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Up Against The Wall
Bruce Newman
February 07, 1989
For some collegians, swimsuit photographs are the last word in dorm decor
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February 07, 1989

Up Against The Wall

For some collegians, swimsuit photographs are the last word in dorm decor

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Some collectors, like Fernandez, seem to need only a picture or two, while, as indicated above, others go for volume. University of Miami roommates Mark Mautino and Brian Alspector have the photos all over their room—everywhere, in fact, except the ceiling. "They won't let us do that," Mautino says. "They say it's a fire hazard." Mike Shingles, a sophomore pre-med at Michigan, spent two hours last fall putting together a collage that entirely covers one sliding closet door. Shingles used to have a collage of the Minnesota Vikings on his wall, that apparently being part of the usual cycle for male pre-med students: football players, then girls, then CAT scans of the small intestine. Shingles hopes to laminate his collage so that he can take it with him as he travels down life's highway.

The collegians who collect them devote considerable attention to the care and feeding of their swimsuit photos. When construction work begins this spring on UCLA's Sproul Hall, where Gwynn lives, he will painstakingly remove all the pictures from a wall in his room and then transfer them to a large piece of butcher paper. "When you take them down you have to keep the tape on," he says. "If you try to take it off, you're liable to rip some of the important parts."

Proper taping technique is crucial. Scott Cohen, a USC sophomore who has been cutting paper dolls out of the swimsuit issue since the seventh grade, has lost some classics due to faulty tape work. "You've got to be careful, very, very careful," he says. "After a lot of years I guess I've mastered the proper technique, so now I don't ruin my precious pictures." Because there are frequently photos he wants on both sides of a page, Cohen always anticipates cutting up the magazine with a measure of dread. "You're always hoping you aren't cutting over one of the girls' bodies," he says. This is the brutal part of the job.

"It happens every once in a while, but you just have to make a decision," says Steve Carter, a USC freshman. Carter hangs his pictures with thumbtacks so he can turn them over now and then for a change of pace.

Cohen, an SI subscriber, says he looks forward to his copy of the swimsuit issue "all year," although he is sometimes let down at the last minute by the postal service. "Sometimes the issue never comes," he says forlornly. "Or it will mysteriously come a week late, looking like it's been thumbed through."

Assuming the magazine arrives without excessive smudging, convention then calls for a carefully plotted attack on the swimsuit section, with the rest of the issue cast quickly aside. "I usually look through the pictures more than once," says Gwynn, who is also a subscriber. "The first time, I'll glance through really quick, then I go back and pick the ones I like best and cut them out. I have to be really selective because they're on both sides of the pages." Would he consider buying another copy to alleviate that problem? "No," says Gwynn, "I wouldn't."

Some of the collectors display an esthetic sensibility. " SPORTS ILLUSTRATED shows the best of the human body week in and week out, and I guess that's the reason they do the swimsuit issue," says Cohen. And Mark Souva, a sophomore majoring in political science at Michigan, says, "Some of the best parts of these pictures are the backgrounds."

He had considered placing geometric mats over the pictures to highlight the models' faces and body parts. "But then I decided not to because I would have lost the colors, and the pictures as a whole," he says.

Whether it is seen as art or cheesecake, there are a lot of women (and some men) who question the justification for the swimsuit issue; Jennifer Sundquist is not among them. Sundquist, a freshman at UCLA "with a major in beach, minor in party," started putting the swimsuit pictures on her bedroom wall at home a year ago, after her brother gave her several old issues of the magazine, and she now has photos on her dorm-room wall. Her mother, Dorothy, was a model, and Jennifer is hoping for a modeling career too. She has already been in three fashion shows. "My mom encouraged me to get into it because I'm kind of photogenic," she says. "I'm not gay or anything—I just like the way they look," she says. "It's like an inspiration to me." Perhaps fittingly, most of the abuse she has taken over the pictures has come from men. "Guys just don't understand when girls like the way other girls look," she says.

Some collectors follow the swimsuit issue from year to year as if it were a sport unto itself, with each model having her own loyal coterie of fans. Cohen was very enthusiastic about Stephanie Seymour, a promising rookie last year, and speaks of Tiegs as an "aging veteran," the way his father might have talked about Willie Mays. " Carol Alt and Kim Alexis are the two real veterans of the past couple of years," Cohen says. "You sort of wonder if they'll be back with the team this time around."

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