The Reef Lounge

When I was about four, we vacationed at the Handerly Hotel & Resort in San Diego (formerly the Stardust Motor Hotel).  That place was heaven on earth as far as I was concerned.  I loved the pool.  Next to the pool there was a bar, and behind the bar was an underwater theater.  It was here that I saw one of the most outlandish scenes I have ever witnessed.

The door to the bar was open.  I peered inside to see two scuba divers capturing a mermaid with a net! This was so weird that for decades I questioned whether it really happened.

But the memory stuck with me. So, during a recent conference in San Diego, I stopped by the Handerly to check up on it.  It was true.  The staff directed me to a photograph of Reef Lounge patrons enjoying an underwater show with their drinks.  Apparently the midnight show even featured topless synchronized swimmers.

Reef Lounge empty pool at Handerly Hotel and Resort, San Diego, CA

Empty pool behind the bar, camouflaged by a plywood façade

I assumed that even if it once existed, the underwater theater would have been demolished long ago.  In fact the structure still exists, but the bar is now the corporate office, and the pool is dry.  Indeed, demolishing such a huge concrete structure would be very expensive and disruptive to the hotel’s operation.

I just wish I could remember whether the mermaid was topless.

This article was originally published by John McGehee, Voom, Inc. under the CC BY 3.0 license.  Changes have been made.