You might have heard that Jimmy Buffett is the mayor of Margaritaville, but he has also written No. 1 best sellers in fiction and non-fiction, which helps explain his welcome contributions to this issue in two media: a story about chasing tarpon in the Virgin Islands and his CD single, License to Chill. "My only complaint is that they didn't let me be in a thong for the CD cover," Buffett says. He wrote the song—which has a verse about skimpy swimsuits—with guitarist-producer Mac McAnally, and it will be on his new album License to Chill, due out later this year. "A critic once called me a shameless entertainer," he says. "He meant it as an insult, but I took it as a compliment."
The Swimsuit Issue's two associate editors are the people who really make the photo shoots happen. They get all the participants to the location—from the models to the makeup artists—and then make sure they have what they need. M.J. Figel, a veteran of five issues, has had to dodge charging warthogs and engage in international diplomacy after accidentally stepping on sleeping Bedouins one night in a Tunisian desert. This year's shoots were, she says, relatively disaster-free, so her biggest occupational hazard was a perennial one: seeing men start to salivate like dogs when they hear what her job is. "When I met my fianc� and told him I worked on the Swimsuit Issue, he could not have cared less," she says. "That's when I knew I wanted to marry him."
Among the stranger items that came across Jennifer Kaplan's desk last year was a swimsuit made of dental floss, sent in by a dentist hoping to get his creation onto a model and into the magazine. Picking through such entries—designers send in about 10,000 suits a year-is but one of her many duties. Kaplan, who has worked on six Swimsuit Issues, is a big sports fan and has met Roger Clemens, Ben Crenshaw and Joe Montana while coordinating the shoots for athletes and their wives. "Last year Dale Earnhardt Jr. took me for a spin around Daytona at about a hundred-gazillion miles per hour," she says. "Traveling the world is a great perk, but nothing will ever top that."
After 30 years as a fashion photographer (Vogue, Vanity Fair, Calvin Klein, Christian Dior), Tiziano Magni still loves his job. And that's not just because of all the beautiful women and exotic locales. "The real excitement is the pictures," he says. "It's always interesting to see what these beautiful women bring to the shoot, because each woman is different." And what did the former tennis star Anna Kournikova bring to her shoot? "She has the discipline and endurance to work hard all day," he says. The Swimsuit Issue is special for Magni because it means his work reaches a broader audience than the fashion world. Magni, a native of Italy who resides in New York City, says, "It's a pleasure to contribute to something that is such a large part of the nation where I live."
As a teenager in Rapid City, S.Dak., Stewart Shining posed family and friends in front of his camera and dreamed of making it big as a fashion photographer. Nice to know that some people get to live out their fantasies. Shining, who has also shot for Esquire, Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair, enjoyed the convenience of this year's location: instead of jetting to another continent, he simply had to drive from his New York City studio to the Adirondacks, on Upper Lake Saranac. "Of all the places I've been, it has some of the most beautiful light," he says. This is Shining's fourth Swimsuit Issue, but he says he is still impressed by the SI models. "Sometimes I'm behind the camera and I could almost drop it because I can't believe how beautiful the woman in front of my lens is."
DEPUTY ART DIRECTOR
Chris Hercik jumped to SI from Backpacker^ magazine in November 2002, and his first assignment was to design the entire 2003 Swimsuit Issue. "Backpacker is very much a how-to magazine," he says, and then laughs. "The Swimsuit Issue serves a whole 'nother purpose. If you're looking for something the two jobs have in common, I guess you could say I always loved the outdoors." Hercik spends two months laying out the issue and admits that he occasionally gets lost in an image on his computer screen—the biggest distraction this year was the picture of Marisa Miller in a pink bathing suit that appears on the table of contents. Hercik also enjoyed the American settings, and he says the Wyoming shoot brought back memories of his Backpacker days. "Looking at all these pictures made me really want to take a vacation."