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Graffiti with a grapefruit

A wacky new fabric called Chameleon Cloth changes color when soaked with citrus juice

"A bushel of laughs" two California swimsuit makers promise kids who buy their new surfing clothes. And Dan Canady, Janis Coble, Scott Kennedy, Vicki Palmer and Gary Canady, temporarily landlocked in a Palm Springs grapefruit tree, are indeed in stitches over the stitches they're in. Their parkas, jeans and bathing suits are made of a new fabric that may cause surfers to forsake the Hawaiian-print jams that were last summer's fad.

Riegel, the textile firm that devised the process, calls the fabric Chameleon Cloth. It is cotton twill chemically treated to change color when doused with grapefruit, lemon or lime juice. Green (as is shown in the photograph) turns a bright yellow, brown is transformed to bright orange, purple becomes apricot, blue goes white. The secret is simple: citric acid dissolves the blue pigment in the special dyes. Everybody can now identify. Nicknames, club names, team numbers, girl friends' names, op art patterns, Tahitianlike flowers or the catch phrase of the moment (Beer—breakfast of champions) all appear within five minutes of an application with brush or finger dipped in citrus juice. "It's fun, and you are about to have it," hopefully claim Sandcomber and High Tide, the swimsuit makers who have bet a 350,000-yard purchase of the fabric on the popularity of the idea.

Unlike its fickle namesake, Chameleon Cloth will change to one color only, and the transformation is a permanent one. So remember, kids, you can't date Sue while you have Mary on your back. But the price of beachwear made of the fabric ($15 for a beach jacket, for example) is low enough to allow for a certain amount of teen-age inconstancy.