Friday, February 17, 2006

Mr. Long Island The Humor Column Swimsuit Edition

BY MICHAEL WATT Ask Mr. Long Island

Some of these columns are more fun to write than others.

Take this week, for instance. I knew I had my topic when I came home from work on Tuesday (Valentine’s Day) and saw a copy of this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition sharing desk space in my office with the current issue of Forbes. The juxtaposition of the two magazines together created a situation where you have one publication featuring women I will never meet next to another about money I will never make. Oh well.
On the SI cover, right below the eight scantily-clad bathing beauties, was a Post-It note from my wife, Sharon. It read, “Happy Valentine’s Day,” indicating that Sharon has a rather interesting sense of humor. (An argument can be made that this fact was clearly established the day she agreed to marry me, but I digress).

Actually, my 15 year-old son Alex subscribes to Sports Illustrated and he lets me read it when he is done. Usually. Year in and year out, for some reason, the Swimsuit issue never makes it back downstairs from his room and this year no doubt will be no exception. Even by SI’s standards the issue seems racier than ever, which is why Sharon wanted me to take a look before Alex got his hands on it. She wasn’t sure if it was appropriate for Alex to be exposed to this sort of thing and she wanted me to weigh in with my opinion.

At first blush asking me to determine whether something is “too racy” is tantamount to asking Dean Martin if you’ve had too much to drink. It really boils down to Sharon not being all that thrilled about members of her gender parading around in little more than bathing suits made from the same materials used to make those little flags that flap in the breeze in used car lots. The idea that her little baby – all 6-foot-three of him – spends any amount of time ogling the paper pulchritude just adds to her consternation.

It goes without saying that I am far too hip to even participate in such a conversation. “Oh let the boy read his magazine,” I said to Sharon, but not until I gave the matter my undivided attention and a great deal of scrutiny, turning the magazine’s pages with the care and reverence usually associated with biblical scholars and the Dead Sea Scrolls. In my humble opinion if our biggest problem as parents is our teenage son perusing swimsuit models in a sports magazine than we are doing pretty good in the parenting department.

Ironically, it was my reaction to the magazine rather than my son’s that gave me cause for concern. For whatever reason – old age, maturity, you name it - the women featured in this year’s edition, beautiful as they are, did absolutely nothing for me. They seem about as real as the mannequins you see in the storefront windows.

Yvette and Yvonne Sylvander, on the other hand – they were real. So real the memory of their images on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue from 1976 – that’s right, 30 years ago – is still emblazoned in my brain like the sight of my first bicycle under the Christmas tree. Wholesome, healthy and frolicking in the sand just like any other perfectly matched pair of, uh, incredibly well-suited teenage girls having fun in the sun – that’s what I’m talking about. Call it mis-guided youthful optimism but those models conveyed a sense of attainability, even if only in my dreams.

A few years after the Sylvander twins Sports Illustrated featured Christie Brinkley, a strikingly beautiful woman if ever there was one. While Christie’s attractiveness clearly pushed her to the unattainable level, the fact is I did spend a short amount of time in the same room with her (see previous article One Score and A Super Model Ago) so that has to count for something.

But for my money the Queen of Real is and always will be Cheryl Tiegs. The infamous shot of her in the cotton, white fishnet bathing suit emerging from the water is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to discussing immortalized poses struck by the long-legged and lovely Ms. Tiegs. Diligent soul that I am I took it upon myself to call upon the resources of the Internet to do a little research so I could re-visit the images that basically carried me through my teen years. The poster shot of her in a pink bikini with her thumb hooked through the strap on her right hip, for instance, covered more bedroom walls of adolescent males across the nation than a factory of Benjamin Moore paint. I think I actually went steady with the shot of her on the cover of Time magazine in March of 1978, the one where she sports a red one-piece bathing suit.

I must admit I had a great deal of fun “researching” this week’s column. Seeing the shots of Cheryl stirred feelings I had long since forgotten, for instance, and re-visiting the Sylvander twins took me right back to my bedroom in my parents’ house, tacking that SI cover to the wall and then staring at it for hours on end, wishing I could mentally will the women to come alive so they could frolic right there with me.

Like I said, some columns are more fun to write than others.

Thank you for reading this column.

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