Have a Real Good Time

by Judy on September 17, 2013

While working in the garden, my mind was forming a definite plan for my new CD. Then the phone rang.

The phone call changed the direction of my new music project

The phone call changed the direction of my new music project

I had enough songs to fill a new record, one that was soul stirring, spiritually enlightening and profound. My mind wandered into imaginings. I could hear the clear boy soprano voices and violins accompanying one of the songs. The second number would begin with me singing acappella and the music would feed in gently on the second verse. I even had the song order. I was in the zone.

I picked up the phone which was lying beside me on the grass. It was Dolina Hollingsworth. For 10 summer seasons previously, we had hired Dolina (to manage the box office) and her husband, Joey, to perform with us in our shows at the Wild Horse Theater in Heritage Fort Steele, BC. Another much loved performer in our shows was Lorraine Butler who played the Madam called Stella Reingold. Dolina was calling from Dawson City, Yukon. She and Joey were directing the show at the Palace Grand and Lorraine was directing and performing as Diamond Tooth Gertie in the Casino by the same name. The preview was the night before. Lorraine had acute bronchitis and lost her voice. The doctor had ordered her to be silent for at least 3 weeks until she healed. Dolina asked me to come and take her place – my answer was required immediately. I also had to bring my own Fort Steele costumes (circa 1890’s). I told Dolina I would call her right back.

I flew to Whitehorse and bused to Dawson City

I flew to Whitehorse and bused to Dawson City

My husband, Tink, said to me, “Judy, you’re the only one who can do this.” I knew he was right. All I would have to do was switch gears from planning an inspirational CD to playing a gutsy Madam. Filling Lorraine’s shoes would be a challenge! She was an expert at playing hot mommas! I was on the plane the next day for Whitehorse, followed by a long bus ride to Dawson City. Joey, Dolina and Lorraine (who could only whisper) met me and the fun began!

I loved reading "I Married the Klondike"

I loved this book

Interestingly, I had just read  “I Married the Klondike” by Laura Beatrice Berton, her account of leaving the comfortable life as a 29-year-old kindergarten teacher in Toronto, Ontario, to teach in the Yukon mining town. She brought the Klondike to life for me.

Dawson City, 1897, Public Archives of Canada, National Film Board Library

Dawson City, 1897, Public Archives of Canada
National Film Board Library

I had heard about those long days during the period around the summer solstice. Still, it was amazing to me that it was light even until 4:30 AM, followed by a very short ‘twilight’ in the west. Then I would look to the east and the sun was rising!

The rehearsals began the following morning. I had 3 days to learn 2 complete shows. One of the chorus dancers was the ‘swing Gertie’ (she was supposed to play Lorraine’s role once a week). As it turned out, the dancer had to fill in immediately and I learned the moves by watching her. Lorraine sat in at every rehearsal and whispered directions to me. The most important thing she told me was to play Diamond Tooth Gertie as if I owned the Casino. I sang all the songs in Lorraine’s low keys. My character even spoke in a big booming resonant voice.

Judy Armstrong playing "Diamond Tooth Gertie"

Judy Armstrong playing “Diamond Tooth Gertie”

Going on stage at a moments notice with very little rehearsal takes great skill. But, I have been performing since I was 5 years old, so I was up for the challenge. It’s not just learning the moves on stage – I had to learn to backstage entrances, exits and extremely quick costume changes. My opening night was a huge success (even though I faked my own made-up lyrics in a couple of the fast songs). The performers had to ‘shmooze’ with the audience after the shows. The best compliments I received were from people who asked me if I owned the Casino! (thanks Lorraine!)

After about 10 days into the show, there was a surprise awaiting me. Joey and Dolina had flown Tink up to Dawson City to visit for a few days. They kept this a complete secret and on the day he arrived, Tink watched the show from the balcony. After the performance, Joey came down the staircase to congratulate me. Then he stepped aside and I was looking right in the face of my beloved husband! Couldn’t believe it! Tink told me that I had captured the character of Diamond Tooth Gertie so completely, that he couldn’t even find ‘Judy’ in there! No, it wasn’t Lorraine’s version, but it was my own and I played it to the fullest.

Diamond Tooth Gertie's, Dawson City, Yukon

Diamond Tooth Gertie’s, Dawson City, Yukon

The shows ended around 2 AM and of course it was still broad daylight in Dawson City. There was a girl who towed a barbeque on wheels behind her pickup truck. She BBQ’d fat hotdog smokies right outside the Casino. How could one possibly go to bed when it felt like the middle of the day! For the first while, sleep evaded me as my mind was full to the brim with memorizing words plus taking in the excitement of a Yukon summer. However, it didn’t take long for fatigue to command me to sleep as soon as I hit the pillow. By the way, the mosquitoes are HUGE! But the timeless land of the wild frontier wins you over.

Miner's camp at the head of the Yukon River during the Klondike Gold Rush from Canadian National Archives

Miner’s camp at the head of the Yukon River during the Klondike Gold Rush (from Canadian National Archives)

The talented Lorraine Butler

Lorraine Butler

When Lorraine’s voice was healed enough, she took over her role again, even though she had to speak parts of some songs. I watched her from the balcony the night before I left. She was wonderful and I was so grateful that we had hired her to perform with us in our Fort Steele shows. We will forever be connected. The following year, she asked me to write a song for her to sing at the Casino. The majesty of the great north was now in my bones. The song was called, “Where the Yukon Meets the Klondike”. Later I adapted this song for my SING ALL the WAY HOME songbook/MP3 and renamed it “A Prayer for Mother Earth”. Here is an excerpt of the original version:

Listen to the wind, listen to it whispering
And listen to the stories that are told here
Watch the midnight sky, that’s brighter than the day
Then you will know why the people stay here
Where the Yukon meets the Klondike, where the valleys stretch for miles
Where the rivers are like lovers running free here
Where the mountains in their glory, silent watchers tell the story
Of the miners who discovered – Gold

The Klondike River is a tributary of the Yukon River that gave its name to the Klondike Gold Rush. It flows into the Yukon River at Dawson City.

The Klondike River is a tributary of the Yukon River that gave its name to the Klondike Gold Rush. The Klondike River has its source in the Ogilvie Mountains and flows into the Yukon River at Dawson City.

Playing Diamond Tooth Gertie in the Yukon brought out the earthy woman in me. The recording which I had planned to do before the Dawson City adventure went on hold for two years. As time passed, the music took on a life its own and went in different directions. The songs all have universal wisdom, but they evolved in varying styles from native to nurturing and reflective to soaring and inspirational to big band. The record is called TIME TO SHINE.

One of the songs on the CD, “Have a Real Good Time”, is a great example of how a life message can be portrayed with a big band strip tempo accompaniment. The Gertie energy was definitely flirting with me when I wrote this.

Have a Real Good Time!

Have a Real Good Time!

You gotta strip, down, all of your worries
Throw them on the floor
You gotta take, off, all of your cares
And shove them out of the door
You gotta shake, those, paradigms
Two by two, not one at a time
You gotta blow it out of your attitude baby
Then you’ll find …
You’ll have a Real Good Time

Every time I sing this song, I watch the audience members start having fun. They start moving their shoulders and hips, grab a scarf and start swinging it around their head. Listen to the song clip and you’ll see what I mean. Let your hair down and shake those paradigms!




To listen to a clip of “Have a Real Good Time” – Click Here  (track #9). If you would like to download the whole song for 99 cents – Click Here.

TIME TO SHINE  Click on COVER to Download the whole CD here.

Click on COVER to Download the whole CD

P.S. I would love you to visit my brand new From Spirit to Story to Song Website Home for more fun and inspirational stories.

While you are there, download my song and FREE Gift for you, “Give Yourself Love”.


© Judy Armstrong 2013





{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Carolyn Cooledge September 17, 2013 at 11:26 pm

You’re so amazing!! Only you could fill in at such short notice. Love you bunches.


Judy September 18, 2013 at 12:41 am

Hi Carolyn, yes it was a wonderful experience for sure! I think you would like the song Carolyn. I can just see you hamming it up! Have fun! Bunches of love back to you, Judy


Sheryl Hinds September 18, 2013 at 2:26 am

I am shaking the paradigms my momma gave me! Woot! ha ha!


Judy September 18, 2013 at 4:26 am

Ha ha, I can just see that Sheryl. Have fun! :)


Gay Forstbauer September 18, 2013 at 10:37 am

Man, why do I miss all the good ones. You playing Gertie must have been one of the,. Hugs, 4am….can’t sleep and it is pouring rain, but warm.


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