WEEKI WACHEE — The Weeki Wachee mermaids have finally become calendar girls.
For the first time, the 61-year-old tourist attraction has published a calendar featuring ladies in fish tails and bikini tops — one for each month of 2009.
Those who purchase the limited-edition calendar will also get four bonus months, from September 2008 through the end of the year, and four more mermaids featured at Hernando County's famous Weeki Wachee Springs attraction.
A total of 2,700 calendars have been printed. But more than half have already been sold through an online presale.
"We've always wanted to do this, but it just always got put on the back burner," said attraction spokesman John Athanason.
Then an old acquaintance came calling. Florida native and New York photographer Andrew Brusso attended the 60th anniversary mermaid reunion last August at the park.
Struck by the bond between the previous and current mermaids, the former Anna Maria Island resident renewed an offer to Athanason and attraction general manager Robyn Anderson to raise money for the struggling park. The trio had met a few Christmases before, when Brusso, who comes home to visit often, offered to help with the attraction's Save Our Tails campaign.
Ever since he saw his first underwater ballet show at the age of 7, the photographer said he's been enamored with the Weeki Wachee mermaids. At 43, his body of work features celebrities such as Dolly Parton and Al Franken in publications like Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone.
After talking over options, Brusso and the mermaids settled on the idea of a calendar. When the attraction shut down for the year in October, he flew in and did the three-day shoot for free. With the women in the water, he took photos through the glass inside the mermaid theater.
Decked out as Cupid for the month of February, and topped with a Santa Claus hat for December, the mermaids picked the months they wanted and came up with outfits and themes.
The result? Images with the nostalgic kitschy feel of pre-Disney times with a modern twist.
Capturing what's left of Old Florida was important to Brusso.
"For me, coming from Florida, I was just so stoked to do this," he said. "And as an avid surfer, I've always pictured mermaids under my board, down there in the water."
Chandra Broadwater can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (352) 848-1432.