Archive | February, 2012

MERMAIDS magazine cover

16 Feb

Please admire the cover of Mermaids special-issue annual magazine—edited by yours truly, out March 30 from the publisher of Faerie Magazine, and chock full (well over 200 pages) of gorgeous mermaidliness!

It will be available on the Faerie Magazine website RIGHT HERE, as well as in Barnes & Noble and indie bookstores across the country. Not to mention in the depths of your own heart.

More info to come!

Valentine’s Day Mermaid

15 Feb

So yesterday my good friend Mr. Eric Schnall lovingly snapped the following photo as he meandered along 59th Street in Manhattan with his friend Terry and sent it to me. Can you imagine a more thoughtful Valentine? The driver pictured here then hopped out of the truck and handed Eric a flyer, which he shall some day give to me. SWOON!

It really makes you want to pawn something, doesn’t it?

In the meantime, Eric, in addition to being a very famous theater person and a brilliant, soon-to-be-published novelist, also runs this crazy Facebook page dedicated to FRUITY CHEWY CANDY. It started as an obscene act of procrastination on Eric’s part but now has about a zillion rabid fans.

Here is a gorgeous (and fruity and chewy) Valentine’s Day message from said page:

OH. AND Eric has promised to do some kind of homage to the fruit chewy mermaid, pictured below, so you should obviously go like his page and watch for it, or else forever wonder what might have been.

Jessica Yambao’s Paper Doll Mermaids

6 Feb

I got an email the other day from one Ms. Jessica Yambao pointing me to her Etsy shop, Rock Paper Tekla, where she sells the most adorable paper dolls, many of which happen to be mermaids. And highly fashionable ones at that. I mean, just look at these things:

I was of course immediately charmed and inspired to ask her the following exceedingly penetrating questions. Then I wondered what very lucky person in my life might deserve a paper doll mermaid of their own and after much contemplation came upon what should have been the obvious answer: me.

Here is the aforementioned Q and A.

So why mermaid paper dolls?
Paper dolls were a childhood love of mine. I still have my handmade collection of paper dolls from my younger years. None of them were mermaids, though, just ordinary humans. Evolution has been kind and now my paper dolls have become mermaids. :-)

I thought it would be fun to make a paper doll that wasn’t your run-of-the-mill paper doll. Since I am especially fond of mermaid fantasy I decided to to make my own line of mermaid paper dolls. In addition, I didn’t want my mermaids to be the run-of-the-mill mermaids. As mercurial creatures, I’d like to believe mermaids would hate to be seen wearing the same thing over and over. Wearing the the shells over the breasts thing is such a mermaid fashion faux pas! If fashion exists on land why not in the ocean? When creating my mermaid dolls, I dream of an ocean filled with these sea loving ladies wearing the latest in Underwater Fashion.

So when did you start making them?
I started making my mermaid paper dolls in 2008. I originally made them as gifts to young daughters of family and friends. I wanted them to have the experience of playing with a real handmade doll that wasn’t plastic and commercial. Since I really enjoyed making the paper dolls, I decided to try my luck with selling them. In 2009 I created my Etsy shop “Rock Paper Tekla.” My shop’s name is an homage to my parents and my love of paper crafts. “Rock” is my mom’s nickname for my dad and “Tekla” is my dad’s nickname for my mom. My paper dolls are also available at Make Good, a local San Diego brick-and-mortar art consignment shop.

It’s interesting to note that buyers of my mermaid dolls are largely adults. I find it wonderful to know that the charm of paper dolls and perhaps the lore of mermaids still linger deeply in the hearts and imagination of grown-ups as well as children.

I do need to make a shout out to Kimberly Crick and her amazing rubber stamps. Her rubber stamps provided me with that inspirational tool to help begin this handmade paper-doll adventure.

Have you always been a fan of mermaids?
I’ve always been fascinated with mermaids. I am a big fan of mythology and fantasy in general. As a child I was obsessed with Greek & Roman Mythology and the Arthurian Folklore of Excalibur. I remember watching the movie Excalibur as a young girl and the scene with the Lady of the Lake handing Arthur the sword totally blew my mind. I wanted to know all about the Lady of the Lake… I probably wanted to be the Lady of the Lake.

What is their appeal, for you?
I am forever drawn to the ocean. I find the ocean mesmerizing, dangerous, and calming at the same time. Maybe it’s the vast unknown that is attractive. So to me, mermaids embody the ocean and all its mystery, danger, and beauty. There’s something about mermaids that is devastatingly romantic and elusive.

Are you yourself a mermaid?
It’s fun to imagine myself as one. My husband, Carlos, always tells me that I’m wise and beautiful, a woman full of mysteries and surprises, so perhaps I am. Although I could use a little help on the swimming part. ;-)

Do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?
My mom told me about an exchange between a friend of hers and his young son. The boy loved to play dolls and play dress up. The father was unsure and conflicted about his son’s sexual identity. One day the father took his young son to the beach. In an attempt to find out if his son was gay, the father playfully threw his son into the water and each time asked, “Are you a boy or a girl?” After several dunks into the water, the boy proudly and sweetly answered, “I’m a Mermaid.”

So my advice is always be true to yourself and never give in to conformity. The beauty of life should be enjoyed without limits.

Karen Kay’s Mermaids & Mythology

2 Feb

So Karen Kay is the charming, sparkling publisher of the UK’s FAE magazine, which has been around since 2007, and the new Mermaids & Mythology, which debuted this past September and even included an article by yours truly, so is obviously very excellent. The magazine’s second issue came out in December and Karen’s busy at work on the third as we speak. In fact, both FAE and Mermaids & Mythology are quarterly magazines, so Karen impressively yet somewhat suspiciously puts out eight magazines a year, chock full of magic and gorgeousness.

Look:

And here is Karen herself, in full mermaid glory:

I know, she is obviously being aided in her endeavors by otherworldly forces. In an attempt to get to the bottom of it all, I ask her many gorgeous and penetrating questions below.

So why Mermaids & Mythology?

FAE magazine with Mermaid Melissa on the cover

Mermaids & Mythology magazine was created out of my love for all things mer. As you may or may not know, I have already been running FAE magazine since 2007, and even in the first issue of FAE I ran a story on mermaids. As the years went on, more and more mers started to appear in FAE! In issue 14 back in spring 2011 we featured the wonderful Mermaid Melissa, and this edition completely sold out faster than ever! All of these factors helped me to decide that the mermaids ought to have their own magazine, and so Mermaids & Mythology was born. My interest in mythology has always been present, so it seemed like an obvious choice to join the two themes together.

What inspired you to start a whole magazine about mermaids?
I did lots of research and noticed that there were no other regular printed publications for adults about mermaids, so I felt I wanted to put something ‘out there’ and see if people liked it. I only do things that I am passionate about, and putting a magazine together is time consuming, but when you love the subject matter as much as I do, it feels more like play than work! Basically I saw a need and I created a magazine to fulfill that need!

Have you always been interested in mermaids? If so, why? What is the appeal to you?
My interest in mermaids, as far as I can recall, started when I first moved to Cornwall UK back in the mid to late 1980’s. I suppose it makes sense, seeing as Cornwall is completely surrounded by the sea. The strangest thing happened to me when I first moved here from London—I found myself sketching mermaids every day. I do not see myself as an artist, in fact quite the opposite, but I literally spent weeks if not months drawing all types of mermaids. I remember I used black ink and a silver pen, and carefully drew each scale on the mermaids’ tails! I drew lots of warrior mermaids, powerful strong female imagery. Unfortunately I no longer have those drawings now, but I might try to recreate some of them one day, although I know they will never be the same as the originals.

I love mermaids because they’re free, there is a romantic appeal for me too, I like the idea of sailors and pirates falling in love with these beautiful sea-beings. I’m not a great swimmer myself, but I always have to be near the sea, and I feel happiest when sat near the sea shore. I also started to grow my hair long when I first moved to Cornwall, and now I can almost sit on it! People often comment on how my hair reminds them of mermaid hair, this makes me very happy.

I understand you do events as well. Do you have any mermaid events in the works?
Yes, I organise events, and have done so for many years, since 2004 officially. I did my first mermaid event last year, it was a Mermaids and Pirates Ball, and it was incorporated into the 3 Wishes Faery Fest, a regular annual festival that I do in Cornwall every year. I do plan to do more mermaid inspired events, but I like things to be balanced, for men and women, so there will always be pirates to accompany the mermaids! It makes things more fun for everyone I feel.

What are your plans for the magazine? What can readers expect in upcoming issues?
The beauty of working with mermaids is that things just seem to flow! I love it, and it fits in with the way I like to work and play. I just allow the ideas to filter through and then manifest on the pages. There is certainly lots of ‘mermaid magic’ involved. So I just plan to literally ‘go with the mer flow’ and let everything unfold. Readers can expect heart-felt content, imagery, stories and exclusive photo shoots, and interviews with active mermaids. We have regular contributors and columnists including Hannah Fraser, Melissa Mermaid, Doreen Virtue and Mermaid Shelly, and we also publish photos of unknown mermaids wearing their tails too.

You call Mermaids & Mythology a “lifestyle” magazine. How would you describe the mermaid lifestyle?
I like to emphasis that Mermaids & Mythology is a lifestyle publication, because it is so much more than just an ‘art’ magazine. For me, ‘lifestyle’ implies a way of life, a way of living, a way of being. Many mermaids, well-known, and not so well-known, are actually living their dreams and their mer-selves are integrated into their everyday lives. Hence, ‘mermaid lifestyle magazine’. It’s not just about wearing a tail and looking pretty in a pool or in the sea, there is so much more too it. There are several ‘working’ mermaids bringing awareness to the world at large, and I feel it is important to let people know about this. I am also an environmentalist, so I like to bring attention and awareness (without being too preachy) to ways that we can help keep the oceans clean and free from pollution. It’s also down to the simplest of things like changing our washing liquids, and toilet cleaners, as ultimately everything ends up in the sea! There’s a great article by Mermaid Shelly about this in issue 2.

Have you been surprised at all by the number of mermaids out there? And/or by the reaction to Mermaids & Mythology?
As a mer fan I always knew there were a lot of mermaids in the world, what did surprise me though was the amount of mermaids in Europe and the UK! I was also surprised by the public’s reaction to the magazine, it has been heart warming. Perhaps the fact that I launched the first issue at the same as as Lady Gaga put on a tail in her video, and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was out, could have had something to do with the new surge of interest in all things mer, and then Mermaids and Mythology magically appeared on shelves of stores all over the world—the reaction was good, yes. :-)

Do you think the interest in mermaids right now is as strong (or stronger) in the UK as in the US?
I think there will always be more interest in mermaids in the US, purely because on a practical level the climate is more suitable to swimming in the sea in the US than in the UK. However, the interest in mermaids in the UK is very strong at the moment, and when the magazine launched in the UK high streets, I received many calls and emails from people saying how much they loved mermaids and how they could not believe their eyes when they saw Mermaids & Mythology magazine on the shelves.

Can you tell us a little more about FAE and how that came about?

FAE magazine with the lovely Traci Hines on the cover

FAE stands for Faeries and Enchantment, I started it back in 2007 because I felt the UK and Europe needed its own magazine. I knew of Faerie Magazine founded by Kim Cross in the USA, and was inspired to create something especially from and for the Celtic lands. I had no idea at the time that people in other countries would enjoy it too, and before I knew it FAE was being sold all over the world. It started as a hobby from my love of faeries, and has now developed into a full time job! I love it though. Faeries first, and now Mermaids I am in total bliss!

And finally, do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?
If I am completely honest I am a mer-fae, half mermaid half faery! So, ‘advice for aspiring mermaids’? I would say, follow your instincts about what and who you are. Express yourself in any way that you feel comfortable, and don’t worry about what others say. They will see your joy and your inner light shining through—this can be infectious! Sometimes I find that just by being near the sea, or holding a sea shell can help me to connect with my inner mer. I also listen to music that conjures up images of being in the sea. I like to wear headphones in the bath, and imagine I am swimming in warm waters in the Caribbean sea. It brings me so much peace, and I feel fulfilled. Finally, follow your dreams, and make them come true!

Vintage Roadside’s Mid-Century Mermaids

1 Feb

So there are all kinds of gorgeous mermaidly events happening in the near future, but one of the most exciting has got to be Mid-Century Mermaids: A History, a presentation on Friday, February 24th by roadside historians Jeff Kunkle and Kelly Burg (who together make up Vintage Roadside) on the history of mermaid attractions and other aquatic shows in the U.S. Glamorously, this presentation will take place at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs, California, as part of Modernism Week—where you can also go to retro martini parties and tour Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms estate from 1947 and partake in many other fabulous and educational activities—AND it will include a live mermaid and fire-eating performance by that most fabulous and retro-loving mermaid herself Marina MeduSirena. Plus yours truly will be in attendance. Click here for more info and to buy tickets, and/or check out the Facebook page for it.

And admire the lovely poster:

Jeff and Kelly have been gathering mermaid knowledge (and paraphernalia) ever since happening upon a brochure for 60s-era mermaid attraction Aquarama at an antique show. Since then, they’ve filled their blog with interviews and by now probably know more about mid-century mermaids than anyone else in the country. I mean really. What is cooler than retro mermaids?

Below, I talk to Jeff and Kelly about how they developed this singular and inimitably glamorous passion.

So what is Vintage Roadside?
This is the question we always find the hardest to answer (quickly) at parties. We do quite a few different things, but they all revolve around history. We produce t-shirts featuring original graphics from roadside businesses of the 1940s-1970s, give presentations on roadside history, produce photography for both commercial and fine art markets, help to promote historic businesses, take road trips along old highways, write road trip articles, help historic businesses research their history, create limited edition t-shirts for organizations & events, and have declared ourselves the world’s greatest fans of the tater tot.

How did you get interested in Mid-Century Mermaids?

Jeff "displaying" the original 1964 Jantzen suit embellished for the "Snowflake" routine at the Aquarama in Missouri

It all started when we were looking for new ideas for our next roadside attraction t-shirt and we found an Aquarama brochure at an antique show here in Portland. We’d never heard of the Aquarama, but loved the graphic, and we’re suckers for any business with a “-rama” at the end of its name.

After clearing the legal hurdles to create the shirt, we began researching the history to tell the story behind the Aquarama. We weren’t having much luck until we received an email from a woman in Missouri (who had recently purchased one of the shirts) letting us know she had been Head Aquamaid for several years at the Aquarama! After a quick victory lap around the dining room table we sent her a reply, which in hindsight probably contained way too many exclamation points, asking if she’d be willing to share some of her history with us. She was kind enough to let us interview her and the door to the history of the Aquarama cracked open. Five years later we’ve been in touch with 27 of the 29 people who performed at the Aquarama from 1964 – 1968 and are honored to count several of them as friends.

Although the Aquarama was a mermaid attraction many people outside of Missouri weren’t familiar with, it was the one that made us want to share the stories of as many mermaids of the 1950s and 1960s we could find. We’ve now been lucky enough to talk with performers from the Aquarama, Weeki Wachee, Aquarena Springs, and more.

I understand you are amassing quite a collection of mermaid paraphernalia. Can you tell me about that?

Kelly & Marina displaying the red tail Marina donated to the Vintage Roadside collection

I’m a collector and luckily Mrs. Roadside is an organizer. Our mermaid collection contains quite a few of the usual vintage postcards and brochures, but the things that mean the very most to us are the items donated to our collection by former mermaids and performers. Some of the highlights of our collection are tails from the Aquarama and the Sip ‘n Dip and an incredible red tail created and worn by Marina, the Fire Eating Mermaid. We’re also huge fans of home movies shot at mermaid shows and props used in 1960s shows. In addition, hearing the words “I have a scrapbook” from a former mermaid is our version of winning the lottery.

Why do you think mermaids were so popular in the mid 20th century (the 60s?)?
The 1950s and into the 1960s was just a great time for all kinds of roadside attractions in general, but I do think the early 1960s were truly the golden age for mermaid attractions. I mean, not only was Weeki Wachee more popular than ever, but you had mermaids at Aquarena Springs in Texas, at the Aquarama in Missouri, at Rainbow Springs, Disneyland mermaids, Marineland mermaids, mermaid shows at hotels in San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento, and on and on. It’s absolutely incredible just how many places you could go to see live mermaids.

The 1960s just seem to be one of those pop culture moments celebrating creativity and unique attractions that are hard to pin down. We have any number of ideas why the 1960s were the perfect time for mermaids and mermaid attractions to catch the imaginations of people, but we still don’t have a definitive answer after all these years. Rather than feeling frustrated by not yet coming up with a satisfying answer, the fact that we haven’t pinned down the exact reason is one of the mysteries that compels us to keep researching, collecting, and most importantly, gathering as many stories from those that swam in those shows as we can.

Do you think they have a different kind of appeal today, or no?
I think in many ways being a mermaid has the same appeal as it’s always had. One of the coolest things we’ve been told by mermaids from the 1960s as well as those performing today is that it’s simply “the best job in the world” and if that same feeling is being felt 50+ years apart there’s got to be something pretty special about being a mermaid.

How did you guys get hooked up with Medusirena?

Kelly with the Medusirena Pod at the Wreck Bar

You know, it’s funny, but we can’t remember just how we met Marina. She’s one of those great friends that seems like she’s always been there. We share a love for the history of aquatic shows and her performances are an incredible tribute to everyone that ever jumped into a pool to entertain people. She’s one of the hardest working people we know. We’re lucky enough to have had her as our special guest at our Aquarama history presentations in both San Diego and Ft. Lauderdale, and she’ll be joining us once again in Palm Springs for our Modernism Week presentation.

Can you tell me about your Mid-Century Mermaids: A History panel at Modernism Week? What can people expect?
We’re super excited for our Modernism Week presentation. We’ve been lucky enough to share the story of the Aquarama at different events, but the Modernism Week presentation will be different in that for the first time, in an all new presentation, we’ll be sharing stories and some of the history behind almost every aquatic show performed in the last 70 years through interviews we’ve conducted, vintage photos, home movies, and more. Here’s a sample – we’ll be starting with Billy Rose’s Aquacade at the 1939 World’s Fair, a bit of Esther Williams from the 1940s, the performances in 1950s hotel porthole lounges, the heyday of Weeki Wachee in the 1960s, Texas mermaids in the 1970s, and even letting people know where to see a live mermaid show today.

Two original 1966 prop knives from the James Bond-inspired "Thunderball" routine at the Aquarama

We’ll also have a selection of vintage and contemporary mermaid tails on display along with a few vintage swimsuits and costume items used in the Aquarama shows of the 1960s. We’re also working on a few surprises that we’re really excited about.

For our grand finale, the presentation will end with a bang as Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, making her first ever Palm Springs appearance, delights and amazes attendees with a live performance in the Ace Hotel pool.

Are you working on a book? And/or have any other mermaid projects in the pipeline?

We do have several projects in mind. Some are still in the “How incredible would that be?” category, but hopefully a few of them work out. Here are a few of them:

We’ve now been researching the Aquarama for over five years and have an incredible amount of material which we’d love to see become a book.

We’d like to have a reunion for the former Aquarama performers. Many of them haven’t seen each other in over 40 years. We envision ourselves sitting there with dazed smiles on our faces as they all catch up and share stories.

We’d love to put together a comprehensive book on the history of the aquatic shows of the 1940s and 1950s.

We’d also love to host a “Vintage Roadside Weekend” at one of the current mermaid attractions, to continue sharing the history of mermaid attractions through our presentations, to perform additional interviews with former mermaids, and to add an Aquarena Springs tail to our collection.

Were you interested in mermaids before happening upon Aquarama (or whatever it was that got you into it more recently..)?
For us it really did start with the Aquarama. I think a lot of it has to do with where you grew up. In our case, growing up in Oregon, mermaid attractions just weren’t on our radar. Your biggest hope on a trip to the Oregon coast was that you might get to spend the day at Sea Lion Caves…very cool, but certainly a world away from exotic Weeki Wachee!

Do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?

We’d give the same advice to an aspiring mermaid as we would to anyone else. If that’s what you really want to do, then by all means give it a shot! The worst thing that could happen is it doesn’t work out and for the rest of your life you’ll still have one of the best stories to tell. How cool will you be when you’re 85 years old and telling the rest of the retirement home residents about the time you packed up your car, drove from North Dakota to Florida and tried out for the job of Weeki Wachee mermaid? Here’s to great stories and even greater memories!

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