Archive | March, 2011

Nick Verreos and Red Carpet Mermaids

30 Mar

So I’m sure you remember Nick Verreos from the best show on television, Project Runway (starring the inimitable Tim Gunn, whose own mermaidly interview you can read here), back in its second season, the season after the one in which Austin Scarlett was robbed and the very same one that Santino was on and Chloe Dao won. Nick, of course, was the dapper and erudite designer who amongst other things won the Barbie competition by making her a fabulous pink mermaid gown and has returned since to comment on other seasons. He continues to teach at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles and to design his fashion line NIKOLAKI and to write and appear on television commenting about red-carpet fashion, like on E! and TV Guide and Soapnet.  So he seemed a perfect person to talk to about mermaidly fashion.

But first, look at that stylin Barbie:

So are mermaids a new trend on the red carpet?
Yes!!! Well, in actuality, this is not a “new” trend; This silhouette has been hot for several seasons now – but it has just gained “red carpet” momentum as of late.

What do you think accounts for the popularity of the mermaid look?
I think that what accounts for the popularity of the Mermaid look and shape is how flattering it is for a lot of women’s shapes. If you are a no-hip girl, this shape ca give you hips by accentuating that area and especially when it becomes much fuller at the bottom.

At the other end of the spectrum, if you are a “fuller hip” gal, this can really you a “Va-Va-Boom” figure – a la Kim Kardashian. I also think since we have been going through season after season of great red carpet “Old Hollywood Glamour” looks, the Mermaid Shape and Style really harks back to those days of Rita Hayworth and Grace Kelly and those gorgeous 1950’s gowns when that silhouette was popularized.

NIKOLAKI gown from spring 2011

Do you have any favorite mermaid designs?
Mine of course!! Anything from my NIKOLAKI Collection that features a Mermaid shape is my favorite! I also loved all those late 40’s-early 50’s designs by the Fashion Designer Genius of Christian Dior and Cristobal Balenciaga. Also, for some reason, the Latino designers such as Carolina Herrera and Oscar de la Renta can create excellent Mermaid-shaped designs. I don’t think it is by coincidence.

What about celebrities who favor this look; do any pull it off particularly well?
Well, let’s see, I definitely think someone like Kim Kardashian (I know, I may be using the term “celebrity” a bit loosely with her!), I think she can pull it off; her body shape is made for the Mermaid Shape. I also think of Eva Longoria. She has given a “Mermaid” look on the red carpet and done it very well. I can also think of the younger stars like “Glee’s” Lea Michelle–she wore an Oscar de la Renta “Mermaid” design and looked fabulous!

If you could make a mermaid dress for one star this year, who would it be?
I think it would be Penelope Cruz or Annette Benning. For Penelope, I would love to create a gown that payed homage to her Spanish roots yet not make her look like a Flamenco dancer at a dinner-and-show Madrid Theater! And for Ms. Benning, I would love to see her in a statement-making mermaid shaped gown that would highlight her status as Hollywood “royalty”.

Do you yourself have a penchant for mermaids – if so, how do you explain their appeal?
I think I do have a special penchant for mermaids. Their ultra feminine, sexy yet elegant and still powerful. These are all the qualities that I perceive my ideal NIKOLAKI woman to have.

The “Mermaid appeal” is the fact that they are sexy yet strong. These are qualities woman like to have (at least I think so) and men love – even gay men!

How can regular human ladies add mermaid allure to their looks?
A tight fitted pencil skirt with barely a center back hem slit – ending at the knee or slightly above it – add some 5″ pumps , a slow yet determined walk, and voila: You can be a Mermaid at the office!!! Regular human ladies can add “Mermaid Allure” by simple wearing tighter fitting clothing, walking slowly and having a covert sexuality about them.

What about mermen?
Ha! I sometimes consider myself the male version of a Mermaid when I am wearing very tight skinny pants/jeans and by YSL Johnny Boots and a fitted jacket. This ensemble gives me a confidence and slow-paced strut that yes, sometimes I feel like I have tail fins I could flap!

Do you have any other advice for aspiring mermaids?
Own your strength and sexuality and be confident of yourself. Don’t be afraid to bring out the Glamorous in you every now and then–and oh…learn how to swim!!!! And do it with Style!

Bonus: Here are some of mermaid gowns Nick admires…

from Balenciaga in a 1951 issue of Vogue

to two Dior gowns from 2004

and an Oscar de la Renta gown from 2008, worn on the red carpet by Penelope Cruz:

and a Carolina Herrera gown worn on the red carpet by January Jones

And here are some more of his own designs:

Ain’t they beauteous?

Bonus Post

28 Mar

First off, here are some gorgeous photos from the Under the Sea: Mermaids, Sirens, and Fishy Friends mermaid burlesque event discussed here, courtesy of Amber Gregory Photography. Aren’t they so lovely?

Second, yours truly is in the midst of a mini Midwest Mermaid tour, as one often is, and last week stopped for a night in Des Moines, where my cousin Joe and his wife Cindy presented me with the following MERMAID CAKE, which I felt it was my obligation to share.

And finally, I must announce the **WINNERS** of the St. Patty’s Day contest written about by the wily Ms. Jeanine Cummins last week. Because we have huge hot bleeding hearts (well I do, Jeanine Cummins is rather heartless) we have elected TWO of you to receive free signed books from the both of us. These winners are Ms. Mary Yetta Alexander and Ms. Maripat/Luna Doyle Oberg, who rhymed, and who doesn’t enjoy a good rhyme? Congratulations to these two LUCKY LUCKY ladies!

Oh AND: Jeanine and I will be reading together this Wednesday eve at Left Bank Books in Saint Louis, and this Thursday eve at St. Charles Library in St. Charles, Missouri….

Better start driving!

Molly Crabapple and Mermaid Swirliness

28 Mar

So Molly Crabapple is a doe-eyed burlesque artiste and bona fide mogul who has a deep love of mermaids and other swirly things. She is also the founder of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, which is where ne’er-do-wells in over 100 cities now around the world gather to draw burlesque girls and wreak general havoc. You know how artists are. She even drew all the lovely trellis illustrations for yours truly’s website! Look at one example! So the page is totally out of date, so what. Anyway, Molly’s art is gorgeous and colorful and fantastical and old-timey and futuristic all at once, and to see more you should go visit her website immediately.

In the mean time, here is our mermaid Q and A.

Are you a fan of mermaids?
I am. When I was a little girl I had a number of picture books of mermaids and sea babies, and the swirling tails and hair played into my love of a good S curve.

What do you think the allure of mermaids is?
Mermaids are beautiful on the surface, lethal in a relationship, slightly revolting when you think about it, and damn fun to draw.

Can you tell me about the mermaid-themed window display you did for Atrium?
One of my favorite images is a mermaid and a reverse mermaid (the mermaid’s slutty but none-too-attractive mirror image) kissing, their bodies forming a heart shape. I made it into a t-shirt design for Dirtee Hollywood. When we had a launch party in NYC for my t-shirt line, we had larger than life sized mermaids and reverse mermaids capering in the windows.

How do you feel about drawing mermaids versus regular humans… and do you have any advice for aspiring mermaid artistes?
I enjoy drawing mermaids because with the tail, there’s epic more swirly.

Mermaid artists should study fish anatomy (including the super weird deep sea beasties) so that their mermaids are based in veracity rather than cliche. Also, it would be fun to draw non-European mermaids. Mermaids, after all, swim in international waters.

I understand that you recently collaborated on a dead mermaid installation for a fabulous Manhattan soiree. Can you tell me about that?
Cynthia von Buhler is a dear friend and formative corruptor of mine, as well as a hostess of legendary parties. We collaborated on an installation where dozens of girls posed as mermaids killed in the BP oil slick. Cynthia, in a gorgeous latex tail, posed in a bathtub as the one mermaid who had been cleaned and released into the wild. The room was also flanked by two of my life-sized mermaid drawings.

Have you ever incorporated mermaids or mermaid themes
into a Dr. Sketchy’s event?
We had Allison of Rocklove Jewelry posing as a Celtic sea witch, with three handsome shirtless lads as her drowned sailors.

Do you have any final bits of mermaid knowledge, or advice, to impart?
First person who does an Anglerfish inspired mermaid gets a kiss from Moi.

Timothy Schaffert’s Mermaid Blueprints and Recipes

22 Mar

So Timothy Schaffert is one of the most gorgeous writers I know, and recently published a story called “The Mermaid in the Tree” in the fairy tale collection My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me. It’s a ridiculously good story, even obnoxiously so (if you’re  writer, like me, and a mermaid writer to boot). Just look at the opening:

Desiree the child bride, and her sister Miranda, had gone grave-robbing for a wedding gown. In the north end of the cemetery, among the palatial mausoleums with their broken windows of stained glass where the ivy crept in, was the resting place of a young woman who’d been murdered at the altar while reciting her marital vows. The decaying tombstone, among the cemetery’s most envied, was a limestone bride in despair, shoulders as slumped as a mule’s, a bouquet of lilies strewn at her feet. Though her murder, by her groom’s jealous mother, had been long in the past, everyone knew that her father had had her buried in her gown of lace and silk.

“Can you believe we’re the only ones to have ever thought of this?” Miranda said, her knuckles bloodied from shoveling dirt, as she undid the delicate whalebone buttons lining the back of the skeleton’s dress.

I know. Timothy is amazing, and he has a new novel, The Coffins of Little Hope, coming out next month. Plus this very eve he is hosting a mermaid party for yours truly, after my Mermaid reading at the Oakview B&N in Omaha, and said party will feature mermaid art by Wendy Bantam, inspired by “The Mermaid in the Tree.”

I know, I would be jealous, too.

Luckily for you, Timothy has graciously written a guest piece for this blog about mermaids and the important topic of mermaid corpse preservation.

I hope you will find the following as enlightening as I do:

Mermaid Construction
by Timothy Schaffert

Though I grew up in the landlocked Midwest, I feared drowning. I failed my swimming classes at the municipal pool and had nightmares about being swept out to sea. But I think my aquaphobia contributed to my fascination with mermaids.

In considering how a mermaid corpse might best be preserved for a barbaric mermaid parade in a beach resort town (for my short story “The Mermaid in the Tree”), I consulted some articles on arts preservation and perishable materials. The mermaids would be bled, I concluded, and pumped with wax and plastic. Their skin would be enlivened with a dye concocted from boiled beets, syringed just beneath the flesh.

As a culture, we’ve addressed our mermaid curiosity in various ways. The hoax-stompers among us have dismissed mermaid sightings as the hallucinations of seasick sailors, or to the personable nature of sea cows. Others of us, with the passion of necrophiliacs, have patched together mermaid mummies from monkey skulls and monstrous cod. With this in mind, I offer here mermaid blueprints and recipes.

A writer for the New-York Mirror and Ladies’ Literary Gazette in 1824 questions the plausibility of a local mermaid attraction: “If the skin of a large cod-fish stuffed, with a skeleton of a child’s body put on in the place of the cod’s head, the jaws and teeth of a cat inserted into that which represents the head of the child, and the whole, except the scaly part enveloped in a bladder, or some other skinny substance, and smoked well with burning camphor, can make a Mermaid, then as sure as fish is a fish, or as certainly as Dr. Mitchill is a great philosopher and no witch, there is a Mermaid now to be seen in the room adjoining the New-England Museum, Court-street—where may be seen a great many curiosities for the small sum of twenty-five cents.”

Francis T. Buckland writes of the various mermaid stiffs he’s encountered, in his book Curiosities of Natural History, published in 1868. One mermaid he details as having fingernails “formed of little bits of ivory or bone,” and he cheekily offers fashion advice: “The coiffeur is submarine, and undoubtedly not Parisian: it would, in fact, be none the worse for a touch of the brush and comb.” But another mermaid, “one of the best I ever saw…was about 3 ft long; the body was made (probably) of papier mache, for I have dissected a mermaid. The tail was a hake’s skin with the head cut off, the gill-part joined on to the mermaid’s body. The teeth of the hake had been transferred to the mouth of the mermaid, and a pretty object she was lying in state in her glass case.”

Tid-Bits, a weekly magazine published in New York, featured this confessional from a mermaid manufacturer in 1886:  “I had the skeleton of an Indian child that was taken from a grave in Georgia and evidently very old, and I selected this as the foundation, using it from the waist upward. There were no teeth in the skull, so I inserted some teeth that I obtained from a large fish, and over this I drew the skin of an Indian that I had obtained from South America—perhaps you have seen them; the head is cut off, dried and reduced in size considerably. A little way below the armpits I began to put on scales, commencing with small ones and making them larger and larger until the waist was reached. Of course I had to join the fish’s tale here, which I did in a way that would have puzzled anyone. Some of the leg-bones were left, but they looked as though they had become stunted from disease, and I joined the vertebrae of the fish so skillfully and gradually that they actually seemed to grow into each other. … I soaked it in very salt water, so that the microscope showed salt in all its crevices. A few little pieces of sea-weed, of a kind common in the China Sea, were put in the hair, and a dozen or so very small barnacles stuck on, and it was a masterpiece, if there ever was one.” The mermaid manufacturer doctored an affidavit that indicated that a sailor had killed the mermaid with a knife in Hong Kong. “After this I made a number of mermaids; where they are now I don’t know. But they have rather gone out of fashion.”

In an article about taxidermy, published in Popular Science in 1934, the phenomenon of mermaid design is discussed. A taxidermist reveals one particular mermaid as “the lower part of a large codfish, and the upper part of a lady monkey” mounted and sewn together. He “crowned her head with long, wavy locks made from a horse’s tail. To give her a beautiful face and other finishing touches, he called in Carl Rungeus, well-known animal painter. Then he put the finished product in a glass case, garnished with seashells.”

The construction of a more glamorous, less carcass-ridden mermaid is documented in photographs in a 1948 issue of Life, in promotion of the movie Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid, starring Ann Blyth: “The most ambitious make-up job ever to be performed on the nether extremities of an actress turned up in Hollywood last month… [make-up artist Bud Westmore] made a mold directly from the Blyth body and filled it with plaster. Then he encased the resulting model in rubber and carved the tail. Although eyewitness descriptions of a mermaid’s physique are both scanty and conflicting, the combination of Miss Blyth’s torso and Mr. Westmore’s tail certainly looks like the genuine article. It should. First budged at $500, the tail’s final cost was $18,000.”

Dana Marie, Mermaid of the Sea

18 Mar

So Dana Marie Richardson is a professional mermaid who lives in Hawaii and free dives with scary sea creatures and poses seductively upon rocks and beaches in a gorgeous tail while her long flaxen locks blow in the wind. She also teaches mermaid swim school to aspiring mermaids and educates humans generally about ocean life and conservation. See for yourself, but be warned: you may get very jealous:

My Q and A with Dana follows. Here is another interview with her, though, in case you’re the never-satisfied type who always wants more.

by Misha photography

How long have you been a mermaid?
I’ve been a mermaid my whole life, always having been more comfortable underwater than on land. Born in the desert, I was a fish out of water, spending all my days in the pool dreaming of communicating with whales and dolphins in the sea and pretending I was a real mermaid. The ocean called to me and I moved to California as soon as I could. My next journey took me to Hawaii where I’ve lived for the last nine years free diving with dolphins daily and travelling worldwide to swim with and photograph whales and dolphins. Being completely at home under the sea I can free dive ninety feet and have swam with many species of dolphins, whales, sharks, rays, whalesharks, and more! Although, I have yet to encounter a giant squid! I have great respect for the ocean and all sea life and feel completely at home swimming with sixty-foot whales ~ that is where I feel most at peace.

What inspired you to make your first mermaid tail?
I made my first mermaid tail when I was around seven years old using dive rings, fabric, and fins and would spend hours practicing swimming and holding my breath underwater. I was inspired to make my first grown-up mermaid tail by a desire to take my love for the ocean to another level and share that with others. Seeing other mermaids worldwide who are able to pursue their dreams professionally as mermaids also helped me decide to complete my dream and grow a tail! The experiences I’ve had here in the ocean have helped me to see that anything is possible when we step into the flow of life. I started my first adult mermaid tail 3 years ago and have since created 4 with another on the way. The biggest inspiration of all for me is the ocean, dolphins, whales, and all the beauty and magic of the sea. I’ve found a way that I can share that with both kids and adults and inspire others to not only love the ocean, but also to follow their hearts and live their dreams!

What is “mermaiding”?
I love telling children that a Real Mermaid is someone who loves the ocean with all their heart soul, and who feels at home in the sea. The mermaid speaks up for the sea on land because she is connected to both land and sea. Mermaiding is fulfilling all of that by being a mermaid! Swimming, respecting and communicating with sea life, playing and filling the land world with undersea magic!*

Can you tell me about your mermaid school?
The mermaid school I teach is for all ages and swim levels. Open to anyone who has a desire to swim and feel like a mermaid!  Monofins, mermaid costumes, and tails are available for people to try underwater. I teach the undulations style of swimming which is much like a whale or dolphin kick, starting with the nose and rolling throughout the body to the tail. We have so much fun and a photographer comes to document the experience and each student leaves with a mermaid swim certificate.

photo by Rusty Orr

How do people respond, when attending your classes and putting on tails for the first time, etc.?
I love seeing how people respond! Some are nervous and excited, but always end up feeling so playful when putting the tail on and practicing the mermaid swim for the first time. I think for both children and adults it helps bring the fantasy to life and also really helps them feel more comfortable and playful in the water. I’ve had people that were not good swimmers, who became super comfortable at once and left with a new desire that anything in life is possible and went off to buy their own mermaid tails to swim in!

How do you describe the appeal of mermaids?
Mermaids are magical, in tune with the sea and rhythm of the ocean, communicating with dolphins and whales, spending time on land, yet always feeling that call back to the sea.. . The ocean and water is also very healing and peaceful, a place where time stops and really a whole other world unfolds. There is still so much that is unknown about the ocean, it’s been said that we know more about Mars, which leaves that mystery to lure us in.

photo by Lisa Denning

I understand you do a lot in the way of education and ocean conservation, etc. Can you tell me about that?
My passion has always been for the ocean and a love for sea life, dolphins and whales in particular. I became a Marine Mammal Naturalist, boat captain, and underwater photographer to be in the sea environment daily and also to educate others. I also participate in whale and dolphin research here in Hawaii. I love educating about marine life, but I also carry a conservation message that what we do to the land affects the sea and what we do to the sea affects us greatly here on land. Without the ocean, we can’t survive, and as a mermaid I bring the ultimate connection from humans to fish. When I take people to whale and dolphin watch, it’s very important to educate about them as a species and also how to be respectful to them while swimming in their home, the ocean. I’ve been so blessed to know many of the dolphins by name here in Kona from swimming with them daily. While swimming in the South Pacific and having those humpback whales come over to swim eye to eye is such  an amazing experience and it’s so important to me to share how to interact with sea life in a way that they will want to grace us with their presence. Each experience in the ocean is completely different and always has something to teach us if we listen. Through my ocean photography and as a mermaid, my goal is to carry the message of the beauty and magic of the sea to land. Also to let people know the ocean is in distress and how we can help by spreading awareness, picking up trash, recycling, and much more! My hope is that a love for the sea will spread and mermaids will come to life everywhere speaking up for our oceans!

Do you have any favorite mermaid mentors/art/film/books/etc.?
My favorite mermaid story is about a Persian mermaid named Julinar of the Sea. I’ve also had a coffee table book called ‘Mermaids Nymphs of the Sea” book I’ve cherished for years! I’ve been drawn to beautiful mermaid art and stories all my life. Rell Sunn has been one of my idols growing up ~ as to me, even though she never had a tail, she was the ultimate real life mermaid and her love for the ocean spread everywhere she went. Of course I loved movies like The Little Mermaid as a child and Splash.. . more recently, the animated movie, Ponyo is fun to watch. I believe Hannah Fraser is an icon as a professional working mermaid as she has accomplished so much on land and sea. There are so many mermaids worldwide and what’s so beautiful is that we are all very unique in what we do, yet share a common love for the sea. ~

And finally, do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?
Follow your heart, live your dreams, love the sea, and happy mermaiding!!!

Dana Mermaid

Jeanine Cummins and Irish Mermaids

16 Mar

Today this blog has been taken over by Irish Ne-er-Do-Well Jeanine Cummins, who has managed to author two books (A Rip in Heaven and The Outside Boy) and have two children in the midst of her general from-across-the-gloomy-sea unruliness, which is only exacerbated on days like today. Her no-doubt sinister post about Irishness and mermaids follows. With love and apologies, Carolyn

(Don't let her wholesome good looks deceive you. Helpfully yours, Carolyn )

There is a “famous Irish” saying (used almost exclusively by American east coast morning newscasters) that: Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day! Seriously – watch Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira this morning.  Take a shot of Jameson every time they say it.  You’ll be drunk by nine a.m.  So, in the spirit of that somewhat ridiculous sentiment, and because I don’t like to discriminate, I propose that mermaids, too, are Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.  I invite you to join me – today only! – at I am a McMermaid dot com.  Resident Mermaid Expert Carolyn Turgeon is off somewhere, wearing shamrock deely-boppers and drinking green beer by the truckload.  Meanwhile, I’m Jeanine and I’ll be your substitute teacher.

POP QUIZ TIME.  Get out your notebooks. Don’t be nervous. Just answer the questions to the best of your ability. Whoever gets the most right (or leaves the best comment) will win a *REAL IRISH MERMAID!* (while supplies last). Alternate prize: a signed copy of Mermaid and a signed copy of my novel, The Outside Boy. Let’s begin.

1.      Q:  True or False: St. Patrick was actually a mermaid.

A:  The answer is “C”- no one really knows for certain. I mean, I feel it’s unlikely that he was a mermaid, but I don’t like to give a definitive FALSE, because honestly, all things are possible with God.

2.      Q:  The Irish word for mermaid is:

a.       Mermaid (duh!)
b.      McMermaid
c.       Merrow
d.      Mary

A:  The answer is “C” – merrow, which comes from the Irish words “muir” for “sea” +“oigh” meaning “maid.”

3.      Q:  In William Butler Yeats’ “The Lady of Gollerus,” what color is the merrow’s hair?

a.      Red.  Just like Disney’s Ariel, of course.
b.      Red.  I mean, she is Irish, right?
c.      Red.  The color of flame.  For poetic juxtaposition and stuff.
d.      Sea-green.

A.   The answer is “D” – “a beautiful young creature combing her hair, which was of a sea-green colour; and now the salt water shining on it appeared, in the morning light, like the melted butter upon cabbage.” If you read only one William Butler Yeats story about mermaids this Paddy’s day, make it this one. It’s gorgeous and funny and very short.

4.      Q:  In Irish mythology, the merrow has a magical article of clothing that allows her to breathe underwater. If a human man steals and hides this article from the merrow, then she has no choice but to remain ashore with him. Is the article:

a.      A clamshell necklace
b.      A little red cap
c.      A seahorse bellybutton ring
d.      Sequined nipple-tassels

A:  The answer is “B” – a little red cap. I know, weird, right?

5.      According to the The Annals of the Four Masters, which is a real-life ancient text on the history of medieval Ireland, in the year 887, and giant mermaid washed up on Celtic shores. She measured 195 tall, and her hair was 18 feet long. What length were her fingers?

a.       7 feet
b.      12 feet
c.       17 feet
d.      21 feet

A:  The answer is “A” – seven feet, but this account is obviously flawed. How could all of her fingers be the same length? What was she, some kind of freak?

Okay, you can put your notebooks away. You all did very well. You may have noticed that I actually gave you the answers as we went along. So whoever leaves the most astute and insightful comment (as judged by Ms. Turgeon and myself) will win the prize.

I leave you with this: last night, my three-year-old daughter dreamed of a swing made from a purple seashell. I feel like that’s pretty reliable evidence for the existence of Irish mermaids. As if you needed convincing.

Dottie Lux and Mermaid Burlesque

16 Mar

So this Saturday night, if you’re lucky enough to be in Berkeley, California (which is not a phrase yours truly would normally say), you can see you some mermaid burlesque, which might change your life. When I saw the poster at left on Ms. Dottie Lux‘s Facebook page, my heart cracked at my own great loss, but swelled for your gain. I’ve seen Dottie perform a couple times, and most memorably as part of a big burlesque gathering in New Orleans some years back, where she managed to be as hilarious as she was sexy and did something involving stuffing herself with various eats, as I recall, that had the whole audience in tears.

So this Saturday, March 19, go to Shattuck Down Low at 7:30pm in Berkeley and see Dottie, and many others, at their mermaidly best.

My illuminating Q and A with Dottie follows.

So I understand you are doing some piscatorial burlesque in the near future. What IS piscatorial burlesque?
We are celebrating a number of Pisces burlesque birthdays this month so we thought it would be a perfect time to gather all our fishy friends to put on a show! Piscatorial is just that…..fishy!

The event is called Under the Sea: Mermaids, Sirens, and Fishy Friends. What is the difference between the three?
You know, it’s The SF Bay Area you don’t want to assume anyone’s fish-identity, better to be inclusive. All are welcome.

Have you performed as a mermaid before?

I have, several times. I’ve been a fan and participant of the Mermaid Parade more years than I’ve been merforming merlesque. But the sea has always played a huge part in my life and my art is just a reflection of that.

I understand there will be sea creature models as well. What kind of sea creatures? Do you think they will secretly envy you and your fellow mermaids (that is, if you are a mermaid)?
Yes total mermaid here (and clownfish but that’s another story) and how could you not secretly (or not so secretly) be jealous of a mermaid? Our creature models are sea-loving and since La Mar is so angry right now, she needs our love more than ever. I don’t want to give away the surprise…promise to post photos!

Can you describe some of the acts, including your own, for those of us unfortunate enough to not be in San Francisco on March 19th?
We have tap dancing jellyfish, beach babes, a huge lobster, mermaids galore, sailors and that’s just to name a few. Oooooh and maybe a tour! I do hope to be able to say “coming to a sea near you” one day!

What is a mer-garita (which will be served at the event?
Why just the most delicious drink of all. Extra salty with a strong tequila shake down. I will smell it and be drunk. I’m sure you would do much better.

What do you think is the appeal of mermaids anyway – for you personally, and in general?
They are perfect pristine and powerful. The beauty of a mermaid has spoken to me since the first time I saw the ocean. I’m a Pisces and have a great connection to all things sea. When moving from Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, I promised myself I would live no more than 1 mile from the ocean and that I’d either move to Coney Island or Ocean Beach, SF, and I now look at the great Pacific every single morning!

Do you think there is a natural cross-over between mermaids and burlesque performers?
Burlesque performers and mermaids both are sexy, good-natured, fun, giving creatures… no wonder they’re friends.

And finally, do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?
Be good to the Ocean. Do what you can to keep her clean and her creatures alive and well. Love the sea and she will love you back. Right now she needs our love most of all. Please check out all of the donation opportunities available for the Japanese Tsunami Relief.

Melanie Hope Greenberg’s Mermaids on Parade

15 Mar

So I met children’s book author and illustrator Melanie Hope Greenberg last year at Book Expo in New York and quickly discovered that not only is she a bona fide mermaid but that she even wrote and illustrated a book about Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade. Which seems to me about the best thing you can write about, when it comes down to it. What better thing to show children than that you can actually dress as a mermaid and march in a parade at Coney Island? Melanie marches in the parade herself as well – though marching might not technically be the right word for what a mermaid does – as part of the Superfine Dinettes, which seems only right. Obviously, I was obliged to ask her about her book and the parade and mermaidliness in general.

Here is our Q and A.

So what inspired you to write Mermaids on Parade? And have you written about mermaids or Coney Island before?
This was my first book about Coney Island and mermaids. Mermaids on Parade was an idea which grew out of community. In 2005, Brooklyn librarians told me what was missing on their bookshelf and how Brooklyn children need to see themselves to get excited about reading. Three months later, Tanya Rynd, who owns Superfine in Dumbo Brooklyn, invited me to join her performance art troupe. Her Superfine Dinettes would be marching in the upcoming Coney Island Mermaid Parade. I enjoy omens and synchronicity.

Have you always known you were a part mermaid?

I think many people feel a bit mermaid. Mermaids bring up myths from ancient days. Mermaids bring up the mystery within our psyches, the sense of child-like wonder that we use when we write, paint and make art, even if not about mermaids. For those reasons a mermaid has always intrigued me.

What is the best thing about transforming into a mermaid, in your opinion?

Mermaid is more symbolic. I am a mermaid even in casual clothes. For me, a mermaid represents beauty, glamor, mystery, legends, power, and shape shifting into another time, another world, a whole new body. Her symbol helps me tap into the wonder children feel as they experience each day, a new world of varied things to explore. Symbols help to transcend the mind and launch us straight into the heart and imagination. At the Mermaid Parade I can manifest these ideas into a costume.

How long have you participated in the Mermaid Parade?
I marched in the parade as a Superfine Dinette from 2005- 2009. I watched it from the audience point of view in 2010. It’s much more fun to participate.

What do you love most about the Mermaid Parade, and how do you make it different for yourself each year (if you do)? How have you seen it change over the years (if you have)? =)

photo by Tim Galbreath

Each year the Dinettes created a brand new theme with a performance and costumes which we created at the “Tail Factory”. We’ve been the MerMod Squad, Ladies Mermalade, MerMades in the Shade, and the Hip Hop Hulas. We won the silver medal in 2009 as the Roller Coaster of Love. At Coney Island, the current parade route has gotten so big and popular it has expanded way past the map I illustrated in my book. It is the largest art parade in the United States.

How have children responded to your mermaids? And adults?

Children love color, festivities, shiny things, amusement parks and spontaneous fun. It is a Win/Win with children, both boys and girls. Men and women embrace the mermaid symbolism and love Coney Island, so that too is a Win/Win!

photo by Herb Hernandez

How would you describe the appeal of mermaids?
The half creature-half human mermaid seems to bridge the gap between beauty and power. A connection that happily seems to not create frictions or power plays amongst opposite genders. Adults, I believe, love mermaids because mythical creatures bring us back inside to our own mystery and child-like sense of wonder about our place in the universe. Children live in that mysterious realm of wonder so relate to mermaid symbolism easily.

And do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?
Be yourself in and out of a costume. Find that mystery inside that makes you feel unique, powerful, beautiful, wonderous, and then express it to the world. Shake that tail feather! Far Shore!

Here is where people can buy the out of print mermaid book.

Carmindy and Mermaid Makeup

14 Mar

So if you’ve ever watched What Not to Wear – the TLC show where Stacy London and Clinton Kelly go through a lucky but fashion-challenged lady’s closet ridiculing and tossing out her most offensive garments before guiding said lady, fairy godmother-style, to a more alluring and well-put-together version of herself – then you know who Carmindy is. That luminous moon-haired vision who glides in near the end of the show to work magic with wands and brushes and all manner of powder and gloss until said lady is whirled around to face the mirror and gasp with astonished pleasure. And the lady always actually looks about ten times more beautiful as Carmindy smiles down on her. Who doesn’t love that moment? Since Carmindy herself is obviously from another world as well as an expert in magical transformation, she seemed an obvious person to ask about mermaidly allure. So I emailed Carmindy and she wrote back that she loves mermaids, has mermaids decorating her NYC and Miami abodes, and even dressed as a mermaid for Halloween this past October…! I thought this was all very suspicious, and I suspect that Carmindy may be a mermaid on other days as well… but that is a question for another time and place.

In the meantime, here is our Q and A and a few photos of Carmindy in her mermaid guise.

Are you a fan of mermaids?
I am and always have been since childhood

What do you think the allure of mermaids is?
The mermaid is the siren. Confident, alluring, free, and mysterious. People are always drawn to the beautiful siren.

How did you transform yourself into a mermaid this past Halloween? Did that take some figuring out or did you just know what to do?
I did some research online and chose my look based on some old illustrations. I used a deep blue eyeliner, then layers of different hues of turquoise
darkest at lashline and getting lighter towards the browbone and iridescent under the brows. When I was all done I added a wash of iridescent glitter across the entire lid.

How can women recreate your look at home?
For a more wearable look, simply use a teal eye liner pencil swept across the upper lash line and a soft sweep of shimmering aqua on lids only. Keep the face balanced by applying a pinky peach blush and gloss on lips and cheeks.

More generally, how can regular humans and/or secret mermaids acquire that mermaid allure in their everyday lives?
Have confidence and a siren sense of happiness and independence. They live in the ocean and swim free, being muses to all.

What are your feelings about glitter? I’ve noticed that on What Not to Wear you seem a bit leery of it!
It’s fine for Mermaids, Tweens and Halloween… that’s it!

Can you recommend any specific products you find especially mermaidly?
*My Sally Hansen Natural Beauty Inspired By Carmindy Luminizing Face Primer. It makes skin glow and feel like silk.
*Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Pencil in Electric
*Mac Eyeshadow in Aquadisiac
*Makeup Forever Diamond Powder in #07

What is it that you love about doing makeup? Does that sense of beauty and transformation play into your love of mermaids?
I love doing makeup as a way help transform a woman’s attitude about herself. I enhance her natural beauty, empowering her to embrace her unique beauty. That confidence is the core of a mermaid/siren’s whole being. Beauty and confidence, even when you look different to everyone else.

Do you have any favorite mermaid books/films/art, etc.?

I love the older Greek myths about mermaids.

And finally, do you have any other advice for aspiring mermaids?

Know that you must treat life like the ocean. Learn to flow with the swells and currents and don’t lose self esteem or focus.

Beach Blanket Bingo’s Lorelei, Marta Kristen

10 Mar

So I’m sure you’ve seen the cinema classic Beach Blanket Bingo starring Frankie and Annette and their good friend Bonehead who falls in love with the mermaid Lorelei after she saves him from a surfboard accident. “I’ll be the only boy in my block that knows a real live mermaid!” Bonehead exclaims, when he discovers that Lorelei’s not quite a normal girl. Lorelei gets some temporary legs for her earthbound beau and they have a lovely romance… until Lorelei has to return to the water and her own kind, which is tragic but finally okay because it leaves Bonehead free to romance Linda Evans of later Dynasty fame and that is clearly the better choice financially. The best part of Beach Blanket Bingo, though, is at the very end (this is a spoiler but honestly it’s not really the kind of movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat), when Annette turns to Frankie and asks, “Was there really a mermaid?” Frankie looks at her and answers smoothly: “Is there a moon? Is there a sky? Are there dreams?” We cut to the ocean, and a mermaid’s tail flips out of it, and then the word “FIN-EE” appears on the screen.

Lorelei was played by the gorgeous and hilarious Marta Kristen, who would go on to star in Lost in Space and appear in a ton of other television series and commercials and films. Here’s a compilation of the very very awesome Lorelei scenes, which are by far the best ones in the film, though I might possibly be slightly biased:

As you can see, I had no choice but to email Marta. She was gracious enough to respond, and our Q and A follows.

So were you excited to play a mermaid on film?
I was excited to get a part in a beach movie! Beach Blanket Bingo was the fourth film in the Frankie and Annette series, which was hugely popular. First a Disney movie with Brian Keith and now a beach movie with Frankie and Annette – I was going places! Of course that was before I realized how much work was involved in playing a mermaid.

What was it like, putting on a tail?
Getting into the tail wasn’t the problem – a little wriggling, a little talcum and a lot of inhaling. The challenge was trying to move once you had it on! I had to have a stage hand holding me steady as I tried to hop around without tripping on the fins! And there was always a crewmember in a wetsuit nearby, just in case.

Was it a challenging role physically? You seem to spend a lot of time in the ocean!
It was more physical of role than I expected. I remember one scene early in the film where I pop my head out of the water, see a parachute in trouble, then dive back underwater. It sounds simple until you realize we were shooting next to a boulder in 55° water with a tidal surging trying to push me into the rock! The thing I remember most about making Beach Blanket Bingo is that I took so many chances that, being older and hopefully wiser, I would never consider taking today.

What do you think about Lorelei when you think of her now?
I like Lorelei today, but for different reasons than I did before. In 1965, it was a chance to do film work in a successful franchise. Now, I look at the part and realize that I played the ultimate teenage angst personified – the lonely outsider whose skills and abilities make her unique yet who just wants to know what it’s like to be part of the popular crowd (or in this case, the two-legged crowd).

What kind of response did you get, playing a mermaid?
I really don’t recall much of a response. Beach Blanket Bingo, being a teen movie, wasn’t really going to garner many newspaper reviews. And if it did, I may have missed them – I was already filming the pilot of Lost in Space in Red Rock Canyon when the film came out.

Can you tell me about the mermaid tail you wore?
The tail was basically latex and fiberglass. I much preferred the costume belt I wore for close-ups. It was just a wide belt that matched the scales on the tail and it allowed me to shoot scenes where my waist might be seen, but still allowed me to use my legs to swim.

Did you ever meet Diane Webber?
I never met Diane Webber. Dave tells me that the tail I wore was originally custom-made for Diane to wear in a previous American International release [Mermaids of Tiburon]. I know that trying on the tail was part of the audition process, so Bill Archer was looking for someone who could wear the existing prosthetic. I’m sure there was no time or budget to build a new one.

What was it like working with Buster Keaton, who had a small role in the film?
It still boggles my mind that I had the opportunity to work with Buster Keaton. I wanted to talk to him but he seemed very sad and kept to himself. I don’t know if he was lonesome or just didn’t know what to do with himself between scenes, but he sat by himself away from the rest of the cast and I was too intimidated to just walk over and invade his personal space.

What do you think of other famous film mermaids who came later, like Daryl Hannah?
I think Daryl had the advantages of time and budget over Lorelei – Touchstone had the budget to afford a custom fitted tail and the passage of time allowed better technology to make the tail fit better and look/move more realistically.

Do you have any other favorite memories from Beach Blanket Bingo?
Many of the extras in the film were local kids who were regulars at Malibu Beach, where I lived. I didn’t know most of them by name, but I surfed enough to recognize the faces, including some that are now surfing legends, such as Johnny Fain and Mickey Dora. So watching that movie is like visiting the old neighborhood for me.

Have you had any additional mermaid experiences since the film? Do you ever secretly long to put the mermaid tail back on? =)
No, I look back fondly at the experience, but I think one role as a denizen of the deep was quite sufficient! It always struck me funny that all major roles in my early career involved me getting soaked to the skin – Savage Sam, Wagon Train, Man From Uncle, even the Lost in Space pilot – all involved me and water. I think I noticed that trend during Beach Blanket Bingo while treading water, fending off hypothermia, keeping pasties on and trying to look alluring all at the same time.

Do you have any advice for aspiring mermaids?
Always keep a stagehand in a wetsuit floating nearby and remember, when the director says “Look out for the rocks” it probably means you’re already too close… but he got the shot he wanted, so it’s okay to swim for your life!

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