Monday, August 15, 2011

Mermaids Make Splash in Las Vegas

Las Vegas Review Journal: How to tell if you're a mermaid:

1. You have a natural affinity for Darryl Hannah movies, especially "Splash."

2. You feel most at home in the ocean.

3. Your legs morph into a fish tail when someone spills water on you (if you don't know what that means, you should watch a certain Darryl Hannah movie).

4. You were at Mer-Con 2011, a mermaid convention held Friday at the Silverton hotel-casino .

While none of the Mer-Con attendees had actual experience with the third clue, there were plenty who wished they had.

"I've discovered that I hate having legs," says Allie Causin, who teaches ballet and special education in Minnesota. "And I hate oxygen. Of course, I love my legs because I use them to dance. But there's this serenity about the water. I love the freedom of the water."

Causin, 26, came to Las Vegas with her friend, Twig the Fairy, thinking it would be a great place to network and promote her children's book about fairies and mermaids.

With maybe 300 in attendance, it was a small convention but a good turnout for a first-time event, Causin says.

Mermaids are poised to knock vampires and zombies off their top-of-the-pop-culture perch, says Sita Lange, Mer-Con organizer.

They're popping up in novels, comic books, YouTube and television. Carolyn Turgeon's "Mermaid: A Twist on a Classic Tale" has been optioned by a movie company.

"I had one of the first mermaid sites on the Internet," says Lange, who lives in Hawaii. "I've been making mermaid tails for years, and I've met a lot of people. We've been talking online for 10 to 15 years, I thought we might as well meet. Now, turns out mermaids are the new big thing."

The convention almost didn't happen. It was originally scheduled to take place over this weekend at The Mirage. Two weeks ago, Lange had to scramble for a new location when she discovered that attendees wouldn't be able to swim in the hotel's pool wearing their tails. The Silverton was a natural second choice, she says, as the casino boasts a fish tank with mermaids in it.

The highlight of the event was the beauty pageant in which 28 "mermaids" vied for the title of queen mermaid. The contestants, whose ages ranged from 10 months to 42 years old, wore their "land" clothes before posing as mermaids. For more than an hour, the Silverton stage was filled with a rainbow of fake fishtails. Two mermen, guy mermaids, competed against each other for the title of king.

In terms of Vegas weirdness, the one-day convention was a bit underwhelming. Vendors were on hand selling their handmade mermaid tails, jewelry, hair extensions and clothes. An artist painted mermaid pictures while authors sold their mermaid-themed books.

Mostly, people mingled, sought out autographs from famous mermaids or talked mermaid shop. Little girls promoted their mermaid videos on YouTube.

Kimberlie Mendibles, 41, came from California to find the perfect mer-tailor so she can finally buy a tail. She has been a mermaid her whole life, she says, but put off buying a tail because she didn't want to get ripped off. Tails range from $500 to $5,000.

Mendibles also hoped to gather ideas for her book, a 12-step guide on how to become a modern mermaid.

"So little kids know that they can do that, that it is attainable and they don't have to just wish for it anymore. Modern mermaids save the water, they're environmentalist kind of people," Mendibles says. "They're alluring and tempting but not like strippers."

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