The Reason a Free Ticket to the Circus is Called an “Annie Oakley”

By Lee Kolozsy

Back when legendary sharpshooter Annie Oakley was a household name around the world and she was touring with the “Buffalo Bill Wild West Show” a pretty sharp promoter and publicity agent came up with a scheme that never failed to get the show a ton of free ink in the local news rag. Here’s the play…


A meeting was arranged at the local news where all the town VIPs and media people would get to meet the visiting frontierswoman in person.


The press agent would send a runner to the local saloon to get a deck of cards and would open the sealed pack in front of all the star struck fans.  He would announce that the lady markswoman would give an amazing demonstration of her uncanny speed and accuracy right here on the main street in front of the newspaper office.

Then without any warning he would throw the entire deck into the air scattering cards to the winds. Fast as lightning, Annie Oakley would draw and fire into the air, and the promoter would ask her, “What did you hit Ma’am?”  “ Ace of spades” came the answer. “Look for the ace” he’d tell the crowd. Without fail an amazed spectator would find the ace with a clean bullet hole dead center through the spade. In the stunned silence he would announce… “Present that card at the ticket office for free admission at any performance”


The story would appear in the very next issue of  the local paper.


The gag was pure magic, literally…  I am quite certain that the promoter pulled the old switcheroo and substituted a deck of previously prepared cards that matched the cards used by the saloon. Magic…that sold a load of tickets… The shooting wasn’t all that was sharp on that outfit.


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