The Wreck Bar
isn’t your typical watering hole. Set within a sunken Spanish galleon, this iconic
Fort Lauderdale venue is home to one of the last remaining mermaid shows in the
U.S. We recently sat down withMarina
Duran-Anderson, the leader of the bar’s MeduSirena Underwater Swim Show, to
learn more about this Florida institution.
Q. The Wreck Bar
is one of Fort Lauderdale’s most legendary venues. Can you tell us about its
A. The bar was
created by Chicago-born Hotel legend Bob Gill in 1956 and was originally called
the Wreck Lounge. Vaudevillian comedy acts such as the “Punchy”
Punchinellos, and a variety of musical acts were featured in addition to
aquatic entertainment. Mr. Gill had the foresight to know that entertainment
was a great way to draw crowds to his hotel, and became the man largely
responsible for the popularity of Fort Lauderdale as a Spring Break
destination. Swim shows took place at the Wreck Lounge until 1962, and were
revived when I reintroduced the shows in 2006.
Q. What prompted
you to bring them back?
A. I began my
performances at The Wreck Bar as a labor of love to help raise greater
awareness of sometimes forgotten treasured locations that make cities so unique.
My fellow performers and I help preserve a wonderful iconic aspect of Fort
Lauderdale’s Golden Age for future generations.
Q. What makes The
Wreck Bar so unique?
A. It’s made to
resemble a Spanish Galleon at the bottom of the sea, complete with Spanish
lanterns, mermaid-styled patina and stained glass pieces. Holes with green
lights can also be seen on what appears to be the top deck from below (to give
it that shipwrecked effect), and several portholes show a variety of aquariums
and the impressive underwater view of the hotel pool. It’s a rare sight these
days as porthole pool lounges are few and far between.
Q. The Wreck Bar
used to attract A-list celebrities like Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and Joe
DiMaggio. What reeled them in?
Mr. Gill! He was a close friend of Yankees part owner Dan Topping Sr. and
convinced him to move the team to Fort Lauderdale for Spring Training. Mickey
Mantle, Roger Maris and a variety of other celebs like Johnny Carson, Ed
McMahon Jayne Mansfield and many more would visit. NBC even broadcast its noon
and evening news from a studio on the seventh floor of the hotel back in 1956!
Q. Back to the
mermaids, how much training do you and your fellow performers undergo?
A. Aquatic performers
undergo a rigorous training regimen. They audition and become apprentices and
train for about a year before having the opportunity to become full-fledged
Q. Have you ever
had any mermen in your show?
A. Yes, but I
call them “Aquanauts” since they don’t have fishtails. We also often have costumed
“guest” swimmers ranging from airline pilots to gorillas and monkeys
to Tahitian pearl divers, and even the Creature from the Black Lagoon!
Bob Blumer was one of your guest swimmers during our episode. Does he have what
it takes to become an “Aquanaut”?
was thrilled to notice Bob is a VERY good swimmer. He navigated underwater with
great confidence and was quite relaxed underwater. The biggest giveaway that
he’s a natural Aquanaut was that after the shoot was done, he wouldn’t get out
of the pool! He stayed in and worked on all
sorts of underwater stunts. I really loved seeing that kind of enthusiasm.
The Wreck Bar is open
daily at 5:30pm and the Mermaid Show is every Friday at 6:30pm.