Palm Springs. Saturday afternoon. Inside the men's bathhouse at the Palm Springs Spa. Bob Gans, a San Diego stationer in town for a convention, lies submerged in a body-contoured tub filled with churning hot water. Almost dreamily he says, "I played 18 holes of golf today but this Jacuzzi should keep me from getting achy." Note the word he uses. Jacuzzi.
Across town at the Canyon Hotel, Dante Maimone, a vacationing executive from Columbus, Ohio, who has just played three hours of tennis, stands in a similar, but larger, pool of roiling water. To the two men and one woman sharing the pool with him, he exclaims, "The Jacuzzi is a great way to get the kinks out." That word again. Jacuzzi.
Elsewhere in Palm Springs, from trailer parks to mansions, others are sloshing around in Jacuzzis. Technically, the name for such activity is hydrotherapy; less formally, sportswriters let you know they are on such intimate terms with an athlete that they can interview him in "the whirlpool." It's the same thing.
There is no gainsaying the value that the sports world, not just journalists, attaches to whirlpool therapy, which is used both for physical rehabilitation and as an almost spiritual refuge from the rigors of competition. Along with massive tackles trying to wash away the weekend's collection of contusions, hydrotherapy has been used to combat lameness in racehorses and to shine the coats while calming the nerves of show dogs. Virtually every professional and major college team owns at least one stainless-steel whirlpool tank and some boast of four or five. Whirlpools are also showing up in high schools. "I get letters from high schools asking what they should put in their training rooms," says Kansas City Chiefs' Trainer Wayne Rudy. "I tell them the whirlpool is the most important piece of equipment we have."
In the sports spin-off boom that buffets the land it would be unthinkable that such vital gear should long stay confined to locker rooms. People now enjoy whirlpools in health clubs, hotels and their own bathrooms and backyards. They do so in color-coordinated fiber glass "spas," in prefabricated in-the-ground "therapy pools," in anything from ordinary bathtubs fitted with portable "aerators," or "aspirators," up to multi-kilodollar installations featuring tumbling waterfalls and mosaic tiles. Today the whirlpool is more than therapeutic equipment; it is a meeting place, a supertranquilizer, a status symbol.
And the name for it, often as not, is Jacuzzi. Turn to your favorite gossip columnist and read where Ann-Margret has a sunken Jacuzzi in her bathroom. Leaf through Playboy and see Hef & Friends playing rub-a-dub in their Jacuzzis. Or flick on the TV and catch Johnny Carson kidding about New York's gangland slayings: "There are so many bodies dumped into the East River that it looks like one big Jacuzzi."
Anything mentioned by Johnny, of course, is ipso facto a cultural phenomenon. That fact is borne out in Southern California, where the Jacuzzi has all but replaced the three-car garage as a totem of the good life.
In addition to the sports boom, the craze for Jacuzzis has been accelerated by the health boom, the luxury boom and the gadget boom. Palm Springs, the self-styled "golf capital of the world," probably has more whirlpools per capita than any other city. But Palm Springs is also a health resort popular with the elderly or infirm, and for many, Jacuzzis are less supplement for sport than substitute.
At the city's Canyon Estates, silver-haired gents and matronly ladies continually beat a path to the pool of gurgling water, ignoring the 25-yard swimming pool adjacent to it. Seated in a deck chair, shirt off and eyeglasses in hand, Jerry Graham, a retired ladies-apparel buyer from Los Angeles, looks on. "I just don't understand it," Graham confesses. "Myself, I'm on an exercise program I worked out with my doctor. I swim 10 or 12 laps two or three times a day. But these people, all they do is sit in the Jacuzzi."
Like Xerox, Levi's, Thermos and Kleenex, Jacuzzi is a trade name that has become almost generic. People tend to say "Jacuzzi" and let it go at that, even if the label says Aquassage, Swimquip, Scandia or Hydraquip, not to mention Montgomery Ward.