So no mermaid blog would be complete without a whole lot of talk about Coney Island and the annual Mermaid Parade, which takes place every June around the birthday of yours truly – otherwise known as the summer solstice – and involves many many many people dressed up in paint and glitter and shells and tails and taking to the boardwalk in whole-hearted Mardis Gras-style mermaid celebration. There’s always a merman and mermaid King and Queen; last year these were Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson, no less, who dressed in robes and crowns and were pushed along in an umbrella-covered chariot with their dog.
Another royal sort who’s been in the parade for twenty straight years and counting is the fabulous Bambi the Mermaid, Queen of Coney Island, who herself has been mermaid Queen and who’s been performing for years in all manner of aquatic- and otherwise-themed Coney Island burlesque, which she also organizes and produces. Bambi is all kinds of crazy and fun and wonderfully exuberant, which is pretty much mandatory if you’re going to be named after a white-tailed deer.
Here is our Q and A:
When did you first realize you were a mermaid?
I first “realized” I was a mermaid when I was around ten years old. My parents divorced and my father moved to Miami. There I discovered my real love of the ocean (and of course swimming pools) in a place that seemed so tropical and too good to be true.
Can you tell me about your relationship to Coney Island? How long have you been performing as a mermaid (and other creatures) there, and how long have you been participating in the Mermaid Parade?
I had grown up in the Midwest and was obsessed with carnivals and country fairs prior to discovering Florida and Weeki Wachee, then all my dreams came together at Coney Island. I’d always had a kind of Deja vu feeling about Coney and when I found out about the mermaid parade I went straight there and focused my world around it.
I’ve attended the last twenty straight years of the parade, and actually been in the parade eighteen straight years. I was the official Queen of the parade in, let’s see, 2005 I think it was. I began performing at the sideshow in 1995 as a sideshow artist: snake charming mermaid, geeking mermaid (eating live goldfish- yikes), and walking on broken glass in my metaphorical “new feet” etc. That evolved into a more glamorous existence as Bambi the Mermaid, QUEEN OF CONEY ISLAND, my o-fish-al burlesque title as producer of Burlesque at the Beach, NYC’s oldest and longest running burlesque show in the neo burlesque revival. That opened up the opportunity for me to create my dream costumes for burlesque acts as a crab, lobster, giant clam, sea snail, siamese fighting fish, etc.
What is the best thing about being a mermaid?
The best part of being a mermaid is the absolute freedom!! There are no rules, no boundaries, no expectations; mermaids can basically do anything they want! No one ever judges a mermaid!
How do you explain the allure of mermaids to humans?
Mermaids to me are the perfect archetype for any girl. They are powerful, self aware, self sufficient, confident, exuberant, curious, unafraid, loving, creative and full of joy! Mermaids are proud to be beautiful or rather ugly, mermaids never worry about their weight or growing old or become bogged down by insecurities that can plague other female icons.
How did you get so close to the Weeki Wachee mermaids, anyway – and how do they inspire you (if they do)?
As far as Weeki, I went there as a child and really succumbed to the magic!! I had a big mermaid wedding, did you see that on my website? I got married in shells and a tail and had pink mermaid bridesmaids, I even went to Atlantis for my honeymoon! Yes I worship the Weeki girls, it’s really hard to swim their show every day! I’ve become kind of lazy about swimming, I really like working as a “dry” mermaid, I work at a lot of parties where they mainly want to take photos of me and serve me cocktails! Being a professional mermaid has turned out to be a dream job!
I understand you are in a documentary called Mermaids of New York. Is New York really full of mermaids?
New York has more mermaids than you might imagine! On the high holy day , the summer solstice, when they all gather at the parade, it’s a proud time for merfolk! We really are so exciting and colorful and vibrant and ALIVE!! I feel a little sorry for the people on the outside looking in, people will say “I wish I had the nerve to wear that” or some such thing… and they just don’t seem to realize the magic is within them, too!
What advice do you have for aspiring mermaids?
Mermaiding is really a state of mind. a philosophy anyone can adopt!! Its akin to a religion, a way of seeing and interacting with the world that’s positive and amazing! Am I preaching?
What about mermen?
As far as mermen go I’m ashamed to admit I’m a bit sexist! I feel like I really identify with the archetype fairy tail story of finding true love on land, with a burly pirate or charming sailor. Maybe opposites attract.. the mermen I’ve met seem to want to be mermaids, if you know what I mean!!! I certainly care about them and feel for them, but I am completely seduced by the GODDESS nature of mermaidism and it seems a female attribute to me most by nature.