Sad to report the death, today, of Esther Williams, a former swimming partner of Johnny Weissmuller. A very beautiful woman. RIP.
It would appear the partnership of Williams and Weissmuller shows how much swimming champions were seen as celebrities of their time, easily moving into movies. It’s doubtful any of our atheletes today would so easily make the transition. And if you’ve seen a movie by OJ Simpson, Arnold Schwarzenneger, (English soccer player) Vinnie Jones or (French soccer player) Eric Cantona, it’s difficult not to argue with my assertion. For blanket coverage of ‘soccer stars acting badly’, you need look no further than Michael Caine/Sylvester Stallone vehicle for not only soccer stars acting badly, but acting stars acting badly 😦
Wiessmuller was an Olympic champion, and went on to play Tarzan in several movies, and crossed the divide from the era of ‘full one piece male swimsuits’ (in the 1924 Olympics) to ‘one piece, topless male swimsuits…or loincloths’ by the time he starred in the ‘Tarzan’ movies. Of course, he didn’t have the glory of being the first male ‘topless’ actor on the silver screen. That honour goes to Clark gable, in ‘It happened one night’ (1934), a year before New Jersey was arresting and fining topless males, and two years before male ‘topless rights’ were enacted in the US. By the time Weissmuller concluded the Tarzan series he, too was reduced to a loincloth.
Anyway, in my imagination it’s Weissmuller, much more than Clark Gable, precisely because of the nature of Weissmuller’s roles and his history in swimming, that breaks through the glass ceiling of ‘topless males in movies’.
As I’m on a little bit of a ‘vintage’ kick today, and heading off in the opposite direction of naturism, I nipped over to the ‘Brasil Avatar’ freebie store, picked up their (female) Devil Girl one piece swimsuit and…lo and behold, I’m Weissmuller in 1924! (well, I would be if I didn’t look like Prince in this new skin, lol). I’ll legitimise this post by saying that the next edition of SLN is (I guess) almost done. At least, I think all of my work on it is done. And it deals quite a bit with the history of naturism, so these little landmarks on the path to publicly accepted public nudity are important if we’re to understand and contextualise naturism. And I do like to imagine how SL might have looked if it had existed 50, 60, 70 years ago.