Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Vintage Roadside Visits: Dive Bar Mermaid Rachel

When you mention "live mermaids" many people think of Florida - with good reason. You can still catch a show at the one-and-only Weeki Wachee Springs, or venture down to the historic Wreck Bar in Ft. Lauderdale and watch Marina and her pod work tirelessly every Friday evening to keep a piece of history alive. Another option for those of us west of the Mississippi is the Sip 'n Dip Lounge in Great Falls, Montana. The Sip 'n Dip, located in the O'Haire Motor Inn, is also a wonderful piece of roadside history. (Much more on the Sip 'n Dip in an upcoming post.)

When we heard late in 2010 that a new mermaid lounge was opening in Sacramento, California we were amazed. The building of a new mermaid attraction was right up there with someone opening a new drive in theater or a new roller rink - these things just don't happen anymore. Amazingly it did happen and in early 2011 The Dive Bar opened to rave reviews.

We caught up with head mermaid Rachel Smith to see how things were going at the Dive Bar and here's what she had to say...

Vintage Roadside: We read that you landed the Dive Bar job by submitting a "mermaid resume" - can you tell us a little of what makes up a mermaid resume?

Rachel: It's a regular resume, but showcases any mermaid work experience that I've had in the past. My resume for the Dive Bar didn't have any professional jobs on it, but it did have photos both above and underwater, my headshot, swimming experience and included a link to a video I had made with a friend. Lynda, our mermom, was incredibly impressed with the video - it was probably the thing that helped me the most to get the job.

Vintage Roadside: You do the mermaid hiring and training at the Dive Bar. What's the response like when you have an opening? Are you flooded with applicants?

Rachel: Everyone wants to be a mermaid! We have tons of resumes on file of men and women waiting to try out. We even had a girl send us photos of her in her underwear! Not exactly what we are looking for...ha! When we hold auditions we try to filter out anyone who has not had any swim, dance. modeling or acting experience. To swim in our small tank space, you really have to know how to control and move your body gracefully and safely. It's a lot harder than most people think!

Vintage Roadside: What type of training did you have prior to the opening of the Dive Bar?

Rachel: Our first round of mermaids (including myself) were trained by the incredibly talented Linden Wolbert of Mermaids in Motion. She taught us breath techniques, how to find neutral buoyancy in our saltwater tank, and lots of other mertips and tricks. When I train a mermaid, I like to keep what Linden taught us in the back of my mind - without her, we would have been floundering, literally!

Vintage Roadside: The Dive Bar tank is fairly unique. What types of things do you need to be aware of swimming in it?

Rachel: It's really important to know where everything is, all of the obstacles, props, etc. One of our biggest priorities at Dive is mermaid safety, we always have a lifeguard certified security member watching us when we're in the tank. It also took us some time to get used to swimming with the live fish. They all have personalities of their own, and can be a little feisty if it's a night that they're supposed to be fed.

Vintage Roadside: It sounds like you guys were as ready as you could be. Do you remember opening night?

Rachel: Between all the glitter, the screaming, and all the bubbles, it's a little bit of a blur - ha! We had all of the girls swimming that night, and it was actually my first night as head mermaid! Everything went swimmingly, of course. All the girls swam, flirted, and gave it their all. I think it was a very successful evening. We were even asked by George (the owner) to get back in the tank after the shows were finished for the night - people couldn't get enough of the mermaids!

Vintage Roadside: It sounds like all the preparation really paid off. No "goofs" at all for you guys?

Rachel: There are always awkward mermaid moments in the tank, they are unavoidable. Mermaid Aimee accidentally pushed me into the tank one night, and I just sort of dazedly swam back out. It must have looked pretty silly from below. I did the same thing to her a few weeks later though, completely on accident, so we're even now. ;-) There are always a few awkward escaping nose bubbles, and I've got a fish caught in my hair once or twice as well.

Vintage Roadside: What makes a Dive Bar show different from the other mermaid attractions?

Rachel: While Dive Bar definitely hearkens back to the aquatic shows of the 1960s, it's a really modern twist. We don't have a set soundtrack or routine that we have to perform while we're in the tank. Every show is unique, and every mermaid we have swimming at Dive has a different personality that they bring to the show. It's worth coming again and again, you'll always see something new.

Vintage Roadside: You guys even have a merman don't you? How does the crowd react to him?

Rachel: People really love it when our merman Antwan swims. The screaming does not stop!

Vintage Roadside: Who are some of the current aquatic performers you enjoy watching or wish you could swim with?

Rachel: Linden is incredible, I would love to swim with her out of the tank someday; either for fun or if she needs an extra mer. She is vivacious, bright, and cares deeply for our planet and its oceans. Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid is the best retro aquatic performer out there. She's a treasure-trove of talent and knowledge; I think that all mers could learn a lot from her. I also really like the styling of Mermaid Raven of Merbellas; I like her gypsy/tribal mermaid vibe. She makes beautiful tails and accessories. And of course, I would love to swim with our tail-maker, the fabulous Eric Ducharme. We're hoping he can come out to the Dive at some point and put on a few special shows with us. He's so enthusiastic and dedicated to what he does; it's been great working with him.

Vintage Roadside: We're big admirers of the Weeki Wachee "Formers" that perform once a month. Do you see yourself still performing in your 60s and 70s?

Rachel: I will always be a mermaid, but there will probably come a time to hang up my tail professionally. I'm very dedicated to my illustration, and painting and creating takes a lot of my time and energy. Being a mermaid is something I love so much, and comes so naturally to me that I will never stop doing it. Although in the golden years of my life, I might have to settle for Sea Hag! Ha!

Vintage Roadside: Thank you so much Rachel!

Rachel: You're welcome!

If you find yourself in Sacramento and are looking for something unique - check out the Dive Bar at 1016 K Street! They're open 7 days a week from 4:00 pm - 3:00 am.

If you'd like to see some of the artwork Rachel creates when not performing you'll find her website here

Jeff & Kelly

1 comment:

Adri said...

Thanks so much for highlighting The Dive Bar. I had no idea there was such a cool mermaid show here in California. You two are my heroes for doing all this research and talking to the folks who keep this kind of Americana alive! Cheers :)