Drink With a Mermaid

In Analyze This, Paul Vitti (Robert De Niro) is telling therapist Dr. Ben Sobel (Billy Crystal) about his inability to maintain an erection. They’re sitting at an empty bar, and behind the top-shelf liquor, “mermaids” seductively tease the two men with pouty faces and sensual underwater acrobatics. But behind that veil of underwater eroticism, there’s a glimpse into Florida history: the aquatic spectacle.

“I call it aquatic performance, or water ballet,” says Marina Anderson, a longtime practitioner of underwater theater and star of the Wreck Bar at the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale’s weekly mermaid show. “I’m sure some people can see eroticism in just about anything,” Anderson says, “but [that] certainly wasn’t my motivation. My mom exposed me to Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid and Esther Williams’ movies, and the first time I came to Florida, I was blown away by all these dive shows. Sometimes parents will enthusiastically try to fool kids into thinking that I’m a real mermaid. I’ll tell them, ‘No, I’m not. I’m an aquatic performer.’ ”

To experience a piece of Old Florida, check out Anderson’s free show each Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the Wreck Bar (1140 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale). Admission is free, but the drinks will cost you. Call 954-524-5551, or visit starwoodhotels.com.
Fridays, 6:30 p.m., 2011

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Victor Gonzalez