William Stuttmeister DDS. was titled ‘The Wonder Man’ because he only gambled once a year, and never lost! Come Halloween Eve some of the most famous gamblers in San Francisco made their way into the magical ether of Chinatown to take on the cities most famous dentist who three days after the earthquake wrote a check to the San Francisco Mint and rode thru the rubble of the city he loved passing out 4000 pennies to the stricken and destitute people who had lost everything. They called him ‘Penny Will’. What a sight he made riding down the shattered streets at sunrise. Thousands looked for him to come riding tall in the saddle with his wide-rimmed western hat. And there he be, just visible thru the steam and smoke of the cooking fires.
Will was a real hero. He owned the Key to the City because he was one of the few dentists in a city of millionaires who called him ‘The Wonder Man’ for the merciful and expert work he performed. To show their gratitude they gave William business tips and inside information about the Stock Market. They could never get him to wager on the horses, or the hound races because he came from good German stock. His ancestors were ministers in the Lutheran Church in Berlin. Of course they wanted to get him in one of their high stakes poker game, in order to get back the small fortune they gave him to maintain their back-stabbing smiles. They could not make enough money, or lose enough money. As he peered into their greedy mouths, he saw sharks feeding on baby seals at the Farralons.
One day in October, Will gave in. A client convinced him there was a science to playing cards, a sure fire way to win, especially if the game is Faro. Madam Maria Magdalene Saint-Germain ran a Faro game and whore house in Chinatown. She did Tarot Card and tea readings. She had her girls, and half the young women in San Francisco, believing that if a certain ritual was performed before a mirror on Halloween, your husband to be will show himself. Gangs of Christian girls would come running thru Chinatown to pull on the pigtails of old Chinese men which was part of the ritual.
It was to take in all this hocus-pocus, along with studying the use of opium and strange pagan Chinese medicines, that allowed William to conduct an experiment – just this once. When he met ‘The Queen of spades’ he felt a cold chill come up his spine. Anita Miller was quite taken by Maria, and soon took the title ‘The White Witch’.
It was just before the game began, William heard Maria sing. He had never heard Opera before. He would become a loyal patron. But never did he hear such soulful singing, hence. This was his first glance into the great yaw where many great women have fallen. There was something more going on then the Dark Arts. Some said the mystery of Greek Tragedies had been rediscovered.
Could it be………her? Women with pedigrees were dropping out of society in a new, but, ancient way. Some beautiful young women were found singing into their mirror in a foreign language – they did not know! A Chinese herb was blamed. They called it ‘The Queen of Spades’.
to be continued
Here is a photo of William Stuttmeister (left) with our kinfolk, in the Oakland Hills. He looks like Sam Elliot. The clean shaven young man is Victor William Stuttmeister, William’s son, who my father was named after. Vic was born in San Francisco. All four of his children experimented with LSD. I knew the chemists who made this hallucinogent. Folks have always been strange, especially writers. Thank you Ina Coolbrith for collecting the real California gold. Most words are mind-altering! Is that woman holding a Bible?
What is that drink on the table? Those young men look half-crazed. Bad-asses! They lay their hats on the coat belonging to the man in the middle. Which one is packing a piece?
Time to face the music! Women want to fall in love with wild and crazy men. Women, are dangerous, too. They want much drama in their life. The more drama, the merrier!
The earliest references to a card game named pharaon are found in Southwestern France during the reign of Louis XIV. Basset was outlawed in 1691, and pharaoh emerged several years later as a derivative of basset, before it too was outlawed.
Despite the French ban, pharaoh and basset continued to be widely played in England during the 18th century, where it was known as pharo, an English alternate spelling of Pharaoh. The game was easy to learn, quick and, when played honestly, the odds for a player were the best of all gambling games, as records Gilly Williams in a letter to George Selwyn in 1752.
With its name shortened to faro, it spread to the United States in the 19th century to become the most widespread and popularly favored gambling game. It was played in almost every gambling hall in the Old West from 1825 to 1915. Faro could be played in over 150 places in Washington, DC alone during the Civil War. An 1882 study considered faro to be the most popular form of gambling, surpassing all others forms combined in terms of money wagered each year.
The faro game was also called “bucking the tiger” or “twisting the tiger’s tail”, a reference to early card backs that featured a drawing of a Bengal tiger. By the mid 19th century, the tiger was so commonly associated with the game that gambling districts where faro was popular became known as “tiger town”, or in the case of smaller venues, “tiger alley”. Some gambling houses would simply hang a picture of a tiger in their windows to advertise that a game could be played there.
Faro’s detractors regarded it as a dangerous scam that destroyed families and reduced men to poverty because of rampant rigging of the dealing box. Crooked faro equipment was so popular that many sporting-house companies began to supply gaffed dealing boxes specially designed so that the bankers could cheat their players. Cheating was prevalent enough that editions of Hoyle’s Rules of Games began their faro section warning readers that not a single honest faro bank could be found in the United States. Criminal prosecutions of faro were involved in the Supreme Court cases of United States v. Simms, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 252 (1803), and Ex parte Milburn, 34 U.S. (9 Pet.) 704 (1835).
The Queen of Spades (Russian: «Пиковая дама»; translit. Pikovaya dama) is a short story with supernatural elements by Alexander Pushkin about human avarice. Pushkin wrote the story in autumn 1833 in Boldino and it was first published in the literary magazine Biblioteka dlya chteniya in March 1834.
The story was the basis of the operas The Queen of Spades (1890) by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, La dame de pique (1850) by Fromental Halévy and Pique Dame (1864) by Franz von Suppé (the overture to the Suppé work is all that remains in today’s repertoire). It has been filmed numerous times.
Hermann, an ethnic German, is an officer of the engineers in the Imperial Russian Army. He constantly watches the other officers gamble, but never plays himself. One night, Tomsky tells a story about his grandmother, an elderly countess. Many years ago, in France, she lost a fortune at cards, and then won it back with the secret of the three winning cards, which she learned from the notorious Count of St. Germain. Hermann becomes obsessed with obtaining the secret.
The countess (who is now 87 years old) has a young ward, Lizavyeta Ivanovna. Hermann sends love letters to Lizavyeta, and persuades her to let him into the house. There Hermann accosts the countess, demanding the secret. She first tells him that story was a joke, but Hermann refuses to believe her. He repeats his demands, but she does not speak. He draws a pistol and threatens her, and the old lady dies of fright. Hermann then flees to the apartment of Lizavyeta in the same building. There he confesses to have killed the countess by fright with his pistol. He defends himself by saying that the pistol was not loaded. He escapes from the house with the aid of Lizavyeta, who is disgusted to learn that his professions of love were a mask for greed.
Hermann attends the funeral of the countess, and is terrified to see the countess open her eyes in the coffin and look at him. Later that night, the ghost of the countess appears. The ghost names the secret three cards (three, seven, ace), tells him he must play just once each night and then orders him to marry Lizavyeta. Hermann takes his entire savings to Chekalinsky’s salon, where wealthy men gamble for high stakes. On the first night, he bets it all on the three and wins. On the second night, he wins on the seven. On the third night, he bets on the ace — but when cards are shown, he finds he has bet on the Queen of Spades, rather than the ace, and loses everything. When the Queen appears to wink at him, he is astonished by her remarkable resemblance to the old countess, and flees in terror. In a short conclusion, Pushkin writes that Lizavyeta marries the son of the Countess’ former steward, a state official who makes a good salary. Hermann, however, goes mad and is committed to an asylum. He is installed in Room 17 at the Obuhov hospital; he answers no questions, but merely mutters with unusual rapidity: “Three, seven, ace! Three, seven, queen!”
The character of the old countess was inspired by Princess Natalya Petrovna Galitzine (Princesse Moustache) who served as the lady-in-waiting for 5 Russian emperors and was 92 at the time Pushkin wrote “The Queen of Spades”. According to legend, Galitzine had been a successful gambler. When her grandson lost a considerable amount of money playing cards and came to her to beg her for money, Galitzine instead revealed to him the secret three cards that Count Saint-Germain showed to her in Paris.
Critics have argued that the Count Saint-Germain holds historical importance in the story. Saint-Germain serves as the namesake for the story’s protagonist, Hermann. Beyond this, the historical Saint-Germain may represent a father figure for Hermann, the antithesis to Hermann’s character, or a former love interest of the countess who seeks revenge for her death by causing Hermann to pick the wrong cards.
The card game of Faro also plays an important role in Pushkin’s story. The game is played by having a player bet on a winning card. The dealer then begins turning over cards, burning the first (known as ‘soda’) to his left. The second card is placed face up to his right; this is the first winning card. The third card is placed face up in the left pile, as a losing card. The dealer continues turning over cards, alternating piles until the bet has been won or lost.
Reality vs. the supernatural
According to Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Pushkin’s tale represents “the pinnacle of the art of the fantastic.” While readers may think that the vision of the Countess that appears to Hermann was merely an apparition, at the end of the story, Pushkin has still given no definitive answer. Readers must decide whether the countess appeared only to Hermann in his mind, a realistic solution, or whether Hermann has entered the world of the supernatural. Critics have attempted to answer this question using a variety of cryptographic clues within the text. These critics focus on three elements: the origin of the three, seven and ace; whether Hermann could have identified the cards without the ghost’s intervention, and possible explanations for Hermann’s mistake with the last card.
Different critics have presented contradicting supernatural or rational views of Hermann’s final mistake. The critic Gary Rosenshield claims that, by making the wrong choice of cards, Hermann actually did the right thing: as a man obsessed with gambling, having won the money would have meant that he could never gamble again, and therefore would have never again lived.
Other critics with rational explanations, such as Nathan Rosen and Viktor Vonogradov, claim that Hermann may have simply seen a likeness between the Countess who gave him the secret and the Queen card, leading him to make a mistake. This explanation focuses on Pushkin’s quote in the story that “Two fixed ideas can no more exist together in the moral world than two bodies can occupy one and the same place in the physical world.” Here, Hermann cannot separate the actual cards from the Countess who reveals them to him, leading him to accidentally choose the queen instead of an ace.
In contrast to these rational explanations, other critics claim that Hermann entered the world of the supernatural and that the card actually changed after Hermann had picked it. These explanations argue that the Countess sought revenge on Hermann for her death. Critic Sergei Davydov argues that, since the Countess doubted that Hermann would indeed marry Lizavyeta—a concession he had made to acquire the secret—her ghost caused a magical transformation of the cards that led to Hermann’s downfall.
Pushkin’s tale is considered to be a work about “telling stories.” Hermann, who is an author within the context of the story, in a way attempts to author his own fate by setting up a gambling situation in which he is guaranteed to win. Hermann’s motivations to set up the scenario also come primarily from gossip, or word of mouth from his acquaintances. It is as if he is set within a story told by others, and feels inspired to write his own.