Gambling Saloon
The famous Bella Union gambling saloon in Cheyenne, when gambling and card playing were considered legitimate occupations. Three Lions, Getty Images.

By the mid-1870s, Cheyenne’s Bella Union was so popular that other saloon owners adopted the name in Denver and Deadwood, including Tom Miller, who the fictional character of Cy Tolliver was based on.

In May of 1876, the original Bella Union was sold to influential Cheyenne businessman James McDaniel, who renamed it the “New Dramatic Theatre” and later the “McDaniel’s Theatre”. McDaniel’s empire eventually covered an entire city block before a series of fires forced him into bankruptcy.

The Bella Union isn’t the only connection between Wyoming and Boothe. One of the actor’s most famous roles was the outlaw “Curly” Bill Brocius in the 1993 film “Tombstone”. Brocius was the leader of the infamous Cowboy gang, until he was gunned down by former Wyoming resident Wyatt Earp. “Doc” Holliday, who had dealt cards at the Bella Union in Cheyenne 16 years earlier, was also a member of Earp’s posse.

 

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