By Ashley Zimmerman
By Dana Krangel
By John Hood
By Ashley Zimmerman
By David Von Bader
By Sayre Berman
By Steve Brennan
By Ashley Zimmerman
On a melancholy Friday evening in May 2009, glasses were clinked and rum was swallowed as South Florida bid its most legendary bar a fond farewell. The Wreck Bar was drawing its gangplank, forgetting the debauchery of yesteryear, and preparing to fade away into the annals of Fort Lauderdale history.
No one, including Marina the mermaid, who had swum through the depths of the Yankee Clipper's swimming pool and past that bar's portholes more times than she could count, knew if it would ever return.
Well, all that worry and sorrow was for naught. Less than a year later, the Wreck Bar is back and better than ever. So when I heard that, I drove my happy ass out to Fort Lauderdale Beach and spent some time sipping mojitos and staring at sexy sirens' perky cleavage.
Marina the mermaid wove through the water, her enormous gold-red fishtail and curtain of black hair floating in tow. She moved with utter grace; her slender body cut through the water, and not even her spectacular, buoyant boobs caused her resistance. She lithely dipped, casually turned a somersault, and glided out of sight. In her wake, a blond siren with immaculate makeup and shells braided through her hair bubbled by, paused gracefully at the window, and bestowed a heavy-lidded look upon the jam-packed, shipwreck-themed bar. The dozen little girls on the edge of their chairs went nuts with squealing glee as their mommies tried to snap camera-phone pics and their daddies sucked down stiff drinks. Tinny, wordless island music played happily in the background.
The Wreck Bar, once charming for its dark ambiance, collection of skuzzy locals, stiff drinks, and fantastic nostalgia of old Florida's kitschy, booze-inundated, spring-breakin' heyday, now boasts a collection of ribbon-wearing little girls oohing and aahing over mermaids. WTF? Ladies and gents, a new era of the world-famous Wreck Bar is upon us.
"We always knew we were going to reopen," said Jason, the suit-clad bar manager, who later did not validate my parking ticket. "It's a piece of history; the Wreck Bar is even featured in the movie Analyze This with Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal."
The entire Yankee Clipper hotel — now the Sheraton — received a makeover of epic proportions. The hotel is now endowed with sleek white hallways, a poolside tequila bar, expansive reading areas, and an ice cream parlor. The bar itself, still modeled after the interior of a sunken ship, replete with Day-Glo aquariums and a portal to peek beneath the surface of the hotel's swimming pool, is now half the size (maximum occupancy: 45). A dazzling copper-plated mermaid sculpture embosses one wall, the place is alarmingly well-lit and clean, and the bar's motley crew has been replaced by a pack of homogenous, beautiful young waifs.
I took the only empty spot left in the entire place, a two-person table in front of a tank of clown fish and beneath a spot in the ceiling where the wooden beams had been carefully busted out.
Elizabeth, a blond waitress, dropped a strawberry mojito off in front of me. The menu still boasts a boatload of scotches, malts, bourbons, vodkas, tequilas, and everything else you need to forget that this piece of charmingly grubby Florida history has been altered forever by the appeal of homegrown Americana family fun.
"Tell me about the renovations," I said.
"We've got all new carpets, a refinished bar — though we kept the part that people have been signing since the '30s — and added two new aquariums," she said brightly.
"Also, that musty Disney-ride smell is gone," I noted. "What's the same, then?"
"We're still missing the chunk of wood in the service bar," Elizabeth said. "The old owner cut a piece out so Marilyn Monroe could sign it while she was here."
As I was ripping into my mojito, the mermaid show ended, and most of the little girls vanished from the bar. It wasn't long before a more adult crowd settled in now that the kiddies had been taken home to bed. I noticed a dazzlingly beautiful blond with dripping hair take a seat beside some toolish-looking guys at a table. Why do hot girls always associate with douchebags?
I rushed over to steal her attention with my charm.
"I'm sorry — you appear to be wet. Is it safe to conclude that you are a mermaid?"
She laughed and nodded. I got up in her face and stared into her eyes like the creepy fuck that I am. "Your eyes don't appear bloodshot from the chlorine."
"We mermaids have our secrets," she said coyly. Kami, a Brazilian-Polish sweetheart and recent addition to Marina's mermaid "pod," is a sleek-bodied veterinary student. She met Marina when they were belly dancing together, and soon after, she started her apprenticeship into mer-dom.
A few minutes later, after one of her friends interrupted me and I drunkenly offered to drag him outside and beat his ass (100 percent true), Kami graciously brought over Marina herself to speak with me. Marina, known as the Fire-Eating Mermaid, was wearing jeans and sporting a huge flower in her hair. Her energy was amazing: She was like a coked-up poodle set on fast-forward.