Being a mermaid "is a lot more fun than bagging groceries."
July 5, 2013 12:27 PM   Subscribe

Tourists have been visiting the roadside attraction since 1947. Don Knotts filmed a movie there, and Supergrass made a video. A few men have tried to join, but mostly it's a women's (underwater) world at Weeki Wachee. Now the New York Times visits The Last Mermaid Show.
posted by scody (32 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

“We’re not like other women/We don’t have to clean an oven/And we never will grow old"
Perry didn’t pay the women for their efforts; they worked in exchange for meals, free swimsuits (tails would come later) and glory.

Not the most progressive thing ever.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:42 PM on July 5, 2013

Oh, so that's where they went in The Right Stuff.

(That Supergrass video is wonderful -- thanks!)
posted by maudlin at 1:09 PM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

This merman is the one I want to see in a show.
posted by xingcat at 1:10 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

He's covered in the NY Times article, xingcat, he used to be in the show, though it's not clear it was as a merman or just as the Prince.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:17 PM on July 5, 2013

The lamest of the Super Friends.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:22 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think this is the same place this iconic Toni Frissell photograph was taken.
posted by strangecargo at 1:43 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

First off, how does anyone not love Supergrass? Second, the instagraming of the Supergrass video was both awesome, in that it predated Instagram, and awful, becuase fuck anything instagramed.

I saw a mermaid show in Southern California as a kid, was inordinately fascinated with the breathing tubes.
posted by Keith Talent at 1:47 PM on July 5, 2013

I went to Weeki Wachee my senior year of high school with my best friend. We went in with our best teenage Too Cool For This attitudes, but honestly, it was too weirdly awesome to keep that up and we ended up having a blast. I remember it fondly.
posted by Stacey at 1:55 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I remember Aquarena Springs on the San Marcos River in Texas. Mermaids AND Ralph the swimming pig!
posted by jabo at 1:57 PM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

Mermaid Encounter

Beginning May 25, 2013. Enjoy a 20 minute experience with a real live mermaid. Have your child experience a memory of a lifetime. The encounter will be located in the "Mermaid Lagoon" at Buccaneer Bay. The encounters are available on Saturdays and Sundays, with two sessions a day.

Session 1: Ages 3-6 at 3:30 p.m.
Session 2: Ages 7-14 at 4:30 p.m.

Spaces are limited to six children for each session. The cost for the mermaid experience is $75. To book your mermaid encounter, call the main park number during normal business hours.

~ You can reserve a session in advance with a credit card payment over the phone.
~ A lifeguard is present during the encounter.
~ Parents are welcome to take pictures, but are not permitted in the water.
~ A child is not permitted to wear a mermaid tail.
~ Water depth is 0-4 feet, and is beach entry.
~ Bathing suits are required.
~ Water wings are permitted for ages 3-6 if needed.
~ No other tubes or floats.

Mermaids sure have a lot of rules these days. Whatever happened to the good old days of getting on with the business of luring sailors to their dooms?
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:02 PM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

My niece is mermaid obsessed. She has been trying to sew her clothes together to make tails. It was her birthday (10) last week and she just wanted cash so she could order a custom mermaid tail online. (Which she did. Apparently you are supposed to be able to swim in it!)

I admire her devotion to her obsession, but most of the cool mermaid stuff I've read lately is very NSF (kids) and so I haven't been able to send her links to various Tumblogs that have mermaid-y themes (there are MANY).'

But I am totally sending her mom this link.
posted by emjaybee at 2:25 PM on July 5, 2013

Interesting! I haven't thought about the Weeki Wachee mermaids in ages. When I was growing up, one of my dad's co-workers was married to a former Weeki Wachee mermaid. They loved to tell the story about how one time she was at the doctor's getting her respiration checked for some reason, and the doctor thought the machine was broken, because it didn't register anything. She basically didn't breathe much. She could hold her breath for six minutes or so without even trying.
posted by sidereal at 2:35 PM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

emjaybee - does your niece know about the mermaid tale that weta made for double amputee Nadya Vessey?
posted by Catch at 3:10 PM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Weeki Wachee Mermaids! We go every year when we visit my family in Florida. We were just there a few months ago (end of March). The BEST value for a little park when the kids are small and haven't yet discovered the crazy expensive parks of Orlando. A sweet little slice of Old Florida. They also have a beach and some awesome slides in a water park on the opposite side of the hot springs from the mermaids so the public can get a day pass and swim.

A pretty place to paddle or canoe, lots of Florida wildlife, just a sleepy little place. The mermaids take their roles pretty seriously...when they come out to a pavilion at the end of the show so that you can have your picture taken with them, they stay in costume and character. Then one of the "princes" carries them back behind the scenes after the meet-and-greet. My kids love it.

Retro + awesome. They sell the mermaid tails in the gift shop there and they are super expensive, but beautifully made.
posted by jeanmari at 3:43 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've been there! Best thing I did while living in Florida. The show we saw had a bunch of old veteran 60 and 70 year old mermaids still swimming for a number.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:52 PM on July 5, 2013

This merman is the one I want to see in a show.
You know what, good for him; I'm glad he found his passion and is happy, but tip of the hat to his partner as well, who seems to have accepted and embraced Eric's lifestyle.
posted by bitteroldman at 3:57 PM on July 5, 2013

You can see the current mermaids and princes on the Weeki Wachee roster here.

Now that I know about the 64' tube that puts you into the bottom of the spring? I TOTALLY want to try it!
posted by jeanmari at 3:59 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

A mermaid convention (has autoplay video).
posted by eye of newt at 4:12 PM on July 5, 2013

We went about five years ago and they played that Supergrass video before the show (except with more footage of the band). All I could think of was how the lead singer looked and dressed an awful lot like Torgo from "Manos: The Hands of Fate".
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 5:54 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

What?! There was this when I was scant miles away in Homosassa Springs in March?!
posted by mkb at 6:35 PM on July 5, 2013

In planning our August trip to Glacier National Park, my husband and I discovered the O'Haire Motor Inn, home of the Sip and Dip Tiki Lounge, a mermaid bar right outside the park.

I was excited planning our trip to see grizzlies and waterfalls and mountains and all that jazz, but I was secretly even more excited reserving that hotel room. Mermaids! In Montana!
posted by thebrokedown at 7:06 PM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have nothing to add to this other than that one of my friends is from Weeki Wachee! We all begged him to tell mermaid stories in college.
posted by zoetrope at 7:40 PM on July 5, 2013

I visited Weeki Wachee in 1990 or so with a Florida friend who insisted we go there despite the kitschy tourist-trap vibe of the area. He was right: the mermaid show was pretty amazing, especially in a place that looked like the souvenir shop would probably sell stuffed jackalopes. The grace and skill of the mermaids was breathtaking, and it reminded me of many "local culture" shows in 3rd World countries - seriously talented performers practicing their art for tourists who will probably never appreciate how much effort it took.

And the spring itself is quietly amazing (like other clearwater springs in the area). Crystal clear water coming from nowhere, apparently. Unlike typical rivers that grow from tiny streams, these clearwater springs are fed by aquifers that just pop up out of the limestone. My friend took us diving in another clearwater spring and it was as clear as a swimming pool because the limestone filters the water coming in and the current is fast enough to sweep detritus away. If you went down to the cracks where the aquifer fed in you could feel the pressure jets - drop a handful of gravel and it would be swept away. Contrasted with the slow tea-brown water of nearby rivers where dead leaves decompose and muck accumulates, the sparkling clearwater springs are utterly magical. Exactly the sort of place where mermaids would live!
posted by Quietgal at 8:18 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've driven by this place an unknown number of times on the way to Tampa. Now I've got to stop in...
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:20 PM on July 5, 2013

I am having trouble picturing how the tunnel thing works. Can someone explain it to me?

It looks in the photo like there's a bar you hold onto and you drop into a hole feet-first, which supposedly goes down a 14 ft drop - into water?? And then you have to swim another 60-something feet? But how do you swim down the tunnel if you landed feet first? Aren't you backwards? And the 60-something foot tunnel has you emerge at the bottom of the pool? If that's the case then the 14 ft drop must be the bit that gets you below water level, so why isn't that bit of the hole full of water too?
posted by lollusc at 9:32 PM on July 5, 2013

lollusc, as far as I can tell it looks like they jump into the water feet first, and then they turn around and dive head-first after landing in the water. At least part of the vertical drop does have water in it. It's not clear how far you drop before you hit the water, but it doesn't look like that much--probably less than 5 feet?
posted by phoenixy at 1:31 AM on July 6, 2013

I wanna see this. Doubt I ever will get that far into Florida, but I wish. Thanks for the post!
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:03 AM on July 6, 2013

A Weeki Wachee mermaid swims through "The Tube" (You Tube Video)
posted by jeanmari at 7:30 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, the tube is a lot wider than I was imagining. Thanks for the clarification. I can see now how they turn around.
posted by lollusc at 8:26 PM on July 14, 2013

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