You are not reading this.
And if you happen to be the kind of person--let's face it, if
you happen to be the only person--who really does read the
articles in the swimsuit issue, then you already know that last
year witnessed the 50th anniversary of the invention of the
bikini (from the Latin bi, meaning "two," and kini, meaning
"square inches of Lycra").
What you may not have considered is this: We now stand poised at
a historical crossroad, a crucial cleavage in the history of the
swimsuit. Nineteen ninety-seven is the dawn of a new age, the
first year of the second half of the Bikini Century. This raises
several vexing questions, not the least of which are, Where is
the bikini heading? Can I follow it there? And if so, will I
have to wear sunglasses and pretend I'm not looking?
With so much at stake, I was asked to compose the following
bikini lines, to offer these bikini waxings. Please--allow me to
bikini brief you.
I am eminently qualified to do so, having just screened the
actual motion pictures Bikini Beach, Bikini Squad, Bikini
Drive-in, The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini, How to Stuff a Wild
Bikini, Stocks and Blondes (um, it had a bikini on the box) and
It's a Bikini World. To which the following pages will
wholeheartedly attest: It certainly is a Bikini World.
In this issue you will circumnavigate that world on a navel
expedition more epic than Magellan's. Since last September, SI
has endeavored to visit every important port in Bikinidom, or to
burn-and-peel trying. I was appointed Official Bikini
Researcher, which only sounds as if it belongs on a T-shirt sold
in truck stops, next to those declaring I'M WITH STUPID OR TAKE
ME DRUNK, I'M HOME. In fact, my work would address some serious
swimsuit issues and require exhausting excursions to centers of
swimwear scholarship. Which is to say, St. Tropez.
St. Tropez is home to Club 55, a bistro frequented by bikini
icon Brigitte Bardot, who helped bring the suit to prominence,
as did pinup girl Diana Dors, who in '55 sported a mink number
at the Venice Film Festival. "Nineteen fifty-five was to the
bikini what '54 was to black school children and '56 was to
Hungarian freedom fighters," says my colleague Alexander Wolff,
whose story on Monaco begins on page 36 and whose
company-mandated psychiatric examination begins on Tuesday. Good
Though close, the French Riviera is not quite ground zero in
Bikini World. That distinction belongs to the actual ground zero
itself: to Bikini, the Pacific atoll on which A-bombs were
tested in 1946. That year, Louis Reard, a French automotive
engineer who was running his mother's lingerie business, named
his new two-piece, atom-sized swimsuit for the test site, and
the rest is (revisionist) history: The bikini was born.
In fact, mosaics found in the fourth-century villa at Piazza
Armerina in Sicily are festooned with women wearing bikinis. And
cavewomen wore fur bikinis (and mascara) as early as the Stone
Age, if the appearance of Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C.
hews to prehistorical fact. And who's to say it doesn't? But
that is neither here nor there.
Bidding adieu to the Riviera, we next dropped anchor off the
coast of Venezuela, spending several buenas noches on Los
Roques. There, E.M. Swift went fishing with supermodel Niki
Taylor (page 76). This, too, was an epochal event: The first
time in swimsuit issue history that a fishnet was used for--get
I likewise spent some time angling, though this regrettably had
nothing to do with fish. It happened in Malibu at the rented
beach house of three swimsuit models. In accordance with the
restraining order filed against me in California, what occurred
there can be recounted only in a fictionalized form, and I do so
on page 200. All parties are forbidden to comment further. Can
we just move on?
Very well. You will notice that this issue is peopled with
professional athletes, as well as models in various stages of
undress. (By the way: Undress is believed to be a contraction of
Ursula Andress, who as a Bond girl named Honeychile Rider wore
history's most memorable bikini in Dr. No. It was accompanied by
a hip holster that held a hunting knife and generally looked
more in keeping with J.R. Rider than H. Rider. But I digress.)
In Hawaii, for instance, we photographed members of the women's
beach volleyball tour (page 216). They are among the few
professional athletes to actually compete in bikinis, including,
of course, the mysterious Swedish Bikini Team members, whose
"sport" was about the only thing never made explicit by those
beer commercials in which they starred.
Of course, Hawaii itself is not so much associated with bikinis
as it is with grass skirts. So we commissioned a designer to
combine the two concepts. The result is worn on page 194 by
Chandra North (in a grass bikini, by Mother Nature, $5 a square
foot). We believe it is the future of swimwear. But seriously:
"Who did design the grass bikini?" I asked swimsuit issue editor
Elaine Farley. "Monsanto?"
"Moschino," she corrected me.
I am not making this up. The suit was "grown" by the Italian
clothing design firm of Moschino, which suggests that you wash
on gentle cycle and lay flat to dry.
While looking into bikinis, as it were, I happened upon the
seaweed bikini, macrame bikini, vinyl bikini, string bikini,
mink bikini, rubber bikini, monokini, Brian Hyland's Itsy Bitsy
Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, Chanel's infamous
"eye-patch" bikini and the irrepressible tanga, "thong" or
"dental-floss" bikini, responsible for the crack epidemic on
Brazilian beaches. But none were so intriguing as the grass
bikini, and I for one think we blew a rare opportunity in
neglecting to have Steffi Graf pose in her best surface, rather
than on it.
That's right. Now it can be told: Graf is our Fraulein February,
having been photographed in a double-secret-probationary shoot
in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, last December (page 178). Everyone
agrees that she looks wunderbar, which reminds me: Wonderbra
model Eva Herzigova also helps us pay homage to Bikini Atoll by
barely wearing a bikini atall, on page 134.
How's that? You say you'd like to turn to those photos
straightaway? Then I'll cut my remarks short. I had so much more
to tell you about swimsuits, but it's obvious we're not on the
same page here. (Probably in the most literal sense of that
phrase. You turned to Tyra Banks 10 minutes ago, didn't you?)
What's the use? You say, "Moschino"; I say, "Monsanto." You say,
"Wonderbra"; I say, "Wunderbar." Moschino, Monsanto, Wonderbra,
wunderbar: Let's call the whole thing off.
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDRE RAU Come On In, the Water's Fine Yasmeen Ghauri casts an inviting look back from the St. Tropez surf [T of C]
COLOR PHOTO: ALLAN GRANT/LIFE MAGAZINEFOR A 1957 LIFE PHOTO SHOOT, JAYNE MANSFIELD WAS AS BUOYANT AS A BEVY OF BIKINIED WATER BOTTLES
COLOR PHOTO: COURTESY OF LOUIS K. MEISEL GALLERY ED RUNCI CAPTURED THE SPIRIT OF THE PINUP ERA--AND THE BIKINI--IN THIS 1960 PAINTING [Painting of woman wearing bikini]
B/W PHOTO: MOVIE STILL ARCHIVESA SUIT THAT HAS MADE A HUGE SPLASH ON THE SILVER SCREEN: FRANKIE AVALON AND ANNETTE FUNICELLO HUNG 20 IN THE FIFTH OF THEIR BIKINI MOVIES, "BEACH BLANKET BINGO" (1965); FRANCE'S BARDOT BECAME AN INTERNATIONAL STAR IN THE '50S WHEN SHE WORE A TWO-PIECE (AND, ON OCCASION, NO PIECES AT ALL); THANKS TO THE FORMULA OF SURF, SONG AND SKIN, IT WAS STILL A BIKINI WORLD IN '67 [Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello in movie Beach Blanket Bingo]
COLOR PHOTO: EVERETT COLLECTION [See caption above--movie poster with Brigitte Bardot]
COLOR PHOTO: COURTESY OF JOE RUSSO [See caption above--poster for movie It's A Bikini World]
COLOR PHOTO: ZANFI EDITORI/COSTUMI DA BAGNO THE EARLIEST MODEL OF THE BIKINI APPEARED IN A FOURTH-CENTURY MOSAIC AT THE PIAZZA ARMERINA IN SICILY; IN 1964 THE TWO-PIECE BECAME A FIXTURE ON DORMITORY WALLS AROUND THE COUNTRY WITH BABETTE MARCH'S APPEARANCE ON SI'S FIRST SWIMSUIT COVER [Sicilian mosaic]
COLOR PHOTO: J. FREDERICK SMITH [See caption above--Sports Illustrated cover featuring Babette March]
B/W PHOTO: SIPA IN 1946 ERSTWHILE AUTOMOTIVE ENGINEER REARD OF FRANCE TROTTED OUT HIS ATOM-SIZED SUIT, NAMED AFTER THE PACIFIC ATOLL WHERE NUCLEAR TESTING TOOK PLACE. LITTLE DID HE KNOW THAT 16 YEARS LATER HIS INVENTION WOULD EVOLVE INTO THE OUTFIT OF CHOICE FOR AN ARMED AND DANGEROUS ANDRESS WHEN SHE BATTLED THE FORCES OF JAMES BOND'S ARCHENEMY, DR. NO [Louis Reard fitting bikini on model]
B/W PHOTO: MOVIE STILL ARCHIVES [See caption above--Ursula Andress in movie Dr. No]
COLOR PHOTO: ELAINE FARLEY THE DESIGNER MOSCHINO HAS A VISION OF THE BIKINI'S FUTURE, AND IT IS GRASS (WATERED HERE BY SI'S BONNIE STORMER). DESPITE HER SUCCESS ON THAT SURFACE AT WIMBLEDON, GRAF DONNED A MATERIAL THAT DIDN'T REQUIRE MOWING FOR HER PHOTO SHOOT [Bonnie Stormer with grass bikini]
COLOR PHOTO: STEVEN HOFFMAN [See caption above--Steffi Graf]