Trailing in all the Father of the Year polls, I decided to take
my 14-year-old son, Kellen, to a swimsuit photo shoot. Fourteen
is about when you start realizing that the annual swimsuit issue
is not just something that gets in the way of your NHL coverage.
Fourteen is about when you realize that the NHL coverage is
getting in the way of your swimsuit issues.
Kellen is like a lot of teenage boys--a terrific kid, but
inexplicable by science. How is it possible that sagging jeans
four sizes too big somehow stay up on what are only rumors of hip
bones? How does a person sleep only slightly longer than a
drugged mastodon? How can a kid navigate a snowboard at 50 mph
and then trip on a tiny crack in the kitchen tile?
So, Kellen and I found ourselves on a plane bound for Hawaii's
North Shore, his young id unable to imagine the glories that lay
ahead. He had finally stopped telling his buddies he was going.
None of them believed him. His mom wasn't too sure about the
trip, either, but we said we were doing it so we could both learn
"Yeah," said Kel. "Surf."
She didn't buy it for a second.
We landed at about 3 p.m. and got to the hotel about 4:30. "Kel,"
I said, "if you want, we can try to make the sunset shoot."
"Sure," he said, shrugging. "What else do we have to do?"
We walked about a mile along a deserted beach until we came to a
craggy point. We climbed that and, beneath us, discovered thong
paradise. There, on an impossibly beautiful beach, were
impossibly gorgeous models, either 1) posing with nearly nothing
on, 2) getting ready to pose with nearly nothing on or 3)
changing nearly nothing swimsuits behind nearly nothing towels
held by, sometimes, one another.
I looked at Kel. His eyes widened to the size of saucers. He
tried to stay cool. We strolled down to the shoot, pretending
that the all-you-can-see feast spread before us was nothing new.
This was my fourth shoot, so I was a little used to it. But for a
14-year-old, six-foot, 150-pound man-child perched sweetly on the
windowsill between Legos and Legs, it was knee-buckling,
life-altering, vertebrae-snapping heaven. It got worse. The
models started coming over to him. Turns out they thought he was
kind of shy and cute. Pretty soon, women hot enough to ignite
concrete were shaking Kel's hand with their right hands while
trying to cover up their nude top halves with their lefts--and
these were not the kind of halves easily covered up with one left
Kel's eyes widened to the size of Frisbees. It got worse. One
model was changing out of her suit behind a towel. When she
kicked off her bikini bottom, it went flying in the air, did a
2 1/2 gainer and landed on Kel's shoulder. He grinned. She
grinned. In many states she could do three to five for that. I
was thinking that if she did it to me, I would gladly do the
It got worse. Photographer Walter Iooss needed Kel to come stand
next to him and hold a sun reflector. So, now, what you had was a
purple Hawaiian sunset, a deserted beach, a
too-fabulous-to-dream-about model in nothing but a thong and a
black top hat, me stuck behind the Entertainment Tonight crew,
unable to see a damn thing because of some damn sun reflector,
and Kel, a ninth-grader who'd never even been to a prom, making
swimsuit calendars. It was possibly the greatest Take Your
Children to Work Day in the history of American commerce.
During a quick break, as the makeup man moved in to spray more
"sweat" on the model's derriere, Kel's eyes caught mine. I would
say they were now the size of 1952 Nash Rambler hubcaps.
That night, back in the room, I was beat. Kel, however, seemed
energized. "So," I said with half a wink, "you want to do the
sunset shoot again tomorrow night?"
He stopped cold. "Dad," he said, firmly, "we've gotta be at the
"What?!" I protested. "That's a 4:30 wake-up call! You haven't
been up before noon since you were six years old!"
"Dad," he said, firmly and responsibly, "they need us."
We finally did learn to surf--on the beach where they filmed
Baywatch Hawaii, as iris-popping actresses and models practiced
jogging, tanning and heart-stopping on the beach in front of us.
God, this kid owes me.
On the flight home I wondered if I'd ruined him for life. After
all, what was he going to say to the freshman girls back at his
high school? "Hi, Amber. Hey, how come you're not backlit?"
COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ORNAMENTAL FRAMES BY JOE ZEFF
For a 14-year-old perched sweetly between Legos and Legs, a
swimsuit shoot was a knee-buckling treat.