In his distinguished career as a south Florida muckraker and satirist, Carl Hiaasen has exposed shady developers and scamming doctors, skewered crooked politicians and Disney World, and immersed himself in the world of hit men, strippers and roadkill connoisseurs. For this year's Swimsuit Issue, Hiaasen put a spin on Heart of Darkness, imagining an SI cover shoot gone horribly awry. For his research Hiaasen spent five days at an SI photo shoot in Barbados and an afternoon in Miami with SI's Walter Iooss Jr. "I wanted to absorb as much color as possible, and get a sense of the challenges on these shoots," says the award-winning Miami Herald columnist and author of eight best-selling novels, including Sick Puppy and Basket Case, and a children's book, Hoot. "That research was necessary because I'm a fashion ignoramus—the only fashion label I'm familiar with is Levi's."
Seven locations, five continents, six months—this year's issue was the most ambitious undertaking in Diane Smith's five years as the Swimsuit editor. "We wanted to go to the grandest, most luxurious spots in the world," says Smith, who journeyed to all seven locales, starting with Vietnam in August and ending with Barbados in January. Smith also led the committee that had the tough job of picking the 18 models in this issue, including five new faces. "We always have to bring back the favorites," she says, "and find newcomers who bring something we've never seen before."
A regular contributor to this issue (this was his fifth Swimsuit assignment), Austin Murphy was one of seven SI staffers dispatched to write about the posh locales for this year's shoots. Murphy, who has been a writer at SI for 19 years and currently covers college football and adventure, spent five extravagant days in the opulent—and extremely pricey—Sandy Lane resort. "Swimsuit assignments are always surreal, but this one was especially so," says Murphy. "I'm still wondering if I was really there. I had to laugh when the hotel's doorman said to us on the way out, 'Come again.' I could barely resist saying, As if?
Walter Iooss Jr.
For years SI photographer Walter Iooss Jr. had thought that the tropical landscapes of Vietnam would make an intriguing backdrop for a Swimsuit shoot. But after he arrived in August for his two-week stay in Nha Trang, Iooss, who has been covering sports for SI since 1961, realized that this would be one of the toughest assignments of his career. In addition to the 100� temperatures and 90% humidity, Iooss had to deal with a government press liaison who shadowed his every step, as well as unruly, swarming crowds of bystanders. "I had people crawling through my legs as I took photos," says Iooss, who also photographed Serena Williams in Miami for the issue. "The conditions were brutal, some of the worst I've ever experienced."
Drawing his inspiration from the lurid covers of musty paperbacks and detective pulp fiction, Richie Fahey hand-colors his black-and-white photographs to create enigmatic tableaux. "I like the idea of people not being able to figure out what time period I'm presenting," says Fahey. For this issue he illustrated scenes for Carl Hiaasen's novella, which is set in the Bahamas. For a marathon one-day photo shoot, Fahey constructed elaborate sets in a New York City studio. The detail-obsessed photographer (he dumped 180 pounds of sand on his floor) is pleased with the results, but can't get over one disappointment: He couldn't find the figs he needed for the final image. "I looked everywhere," he says, "but couldn't find any. So we used small pears."
MAKEUP ARTIST/BODY PAINTER
Painting a detailed world map over the curves of model Rachel Hunter is a delicate challenge, even for the world's preeminent body painter. "Usually I show up, have the materials in front of me and off I go," says Joanne Gair. "This project required major homework." Gair, who painted 13 birthday suits for the 1999 Swimsuit Issue, spent two weeks mapping out her strategy for fitting seven continents on Hunter. "Rachel was great," says the New Zealander of their 10-hour session. "Since we're both Kiwis, it was especially exciting to paint New Zealand and Australia down under—on her butt."