Mark Konkol discovers Mai Tais and mermaids at The Yankee Clipper’s Wreck Bar. Check it out.
By Mark Konkol
Rum Connection Chief Travel Writer
If you’re not into parasailing, paddle boarding, windsurfing, jet skiing, scuba diving, snorkeling or hunting marlin, Key West becomes a prison of heated pools, booze and debauchery after a week or so.
Eight days into my stay — after drinking enough rum to slay a herd of giant iguanas — my pal Mike Streeter recognized the symptoms of island binge drinking burnout.
A sport drinker with a rum fetish, Streeter acted fast before I became accustomed to island life and refused to leave.
He demanded we take our drinking vacation on the road to Ft. Lauderdale — that’s “Ft. Liquordale” to the natives — to get a look at what’s left of the Golden Age of Tourism before flocks of silver-haired snowbirds showed up and sucked the life out of everything good in South Florida.
So, we booked a room at a beachfront hotel formerly known as the “Yankee Clipper.” They called it the Clipper because the joint looks like a ship. It’s the architectural handiwork of the late M. Tony Sherman — the same guy who designed the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas.
The Yankee Clipper, now a Sheraton, opened in 1956. The campy 1960 spring break film, “Where the Boys Are” was filmed there. Marilyn Monroe stayed there. So did, Leonard “Mr. Spock” Nimoy and a bunch of other famous folks.
Streeter, of course, didn’t pick the place for it’s architectural significance or the “Marilyn slept here” cache. He didn’t even care about the posh remodeled rooms. Streeter was in it for the mermaid show.
Only three bars in the country are home to mermaid shows and the Clipper’s Wreck Bar is one.
On Friday nights, you can catch a pod of hot mermaids holding their breath for what seems like forever while flipping, posing and blowing underwater kisses visible in portholes that peer into the pool just beyond the top shelf liquor.
It’s a living tribute to 1950s South Florida kitsch. Wreck Bar looks and, if you get there early, even sort of smells like a beached ship. Nautical knick knacks abound. There’s a freshwater aquarium and decent selection of rum cocktails. The long, curved wooden bar is carved with drunken messages left by decades of drinkers.
And the star of the show, MeduSirena Marina, a lady who eats fire when she’s not in the pool, is the main attraction. Wreck Bar has been her “home pool” since 2007, two years before the hotel got a gut rehab — which gave the hotel spa-quality amenities without wrecking Wreck Bar’s sunken ship charm.
“This place has hardly changed. When you see scenes from ‘Where The Boys Are’ you can see the architecture has hardly changed,” said MeduSirena, whose real name is Marina Duran-Anderson. “As for the swim show, I want to keep it retro. It’s organic, not choreographed. It’s atmospheric, which is perfect when you want to have a drink.”
And it’s true, sipping a Mai Tai is decidedly better when you’re watching stunning ladies wearing shimmery tails and seashell bras perform underwater acrobatics to classic Tiki tunes. They flirted with folks in the front row. There was a minor seashell bra wardrobe malfunction. Some guy dressed as a shipwrecked sailor fell into the pool for unnecessary comic relief.
(If swimming with mermaids is your thing, you can even make plans to pop in the pool during your visit. Contact MeduSirena at MeduSirena1@gmail.com)
And if you really want to have fun, play the mermaid recommended drinking game — a favorite of Wreck Bar regulars. Here’s how you play: Take a sip every time a mermaid waves, flips or blows a kiss, you decide. But remember, it’s a dangerous game.
After the show, stick around. MeduSirena and her mermaid posse like to hang out at the bar with fans. On this night the Wreck Bar was rocking when the mermaids finally came up for air.
The mermaids danced, posed for pictures with fans —and ran up Streeter’s bar tab.
By the time Wreck Bar closed the mermaids had vanished.
And we were, well, wrecked.