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 luck, Alex!
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 Réard, 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 this—actual fishing.