Red-Headed Mermaids


“Make sure you wear a few metal rings,” my mother advises. She inhales another long drag from the Capri Ultra Light cigarette she always smokes while talking with me on the phone.

“You are wearing rings, right?” She’s concerned.

“No. I forgot to put them on this morning,” I say, yawning from last night’s short-film shoot that went into this morning. I’m still exhausted.

“Well, then you better borrow some. And play the mermaid slots —- the ones with the pretty red-headed mermaids, not the brunettes. The brunettes are crap. Lost real big with them last time.” She either inhales or exhales another drag; I can’t tell this time.

So I got the scoop — from a Vegas slot machine playing “addict.”

Must wear metal.

Must play the 1-cent red-headed mermaid slot machines at the Flamingo.

Must make sure they’re near the elevator.

My mother has won big this way.

So here I am at the Flamingo casino in Las Vegas. I’m seated in a cozy little corner near the elevator. I’m playing a 1-cent slot, the one with the red-headed mermaids. I want to tell the old lady in white leather gym shoes whose sipping a Bloody Mary to stay clear of the brunette mermaids, but can’t figure out how to say it without sounding weird.

I’ve borrowed two silver rings from a friend. They keep sliding down my fingers — just dying to fly off and camouflage themselves in the corny red and orange-checkered carpeting; I’m sure of it. Twenty-five minutes in and I’m up two bucks.

Drai pulls me out of my seat.

“Enough of this. What is this, pennies?” she belts, half sober.

I’m handed a free dirty martini from the cocktail waitress who explains, “As long as you’re sitting there, hun,” she points to my seat at the roulette table, “you’ll drink free all night long.” She winks, chomps on some gum and swaggers off moving her hips from side to side in a real tough girl kind of way.

Elvis starts singing. I admire the Barbie pink jacket he’s wearing. He sings from his gut, belting out the lyrics to “Only Fools Rush In.” Being a sucker for anything Elvis, goose bumps appear all over my skin.

I. Love. Elvis.

It was a slow start. I think I even said something like, “I hate this game” … until number 8, the one I put seven chips on … hit. I almost cried when the dealer wearing a corset handed me several hundred dollars.

I’m hooked.

I tried the mermaid machine, I really did. But nothing compares to roulette, well, except for maybe Elvis.

Alice can be reached at

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Tales of a Toluca Lake Actress

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