As Anchorage historian David Reamer notes, the first big turn in the B-girl universe took place just after midnight on July 29, 1959. Anchorage-area nightclubs were the target. A host of State Police and U.S. marshals burst in simultaneously. Law enforcement made arrests of twenty-six woman and 10 men. The arrests hit four separate clubs: the Open House, the Pink Garter, Guys and Dolls and the Last Chance Club. Criminal charges were imminent.
The 36 defendants were arraigned in the U.S. Commissioner’s Court, with bail set at $1,000 each — about $10,000 in 2022 dollars. The charges against the women were enticing male customers. The men arrested in the raids were either operators or employees of the four night clubs.
Of the four, the Last Chance was perhaps the most notorious. As Doug Vandegraft notes in “Gone, but forever notorious bars of Southcentral Alaska,” the Last Chance was the “first bar in town that booked professional strippers from the Lower 48.” It was also a club that featured drag shows. The poster above is from a 1959 show; the infamous shut-down raid took place shortly thereafter.
Murder on the Side
In the courtroom, authorities moved quickly. The prosecuting attorney told a judge the violations of the B-girl statute were continuing. They needed to move quickly. The judge, J.L. McCarrey, Jr., agreed. In a Friday, September 11 hearing, the good judge also denied a motion to dismiss charges against five of the defendants. And set the trial date for the following Tuesday. The arrests were having an effect.
Judge McCarrey knew more than that. Earlier the previous year, he oversaw a murder case. One involving the owner of the Pink Garter night club, Don Iannitti, and Frank Marrone, a bartender from the Last Chance. The murder took place at the Pink Garter, where the two met up after a round of gambling at the Last Chance. Iannitti’s wife and children found him dead, behind the bar, at approximately 6:30 p.m. on July 18, 1958. Two bullets fired from a .357 Magnum revolver had entered his body, one in the back and the other, on bodily contact from the weapon, in the stomach.
Later that same evening, Marrone showed up at the Guys and Dolls night club and gave the bartender $2,950 in cash for “safe keeping.” Marrone told the bartender he could use the money to get him — Marrone — a lawyer, if he needed one.
A jury ultimately convicted Frank Marrone of first degree murder. These were no choir boys.
Attorney General Takes Action
By December of 1959, the state attorney general took things further. Assistant Attorney General George Hayes filed a formal protest with the liquor board, aiming to deny license renewals for the Last Chance Club, the Pink Garter, The Open House Club and Guys and Dolls.
Unless the license were renewed, the clubs would be barred from selling liquor at midnight on New Year’s Eve.Fairbanks Daily News, December 29, 1959
Hayes also accused the owners of the Open House club of conducting after hours operations at the Backstreet, located in a shared building. In Alaska, the state banned liquor sales after 3 a.m. weekdays and 4 a.m. Sundays. Hayes’ moves proved largely unnecessary.
Three of the four raided clubs closed immediately: the Pink Garter, Open House and Guys and Dolls, all located just outside Anchorage city limits. The fourth club, the Last Chance, fought to maintain its liquor license but finally closed in 1964.
Copyright Leland E. Hale (2021). All rights reserved.
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