Women Gamblers of the Wild West, Part 2

Although Poker Alice was almost certainly the most famous woman gambler of the Wild West, Eleanor Dumont was probably the most infamous. Better known to history by her nickname Madame Mustache, Eleanor achieved her fame as a result of being a renowned card cheat. Such was her talent for deception that Eleanor Dumont wasn't even her real name; she was an immigrant from France named Simone Jules.Simone…or Eleanor…didn't earn her moniker because she liked to drink milk. The mustache of Madame Mustache was of the follicular variety. She'd always had a light growth of European hair running beneath her nose, but that didn't stop her from being considered quite the beauty, as it has never stopped many other women. But as she grew older, the mustache grew thicker. Even so, had her personality also not thickened and grown hairier, she might have avoided being known to history as Madame Mustache.

It was the gold rush of 1849 that first saw Madame Mustache pop up on the gambling scene of the Wild West. Just like Poker Alice, however, it wasn't gold nuggets that attracted Simone, it was the potential for relieving gold miners of their paltry finds. A beautiful woman-even with a light mustache-and an honest table were too much the temptation for those stricken with both gold and gambling fever. Madame Mustache soon pocketed enough winnings to enable her to moved to Nevada and run her own casino.

Once in the future Oz of gambling, Simone changed her name to Eleanor Dumont. The deception continued as the hard-won reputation she earned for running an honest betting table soon evaporated. Not that people immediately caught on. Madame Mustache was a smart woman if anything. Word spread that you could make a pile of money inside her gambling casino; stories abound of gamblers walking away with handfuls of cash. Gambling is a particularly insidious vice, however. The plain fact is that inveterate card players are never satisfied, not matter how big the kitty they win; there is always the temptation to double it. And that is how Madame Mustache made back all the money she was losing and then some. The gamblers who were hitting it big at poker invariably moved over to her Faro game, hoping to walk away with two or three times what they brought to it. Despite the fact that almost everyone lost, however, suspicion that Madame Mustache might be running a crooked Faro game never arose. After all, how could such a beautiful woman-and one who claimed to still be a virgin in a time and place where that virtue was in desperately short supply-be accused of such ugliness? Even gamblers retain some gray matter, of course, and after enough of them had lost enough time they were able to look past Eleanor's beauty and launch suspicions.

These suspicions merely drove her to another town where she would start the same game all over again. Over the years, nearly every town that had a gold strike would witness Madame Mustache's arrival, celebrity, and suspicion. Although still claiming to have her maidenhood intact, during this odyssey across the badlands of the Wild West, that was just another of Simone's great deceptions. In fact, not only did she secretly run a whorehouse upstairs, but very often Madame Mustache made a little extra on the side herself in that way. Perhaps it is a case of divine retribution, but Eleanor wasn't aging well and before too long her mustache had grown very nicely and she wasn't such a great beauty anymore. With men no longer paying for the privilege of making the beast with two backs, Madame Mustache found herself desperate for sexual pleasure. As a result she had a series of relationships with swindlers who took her for everything she was worth; which was still substantial. This sad state of affairs resulted in a fat, unattractive women with a quite noticeable growth of hair above her lip arriving in Bodie, California one day. No longer the belle of the gambling industry, poor Eleanor was reduced to running the kind of gambling casino that attracted only the scum of the earth.

And this is where she first heard herself referred to as Madame Mustache. Rumor has it that the first time she ever heard herself called Madame Mustache behind her back she tried to kill herself. Eventually she did actually poison herself to death, but it had nothing to do with being called Madame Mustache. Having lost everything once again to a swindling bed partner-some men will do anything for money-Madame Mustache was determined to get it all back in one big play. She got herself into a game of high stakes with a pair of slick gamblers. These gamblers weren't really that slick; the years had not only been unkind to Eleanor's looks, but also to her wits. At her peak, Madame Mustache would have had no trouble at all figuring out the cheats her two opponents were using, but by this time in her life she'd grown too slow-witted. As a result, she lost every dime she had. Upon tossing down her final losing hand, she went back home and committed suicide.

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