Perhaps it's because the SI swimsuit issue turns 30 this year (hey, when you look this good, why lie about your age?) and is thus more health conscious. Or maybe it's because ingredients such as Kathy Ireland, Elle Macpherson and Rachel Hunter have been proved to accelerate heart rates in certain readers. Or, who knows, maybe it's just that the models were sick and tired of all the sand that got in their suits. Whatever the reason, here is the good news about this year's swimsuit issue: no salt added.
Having hit more beaches than the Marines in her three decades of overseeing the issue, senior editor Jule Campbell opted to abandon the traditional saltwater photo shoots this year. Instead, she and her crew went exclusively poolside.
"Shooting pools," says Campbell. "At first I thought. What a silly idea! You don't see swimsuits, you just see heads and shoulders above the waterline. Then the notion began to excite me."
As it did the models. Kathy Ireland was so enthused about working only eight miles from her Southern California home for one shoot that she made the commute on her bicycle—at 5 a.m.
Reporter Julie Stern, Campbell's assistant, recalls that another shoot, scheduled for a private home in Malibu, was canceled at the last moment. Faced with the loss of a day of work, Campbell wondered what to do. Then Rachel, who lives nearby, piped up: "Well, I have a pool at my house, but I'm not sure if it's any good." It is; it's on the cover.
As a result the 30th-anniversary swimsuit issue promises no salt, but plenty of chlorine. What it lacks in NaCl it makes up for in Cl many times over—which is not to say that you can see Elle too many times.
We got rid of the salt, but for the first time we did add MSG (Macho Sexy Guys). The third week of December found Alex Rousseau (above, with Stacey Williams) and four of his mates from the U.S. water polo team—Troy Barnhart, Chris Duplanty, Kirk Everist and Rick McNair—in San Diego, helplessly trapped inside what might have seemed like a beer commercial.
"That's a good analogy for how we felt," says Alex, 26, who last August, along with his teammates, had accepted Campbell's offer to be pioneers of sorts: the first male swimsuit models in SI. "Basically, we hung out in our Speedos for four days with some of the most beautiful women in the world. It wasn't hard to get used to."
Rousseau, himself a leggy 6'3", admits that at first "I was very self-conscious about how I looked in a suit next to Elle—I feel I can call her Elle by now. But the models were constantly assuring us that we looked great." How did they do that? "They whistled at us."
Though he realizes that he cannot expect such perks as having Elle whistle at him at every shoot. Alex says that, should the opportunity arise, he would love to work again as a model. And Campbell says of Alex et al., "They were the nicest guys in the world. Who knows, perhaps next year we'll take them to the beach with us."
Back to the salt mines.
When Stern and Campbell (above) needed a male pioneer, Alex happily took the plunge.
MICHAEL O'NEILL; SWIMSUIT BY MALIA MILIS, $118
[See caption above.]