Alexander Pantages (1876-1936)
Born in Greece, Pantages’ given name was Pericles, but he chose the moniker Alexander as more symbolic of his desire to conquer the world. He had no formal education whatsoever. He fled his home island of Andros at age nine, and set out for America via Egypt and Panama, where he contracted malaria and was tossed off the French freighter on which he served as cabin boy. Pantages soon ended up in San Francisco and took menial jobs at theatres.
The Klondike Gold Rush beckoned and he ended up in Dawson and with the assistance of his lover, Klondike Kate, a dancer, he took over management of his first theatre, charging exorbitant prices to the prospectors.
Now highly prosperous, he moved to Seattle in 1902 to open the Crystal Theatre, and so began his vaudeville empire. Two years later he built his first theatre in Seattle, naming it after himself.
Although functionally illiterate, Pantages had an amazing memory for names, faces and figures. He could read people, and he maintained tight control of the day-to-day operations of his entire empire.
Later in his careers, he had private penthouses constructed in his theatres. Pantages lived there while inspecting his properties.
He sold the theatre chain to RKO in 1929 for $24 million and went into retirement. He owned and raced horses, but he longed to return to vaudeville. It never happened. Alexander Pantages died in 1936 and is buried in Glendale, California.