WAY BACK WHEN: Danish Hamlet Stalks Through Santa Barbara
A Great Dane caused a stir in Santa Barbara (Image: San Francisco Call, July 23, 1911)
By Betsy J. Green
No, this wasn’t a Shakespearean actor prowling around the streets of our fair city in December 1919. It was actually a Great Dane named Hamlet who belonged to the stage actor named Francis X. Bushman. [Spoiler alert – Bushman is best known for starring in the 1925 version of Ben Hur.]
Although Bushman was capable of driving a chariot and horses around a stage set, Hamlet was a real softie. The local paper reported that this pampered pet stayed at the Ambassador Hotel (the former Potter Hotel) with Bushman and “has a valet to keep his coat pressed, visits the manicuring shops twice daily, presses an electric bell with his right forepaw and orders cat skulls with the eyes extracted, served up with cream sauce.” Well, that’s what the paper reported, and since it’s in the newspaper, it must be true, right?
Of course, Hamlet’s size may have had something to do with his ability to get whatever he desires. “Hamlet weighs above 150 pounds and consumes food like a horse.”
Betsy's Way Back When book -- 1919 -- is now available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. This is the sixth book in her series of the history of Santa Barbara, one year at a time. Learn more at betsyjgreen.com