The mermaid in William Donald Schaefer's will

May 25, 2011|By Laura Vozzella

William Donald Schaefer remembered many people in his will, but only one mermaid.

Karen Blair, a longtime aide who received $10,000 in the will made public last week, was a City Hall secretary in August 1978 when the city was about to break ground for the aquarium. A model had been hired to appear as a mermaid, but she showed up that day without the requisite fresh-from-the-sea look.

“She came in and she had all this make-up on and her hair was all piled up high,” Blair said. “They wanted her to let it down and not be so made up. The way the story was told to me, she wouldn’t do it.”

Since Blair was young and pretty and long-haired — “a knockout,” Schaefer lawyer Zelig Robinson recalls, noting that was a perfectly acceptable way to refer to professional associates back in the day — Schaefer Chief of Staff Joan Bereska ordered her into the fish-tailed, gold lame get-up.

“They called me up and said, ‘Get down here,’” Blair said. “‘You're going to do it.’”

All in a day’s work in Schaefer’s City Hall.

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