What: Calamity Jane came to town.
When: Jan. 20, 1896.
That was entertainment: It’s always news when an A-list celebrity announces a performance in the Twin Cities, be they an up-and-comer, like Justin Timberlake, or a venerable, baby boomer-pleasing septuagenarian like Rod Stewart. We’re used to a constant parade of famous names.
But in the 19th century, the pool of celebs was much smaller. An opera singer, an English lecturer — or perhaps an alcoholic relic who wore men’s clothes and told tales of the Old West.
That would describe Calamity Jane in 1896.
When she came to the original Palace Theater in Minneapolis, she was 44 years old, and might have felt much older. By then, the hard-drinking, hard-living woman already was a symbol of the bygone frontier days, and the modern world had moved past the woolly, lawless era.
On the other hand, she got $8.50 a week for her act, which according to newspaper accounts of the time, involved her sitting on a stool telling tall tales about Wild Bill Hickok and their Wild West exploits.
Parting shot: The original Palace Theater is long gone, and so is Jane. (She died in 1903.) But she put on one more show before she left town.
Jane was standing on a downtown street corner when she ran into a newspaper reporter who’d gotten an interview with her by pretending to be a relative of a friend. When the reporter asked for another interview, Jane, who by then was onto him, lit into him with “a storm of invectives.” A passing policeman had to pull her off the journalist.