Filed under: News
Robert Stroud, better known as the “Birdman of Alcatraz”, was the infamous inmate of Alcatraz. He was first incarcerated for the brutal murder of a bartender who reneged on paying “bail”. Later, in the 1960s, Carol Doda become the first go-go dancer.
Alcatraz was America’s premier maximum-security prison during its penitentiary years, and the inmates called it “The Rock”. The small island initially served as a lighthouse, then a military fortification and later a federal prison until 1963. In 1972 Alcatraz became one of America’s most prominent landmarks and tourist attractions.
Juan Manuel de Ayala, in 1775, charted San Francisco Bay and named the island “La Isla de los Alcatraces,” or “The Island of the Pelicans” which was also home to a colony of gulls, cormorants, and egrets. In 1850, President Millard Fillmore ordered that the island of Alcatraz be used by the military following the Mexican-American War and the acquisition of California from Mexico.
Following this acquisition and the start of the California Gold Rush, the military set up coastal batteries to protect San Francisco Bay. Due to its isolation from the outside by freezing and hazardous sea currents, this now-abandoned prison was used to house Civil War prisoners as early as 1861. In 1867 a brick jailhouse was built and in 1868 Alcatraz was officially designated a long-term detention facility for military prisoners.
Later, Robert Stroud, or the “Birdman of Alcatraz”, was jailed for the brutal murder of a bartender who failed to pay a prostitute in Alaska and took the man’s wallet in recompense.
It was at at Leavenworth penitentiary that Stroud reared and sold birds and became an ornithologist after developing a keen interest in canaries. During his many years of incarceration there, after finding an injured bird in the recreation yard, he was allowed to breed birds and maintain a lab inside two adjoining segregation cells. However, after several years of “research”, officials discovered that some of the equipment was being used to construct a still.
Then, in 1942, Stroud was transferred to Alcatraz, where he spent the next seventeen years. However, despite the nickname, he only kept birds at Leavenworth and contrary to the myth surrounding him he was not allowed to tend birds following his transfer to Alcatraz.
Meanwhile, the early 1960s witnessed another explosive phenomenon. Women at the Peppermint Lounge in New York, dancers who were employed to entertain at a discotheque, began getting up on tables to dance the twist. These mini-skirted clubbers wearing “go-go boots” were named after the French expression “à gogo”, meaning “in abundance” or “galore”, derived from the more ancient word “la gogue”, or “happiness”.
On 19 June 1964, Carol Doda began go-go dancing topless at the Condor Club in San Francisco. She became the world’s most famous go-go dancer, staying at the club for 22 years. At the same time, go-go dancers were hired at the Whisky A Go-Go on Sunset Strip. This was the first go-go club to have cages suspended from the ceiling (just as they are in Alcatraz bar in Pattaya today), and the idea of the “cage dancer” was conceived.
The concept soon caught on. In Tokyo and then Saigon during the war, there were a feast of go-go bars set up to entertain US troops. Later, the go-go bar emerged in earnest throughout Southeast Asia and, by the 1980s, Thailand was leading this industry in the distinguished coteries of Patpong and Soi Cowboy.
Today, Pattaya has the largest number of go-go bars anywhere in Thailand, attracting millions of visitors each year to experience the essence of the clubs, mainly on Walking Street, with no small thanks to Carol Doda and Robert Stroud.