The Mermaid Tavern Revisited
Guests are transported back in time three decades
to relive the of The Mermaid Tavern, the legendary Topanga artist’s haunt
that exuded classical music, rustic fare and drink, and unmitigated conviviality.
Tax deductible donations go to save Linda Hendrich’s Children’s Corner.
August 15, 2004.
Mermaid Memories: Tavern Days Beckon
BY AKEMI SMITH
...Topangans will have a chance to revisit
the past glories of the Mermaid Tavern, and help save Children’s Corner Preschool at the same time…
…at a concert featuring the Cuban classical sounds of the Solaris Guitar Quartet, and the classical crossover of the Un Band. All proceeds benefit Children’s Corner.
Here is a step back in time to the Mermaid’s heyday….
Welcome to the Mermaid Tavern. It is a Sunday in the early 1970s and after reading several reviews in the Los Angeles Times, you have finally made it up the winding roads for the experience.The Tavern has the charm of an old Italian villa straddling the line between romance and ruin. You notice a small fountain in front, struggling fruit trees, and a goat being chased out to the side yard.You may have heard mention of its colorful history but know that it is now owned and run by Mickey and Ann Nadel.
You are greeted by Merrick Davidson in the foyer, which he has designed and built, and you take care of the business of tickets, which run between $2 and $5. Upon entering the great room, you cannot help but notice the dominating fireplace and the carved Kabalic characters of Wallace Berman. The stage is to the left and barmaids Rabyn Blake and Louise Herms are close by serving wine and Italian liqueur over ice. As you glance around you may notice Martin Bernheimer and Kedric Wolfe, not to forget our Topangan cast of Gail, Delmar Lathers, Patricia Tackett, and Elizabeth George to name a few. You may also see the Nadel’s teenage children. Their eldest, Ellen, is likely down by the pool while Ben is beginning the basics of rock climbing which will become a passion of his.
If you have arrived early enough, you can enjoy a refreshing skinny dip in the pool. Otherwise, you take a seat and enjoy an elaborate family style dinner. Ann Nadel, a marvelous weaver, is the wonderful cook and always prepares something out of the ordinary, such as her famous oxtail soup.
The entertainment ranges from poetry, theater, video events with George Calusdian, to performance art by the Kipper Brothers and Oingo Boingo. Tonight, being Sunday, it is the famous chamber music. Mickey Nadel, a former L.A. Philharmonic bassist, is the musical coordinator. He works tirelessly researching and gathering world famous musicians for instrumental ensembles. He is said to have such a sensitive ear that if one were to casually play the piano, they would be chased away by a man cupping his ears. Now, after a week of intense rehearsals, the music begins and the special guest is the unforgettable tubist, Roger Bobo. He may even play the 10-foot-long alpenhorn as he has done in the past.
The music is enthralling but you begin to understand that the ambiance and the energy play just as important a part in the experience. Some people are lavishly dressed but it is not a formal affair; some are imbibed or more chemically altered; and children skirt about the tables, becoming an element themselves. Whether you view these as distractions or additions, there is a give and take with the audience, a true participation.
You enjoy the evening and may return the following week but there is little doubt that this place, this time, marks something special It has the confluent energy that you wish is only the beginning but know that time exposes as fragile and fleeting.
Time and exhaustion will first cancel the dinners, then take its toll on the building. The pool will crack beyond repair, be filled with debris and turned into a vegetable garden. Finally, financial troubles and sudden loss of family will bring an unfortunate end. “Memories,” Rabyn Blake comments, “of the most exquisite evenings were like whispered secrets.”
Now rescued and restored by Bill Buerge, the Tavern days beckon.
We hope you will join us revisit the Mermaid Tavern on Sunday, August 15. The Solaris Guitar Quartet will be performing at 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. For tickets, please call (310) 455-2467. Proceeds will benefit Children’s Corner.