SI undressed
By Jeff Merron
Special to Page 2

It's here -- you know it. The "SI s.i.," as so well abbreviated by Frank Deford in a 1989 article celebrating the issue's 25th anniversary.

Sports Illustrated 2003
SI definitely has the market cornered on how to cure the winter blues.
We don't mind giving some props to SI -- we doubt we're the the only ESPNers who've "had to" look at the mag for "research" purposes.

Next year, if all goes well, the Big Men in the Executive Quarters on the other side of the ESPN campus will approve our proposal for a P2 Swimsuit Edition. And then we'll have our own stories to tell. But until then ...


SI six feet under
Jule Campbell, the editor of that first swimsuit issue, guided it from mid-winter curiosity to Franchise during her three decades or so at the bikini helm. She had a tremendous influence on the look of models over the years, which is a good thing: Campbell dismissed most models as "cadaverous," and searched, instead, for what she called "healthy girls."

Seems like she got it right.

What about her mind?
In 1992, Campbell called Naomi Campbell "the best body I have ever worked with."

A little slice of Plato
Henry Allen of the Washington Post had the good grace to summarize the 1992 swimsuit video for those who didn't have access to HBO. He describes one scene: "And Naomi Campbell in the hotel room, walking away from the camera and displaying a bottom that transcends perfection to become a sort of Platonic principle, the ultimate reality of bottomness against which all other bottoms can be judged (and found wanting)."

Page 2's Swimsuit Edition
  • Trying to sneak a peak at the SI swimsuit issue without getting in trouble? Eric Neel has some helpful advice.
  • It's called "near naked." Gregg Easterbrook isn't complaining as he reviews SI's cheesecake issue.
  • Photo gallery: Yes, we have our own revealing swimsuit edition that you won't want to miss!
  • National Geographic just put out a swimsuit edition as well. We're hearing other mags may jump on the bandwagon.
  • Vote for your favorite Sports Illustrated cover girl.
  • Hiding, er, her other assets
    In 2001, Kathy Ireland, who appeared in many swimsuit issues, said she would prefer SI's models to pose wearing both ends of their bikinis.

    "Personally, I like tops," she said. "I mean, I really like tops. I'm not comfortable without a top."



    Elle's revealing job interview
    Elle MacPherson was only 17 when she interviewed for a spot in the swimsuit issue in 1984. She came a bit unprepared. "I'll have to talk to you again later," said editor Jule Campbell. "You don't have pictures and I can't really see what your body looks like."

    So Elle stripped off her sweater and gave her a good look.

    "I get the idea," said Campbell.

    And Elle got the job.

    Elle MacPherson
    We thank you, Elle, for your determination.


    Part 1: There once was an ugly duckling
    People magazine profiled Paulina in 1985, when, at 20, she had reached the apex of her profession -- two SI covers were just the tip of the iceberg.

    But incredible beauty didn't come easy. "From 10 to 15, I was straight-out ugly. I was called 'chicken,' and every guy at school laughed at me. I had no (breasts), no ass, funny teeth, big ears, short hair, and I was stupid enough to wear glasses. I was a disaster."

    Kinda hard to imagine, isn't it?

    Part 2: There then was a naked duckling
    A few years later, Paulina had emerged as a certified supermodel. Then she hit new heights of popularity when she posed nude in GQ. "I thought it was nothing because I'm used to European standards," she said.

    Nevertheless, supermod photog Francesco Scavullo felt it necessary to weigh in with his opinion: "She looks marvelous when she wears clothes and marvelous when she takes them off."



    What they think about
    In 1992, Kathy Ireland admitted that some of the poses "can be uncomfortable at times, but on the other hand, you think about how much money you're making.

    "I have this sexy look on my face," Ireland added. "But I'm thinking about Oreo cookies or something like that."

    Tickle Me Rebecca
    The 1999 SI included a section with models bodypainted to look as if they were wearing actual suits. They weren't. They were naked.

    It wasn't easy on the models, but it sounds like a lot of fun to us. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos told SI's Austin Murphy that she was woken up at 1 a.m. to have her body painted on a table in a gym. She tried to sleep, she told Murphy, but she "had all these weird dreams. I was kind of alternating between moments of tranquility and self-consciousness, when I'd wake up and realize, Hey, I'm lying here butt naked!"

    Rebecca Romijn
    You can look, but you can't paint.
    She added that the paint brushes tickled her belly button.

    A detail we're sure that the five guys who actually read the article savored for months to come.


    A photo daddy's high standards
    In May 1986, Elle MacPherson, then 21 and only a few months removed from her first SI cover, married French photographer Gilles Bensimon, who was 42 at the time. They'd met on a fashion shoot a few years before, but Bensimon found the teen to be a turnoff: "Elle arrived late, she got a pimple on her chin and then a sunburn."

    Am I hot or not? (Elite version)
    After Tyra Banks appeared on her first cover, she said, "Every darn sports person called and asked me for a date."

    What is it about hockey players?
    We all know that Anna K. digs hockey players. So, clearly, does supermodel and SI cover girl Carol Alt. She was married to Ron Greschner, who played for the New York Rangers. While they were separated, in 1999, she hooked up with Alexei Yashin, then with the Ottawa Senators, now with the Islanders. Yashin, 13 years her junior, took Alt to hockey school, figuratively speaking.

    "I've learned more about hockey in the past two years than I did in 12 years with Ron," she said.

    What a glamorous couple
    In 1999, Angels pitcher Chuck Finley posed in the SI s.i. with his wife, Tawny Kitaen, gorgeously bikini-clad. They appeared together under the heading, "Hits and Mrs."

    Which was backwards prophetic. Tawny, you'll doubtless recall, was arrested on charges of spousal abuse and battery, accused of kicking Chuck and twisting his ear.

    If you don't believe photography is an art, compare Tawny's mug shot to her SI pic.

    Down boy!
    Shortly after the 2002 SI came out, cover girl Yamila Diaz-Rahi, Chandra North, Bridget Hall, and other swimsuit models appeared in a "fashion show" in Manhattan for MTV's "Fashionably Loud."

    It was an ugly scene, with audience members trying to grope the models as they walked down the runway. At the same time, they had to keep an eye out for the host, Enrique Iglesias, reported the Ottawa Citizen: "The tipsy temptresses, many of whom had been swilling drinks backstage since noon, not only had to walk the runway in high heels without tripping, they had to avoid being manhandled by headline-act Iglesias, who tried to dance with many of the beauties as they ashayed past."


    Capitalism and creativity
    One great thing about capitalism as an economic system is that it rewards innovation. Make something new, or make something better, or make something different, and if people like it, you're rewarded.

    There you go. There's the first paragraph of your ECON 101 term paper.

    Here's your case study:

    Heather Locklear
    It wasn't SI, but your efforts are truly appreciated, Heather.
    In the 1980s, SI competitor Inside Sports plunged into the swim of things with its own February swimsuit issue. Covers during the 1980s featured TV stars like Heather Locklear, Emma Samms, Lisa Hartman, and Charlene Tilton. The mag's editor, Norm Jacobs, explained how his magazine filled a real need in the marketplace: "We take celebrities and make models out of them," he said. "They take models and make them celebrities."

    The unique strategy worked, as Inside Sports sold about 900,000 issues on the newsstand, a healthy rise over its normal sales.

    The benefits of being a cover girl
    Being selected for the cover of the SI is more than an honor -- it's the best career move you can make, if you're a model. The cover has plucked Kathy Ireland, Tyra Banks, Elle, Angie Everhart and plenty of others from the semi-obscurity of runways and run-of-the-mill magazine ads into supermodel stardom. There's fame, the possibility of achieving I'm-a-brand status, and some extra bucks right away.

    "Your rates go up, especially for swimsuits," said Rebecca Romijn in 1998. "If somebody gets the cover, their day rates will double."

    Well, they say fashion is cyclical
    Rebecca appeared on the 1999 cover in a $800 silver metallic "chain mail" bikini. Shortly after, reported Women's Wear Daily, the suit's designer received an unusual request -- a man requesting a "tunic version."

    That's a one piece, unisex, worn down to the knees. By fashionable ancient Greeks and Romans.


    Yes, we want your teeth to be clean, but ...
    In 1989, Doonesbury's Boopsie, who's had her shower-scene moments in a variety of B films, posed for SI. On location, she's talking to the issue's editor:

    Editor: Let's have you try on the swimsuit now, okay?

    Boopsie: Okay. Where is it?

    Editor: Uh ... I just gave it to you.

    Boopsie: This? Oh, sorry. I thought it was dental floss.

    The swimsuit issue from hell
    Many close observers (read: sportswriters) noted that the 1993 SI s.i. featured models who were suited, for the most part, in an unusually modest fashion. "Some of the models are dressed in yards of cover-up material," lamented John Leo of the Universal Press Syndicate. "There's only one frontal topless photo, no wet T-shirts, and maybe only four trademark SI girlie shots out of the 36 photos in the spread. The truth is, if this issue were a car, it would have to be recalled."

    That's about $1,000 a square inch
    In 1997, Tyra Banks became the first black model to pose, solo, on an SI s.i. cover. (She had shared the cover the year before with Valerie Mazza.) The suit she wore -- a red number with pink polka dots -- sold at auction for $3,630.


    This was one scary lady
    A letter to SI, after the 1967 swimsuit issue arrived in Sister Mary Ephrem Loretto's mailbox: "My copy was burned immediately, and the subscription will cease. Perhaps you do not know it, but nudity is more destructive to our youth than an atom bomb."

    Give 'em a break -- February lasts about three months in Wisconsin
    In 1998, Wisconsin's Department of Corrections banned the SI s.i.

    Which put the mag in pretty good company -- it also banned, in the name of morality and the de facto "prisoners can't have any fun" rule, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, racy letters from spouses, and -- we're not making this up -- pictures of the Sistine Chapel.


    The SI sincerest form of flattery
    The SI s.i. has spawned a slew of straight-faced imitators, and also a few unusual ones.

    Vegetarian Times, in March 1991, came out with its Gym Suit Issue, featuring 18 photos of everyday folks working out in sweats and other unrevealing gym attire. Among the photos were those of a woman mowing her lawn, a letter carrier in uniform (sounds like something Cliff Clavin would have done, if given the opportunity), and an aikido instructor.

    National Geographic swimsuit
    Don't look now, but your credibility is floating away.
    In 1995, Comedy Central released its parody, "Sports Imitated." It's rare and out-of-print, but it was definitely a swimsuit issue, featuring on the cover a bikini-clad model and the tagline, "Baking in the Big Apple."

    And you've no doubt heard about or seen National Geographic's swimsuit issue, available now on newsstands. National Public Radio recently interviewed the magazine's editor in chief, Bill Allen:

    NPR: Well, let's describe this [cover] picture. What you have ... is a resplendent model who's lounging in the ocean, and she's wearing a swimsuit made out of carefully placed seashells. And, you know, honey, one wrong move, and this bikini is history. I mean, it's very carefully placed. And this is not the kind of image you normally associate with National Geographic.

    ALLEN: Well, I will like to point out that it's a very National Geographic image when you have the background, which is rocks. That's geology. And you have the oceans, which has always been something that National Geographic has been interested in. And then, of course, the seashells. And I will point out ... that they are from a family, Melongenidae. So all of these things -- again, that gets the natural history aspect in.

    Please, let your gun be clothed
    Continuing on the imitation theme, Saturday Night, a Canadian magazine, comes out with a swimsuit issue this weekend. Among the all-Canadian cast posing is -- well, we don't really want to imagine it -- Leslie Nielsen.


    Now that's school spirit!
    Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times must have had that tough examine-that-issue-closely assignment back in 1989. He discovered, in that 25th anniversary edition, the "f-word."

    Topkin's attention to detail was extraordinary: "The expletive appears on a button in the background of a UCLA student who is interested in modeling. The first two lines of the button are not readable, but the bottom line says "F--- SC, an apparent reference to UCLA's arch rival, the University of Southern California."

    Of course, Topkin followed his discovery up with a call to SI's bigwigs. "You're the first person to tell me this," the managing editor, Mark Mulvoy, told him. "Twenty million people have read that issue and no one noticed it."

    Mulvoy added that SI would have altered the photo (no!) if they had only known. But still, Topkin deserved a scolding. You see, there's a proper way to go about looking at the SI s.i. "You look at the photo," said Mulvoy. "You look at the girl, then you look at the posters; you don't even look to the right."

    In 1989, HBO broadcast "Sports Illustrated's 25th Annual Swimsuit Video." We're sure you have an idea what it looked like.

    But an HBO marketing suit said there wouldn't be a repeat. "There won't be a video with each swimsuit issue. There may not be another one of these for another 25 years."

    He was only off by 22 years. The video returned in 1992, and has been part of the program ever since.

    And finally ...
    Think it takes something special to be a successful television exec? We end by offering this, um, revealing 1992 news tidbit out of Sydney, Australia: "A recent documentary on Australian model Elle MacPherson, one of the most popular women featured in Sports Illustrated's annual swimsuit issues, had little to offer but a seminude shoot in Bali and a voice-over about her life. It was the No. 2 show of the week."



    Jeff Merron Archive

    Neel: Swimsuit user's guide

    Page 2's Swimsuit Issue

    Easterbrook: Near naked

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