Last month, Don and I found ourselves driving through Great Falls around the lunch hour. I did a quick search on TripAdvisor in search of food. Suddenly I laughed out loud. "What!!"
The O'Haire Motor Inn
Sometimes you have to make a quick change in plans when an opportunity just leaps out at you. Don and I forgot lunch and headed for a retro motor inn, built in 1962. As it turns out, they do have a decent cafe, but we were headed for the lounge with the curious name, Sip-n-Dip. In recent years, we have developed a thing for kitschy lounges, especially Tiki themed. We couldn't pass this up.
The pleasant woman behind the lobby desk said the lounge was indeed open. She pointed to a door and we headed upstairs. This seemed very silly.
There were no customers when we entered the dimly lit lounge. We walked past the piano bar, which was carefully covered with cloth, waiting for 81 year old "Piano-Pat" and her next performance. Marcy, the bartender seemed a little surprised when we decided to sit down and have cocktails.
Don and I were pretty giddy over the bamboo ceiling and shell decor. We've visited a few iconic Polynesian style places in California and Las Vegas, but none of them had quite this focus on mermaids. Not only were there mermaid lamps and mermaids painted on black velvet... there were "real" mermaids!
Sadly there were no mermaids performing on Sunday afternoon, but we got to see the glass windows behind the bar where the mermaids swim... on the nights that Piano-Pat is not performing.
If we'd been on a cruise ship or a beach in Mexico, it would have made more sense to be sipping a Blue Hawaiian and a Mai Tai around noon. We weren't even watching mermaids perform. We were basically watching Marcy clean up the bar from Saturday night. But Marcy was a good sport and took our picture and then her husband came upstairs from the restaurant and joined us for a bit.
Learning the History
Marcy's husband Donnie looks a little weary in this photo. He has been the hotel's bar and restaurant manager for 13 years, so he should be tired. But actually it's just bad timing with my camera. He was actually pretty animated and enthused as he told us stories about the lounge.
Donnie said the tiki themed lounge has stayed pretty much the same since the motor inn first opened. The pool wasn't built for shows, but for motel guests. The windows just happened to look through to the bar area. They added a mermaid show about 20 years ago, but guests are still welcome to swim when there are no shows going on. "Sometimes guests have to be removed from the pool if they do anything inappropriate." Now that was a bit of a creepy thought. I didn't ask any more questions about that.
Donnie took us up the stairs to see the enclosed pool. It was hard to see the underwater windows, so I wonder how many guests have gone swimming, unaware. Supposedly there are signs warning you, but I didn't see them. Donnie said they usually have 4 mermaids per show and they take turns just swimming around for 4 hours, in their special mermaid tails and bikini tops. "We have to lock them in this pool area when the show starts. You gotta keep out the crazies."
Posing With... The Window
Macie invited us behind the bar for a photo. That was sort of silly since there were no mermaids to pose with, but we ended up hearing more stories. Marcy said years back, Daryl Hannah and Nick Nolte were in town filming, when they stopped by the lounge. Daryl recreated her mermaid role by trying on a tail and swimming in the pool. Both signed the glass, but their autographs were lost a few years later when the glass had to be replaced due to a crack. Luckily the pool was drained before 22,000 gallons flooded the lounge.
What a Hoot!
Don and I were tempted to change our road trip route and stay a night at the motor inn. If we could have enjoyed Piano-Pat and Mermaids in one evening, we might have gone for it. We'll put it on the Next Time List.
Who knows, maybe we'll bump into David Letterman if he gets really bored with retirement. Donnie said he hasn't shown up yet, but now and then he leaves his nearby ranch and comes to local ballgames. He might show up. Don and I have noticed, retirement makes people try odd things!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.