Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sites in the Book: The Santa Ana Cabaret

"Santa Ana was where people went to sin..."
It's funny the things one can find when researching for an historical novel. As I searched long and lonely nights on the internet for information about World War Two Manila, I landed at the Santa Ana Cabaret. Yes, it really existed and had a long life in pre-war and post-war Manila. Its owner was John Canson and he advertised his place as the largest cabaret in the world. I don't know if that's true or not, but from the photo below you can see that it was huge. Mr. Canson also had a long and storied history; he was a real gypsy who had a life full of big ups and downs. Bar owner, entrepreneur, POW at Santo Tomas and more. He was an impressive man and deserves a book of his own.  In The Yellow Bar, I gave him a cameo role as the buddy of Eric Lawson while they were interned in the Santo Tomas. (I felt is was the least I could do. Stories like his should not be forgotten.)
There are many conflicting stories about the original Santa Ana: Some say it was nothing but a whore house, others say it was a classy place for a date. (I think it was a mixture of both.) Things I do know: He started the cabaret way back in 1914. The Santa Ana survived the Battle of Manila, probably because it was on the outskirts of town. Mr. Canson re-opened it after the war, and the club stayed intact until a typhoon finally knocked it down in 1970. Wow, that was a long run!

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