Anyone familiar with South Florida's kitschy cool history will know about The Wreck Bar up at The Yankee Clipper Hotel. And if you do then you know that not too long ago the fabled joint was itself set for the wrecking ball. Then along came a mermaid -- Marina the Fire-Eating Mermaid, to be precise, a.k.a MeduSirena -- and she got the good folks at The Sheraton to keep alive the glorious tradition. NBC Miami caught up with the fetching aqua-kitten to get the lowdown on all that and much, much more.
You're perhaps best known as the mermaid at the Yankee Clipper's fabled Wreck Bar. How long have you been appearing there and what does the show consist of? I've been performing there since the fall of 2006. I generally wanted to produce an effect where for a moment one could watch mermaids -- my MeduSirena Pod -- swim across the portholes like fish in a tank. It's a little homage to the golden age of tourism. We interact with the hotel guests as they watch us swim through the portholes, pose for photos, do somersaults and other fun tricks.
We also sometimes do retro-aquabatic pearl dives where we wear fun ensembles and perform aqua-ballets. There is definitely a lot of humor, and we frequently have hotel guests dive in to the water and pose for photos through the portholes with us.
Aren't you a large part of the reason the Wreck Bar is still in existence? My performances at the Wreck Bar did begin as a labor of love to help raise greater awareness of sometimes forgotten treasured locations that make Fort Lauderdale and South Florida so unique. I would be thrilled to know that my work had perhaps helped to preserve that wonderful icon of Fort Lauderdale's Golden Age.
Wasn't last year's Hukilau held at The Wreck Bar? What was that like? Well, last year, the Clipper was closed due to renovation. I did bring my MeduSirena Pod to the Bahia Cabana to make an appearance though. And the Wreck Bar Mermaid and Pearl Dive swims have been a major part of Hukilau for several years now. I look forward to swimming again at the Wreck Bar for the Hukilau crowds this year. They are a fantastic bunch, and very dedicated fans. Love 'em to bits!
Speaking of fabled Florida places, did you grow up going to Weeki Wachi and have you performed there? I actually grew up in the West Indies and was greatly influenced by Esther Williams. At age nine I was already a free diver with six years of experience, and I knew of Ms. Williams's connection with Weeki Wachee and Cypress Gardens. This, of course, made me very excited to go to Weeki Wachee Springs upon visiting Florida and watch the show in the underwater theatre.
To see that mermaid show was phenomenal. It stayed ingrained in my mind to this very day. Believe it or not, I still know the words to the Mermaid Flip after watching it just once as a kid!
And though I've had the honor of performing with several of the Weeki Wachee mermaids in a separate underwater project, I've never performed in their show.
I imagine one doesn't just throw on a tail and jump in the pool. What kind of training does it take to be a mermaid? I run between five to seven miles, weight train and swim breath-hold laps every day, five days a week. My style of mermaid swimming requires a strong back and abdominals, in addition to a great deal of arm work and flexibility. I also train the mermaids of my MeduSirena Pod in those same physical disciplines. It also takes a bit of training to look relaxed underwater, tolerate the discomfort of cold temperatures and pool chemicals as well as swim with your legs restricted sometimes for prolonged periods of time.
You appear in a variety of other fetching guises as well -- can you please tell us about some of your alter-egos and where we might see them in action? Ah, yes. Well, I'm also known as "Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid." I work as a retro-tainer. I like to do acts that are a little unusual though still perceived retro-glamorous. I performed as a Polynesian Dancer at both the Hawaiian Inn in Daytona Beach and the Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale for several years and occasionally still perform with Polynesian Proud Productions in addition to other high profile Poly-Pop venues such as Hukilau.
I also am a stunt belly dancer -- fire eating, balancing on a ladder of swords, laying on a bed of nails, dancing on broken plates and balancing on glasses during my belly dance acts. I often perform at several hotels and restaurants in the Fort Lauderdale-South Beach area, the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino from time to time and at Off The Hookah in Las Olas Riverfront most Friday and Saturday nights when I'm in town. That's my mug you'll see on their fleet of vehicles by the way! The best way to track me is through my website, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.
Word is you've even taken your show to Macau. How did that come about and what other cities have been graced with your presence? I'm performing there right now as a matter of fact. It's actually a Virtual Aquarium at the City of Dreams in Macau, where I was filmed along with several other underwater performers and appear projected swimming on a giant underwater screen. It's hard to believe so many people are continuously watching me swim, even though I'm all the way here in Florida. I guess she's my mermaid avatar.
Other than that, I've traveled and performed in Hawaii, Antigua, the Bahamas, all over Florida and the continental U.S., and I'm even making plans to go to Japan this summer.
You use some incredibly swinging music in your shows. How do you choose what soundtrack to back you up and who are some of the artists who work best for what you do? I love tiki-lounge and retro tunes and find them most appropriate for the water shows and most of my other performances. My favorites to perform to are Shotaro Hattori, The Martini Kings, The Tikiyaki Orchestra, Los Straitjackets and Lola Dutronic, just to name a few. And I am very excited to be performing with The Intoxicators, The Woggles and with The Sweet Hollywaiians -- all the way from Japan! -- this year at Hukilau.
When you're not wowing the crowds, where do you like to hang out? Since I spend a great deal of time at restaurants, bars, clubs and lounges, I prefer searching for interesting places during my hang time. I'm a kitsch junkie and an urban archeologist of sorts, and I love to seek out the more unusual spots that are still about -- places like the Coral Castle, as well as old hotels and resorts and look for traces of their original structures.
I love to uncover mid-century mysteries from that golden age of tourism, meeting weird people, going to unusual museums, kitschy conventions seeking out great photo subjects. ... I'm still working on my video blog so that I can share the adventures with the "MeduSirenaphiles," as fans like to call themselves. I'm all about atmosphere -- the more unusual and friendly, the better. Add some kitsch, and I'm there!
What's coming up for Medusirena? Ah, I have a whole lot in store ranging from expanding my MeduSirena Pod, an appearance at Tiki Oasis in San Diego and other travel adventures, the video blog I mentioned before, DVDs and other merchandise and even more MeduSirena appearances. ... I'm gonna need a bigger boat. Really looking forward to this year's adventures!