In honor of National Margarita Day (Feb. 22), we thought we’d take a behind-the-scenes glimpse inside the restaurant considered the center of the margarita universe, Margaritaville at Flamingo Las Vegas.
Night after night, Vegas visitors are treated to an enduring, and endearing, Vegas experience at Margaritaville. A bikini-clad woman (nicknamed the “Las Vegas Cutie,” inspired by the “Mexican Cutie” in the famed Jimmy Buffett song) slides down the side of an erupting volcano and lands in a mammoth margarita blender.
The woman is then fished out of the blender with a giant metal hook. Ah, Vegas. Here’s some exclusive video of this timeless Margaritaville tradition.
While the woman in the bikini gets a lot of the limelight, we were actually curious about the folks who work the metal hook who rescue her from her blender four times a night, seven days a week.
Come to find out, there aren’t sophisticated hydraulics involved in the production. The hook is maneuvered with good, old-fashioned brawn.
The hook-handlers at Margaritaville actually do double duty. Most of the time, these costumed folks walk on stilts in the dining room, bantering with guests and making elaborate balloon figures. When the volcano show starts at the top of each hour (beginning at 6:00 p.m.), the stilt-walking team takes over hook duty, working in pairs.
The lead hook-hauler is “The Captain.” The Captain, who customers lovingly call Captain Morgan, is named Vitaliy (pictured, below left), originally from the Ukraine. He’s a five-year veteran of Margaritaville.
He and another hooker work large ropes, one moving the hook front to back, the other moving it side to side.
While the volcano show is a blast for customers, it’s actually serious business for Vitaliy and his crew. There’s a freshly-dunked woman dangling from a rope, and there’s no net (although the Las Vegas Cutie does use a safety strap attached to the hook).
“It’s an aerial act. There’s quite a bit of danger to this,” says Vitaliy. “Especially after she’s in the water. It’s very slippery and can be quite dangerous. We’re a team, though. We watch out for each other.”
Though the “Captain” often appears soused, Vitaliy never actually drinks on duty. There are lives at stake!
Bonus Captain fact: In five years, Vitaliy has only fallen off his stilts exactly once. “Once is enough,” he laughs.
There are actually two Las Vegas Cuties, Fulvia Sanchez in the video above, and Adrienne Kramer, doing something we assume is fairly painful in the photo below.
Adrienne is a former dance major at UNLV, born and raised in Las Vegas. She’s been performing at Margaritaville for seven years. So, if she does four shows a night, five times a week, and she’s done it for seven years, she’s been dunked more than 7,000 times! That’s a lot of moisturizer and conditioner.
Asked about the dangers of her job, Adrienne said, “I have fallen off the hook, and the strap saved my life! We’ve added tape to the hook, and it makes a big difference.”
We had to pry. Yes, she sometimes gets tips, and once got a $100 tip from a high roller.
Adrienne says, “Jimmy Buffett fans are so sweet and loyal, and always very nice to me. Parrotheads are like Deadheads, except they have really good jobs like doctors and lawyers.”
Something else we had to ask: Is the water in the blender heated? Yes, but even when the heater is broken, the show must go on.
So, now you know some of the secrets behind one of the most-seen free shows in Las Vegas. It takes a lot of teamwork to ensure the show goes off without a hitch.
Vitaliy seemed genuinely surprised to be asked about his somewhat peculiar job. Vitaliy observed, “Everybody looks at the girl, nobody looks at us.” Well, the Pulse of Vegas Blog has put an end to that, Capt’n.
Bottoms up, and see you at Margaritaville!