- Vintage Roadside hosts the first-ever Aquarama reunion!
- Casper's Alligator & Ostrich Farm
- The Atomic Tunnel comes alive
- Limited Edition Munktiki & Jake the Alligator Man t-shirts now available!
- Vintage Roadside Recommends: The Eastside Big Tom
- Jake the Alligator Man - 2012 Limited Edition T-shirt
- Rose City Round-Up 2012
- Vintage Roadside & Charles Phoenix take Portland by storm!
- Vintage Roadside Tip - Fairley's Pharmacy & Soda Fountain
- Vintage Roadside Visits: Aquarama Aquamaid Ginger
- Vintage Roadside Visits: Aquarena Springs documentarian Bob Phillips - Part 2
- Vintage Roadside Visits: Aquarena Springs documentarian Bob Phillips - Part 1
- Vintage Roadside to debut all-new presentation at Modernism Week 2012!
- Vintage Roadside Visits: Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid Part 2
- NBC and Grimm restore a classic Portland neon sign
- Vintage Roadside Visits: Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid Part 1
- Vintage Roadside Visits: Go-Go Amy Part 2
- Vintage Roadside Visits: Go-Go Amy Part 1
- Vintage Roadside Visits: Dive Bar Mermaid Rachel
- Vintage Roadside adds to their fiberglass family!
- Jake the Alligator Man's 2011 Birthday Party
- Vintage Roadside Visits: Former Weeki Wachee mermaid Jo!
- Rose City Round-Up 2011 - A Photo Tour
- Vintage Roads hits the Hukilau!
- Vintage Roadside Visits: Aquarama Aquamaid Claudia Part 2
Fifty years ago, construction began on one of the many roadside attractions that once lined the highways of America. However this wasnt another Mystery House, or even a dinosaur park, it was the Aquarama - an underwater mermaid show located in Osage Beach, Missouri. The show opened to the public in May of 1964 and quietly closed in 1973. In the years that followed, the memories of the show slowly faded away from the general public and the former performers tucked away their experiences and moved on with their lives. Neato Coolville. The plan for the reunion was to get as many people together as we could for a Friday night dinner and an all-day picnic on Saturday. Everything came together smoothly and we counted down the days until the event. We kept an eye on the temperature in Osage Beach and things were rolling along in the 70s and 80s until three days before the picnic when we were faced with the one thing we couldnt control - the weather. The day we were flying out to Missouri was spent lining up an indoor venue for the picnic when thankfully Dean at the Tan-Tar-A Lodge came through with a wonderful gathering place. Friday and Saturday ended up being somewhere around 40 degrees so being outside would have been less than ideal for everyone! Vintage Roadside
Weve had quite a few requests for our sold-out Caspers Alligator Farm t-shirt so we decided to reprint it just in time for the holidays. And, to add a new twist, weve decided to print it up on a one-time only Moss Green shirt. We just picked them up from our screenprinter and they turned out amazing.
You can pick one up for yourself or the roadside attraction lover in your life over on our website here.
Heres to alligators,
Jeff & Kelly
Have you ever looked at a vintage postcard and wondered what the story was behind it? Whos the person in the photo? How did they end up there? What became of them? Being history geeks we end up asking ourselves these questions over and over as we look through the postcards, brochures, newspaper articles and promotional photos weve gathered as research for our line of t-shirts. With the release of our limited edition Atomic Tunnel t-shirt we decided to dig back into our research and see if we could uncover any new clues to the story behind "Floridas Biggest Little Attraction." Vintage Roadside
Weve got a couple of great limited edition t-shirts currently available over at the Vintage Roadside website! First up is the 2012 Jake the Alligator Man t-shirt. Each year Jake has an amazing Bachelor & Birthday Party up in Long Beach, WA and this is the fourth limited edition t-shirt weve created to honor the birthday boy.Limited to just 36 shirts, we currently have Mens Small - XL available here. Happy Wednesday! Jeff & Kelly Vintage Roadside
Were offering Mens sizes Small - XXL here.
Next up is a limited edition by the masters of the fine art tiki mug - Munktiki! Many of you may be familiar with their mugs but may have missed their limited edition "Skull Ripper" t-shirt.
You know those days where you crave nothing but a real drive in cheeseburger? Not something from a chain, or that fancy "sit down" place, but a burger grilled just for you and, more often than not, with some sort of catchy name that makes it just that much better. And while youre at it you might as well throw in an order of fries and a milkshake, you know, as a way of showing further support for mom & pop businesses. They appreciate it and youll sleep even better after the meal. Heres an example of what were talking about. Ladies and gentleman exhibit A:Before we talk about the food we wanted to share a bit of the Big Tom history. For us the only thing better than a great roadside business is one with some history behind it and we were lucky enough to hear some of that history from the owner Michael. Originally founded in 1948, the Big Tom is the oldest "drive thru" restaurant in Washington state. Heres a look at the original building on the site:The Eastside Big Tom is located at 2023 4th Ave East in Olympia, WA. Open 7 days a week, they accept cash or checks only but do have an ATM on site. For all of us who live out of the area, but still enjoy looking at photos of great drive in food presented with a bit of humor, you can become a fan of their Facebook page here. Until next time Big Tom... Vintage Roadside and Vintage Roadside on Facebook
Photo courtesy of Eastside Big Tom_
After staring at that photo for days we knew the only way to find out if the food tasted half as good as it looked in the photo was to make the drive up to Olympia, WA and eat at the Eastside Big Tom. So, in the name of research we loaded up the wagon and headed north. 115 miles later we spotted the first Big Tom plywood mascot and we knew we had found the type of place were always hoping for.
Photo courtesy of Eastside Big Tom_
Around 1960 or so the building was upgraded and locals were lining up for the "Big Tom" burger at the Eastside In & Out.
Photo courtesy of Eastside Big Tom_
In 1969 the Fritsch family purchased the business (after working there for several years) and a new chapter was born with the Eastside Big Tom. In 2008 Michael Fritsch purchased the business from his parents and has devoted himself to quality food, great customer service and a welcome sense of humor as evidenced by this photo of him gamely posing with our mascot Stinky.
By now youre all asking, "How was the food!?" Were happy to report it was seriously one of the best drive in meals weve ever had. Wed also like to point out the customer service was completely on the ball and the entire place was spotless. And as any local drive in should, they do have their own special ingredient used not only as a dipping sauce, but also as a burger dressing. The name of this wonder ingredient - Goop! Weve enjoyed many special sauces over the miles but this one was unlike any wed had before. Heres a photo of Goop in action (in a Big Tom compostable container none the less):
Photo courtesy of Eastside Big Tom_
Another great feature of the Big Tom menu is the amazing selection of milkshakes and malts. We went with the root beer milkshake on our visit and now have plans to work ourselves through the entire menu. We also enjoyed the atmosphere of the place - it felt like a roadside attraction and thats always a good thing!
Ever been to a birthday party for a real alligator man? Each year a hard-working group of folks in Long Beach, Washington throws an amazing birthday party for everyones favorite "Half Man - Half Alligator" - Jake. Jake is well-known in the world of roadside attractions, but if youve yet to make his acquaintance you can visit him daily at Marshs Free Museum - one of our all-time favorite places to spend some time. (Our tip - look for the two-headed calf!)
The man of the hour._This year Jakes annual Bachelor Party will be Friday, August 3rd followed by an all-ages celebration on Saturday, August 4th. Therell be a car show, live music and the always hard-fought battle to become Jakes Bride for the upcoming year! You can find more party info at Jakes birthday website here.
Mrs. Roadside with the 2011 Bride & Bridesmaid of Jake._Its been our absolute pleasure the past few years to design the limited edition Jake t-shirt for the party and without further ado offer up this years design. The theme for the party this year is "Under the Sea" and we decided it was time for Jake to don a little nautical attire. Ahoy Jake!
Alligator Man overboard!_See you at the beach! Jeff & Kelly Vintage Roadside
Last Saturday was the 5th Rose City Round-Up traditional hot rod show and it was another great show! It was fantastic to have some sun this year, so without further delay here are a few of the things that caught our eye at the show this year.
This weekend well be up at the Billetproof show in Chehalis, WA for another round of automotive art!
Jeff & Kelly
Howdy gang! Things have been jumping and we thought it would be great to catch up with all of you. So, here comes roughly 96 hours, jammed into 10 minutes of reading time. Or 12 minutes if youd like to leave a comment. :-) There were two great events this past weekend here in Portland - both presented by the Historic Preservation League of Oregon. Saturdays offering was the "Mid-Century Marvelous Home Tour" highlighting some of the homes built by Robert Rummer in the Bohmann Park neighborhood while Sunday saw the return to Portland of pop culture humorist Charles Phoenix at the Hollywood Theater. As part of Charles prep for his show he wanted to revisit some of his favorite places & things that you can only find in Portland, as well as visit a few new places. We were thrilled to get to ride along. Without further ado heres some of the things we saw and did over those four days! It didnt take long for Charles to start spotting the good stuff. This 1955 Nash was his first stop between the airport and Vintage Roadside HQ.
Then it was time for a quick "hello" to our Burger Family. Heres Charles giving Mama Burger a friendly pat on the belly.
Next up was a visit to the Oregon Zoo for a ride on The Zooliner - a 1958 replica of the General Motors Aerotrain. We made it just in time for the last ride of the day and it was a wonderful 4-mile trip through Washington Park. If youre in Portland you owe yourself a ride on this great little train!
After our train ride we were lucky enough to follow the train back into the tunnel and spend some time talking with the gentlemen that care for and operate the zoos trains. They were incredibly generous with their time and shared some amazing history with us.
At this point it was time to grab something to eat. Our destination was The Original Taco House. The OTH is the sister restaurant to the fondly-remembered Waddles Drive In (which opened in 1938) and lays claim as Portlands first year-round Mexican restaurant. Youll find locations on both NE 82nd (the original location) and also on SE Powell. We chose the Powell location for our visit and thoroughly enjoyed our meal.
Then it was off for a little exercise to work off dinner. The activity of choice was roller skating at Oaks Park. The rink at The Oaks is the oldest continually operating rink in the United States, and to up the coolness factor, also features a massive Wurlitzer pipe organ. We had planned our visit for a night featuring live organ music and its hard to describe just how amazing it it when the organ starts playing. Another cant-miss piece of Portland history.
After spending some time talking with a gentleman whod been skating at the rink since 1941 it was decided wed wrap the night up with a look at the incredible Palms Motel neon sign on Interstate Avenue. Weve personally photographed this sign hundreds of times and just never get tired of standing underneath it. Its truly a treasure among the neon sign world.
Day two started off with breakfast at another Portland institution - The Original Pancake House. Founded in 1953 by Les Highet and Erma Hueneke, the business has now grown to include 120 franchise locations, including their first-ever Japanese location opening soon. We were asking our server questions about the history and before we knew it both the 2nd and 3rd generation of the family were at our table talking with us! They kindly invited us up to the company offices after our meal to share more of the history and to make sure we had all the information we were looking for. Needless to say they made a fantastic impression. Oh, and the food was incredible...as a matter of fact weve already planned our next meal there!
Then it was on to "Mission Myrtlewood." Charles had long known of the famous Oregon souvenirs made from Myrtlewood, and knew no trip to Oregon would be complete without taking a piece home. It took a bit of hunting around but we finally found this hazelnut snack set at an antique mall. The Phoenix household will now be graced with a little piece of Oregon.
Since we were considering this a "road trip" of sorts the idea of eating on any type of schedule goes out the window. Case in point - we had just eaten a huge breakfast about an hour earlier but there was no way we could pass up the 99-year-old soda fountain at Fairleys Pharmacy on NE Sandy. And like on our visit last month, and well, almost every time before, I chose the chocolate malt.
We spent some time poking around a few antique and vintage stores and then realized...its National Doughnut Day! In honor of the "holiday" we visited another Portland location now known around the world - Voodoo Doughnuts. If youre in Portland on National Doughnut Day theres really no more perfect place to celebrate all that is doughnut.
After the Home Tour on Saturday we managed to squeeze in a few more stops. We began at the old McDonalds building on SE Powell. Weve not seen it used for anything in the past few years but were glad its still there to enjoy. Oh, yes the Camaro was the rental car for the weekend. Guess which of these three words describes the new Camaro: Subtle, Fun, or Roomy? Heres a hint - its the middle one. :-)
After some time watching the giant spinning loaf of bread on the Franz Bread building, it was over to the Lloyd Center Mall for a visit to Joe Browns Carmel Corn. Started in downtown Portland in 1932, closed shortly after WWII, and then revived again in 1960 by Mr. Browns sister Betty, you can still enjoy a bag or box of carmel corn served from the same location in what was once the countrys largest outdoor mall.
Our final stop of the day was for something Charles is well known for - his incredible suits. We had spoken with him prior to his visit and he asked if we might know of an airbrush artist to create a one-of-a-kind suit highlighting all that is Portland. We just so happened to know two local artists whose airbrush skills have always floored us. We put Charles in touch with Matt Stanger & Ian Pian and the rest is fashion history.
Heres a look at the suit in all its glory.
Charles show on Sunday was an absolute home-run and everyone thoroughly enjoyed his personal take on our fair city! The weekend ended with a large gathering at The Alibi tiki bar and hopes of doing it all again soon.
Wed personally like to encourage anyone that gets the chance to see one of Charles shows to not miss it. Its not often you can be entertained, educated and left shaking your head all in one amazing evening!
(All non-watermarked images courtesy of Peter Kim - photographer.)
Jeff & Kelly
We wanted to give a tip of the Vintage Roadside cap to a local Portland, OR business thats been a neighborhood institution for 99 years - Fairleys Pharmacy on NE Sandy Blvd. In addition to weathering the onslaught of discount chain drug stores, theyve also kept a great piece of history alive - an actual working soda fountain! Were talking real ice cream milkshakes and malts that are served up in a tall glass along with that frosty metal can thats become a bit of an endangered species. We swung by again today just to make sure the offerings were as good as we remember (it was a tough assignment, but we were thinking of you guys ;-) and are happy to report things are as tasty as ever! Fairleys Pharmacy 7206 NE Sandy Blvd Portland, OR Fountain Hours: M-F 9:00 am - 6:00 pm Sat. 9:00 am - 3:00 pm Sun. Closed Enjoy! Jeff & Kelly Vintage Roadside
Were pleased to share another one of our interviews with the former Aquarama Aquamaids. Heres our first visit with one of the performers from the final years of the show which ran from 1964 - 1973. We hope you enjoy reading a bit of Gingers history with the show. VINTAGE ROADSIDE:What year did you perform at the Aquarama? GINGER: I believe I was 17 years old the year I swam at the Aquarama in 1972 (I think.) VINTAGE ROADSIDE: 1972 would have been the 9th year of the shows. Were you familiar with the Aquarama before you got the job? GINGER: I hadnt heard of the Aquarama. We had just moved to the Lake from California the fall before though. VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Did you have any type of performance experience which helped you land the job?
GINGER THIRD FROM LEFT. (Photo courtesy of Nancy)_GINGER: I had no experience but could swim and we all had to try out for the part. Not sure how the girls were picked out, but was glad I got to be one of them! VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Did you have a favorite routine in the show? GINGER: My favorite routine was the leopard routine with the bunnies. I drank a soda under the water so was at center stage. I would have people say they didnt believe I did it - Id tell them to come to the show and see! VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Do you remember any of the other routines? GINGER: I remember the acts - I dreamed about them for years. Such a feeling of freedom, like flying! VINTAGE ROADSIDE: You have to admit it was a pretty special job. Looking back how does it feel to know you had what many people would consider a "dream" job? GINGER: Yes, I did have a great summer. I worked as a life guard by day and a mermaid by night. Talk about a Water Dog - although the tan marks got me into some trouble with my night job.
GINGER (IN CENTER) DRINKING SODA. (Photo courtesy of Nancy)_VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Before we let you go weve found everyone that performed has at least one funny story from the Aquarama. Do you have one you can share? GINGER: Heres one. Where we changed clothes was over the pool on a scaffolding and sometimes it wasnt easy putting on the costume for the second show because it was still wet (and tight.) One night, one of the girls was trying to put on her costume for the second show and fell into the pool - not all the way into her costume! The rest of us were trying to pull her out of the pool before the lights came on. Just as we got her pulled up Mr. W. wanted to know what that was. Apparently part of her body was still in the water! We did get in trouble for cutting up and Im sure they thought we were cutting up then. VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Thanks so much for sharing a bit of your history with us Ginger! GINGER: Youre welcome. As always, if youve got any Aquarama info or stories wed love to hear from you here in the comment section! Jeff & Kelly Vintage Roadside
Heres Part 2 of our interview with Bob talking about his new Aquarena Springs documentary. In case you missed Part 1 you can find it here. VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Weve spent years tracking down the former Aquarama employees. Has it been difficult to find the former Aquarena performers? BOB: When I began the Aquarena documentary project back in 2006 my goal was to interview the people I knew that were still around San Marcos. It was somewhat easy for me because I already knew many of the people. The first person interviewed was my step-mother Shirley Rogers, granddaughter of Aquarena Springs developer A.B. Rogers, and daughter of Paul Rogers who continued the dream of his father. Shirley told me about Edwin Cooper, one of the first glass bottom boat drivers from 1946, and the 99-year-old gentleman who told stories about dancing on top of the Aquarena Hotel between 1929 and 1932. I found and interviewed them both. Then I met some people I did not know at the 2009 Aquarena reunion. That was a great opportunity to hear stories that took place before I worked there. One of the gentlemen I did not get to interview was a San Marcos native who began working there when he was 12 years old and later became the CEO of Busch Entertainment. He told me he would love to be interviewed, but with so many other people to help tell the story I never did track him down... VINTAGE ROADSIDE: The reunion sounds wonderful. Any idea how many people came to it? BOB: There must have been about 150 people there. I was like a kid in a candy store without enough time to eat it all!
An Aquarena Mermaid._
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Are there still former employees youd love to talk with?
BOB: Yes, if there are folks out there who I did not get a chance to talk to I would love to connect with them to learn more of their stories.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: You put together an amazing archive of film and images for your documentary. How difficult was it to track those down?
BOB: I spent years collecting the photos and film footage. I first went to the Texas Department of Transportation Tourism Information Divisions photo library where I found over 100 great vintage photos. Also, I found great photos at the San Marcos Library and the Texas State University library. Aquarena Springs also had some great video footage. I found some footage online that was shot in the 1960s and contacted that person and got approval to use some of it. Shirley, my step-mother, produced some pure gold with her 16 mm footage that was shot in the 1940s and 1950s. It included great footage of her father and grandfather at the first submarine theater performance as well as her family trip to Florida where her father had gotten some ideas from visits to Weeki Wachee, Silver Springs, and Marine Studios. There was also a film from the 1940s about the town of San Marcos that included the first glass bottom boat.
A Facebook page was created prior to the Aquarena Reunion in 2009 where I posted a request for images and footage - I got a good response from that, too. Also, the lady who trained Ralph the Swimming Pig had some great video footage as well.
In the beginning I thought I might not have enough images to back up the interviews, but as the project progressed I ended up way more than I could ever use in a single documentary.
Ralph enjoys a refreshing beverage_.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: How fantastic you were able to gather so much material. It sounds like you won the "Researchers Lottery"! Any idea just how much material you collected?
BOB: I collected between two and three hundred photos and about 10 to 15 hours of vintage video and film.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: One of the great images you have is the photo we posted above of Ralph enjoying a meal. Weve always been big Ralph fans - can you tell us a bit of his story?
BOB: Ralph the Swimming Pig was cool. He began swimming in the show about 1956. In the beginning they called the pig Missy, not sure why, just seemed a good name for a pig I guess. Then in the early 1960s, Barbara Backus, the swimmer who was Missys trainer as well as an Aquamaid, was in the water training a new Missy. Fellow Aquamaid Virgie Sheets was helping Barbara. Virgie just happened to be going through a divorce at the time with her husband Ralph and was telling some stories about it to Barbara. Well, Barbara, for the fun of it started calling the pig she was training Ralph. It became sort of a joke to call that pig and then all the other pigs Ralph. The name stuck and the rest is history!
Ralph was always a hit in the show and soon began to appear on national television. He became the one thing that people wanted to see when they came to Aquarena Springs - slightly edging out the beautiful mermaids, believe it or not.
A vintage Aquarena decal spotted in 2011._
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: You recently had a screening of your film at the Texas Music Center in San Marcos. How did the screening go? Did you have a nice turnout?
BOB: I used the premier as a fund raiser for the San Marcos Heritage Association. They in turn got to use the theater for free and we had over 160 people pay $10 each to attend the premier. We served free popcorn and there was a cash bar. At the end of the movie 90 copies of the documentary were purchased and we ended up raising about $2300 for the Heritage Association.
The film was shown in High Definition on a 20 by 20 screen and the sound system blew me away. The music that I had heard a million times while editing on my computer sounded so much better on their system. I heard wonderful sound in the music I had not heard before.
It was surreal sitting in the theater I had grown up watching movies in, with 160 people, most of whom I did not know, quietly watching, laughing, and crying at the documentary I had spent years creating.
The one, the only, Glurpo!_
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Before we ask you about some of the highlights of your film, we have to ask the one question most people ask us. Any idea why Glurpo was so frightening looking in his early costume?
BOB: Glurpo did start out dressed in an actual clown costume. Early photos (like the one you posted above) show him with a clown mask on, and a very scary one at that. Not sure why they would have a clown in such a scary looking mask, after all this was family entertainment. Im hoping to hear back from some of the 1950s performers with their thoughts.
Later Glurpo wore a white swimming cap and a large red nose attached to his faceplate mask. In the late 1960s, the theme of the show was changed to a Polynesian Village and Glurpo became a witch doctor dressed in a grass skirt, beads, and a long-haired black wig.
Glurpo the Witch Doctor._
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Now that the DVD is available to purchase can you let people know a bit about the finished film?
BOB: In this 78 minute documentary the story of Aquarena Springs is told by over 30 people I interviewed along with vintage images, film, and video. The people in the documentary are folks who either worked at or visited Aquarena Springs. Viewers will see and hear every aspect of what made Aquarena Springs THE place to take the family for vacation from 1950-1990.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Weve watched the film several times and its amazing the variety of things youve included. Being fans of old roadside attraction billboards could you list some of the things wed see on _Aquarena and Ralph_ billboards along the highway?
BOB: Heres some of what youll see in the film:* Beautiful mermaids and aquamaids swimming, performing underwater ballet, eating & drinking underwater - and learn how they did it. * Learn how Glurpo the Clown smoked and blew smoke rings underwater. * How do you teach a pig to swim? * See Ralph the Swimming Pigs "Swine Dive" from above and below the water. * Hear the story about the alligators escaping after the flood of 1970 into the San Marcos River - and how they were rounded up. * See the dancing chicken. * Learn how the worlds only Submarine Theater worked and hear what happened when the submarine flipped over during a show with 57 people aboard. * Take a ride on the Von Roll Swiss Skyride across Spring Lake. * Hear about the time Johnny Weissmuller, Tarzan himself, visited the park. * See the 1956 underwater wedding covered by Life Magazine as well as hearing from the best man about what kept the brides dress from floating over her head. * Much, much more!
Ralph enjoying the spotlight on To Tell the Truth._
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Congratulations, Bob, on creating such a great film. On behalf of Aquarena fans everywhere, thank you for the years you put into this! Where can people order a copy?
BOB: Youre welcome. You can purchase a copy of the DVD for only $19.95 at my website here.
We hope youve enjoyed our talk with Bob and that youll pick up a copy of his film!
Jeff & Kelly
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When we heard a documentary on the history of Aquarena Springs was being created by a former employee we couldnt wait to see the finished project. After spending the past few years researching the history of the Aquarama in Missouri it felt like we had discovered a kindred spirit out there somewhere in the (relatively narrow) field of "people who devote years to the research of defunct mermaid attractions." Wed check online every few months to see if there were any updates on the completion of the film and this fall we saw an announcement for the screening of the film is San Marcos, Texas. Not being able to make it down to Texas for the screening we were pleased to see the film was also being released on DVD.
Cover of Aquarena brochure_We immediately ordered our copy and sent an email to Mr. Phillips congratulating him on his film. Weve been lucky enough to share research with each other and Bob has generously spent time answering our questions. Heres Part 1 of our in-depth conversation with Bob about his project. VINTAGE ROADSIDE: For those not familiar with Aquarena Springs can you give us an overview of some of the different things visitors to the park could enjoy? BOB: Aquarena Springs was located on Spring Lake which is the headwater of the spring-fed San Marcos River. Visitors could experience the "Worlds Only Submarine Theater" where you would be taken underneath the surface of the crystal-clear water to see mermaids and aquamaids (beautiful young ladies) perform underwater ballet, eating and drinking underwater, as well as Glurpo the Underwater Clown who performed underwater antics such as singing, smoking, and blowing smoke rings. All these performers were upstaged by Ralph the Famous Swimming Pig that would capture the hearts of all who saw him with his world-renowned swine dive. Glass bottom boats would take visitors across Spring Lake where they could look below the surface at the beautiful plant and animal life as well as the water bubbling up through the limestone sand. The Von Roll Swiss Skyride took visitors up over 100 across the lake to the hillside hanging gardens that included the Burleson Log Cabin, Mr. Manley the glass blower, a Mexican paper flower market, the 100-year-old Gristmill that ground corn meal you could purchase, and the Spring House Gift Shop where you could buy rock candy and cheese. Visitors could take the Skyride back or a ferry boat across the lake to Pirates Cove Landing which included a pirate and nautical themed gift shop.
Interior of Aquarena brochure_
The Texana Village was an old western town (think Gunsmoke) complete with San Marcos original home, a saloon, a barbershop, a general store, farm animals, a blacksmith shop, old carriages, and a beautiful rock and crystal collection. There was also Top Gun - a mechanical cowboy that would challenge you to a gunfight, the dancing chickens, a fire engine bunny, a basketball playing chicken, a piano playing duck and chicken, and the chicken that would challenge you to a game of tic-tac-toe - and beat you every time! There were even 20 live alligators you could see.
The gift shops were wonderful and sold all the stuff tourists love like Aquarena-branded shot glasses, rubber snakes, Davy Crockett coonskin hats, and Ralph the Swimming Pig t-shirts.
The Aquarena Springs Hotel was opened way back in 1929. It had about thirty rooms and sat right on the headwaters of the San Marcos River. You could sit on your second story balcony and see the fish swimming in the crystal clear water.
Visitors head into the original Submarine Theater_
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Its incredible just how much there was to do there. We want to ask you more about Ralph and Glurpo, but before we get to that wed like to hear about your connection with Aquarena Springs. Your family has a very deep history with the park. Can you tell us a bit about that?
BOB: My family history at the park began when my older brother Bill worked there for one summer when he was 12 years old (about 1960). I followed in his footsteps when I turned 12 in 1962 doing the same job he had done, which was sweeping up cigarette butts in the parking lot and placing bumper stickers on peoples cars. We were called "Butt Boys". We actually had to go up to each car that entered the parking lot and ask the driver if they wanted a free Aquarena Springs sticker on their bumper. It was an inexpensive advertising ploy. Of course we wanted everyone to say yes but many didnt, and some werent very nice about it. That was a tough job for a shy 12 year old. I seriously think this is where I learned the important lesson of how to overcome rejection.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: What kind of money did you make out there in the parking lot?
BOB: The pay was a handsome 25 cents per hour, two dollars for 8 hours of work. The first few days on the job I ate lunch in the Aquarena Restaurant, but ended up spending a whole days pay. Later, I started bringing my sack lunch (figuring that it was better for my parents to pick up the tab) allowing me to save some serious spending money. Being in South Texas in the summer on a blacktop parking lot got pretty hot and I would spend as much time as I could under the largest shade tree out there. There were about 4 or 5 of us San Marcos youngsters working at the same time and instead of spreading ourselves out over the parking lot as we were instructed by our boss we would all end up under the same shade tree telling stories. The boss would come out and tell us to spread out and it worked - for about 20 minutes. It could get lonely out there.
One day in August I had had enough and decided to quit, so I did. I went home and relaxed until my dad got home from work. He asked me how my day went and I told him I quit. He said "You what? You know they expected you to work until Labor Day." The next morning he took me back to Aquarena (this was very embarrassing for me, of course) and found the owner and general manager in the coffee shop, walked me up to them and said (without asking me) that Bob would be happy to come back to work and finish out the summer. Thank goodness they told my dad that was ok, they had enough help and did not need me to come back. Whew, that was a close call.
An Aquarena Aquamaid performing_
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: What a great story! That must have been mortifying as a 12 year old. Did you go back to Aquarena that next summer?
BOB: No, the next summer (1963) I worked for my dad at his Mobile Oil business helping him fill up his huge gasoline truck that would transport hundreds of gallons of gasoline to the local retail gas stations.
In 1964 my father sold his business and Aquarena offered him a job as assistant manager. So that summer I went back to work at Aquarena, but this time as the boss son which wasnt that wonderful because now I had to set an example of being a good worker - no more goofing off. My job was upgraded from "Parking Lot Butt Boy" to "Inside Park Butt Boy" which included cleaning out the Submarine Theater between shows. I loved this because the submarine was air-conditioned and I got to help take tickets for the next show which allowed me to legally linger around in the shade until the next show started.
I later became a glass bottom boat driver, underwater gardener, and swam as Glurpo the Underwater Clown. Being in that 72 degree crystal clear water was like being in Heaven. I worked there until I graduated from the local university, Southwest Texas State in 1972.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Did you father continue to advance with the Park?
BOB: He did. He later became manager and then president and general manager of Aquarena Springs. He then went on to become a popular leader in the Texas tourism industry by becoming the chairman of the Discover Texas Association and chairman of the Governors Texas State Tourist Development Agency - the agency that promoted Texas to the rest of the world. He was well liked by everyone who knew him. He was warm, friendly, and had an unbelievable sense of humor - everyone loved my dad.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Did any of your other family members work at Aquarena?
BOB: My grandfather W.G. Phillips worked there in the Texana Village in the mid-1970s. His job was to hang out in the general store and visit with the public and tell the younger folks stories about the early 1900s.
Newspaper clipping showing Bob with 2 co-workers_
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Now, you ended up being related to the Aquarena founding family didnt you?
BOB: I did. My mother passed away in 1974 and my dad later married the daughter of the founder of Aquarena Springs, Shirley Rogers. The family sold the park around 1985 to a group of investors who continued operating the park as best they could until 1994 when they sold it to Texas State University (formerly Southwest Texas State University).
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: The University didnt operate the park much longer did they?
BOB: Two years later in 1996 they decided to close the park - except for the glass bottom boats. Their goal is to use the area as more of a learning experience about the importance of the springs and the endangered species that are in the lake.
Currently the park is being torn down and brought back to its original environment - turning it back into an aquatic ecosystem. The springs have never stopped flowing for thousands of years and the site is known as one of the longest continually inhabited areas in the northern hemisphere. The glass bottom boats will still operate.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Aside from your family history with the park, what were some of the other reasons you felt it was important to make this film?
BOB: I had such a wonderful experience and fond memories working at this beautiful place and I know that anyone who ever visited or worked at Aquarena Springs had the same feeling. They knew it was a magical place. I felt it was important to keep the stories and memories of Aquarena Springs alive for the millions of folks who interacted with it.
We hope youre enjoying our interview with Bob and learning about his unique history with Aquarena Springs. Join us for Part 2 where well talk about how he researched his film, compiled materials, and what you can expect to see on the DVD.
Heres a trailer for the film:
Jeff & Kelly
Weve got exciting news to share here at Vintage Roadside - well be giving an official Modernism Week 2012 presentation on February 24th, 2012! Were debuting an all-new presentation called "Mid-Century Mermaids: A History" in which we share the stories and people behind a true 1960s phenomenon - the Live Mermaid show. Tickets are now available here!
Oh, did we mention that well have a live mermaid performing in the Ace Hotel pool? Thats right, the world famous Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid will be joining us for our presentation with a one-of-a-kind performance in the hotel pool - a true Modernism Week first! So, for all of you who wished you could make it to Florida to see Marina we proudly present the opportunity to see her in the desert for the first time ever.
Some of what youll see in our all-new presentation includes vintage home movies from defunct mermaid attractions, archival photos from numerous sources not seen in decades, first-hand accounts from several former mermaids & performers, a selection of vintage mermaid tails, swimsuits and costumes (many of which were assumed to have been lost), a selection of current mermaid tails, and much more!
Well also take you back to the days of the assorted aquatic shows that paved the way for the mermaid attraction of the 1960s. Weve got Aquacades, Aqua Spectaculars, Aqua Follies, Aqua Frolics, stories of a famous movie star swimming around without his suit, and more.
Well cover the 1950s which saw the heyday of the Porthole Lounge in some of the swankiest hotels in the country. Places like the Wreck Lounge, the Mermaid Room, the Jules Verne Room, Davy Jones Locker & more.
The 1960s were the high point of the mermaid attraction. Well highlight Weeki Wachee in Florida, Aquarama in Missouri, Aquarena Springs in Texas as well as places like Marineland and even Disneyland which featured mermaids to bring in the guests. And for those looking for a little adult history well let you in on the secret of which hotel featured topless midnight mermaid performances.
Before moving outside for our live mermaid performance well wrap things up with a list of places you can still catch a mermaid show such as a 1960s motor lodge in Montana.
Weve been working for years to put all this together and cant wait to share what weve discovered...looking forward to seeing you in Palm Springs!
Dont forget to pick up your tickets here.
You can also learn more by clicking the "Events" tab at our Facebook page here.
Jeff & Kelly
Heres part 2 of our talk with pink gorilla suit-clad Marina...we promise youll see that gorilla suit before we wrap up the interview! here and "Like" her Facebook here. We guarantee never a dull moment! Well leave you with this somber video we shot with Marina one afternoon. ;-) Jeff & Kelly Vintage Roadside And, you can Like our Facebook page here (now with 40% more flavor)
Just a quick post to let everyone know one of Portlands most well-known neon signs is lit once again for the first time since 1974! The Oregon Leather Company sign in downtown Portland has long been one of our favorites and one weve always feared wed never see lit again. Thanks to NBC and their series Grimm (which films around Portland) the sign is once again lighting up the corner of Second & Couch. We cant wait to spot the sign in an upcoming episode!
We spoke with a gentleman involved with the series and he was almost as thrilled as we were to have the sign working again. He mentioned that since filming often takes up on-street parking for blocks, and even closes streets at times, it felt great to give something back to the neighborhood.
Heres how the sign has looked the last 37 years:
On the off-chance someone at NBC ever runs across this post please know how much we, as well as fans of vintage neon signs around the world, appreciate what youve done. Thanks!!
Jeff & Kelly
We recently caught up with someone weve long considered an honorary member of the Vintage Roadside family - the one and only Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid! Weve given presentations together on the history of mermaid and aquatic attractions at Tiki Oasis and The Hukilau and will be teaming up again for an all-new extravaganza for Modernism Week 2012. If youve ever wanted to see a comprehensive history of mermaid shows, along with vintage costumes used in those shows, vintage home movies, over 100 vintage images, followed by a finale that includes a live mermaid and fire eating performance, youll want to be in Palm Springs on February 24th, 2012. Heres a link to tickets for this Palm Springs first. Before we begin we would like to point out that this was the very first time weve interviewed someone wearing a bright pink gorilla costume.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Howdy Marina! So, "Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid" - some people might not know it, but thats just one part of what you do. Can you share some of the other aspects of your professional life?
MARINA: Hi Jeff & Kelly! Ah, at the risk of sounding Munchausien - here goes. Im a licensed pilot, marine biology and physiology major, Polynesian dancer, Middle Eastern dancer, fire performer, Wadaiko (Taiko) drummer, juggler, a former yoga & kickboxing instructor, vet tech, firefighter, EMT, & zookeeper (specializing in reptiles, primates, and bats) all of which have helped in my performances in one aspect or another. My performances include: fire eating, knife juggling, laying on a bed of nails, balancing on a ladder of swords, dancing on broken plates...whew! I know I missed a few other things...I still continue to train in all sorts of different disciplines to help enhance my work. As Eartha Kitt once said: "I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma."
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Wow! Were ready for a 3-day weekend to rest up after thinking about all of that. Thats amazing. Weve really enjoyed teaming up with you for several presentation on the history of aquatic shows. Could you tell us a bit about your favorite aquatic acts from the past?
MARINA: Im absolutely fascinated by Aquacades and the underwater shows that were put on during tourisms golden age. Back then, porthole underwater views were a lot more common and swim/dive shows would take place in many pools & even restaurants. Some shows even traveled. The idea of sitting and enjoying your dinner & cocktails while entertained by a beautiful swimmer as she dances underwater behind glass just floors me. Im doing everything I can to make it possible for us to relive that experience.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: We love the old Aquacade shows too. Billy Rose, Sam Howard, etc. We also really enjoy talking with the people who performed at the old attractions. Have you been lucky enough to spend any time with the performers from the past?
MARINA: Yes indeed! I sometimes have the honor of performing for them. Theyll come up and tell me what theyve done and Ill just flip to learn they were in an aquashow, or Weeki Wachee in the early years, performed underwater for an old television series, or at an attraction that no longer exists. Most seem surprised at my enthusiasm at meeting them! After so many years of it not being noticed heres a gal in a pool jumping up & down in a tail (or whatever Im wearing at the moment) to hear more...gosh...I could listen to those stories for hours!
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: We know exactly what you mean. We love hearing from them, and doing what we can to share some of their individual history. So, with that said, who are some of your inspirations?
MARINA: Easy - Newt Perry, Ricou Browning, Esther Williams, Annette Kellerman, Eartha Kitt, Bruce Lee, Freddy Mercury, Ginger Stanley Hallowell, Iris Chacon, Dame Shirley Bassey, pioneer scuba diver & aqua performer, Zale Parry...just to name a few.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Lets jump to the present and hear how that ties into a piece of history. You perform (along with your Pod) every Friday at a place with some amazing history - The Wreck Bar. Tell us a bit of the history behind The Wreck.
MARINA: The Wreck Bar is a Porthole Bar located inside the Yankee Clipper Hotel which is located in Fort Lauderdale. The $1.5 million dollar hotel opened in 1956 and was built to resemble an ocean liner. The hotel was quite popular, not only due to the Wreck Bar, but also for their Polynesian Revue (pre-Mai-Kai) and became even more popular when NBC broadcast its noon and evening news from a studio on the 7th floor of the Yankee Clipper! The Wreck Bar, which was built to look like the inside of a sunken Spanish galleon, was quite large - sporting seven windows which surrounded the back of the bar. There were tables, too, as well as a stage and aquariums to enhance the underwater experience. Entertainment ranging from live music to comedy acts would take place inside along with the aquatic shows. The location has been used in television shows and films such as "Where the Boys Are", and more recently "Analyze This".
Heres a video we shot at one of Marinas Wreck Bar performances in June 2011
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: We know The Wreck went several years without "Mermaid" shows. How were you able to convince them there was still an audience for them?
MARINA: It was not easy. I had approached them five years ago and suggested the idea after noticing that the bar was practically forgotten by the locals and - GASP! - empty!!! They werent too keen on the idea at first, though they humored me with an audition. Afterward when I wrote them and asked them how they liked it they mentioned not being interested...BUT they did say I could come and use the pool to practice anytime I wanted. Soooo...I did, every week...with full makeup and "fishtail". One month later the bar began to fill up...in two months the press started to take interest and the fan base began to develop...by month three I was "hired" by the hotel. MeduSirena Swim Shows have been going ever since.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: When you perform with your pod do you have choreographed routines?
MARINA: There are very few traditionally choreographed movements. Since its a bar I wanted to keep the shows organic - more like watching a fish in a tank rather than a "stage show". That way people who return will see something different each time. There are some set pieces, opening line-up for example, or the finale. There are skits that are rehearsed too. But, for the most part, I direct as it goes, kinda like an auctioneer deploying the MeduSirena Pod of "Aquaticats" (my title for my performers) at a steady clip. We dont have air hoses, and the pool is chlorinated (our eyes will burn out after an extended period underwater) so timing is definitely of great importance.
Photo by Rick Kilby
We hope youre enjoying our visit with Marina. Well be back mid-week with Part 2. If you cant wait you can visit Marinas website here or her Facebook page here.
Jeff & Kelly
Here comes part 2 of our interview with Go-Go Amy! So, grab your beverage of choice and lets talk about truck stops, ramen noodles, the pain of sleeping in your pasties, and why we think Amy wont lack for home cooked meals much longer.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: You do all of the booking and promotion for your tours. That seems like a gigantic task! As you tour more has it gotten easier to find venues?
GO-GO AMY: Gigantic is an understatement. When I started the show I had no idea how to book a show or run a tour so I faked it and tried to pick up everything as I went along. The first 2 years were really hard, but as our tour dates started adding up the show got better. We started gaining a good reputation with the venues and as I learned from my mistakes it did get better. At first, it was like fighting a room full of wild animals while blindfolded. Now the blindfold is off, but the wild animals are still attacking. Its still hard to string together enough shows to have a good tour but at least now I know what Im up against.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Your tours always include a mix of burlesque and sideshow. Have you always been a fan of classic sideshow entertainment?
GO-GO AMY: Ive always been a theater geek. I grew up in the NYC area and loved going to see Broadway shows with my parents. (A love thats still very much alive - were going out to see the Follies tomorrow night!) I seemed to gravitate towards the 1920-40s style shows with more of a vaudeville theme. Thats why we define our show as "Broadville" - a combo of Broadway and Vaudeville. I didnt know much about sideshow until I started performing with the Brothers Grim but I absolutely fell in love with it. Ive always loved the touring lifestyle and my want to go out on the road has as much to do with putting this show together as my love for life in front of the footlights.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: We follow you on Twitter, and being veterans of many road trips always enjoy your updates from the road. Any idea how many miles youve traveled in that RV?
GO-GO AMY: If miles were Playboy bunnies my odometer would have seen more of them than Hugh Hefner and an army of rock stars...combined! Were on our 8th national tour right now, and thanks to Johnny Coconutz (our roadie and mechanic) and some amazingly dumb luck, were still going strong. One day Id like to upgrade to a nicer bus but weve got to stick to the "Shasta" till we start pulling in some more money.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Follow-up road trip question - favorite road food?
GO-GO AMY: My tour food consists of creamy chicken-flavored ramen noodles, rice in a microwaveable bag with canned veggies and canned salmon, or carrot sticks and hummus. But my favorite on the road food is when were lucky enough to roll into a town where we have friends or family and can get a home cooked meal. Im a microwave gourmet, but I prefer to eat something that doesnt come with a "flavor" packet whenever possible.
Future Vintage Roadside dinner party guests_
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: How about truck stops? 2 hot dogs for $2.00, 55 gallon drum-sized sodas, t-shirts with eagles riding choppers - late at night its like landing on another planet! Were smitten.
GO-GO AMY: I hate to shatter your romance but I really dont like truck stops. At first all the funny touristy items are cute, but now its just annoying to get stared at because its 5:00 am and I have a head full of curlers, or having to eat truck stop food when all you want is a good salad. I do like truck stop showers as theyre usually cleaner than most motel and RV parks we stay at.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Fair enough. Back to the Pretty Things Peepshow. Youve always got incredible performers touring with you. How do you choose the cast?
GO-GO AMY: We have had a variety of performers on the show but for the last year and a half our cast has been me, Lil Miss Firefly, Miss Heather Holliday and Donny Vomit. I really really lucked out when I got those 3 to commit to the show full time. They are like the Holy Trinity of amazing! Firefly and I met when we toured on Ozzfest with The Brothers Grim Sideshow in 2007. I met Heather the following year when Bros Grim took us to Sweden for a big festival and we also did several Halloween shows together. Heather in turn introduced me to Donny who worked with her on the Coney Island Sideshow.
We have a new performer named Stoya and she does some fabulous aerial and contortion acts. She came to us through our company photographer Steve Prue. Basically anytime Steve introduces me to someone something good happens...and thats totally the case with Stoya - shes been a great addition to the show.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Youve done quite a bit of pin-up work and even offer classes through your Pretty Things Academy. What can people that attend those classes expect to learn?
GO-GO AMY: Pretty Things Academy is my national network of Pin Up Modeling classes. In the class youll learn how to do vintage hair and make up, pose like a pin-up and get a good kick in the self esteem. Youll also get a makeover and a photo shoot. Classes are now taught by me or one of my approved teachers all across the country. You can learn more about the classes on my website here.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Wed like to ask a few questions from the "always wondered" category. Say the venue is either too hot or too cold. In your line of work which one is worse to perform in?
GO-GO AMY: Too cold is always worse than too hot. The only things you have to worry about in a venue thats too hot is sweating your pasties off and smelly costumes, but with all my wardrobe experience were prepared for that. Cold is far worse. Its really hard to dance because all of your muscles tense up. No one wants to go on stage in our skimpy outfits, and pulling pasties off is a painful experience. Also, people can get really crabby when theyre cold so its harder for us to sell merchandise, and its even hard to socialize after the show because all we want to do is huddle around Heathers space heater in the dressing room. Right now were working on constructing fabulous matching 1930s style dresses with fur collar and cuffs that are fully lined and insulated (inspired by a Mae West costume were all in love with) in preparation for our upcoming winter tour. With these we wont have to wear our coats around the venues.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Pasties - Are they like roller skates in that once you take them off it still feels like youre wearing them?
GO-GO AMY: I dont wear pasties for that long. Im in 6 acts in the show so I basically stick them on, hop on stage, and then pull them off to get ready for my next act. They may have a roller skate factor for someone who doesnt do as many changes as me but theyre not on long enough for me to share in that experience. I have accidentally fallen asleep in them which I do not recommend to anyone. Pulling tape and rhinestones off your nipples while making your morning cup of tea is not as glamorous as you would think.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Strangest gift ever given to you by a fan?
GO-GO AMY: Thank you for both thinking that I have fans, and that those fans actually like me so much they give me gifts. Both of those statements are false but I needed an ego stroke today. There are people who frequent our show and who buy us drinks as well as the occasional Valentines Day card or rose, but Im not nearly famous enough to have a good story about getting a pig heart or a lock of hair or anything like that. I did have this really cool chick tattoo the picture of me that Krysztof Nemeth did for my t-shirts on her arm. Its not necessarily a gift for me but I did find it really flattering that Ill be on that girls arm for the rest of her life. Im considering letting anyone who has a go-go Amy or Pretty Things Peepshow tattoo into any/all of our shows for free just to see if I can get someone else to lend us some flesh.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: So whats up next in the world of the Pretty Things Peepshow?
GO-GO AMY: Were taking Stoya out on the road with us for the first time this December so please come out and support our fabulous new cast member. Those tour dates are up on our website right now. We are also touring January-March of 2012 and those dates will be posted as shows get confirmed. And, we have a big show at Stage on Herr in Harrisburg, PA on New Years Eve.
I also want to congratulate Miss Heather Holliday for her new gig hosting the MTV Iggy Show which can be seen online now and will start airing on TV next week!
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Where else can people get Go-Go Amy news and updates?
GO-GO AMY: You can sign up for our email list here, follow us on Twitter here, and "Like" our Facebook page here.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Thanks Amy, its been great talking with you and were looking forward to your next show in Portland!
GO-GO AMY: Youre welcome!
Jeff & Kelly
The reason we started Vintage Roadside years ago was to share and preserve the stories and history we felt were slipping away. In addition to the bygone places weve researched for our line of t-shirts, weve also met some amazing people with great stories to share - everyone from mermaids (past and present) to roadside museum owners. One thing they all have in common is that theyre doing all they can to keep a piece of history alive. Another thing they have in common is that the hours are usually long, and the pay, well, did we mention the personal drive to keep a piece of history alive? We recently caught up with one of the hardest working people weve met over the years - Go-Go Amy. Amy works tirelessly to keep traditional burlesque and sideshow alive through the touring company she founded - Pretty Things Productions, as well as working as a pin-up model and offering classes through her Pretty Things Academy. Heres some of what she shared with us...
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Some people may not know this, but the amazing costumes you wear are designed and sewn by you. Is it a lot of trial and error? We cant imagine you can head over to the fabric store and pick up a pattern for a dress that comes off in 4 pieces!
GO-GO AMY: Thats right, I do design and construct everything I wear in the show. I also make all the group costumes and Ive started making costumes for some of the other cast members as well. My background is actually in costume design. I started sewing at age 6 and I was working professionally at an off Broadway theater company by the age of 14. I went to NYU for Theatrical Design and Ive worked in theater in NYC as well as film, TV, and celebrity styling when I lived in Hollywood. When I was working I would always come up with these fantastical designs, but I never had an excuse to make them for any of the projects I was working on so burlesque became my outlet for all of the designs I had dreamed up but was never able to make. I also feel like my technical knowledge really helps the show. There are a lot of hidden snaps, zippers, and buttons that all help my dress come off in 4 (or more) pieces and that always keeps the audience in awe as they have no idea how the next part will come off.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Youve performed over 300 shows around the world. How do you come up with new routines? P.S. Were big fans of both your fire act and the Chinese Execution Blade Box - two completely different, but awesome parts of your show.
GO-GO AMY: Thank you! Those are 2 of my favorite acts as well. When I was a solo performer I just tried to put together acts that were fun to do and looked cool, but now that Im part of a major production theres a lot more to it. We all try and keep track of what the other performers are doing, what costumes theyre wearing, etc. so we dont double up on anything. In the Pretty Things Peepshow we want to make sure that every act is unique and exciting so youve got to keep tabs on everyone else to make sure what youre doing is unique. I also have to keep the set list in mind. I know my first act has to be a quick change because I only have about 90 seconds to change out of my opening corset into something fabulous so that act cant have too many pieces. I try not to do anything where I would have to take my shoes off after Fireflys glass act just in case theres a stray piece of glass left on stage. I always do my "Fire Boob" act before Heather does her fire eating act, and we never put them in the same set because we like to space out our fire acts. Some people would see this as limiting, but I like that we all care about the show as a whole as well as our individual acts - it makes for a much better show!
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Performing in such a variety of places has to be quite a challenge. We cant imagine that when youre someplace new almost every night things always go perfectly. The first time we saw you you were on a stage with a low ceiling and when you started your bullwhip routine it immediately got caught in the lighting above the stage. You took it completely in stride and had the audience laughing along with you. How do you deal with those types of situations?
GO-GO AMY: The trick to being on stage is simple. If youre having fun then the audience is having fun, so if you fu** up or if youre hit with an unexpected circumstance (like lighting equipment that you didnt encounter, even though you ran your act 4 times at sound check) you cant let it phase you and the audience will continue having a good time. And, at the end of the day that should be the most important thing - that the people who paid good money to see you feel like it was money well spent. I dont mess up that much, but when I do people remember it and how I was able to roll with it. Case in point you guys asking me this question. I can do hundreds of shows that go off without a hitch but the 1 or 2 flubs I have make the audience so happy because we have a secret together. Its like, for a second Ive stepped off stage and am a normal person just like them messing up at my job. Then they realize that my job involves a whip and a pair of high heel cowboy boots and the show goes on. Its the thrill of live theater.
We hope you enjoyed Part 1 of our interview with Go-Go Amy! Join us later this week for Part 2. Well talk about everything from road trip food to whether or not you should sleep in your pasties. In the meantime be sure and "Like" the Pretty Things Productions Facebook page located here, and for more photos, videos, and Amys upcoming schedule check out her website located here.Jeff & Kelly Vintage Roadside
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 OHaire 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 dont 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 heres 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: Its a regular resume, but showcases any mermaid work experience that Ive had in the past. My resume for the Dive Bar didnt 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. Whats 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. Its 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: Its 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 were 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 its a night that theyre 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, its 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 couldnt 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 were even now. ;-) There are always a few awkward escaping nose bubbles, and Ive 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, its a really modern twist. We dont have a set soundtrack or routine that we have to perform while were 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. Its worth coming again and again, youll always see something new.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: You guys even have a merman dont 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. Shes 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. Were hoping he can come out to the Dive at some point and put on a few special shows with us. Hes so enthusiastic and dedicated to what he does; its been great working with him.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Were 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. Im 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: Youre welcome!
If you find yourself in Sacramento and are looking for something unique - check out the Dive Bar at 1016 K Street! Theyre open 7 days a week from 4:00 pm - 3:00 am.
If youd like to see some of the artwork Rachel creates when not performing youll find her website here.
Jeff & Kelly
Were thrilled to announce a new addition to the Vintage Roadside family of vintage fiberglass mascots - Harbie the Seal! We have quite an affinity for fiberglass giants who began their careers in the 1960s as the mascots of places like A&W, Texaco, Yogis Fried Chicken, Harbor Gasoline, Uniroyal Tire Stores, and the miniature golf course down the street. As many of these finished up their careers they were either re-worked to advertise something different, or in many cases sadly destroyed due to their size. We like to think of our collection as a "retirement home" for these one-time icons of advertising. The Harbie the Seal statues once greeted customers outside of select Harbor Gasoline stations in the southern California area. In his outstretched hand (flipper) he held a ships lantern. These Harbies had spent the last 30+ years living quietly in a canyon above Beverly Hills, California and cared for by a wonderful couple Mac & Natalie.
Beverly Hills Harbies_After months of planning to bring them to their new home the entire road trip "adoption" process ended up happening in just 53 hours! (Keep in mind they were located roughly 1100 miles away.) Heres a rough timeline of how it all fell into place: SUNDAY - We get confirmation the pickup we need for the trip is available! MONDAY AFTERNOON - Trip called off due to unrelated issue. Bummer... MONDAY EVENING - Trip back on! Elation... TUESDAY 1:00 PM - We leave Portland, OR for Beverly Hills, CA. Random stops for old neon signs and at truck stops for both food & amusing gift shop ideas make up a large portion of the drive. WEDNESDAY 11:00 AM - We arrive in Beverly Hills, CA. Traffic resembles the opening to the movie Office Space and the temperature is already nearing 100 degrees. WEDNESDAY 11:15 AM - We hike up the steep road to the Harbies. We leave the truck at the base of the road as it resembles something seen on Ice Road Truckers - Deadliest Roads. We begin digging the Harbies out of the hillside. Temperature now feels close to 147 degrees. We receive occasional advice, questions, and fond musings on the Harbies from neighbors. WEDNESDAY 1:00 PM - We have successfully and safely extracted the Harbies and carried them down the hill to the truck. We load them in the truck and drive down the street to lay in the shade of a local park to let the effects of heat exhaustion fade to a more manageable level. We count ourselves lucky we arent rousted by security as we look like we were dunked in a tank of 12 types of dirt and sweat. Amazingly the water fountain is actually chilled - thumbs up for Beverly Hills Parks! WEDNESDAY 1:30 PM - We need to make a non-Harbie related meeting. We drive the giant truck with two smiling seals through Bel Air and Hollywood. Pointing ensues. WEDNESDAY 4:00 PM - We leave the area headed for I-5 north. Amazingly traffic has not improved in the past 5 hours.
That really was 2 giant seals you just passed on I-5_
WEDNESDAY 10:30 PM - We stop to eat at a Dennys somewhere along the way. Jeremy proceeds to eat a sandwich that started life as a grilled cheese and is then stuffed with macaroni & cheese as well as a hamburger patty...you cant make this stuff up.
THURSDAY 4:00 AM - After this many hours awake we begin to realize just how Hunter S. Thompson wrote those books. We stop at a rest area to sleep for 2 hours. We awake to an entire tour group surrounding the pickup gleefully posing with the Harbies for photos. In a sleep-deprived state of mind Jeremy makes the mistake of exiting the truck into the mass of people. I briefly consider sacrificing him and quickly driving away.
THURSDAY 7:00 AM - 1:00 PM - We come up with the concept for an all-new event...Trucker Oasis! We spend hours discussing every detail of a 3-day event that will celebrate and honor everything related to being a trucker as well as those that embrace the trucker lifestyle. Also at this point weve stopped counting the number of people pointing as they pass us. Looks of open-mouthed puzzlement have quickly become our favorite reaction.
THURSDAY 4:00 PM - We arrive back where we began our road trip. Clear thinking will return in approximately 36 hours.
Huge thanks to our friend Jeremy for making the trip! Without his help this whole crazy trip wouldnt have been possible!_
To all you you that passed us along the way and gave a wave, a thumbs-up, or snapped a photo or two wed like to say thanks! Its kind of a boring drive up I-5, so hopefully we made your drive a little more memorable.
And, if you know of a fiberglass mascot needing a new home let us know! Were always ready to load up the truck and head out. Weve been saving a spot for a Muffler Man right over there by Papa Burger. :-)
Jeff & Kelly
P.S. You can see more photos from our trip at our Facebook page located here.
One of our favorite projects here at Vintage Roadside is having the honor of designing the t-shirt for Jake the Alligator Mans Birthday Party each summer. For those of you not familiar with Jake, hes one of the star attractions at Marshs Free Museum in Long Beach, Washington. Marshs, open since 1935, is a true piece of roadside history and one of our must-see places. Everything from taxidermy to vintage penny arcade games as well as plenty of souvenirs to take home. Huge thanks to Wendy and the Long Beach Merchants Association for throwing one of the best parties of the year! To encourage you to start making plans for 2012 here are 20 random photos from the celebration. _All photos copyright Vintage Roadside._
Free birthday cake at Marshs provided by the Cottage Bakery.
Did we mention the hot rod show?
The Bride of Jake Contest in full swing.
A parade breaks out as the cake travels from the bakery to Marshs.
DragStrip Riot - always a crowd-pleaser!
Jake enjoys an annual bachelor party.
Our mascot Stinky also enjoyed the bachelor party!
Party games for the kids!
The fearless leader of the event Wendy.
Each year William of My Dementia creates an amazing trophy to be given as "Jakes Choice" at the hot rod show.
Lobster Girl makes her case as a potential Bride of Jake.
Eerie Lee Shivers & Friends say "Welcome!"
Derek of Cherry Redd proudly accepts the 2011 Jakes Choice Award.
Jakes amazing cake from the Cottage Bakery.
2011 Bridesmaid of Jake - Katy Kosmic!
2011 Bride of Jake - Monica Midnight!
Nothing goes with a summer party like a little Elvis. The Graceland Five were simply amazing.
Mrs. Roadside with the 2011 Bride & Bridesmaid.
Hot rods & pin-ups.
Jake & Stinky hope to see you there next year!
Jeff & Kelly
Some of you may know of our devotion to telling the story of the Aquamaids and Aqualads of Missouris Aquarama - the 1960s underwater show once located at the Lake of the Ozarks. What you might not know is that we also have a huge appreciation for all of the other underwater attractions that were once located across the country. From the porthole bars of Miami to the Submarine Theater of Aquarena Springs - we love them all! Were thrilled to present to you our first-ever interview with a former Weeki Wachee mermaid. So grab a seat next to the glass and get ready to meet Jo.
Photo courtesy of Jo_
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Hi Jo! Lets start with how old you were when you started at Weeki Wachee.
JO: I was 18 when I started a dream job as I call it! After all how many people can say that they have, or have had, a job that they loved to get up and go to and get paid to do it? I had the best boss, Genie Y. and the best trainer Susie S. ever, and may I say two of the most stunningly beautiful women Ive ever seen. They were like sisters to me, I loved working with all of my mermaid sisters!!
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Any type of training people might not expect?
JO: Most of the time we would start our days off at the ballet bar for about 45 minutes to an hour.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: What was your performance schedule like?
JO: Our shows were as long as they are nowadays - about 45 minutes each, and we would do between 3 to 4 shows a day. Every Saturday night we had a deep dive, that was a special show as it looked totally different at night! I for one was not very fond of doing that show...LOL! The big hole was pretty scary at night and I always wondered what was beyond what we could see! Now I know its one of the biggest cave systems in the US. Barbara W., a former mermaid has actually been a ways into the cave - that is so awesome!
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: How large was the cast when you performed there in 1967 and 1968?
JO: It depended on the show and how many characters were in it. Id also say there were at least 3 extra people in the water in case something went wrong with a hose or prop, etc. We had 2 amazing Water Boys (thats what they were called when I was swimming at Weeki Wachee) Allen S. and Steve K.
Photo courtesy of Jo_
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Did you have a favorite routine or part you got to perform?
JO: Now that is a big question to answer! I loved all of the parts, each and every one was so much fun to do. If I had to pick one from the Wizard of Oz routine I guess I would pick the Cowardly Lion. And in the Underwater Dreams Girls routine Id say the Hula Girl.
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Those sound wonderful! Heres another tough one - which costume did you like better?
JO: The Cowardly Lion costume was second only to the mermaid tail of course! LOL!
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Did you have any "famous" visitors to the show?
JO: The highlight of my time at Weeki Wachee was meeting Miss Universe 1967 Sylvia Hitchcock. She was so pretty and sweet and she even swam a show with us! She gave me an autographed photo of herself in a bathing suit with her crown on. I still have the photo!
Photo courtesy of Jo_
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Weve heard stories from some of the Aquarama cast that things didnt always go as planned with the air hoses. Anything odd ever happen with yours?
JO: We had 3 air hoses in the air tube between the Tube Room and the springs under the theater. I jump in, get to the first hose and take a breath, slowly exhale on the way to the next hose, get to it, try to turn it on - cant! Swim to the next hose - out of air! Cant turn that one on either - almost drowned my fool self! Lesson learned, never exhale all of your air!! Someone sure caught it after the show for tightening the valves too tight though!
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Wow! No wonder you still remember that. Any brushes with the local wildlife?
JO: I once held up the show because of a snake in the Tube Room. They had to send someone down to get rid of it. I was up on the cabinet and was not coming down! I hate snakes...well to tell the truth Im scared of them. My husband says theyre more scared of me than I am of them and I say no way!
Some months later Barnacle Bill the Catfish made me late for a show. He met me between the first and second air hose in the tube and grabbed my tuxedo that I had draped over my arm. We had a tug of war going on for a while! He was the biggest catfish I had ever seen in my life but he wasnt getting my tux - I had to go do the "Puttin on the Ritz" routine in it!
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Did you get to meet the public after your performances?
JO: Yes I did, and that was so much fun. Even the grownups acted like kids - I loved it!
Photo courtesy of Jo_
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: We love the photo of you next to the wagon wheel. Was that a popular spot for photos?
JO: Only to the photographer Claude - he used it quite often. We had another photographer named Sparky who just turned 90 this year. He was at Weeki Wachee on his birthday and he looked great! He remembers lots of things about working there too...amazing man and a sweet person!
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: For some people the image they see when they think of Weeki Wachee is famous Adagio pose. It looks pretty effortless, any way it could go wrong?
JO: The most embarrassing thing that happened to me was at the end of one of the shows myself and another mermaid were supposed to do the Adagio. I was the top half and she was the bottom half. I waited for the music cue, swam out and took my place, turned upside down and slowly began rising to the top of the water. The only problem - no bottom half! I still have no idea where my bottom half was! LOL! I got chewed out for that one. I learned another lesson - dont go anywhere without your bottom!!
Adagio with top and bottom :-)_
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Do you keep in touch with any of your former cast-mates?
JO: Yes I do. And when I go to Florida I try to arrange it so I can go to Weeki Wachee to see everyone and watch the shows. Love seeing them and catching up on what theyre doing and getting a few photos too. Facebook is also a great way to keep in touch. Thats even how I met you guys! :-)
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: The Aquamaids and Aqualads from Aquarama have told us how much fun it is to tell people they once performed in a mermaid show. Whats the reaction like when you tell people youre a former Weeki Wachee mermaid?
JO: Its great! One of my friends (Marty) was with me as I was mermaid hunting and she told the lady at the store I was a former mermaid. The lady looked at her like she was crazy! When I found my mermaid and took it to the counter to pay for it I said this one was going on my shelf with the others next to the photo of me in my mermaid tail. The lady said "OMG, I thought she was kidding!" How do you breath? Then she wanted to hear the whole story. :-) Most of all I get the biggest kick out of hearing people try to pronounce Weeki Wachee! Lol!
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: We know that the "Formers" keep quite active and even perform on a regular basis. Is there a way to keep up with whats going on?
JO: Yes! We have an organization that you can join called Friend of Weeki Wachee Springs. There are some great benefits if you join - admission to annual member celebrations, a newsletter, invitations to members-only events and more. The organization helps raise money to support the park and is only $15 to join or $25 for a family.
Photo courtesy of Jo_
VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Thank you so much Jo! It was an honor to share a bit of your mermaid history. Any final thoughts?
JO: I would like to say that we had many talented people like Bonnie G. (who had a new show every year - now thats devotion) that worked at Weeki Wachee when I was there. I want to thank everyone that I worked with for making it the best and most memorable experience of my life! I still dream of swimming in the spring in my tail and as we say "Once a mermaid, always a mermaid!"
If youve got a question youd like to ask Jo feel free to post it over on the Vintage Roadside Facebook page located here. Jo swims by now and then and we know shed love to hear from you.
Jeff & Kelly
The Driven Dead C.C. hosted their 4th Annual Rose City Round-Up earlier this month and once again it was fantastic to see the show the show continue to grow! In addition to the incredible assortment of cars, pickups, motorcycles, bicycles, and live bands, the Driven Dead also donate all proceeds to a charity each year - this year was the Oregon Food Bank. So, for the suggested donation of 2 non-perishable food items and a modest $5.00 fee for parking, you get up to 14 solid hours of entertainment. For those of you that missed the show this year here are 20 random photos to get you ready for 2012. Vintage Roadside
Greetings from the Sunshine State! Ft. Lauderdale to be more exact. Home to not only the world-famous Mai-Kai, but also the Wreck Bar - which features one of the last remaining live underwater shows - weve long had Ft. Lauderdale on our list of "really want to see" places. For years weve also wanted to attend the Hukilau, which when you think about it, gives you the chance to do and see all of those things and more.Given the proper frame of mind you realize it would be silly to not go. We were honored to be asked to present our Aquarama symposium at the Hukilau this year which added one more thing to the overflowing "Plus" column for us. Heres a quick list of just some of the things you can expect at the Hukilau: Friendly people, great live music, room crawls, a visit or two to the Mai-Kai, a show by Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid and her Pod at the Wreck Bar,new friends, wonderful symposiums, and possibly a cocktail or two. Here we go...
A close-up of the amazing artwork created for our Aquarama symposium by artist Nicholas Dewey._Thursday night kicked off at the Bahia Cabana with performances by the Intoxicators! and the Tikiyaki Orchestra along with special guest Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid. After seeing the two team up at Tiki Oasis last summer we couldnt wait. The evening went late into the night with the Master Mixologist Challenge anda few different room parties.
Marina demonstrates how she earned her stage name._
Fridays line-up had something for everyone - amazing vendors, a Meet & Greet with Jeff "Beachbum" Berry, and live music and dancing from 7:00 pm - 2:00 am in the hotel ballroom. 6:30 pm was the big one for us - Marina and her Pod performing at the Wreck Bar. A short walk up the street was all that was needed to slip back in time 50 years.
The former Yankee Clipper Hotel - now known as the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel_
Marina appears both in the window of the Wreck Bar and the viewfinder of a camera._
An upside down greeting of the crowd._
_We shot this video to give you an idea of what a Friday night at the Wreck Bar is like._
After the show everyone has a chance to have their photo taken with the Wreck Bar performers. _
Between the Wreck Bar and the Bahia Mar is this other great bit of Florida history - The Jungle Queen Riverboat._Saturday was our big day. We were excited to share the history of the Aquarama with a new group of people and had planned a few surprises. Thanks again to Marc, we had for the first time several of the original Aquarama costumes to share with the audience including bathing suits and mermaid tails. We also shared home movie footage from 1965 showing such Florida landmarks as Cypress Gardens, Goofy Golf and a rare look at the Mai-Kai. It was a pleasure to end our presentation with Marina who took questions from the audience and also shared a bit of her knowledge and deep appreciation for underwater performance past and present.
Another look at the hand-tinted artwork created for our syposium._We wanted to say thanks again to everyone that came to our presentation - we hope you enjoyed it. It really was our pleasure to share the story & history with you. Also a special thanks to Lewis, Chris, Marina, and Christie, who made it all possible behind the scene!
Mrs. Roadside & Marina model Marinas famous red mermaid tail - which thanks to Marina is now a part of the Vintage Roadside archives. We look forward to sharing this great piece of history!_Saturdays heavyweight event was the dinner show at the Mai-Kai. Opened in 1956, and legendary for its decor, gardens, and cocktail selection, we couldnt wait to see it for ourselves. Its almost impossible to describe due to the sheer amount of...well, everything. Throw in the largest crowd of the year and it becomes quite an experience. Needless to say, if you enjoy tiki & Polynesian history and you ever have the chance to visit its well worth it. Here are a few photos we shot that night.
The front of the Mai-Kai. Fountains + lights + tropical foliage + fire = perfection._
One of the countless carvings in the gardens._
More carvings along with a variety of bamboo make a great screen._
A couple enjoying the ambience of the Mai-Kai gardens._
_For those fans of Stinky here he is posing with a few of the Hukilau left-overs at the registration booth._
If you made it to the Hukilau wed love to hear your stories and see your photos. Please feel free to share on our Facebook page located here!
Wed like to finish off this post with a few thank yous to some of the people that made our first trip to the Hukilau so incredible. First a huge thanks to Christie for inviting us to join the event, to Marina for being a part of the Vintage Roadside family, Lewis & Chris for saving the day on Saturday morning, all the Hukilau staff & volunteers for keeping things rolling, Rick & Julie for making the drive down, the staff of the Mai-Kai for amazing service in the midst of the crush, Marc & Ann, all the Aquamaids & Aqualads, and lastly to those of you we finally got to meet in "real life" - lets do it again soon!
Jeff & KellyVintage Roadside
Welcome back for Part 2 of our interview with former Aquarama Aquamaid Claudia. In Part 2 well learn how to put on a mermaid tail, what it was like to be one of the Aquarama "Alley Cats", and even an Aquarama theme song. VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Did the second season offer any new roles for you? CLAUDIA: After the first year I got to do the opening mermaid routine. We would position ourselves in the large clam shells (sometimes with those pesky fish as shell mates) and then use our air hoses to help us open our shells as the bubble curtain ended and the lights came up. We would do "dolphins," a smooth circle movement, and then go from window to window to smile and wave to the audience. We didnt have to wear a swim mask and I loved the leisurely free swim time just moving to the music. VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Weve seen photos of the mermaid tails and they looked pretty incredible. CLAUDIA: The mermaid tail was my favorite because it was made of shimmering silver lame and was decorated with green sequins. VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Was the tail hard to put on? CLAUDIA: It was difficult to put on because you had to place your feet in flippers that were in the bottom of the tail and make sure the flippers were aligned correctly, and then you had to zip the tail up the side. It fit perfectly to your body when it was done. You moved freely and easily in the water, but it was heavy and difficult to get out of the water when the number was over. VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Did the routines become more complex over the years you performed? CLAUDIA: Yes they did. The first year we worked on controlling our breathing, learning the routines, maneuvering in our costumes, and finding our way in the darkened pool between acts. After we mastered those basics, we worked on embellishing the routines and increasing the pace. The later routines were more involved and athletic. In the first year we wore masks for most of the numbers, but as time went on we challenged ourselves to see how many routines we could do without the masks.VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Weve got a great photo of the cast in their "Alley Cat" costumes. Do you remember that routine? CLAUDIA: Oh yes! "Alley Cat" was a popular song, and it had a great rhythm with which to swim. Our costumes involved a black and white swim suit with a yarn tail attached. We also wore lovely black gloves with teardrop shaped rhinestones for fingernails. We would hold the tails and wave them to the music and scratch the water with our claws. That was such fun! VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Did you battle the dreaded "green" hair that affected much of the cast? CLAUDIA: I was the only redhead in the cast so my hair didnt turn green, but the daily contact with the water really dried my hair. I remember doing hot oil treatments each week to try (not too successfully) to minimize the frizz. VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Do you have any photos or souvenirs from your Aquarama days? CLAUDIA: I do have some of those tucked away. In hindsight I wish I had taken some casual snapshots of the cast. We became good friends, as well as co-workers. We went boating, skiing, shopping, dancing, and would you believe, even swimming together. We had slumber parties and held various gatherings in our homes. At one time we even made up a song about ourselves. It went like this: We are the Aquamaids! We wear our hair in braids. We wear our dungarees, Way up above our knees. But when our show is here, Then you will give a cheer. For we are really great, We start our show at eight! VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Have you kept in touch with any of your former cast-mates? CLAUDIA: I exchanged Christmas cards with Marc, but had lost contact with the others. Thanks to the connections you have provided, I have started a wonderful email correspondence with Dian. Dian and I were in the same graduating class at School of the Osage and we also attended Drury College in Springfield, Missouri. We have enjoyed reminiscing about our shared memories of growing up at the Lake of the Ozarks. VINTAGE ROADSIDE: Not many people can say they worked as a mermaid. Whats the reaction from people like when they learn you once did? CLAUDIA: At conferences or meetings they often ask you to tell the group something about yourself that might surprise them. I always say that I was a mermaid in a former life. They usually laugh until I explain, and then they become fascinated when they learn I swam underwater and had a mermaid tail. Wed like to say thanks again to Claudia for sharing some of her history with us! Jeff & Kelly Vintage Roadside
Claudia at far left (photo provided by Marc)_