Street ‘barkers’ smooth talk Fremont slots

May 23, 2005 3:38 AM

Smaller Fremont Street casinos such as Mermaids and La Bayou understand the value of pretty women and provocative outfits.

"That’s what we’re paid to do — attract attention, talk to people and tell them how great it is to come in here and enjoy themselves," said Melissa, who has worked at La Bayou less than a month. "I love the clothes, though they can get a little heavy."

It’s hard not to notice Melissa as few people along Casino Center have a blue crescent rising from the back of their neck.

"That’s our job, to be noticed and engage customers in conversation," said Melissa, a former model. "I was intrigued about this job so I came down and interviewed. I like it very much, but I just have to come up with the right shoes. Standing for long periods of time is hard on my feet with what I’m wearing."

While Melissa does her part to pass out New Orleans-style beads and coupons, and promote La Bayou’s $10,000 cash contest, a short distance away Tonya is doing her part in full head dress at Mermaids.

"It certainly does make me feel tall," said Tonya, adorned in green, purple and yellow that no visitor strolling Fremont Street can possibly miss. "I loved being dressed like a mermaid — so many bright colors and a great opportunity to converse with many people. It’s a very enjoyable experience."

Mermaids offers 99-cent margaritas, enough reason by itself to want to stop in. But, it doesn’t hurt one bit being able to chat with a sexy mermaid.

"I was surprised at how quickly I was hired," said Tonya, a tall blonde even without the enormous decoration. "The casino stays busy and is a great stop for people wanting to get out of the hot sun and cash in on some great winning promotions."

Both places offer numerous raffles as incentives for patrons, along with food and beverages at prices harkening back to the good old days of Las Vegas gambling venues.

"We try to capture a bit of New Orleans here," Melissa said. "Our job is simple, but important. We represent La Bayou and some of the hottest slots in town. What better entertainment for people than playing slots, eating hot dogs and drinking beer or margaritas."

Mermaids opened its doors in 2001, but has been around in one form or another since 1956, when the original casino was called The Silver Palace. It became the Carousel in 1964 and was featured in the James Bond movie, "Diamonds Are Forever." Four years later it became Sassy Sally’s when purchased by Herb Pastor, who also owns The Girls of Glitter Gulch gentleman’s club.

La Bayou features 118 slots and, of course, a touch of New Orleans.

"A lot of people are curious about us," Tonya said. "I like that. It helps business."