Let's begin our hunt with, appropriately enough, the star of Sea Hunt, Mr. Lloyd Bridges. Now known chiefly as the father of Beau and Jeff or as the zany admiral in those Hot Shots movies, Bridges was once a hot TV star who spent much of his time with a face mask and oxygen tank as the star of the frequently-underwater adventure series Sea Hunt. The show aired from 1958-1961 and this was during the crossover era when it was still a touch risque for a man to show his navel (remember, even Barbara Eden of I Dream of Jeannie was forced to conceal hers in the mid-'60s!)
When suits lost the tank top portion and men began sporting bottom-only trunks, it was common for them to come way up to or even past the belly button! No matter that the lower portion fit like a panty, gentlemen wore highly compressive athletic supporters to eliminate as many bumps and bulges as possible down there (and we weren't supposed to be looking there, anyway!) Look here at Mr. Ronald Reagan (with then-wife Jane Wyman) and how high his suit rides. Here also is the normally buttoned-up leading man of the '40s (frequently opposite Miss Bette Davis) George Brent in a rare display of skin. His suit hits right at the belly button. (Seeing these shots helps me to better understand why I'd sometimes see old men at the pool with their trunks yanked up to their armpits, practically. It's the way they did it “in their day.”)
This look stayed in vogue through the late-'40s as evidenced by Miss Elizabeth Taylor's swimming mate (and then-fiance), William D. Pawley, son of an aircraft magnate and U.S. Ambassador of the same name. He's cute, though this particular model of swimsuit looks uncomfortably close to a Depends diaper. I don't know what it was that put a halt to their impending marriage. Anyone?
As time wore on, a more short-like trunk came into vogue. This shot of blonde, once-wildly popular, cinematic leading man Alan Ladd shows the belted, even pocketed sort of suit that found its way onto many a 1950s man. Ladd is shown lounging upon a diving board, a publicity shot pose that never seemed to go out of style. Randolph Scott did it in the '30s and, as shown here, Rock Hudson did it at the dawn of his career in the '50s. The diving board at The Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada was a popular one because of the way the board was situated below the sign, which could then be figured into the shot for compositional purposes. (It's almost a certainty that agent Henry Willson was behind the taking of these photographs.) As we'll see later, this method of promotion was still being done in the early '90s and perhaps beyond. Two 1950s stars not readily known for their beefcake images are Robert Preston and Gordon MacRae. Preston is probably best known for playing the title character in the Broadway show and resultant film version of The Music Man, though he also gained attention for his role in Victor/Victoria. He was far more than a song 'n dance man, though, and acted in many rugged adventure yarns as well. MacRae was an amazingly beautiful singer, a warm baritone probably best known for his big-screen films, Oklahoma! and Carousel, both Rodgers & Hammerstein musical adaptations (though he only got Carousel after Frank Sinatra walked out in a huff over having to film the entire production in two formats.) Sadly, during what should have been his peak of productivity, he grappled with alcoholism. Though he eventually beat that, he was felled by cancer of the mouth and jaw, and a bout of pneumonia, in 1986 at only age sixty-four.
Another star of the '40s and '50s who did tend to show off his body, at least in publicity photos if less so in his actual movies, is beauteous Guy Madison. He's already been showcased in The Underworld twice, but what can I say? There always seems to be just one more picture of him I can't resist sharing! Here, he dries off after a fun splash at the beach (do you still call it a beach when the ground consists of all sorts of ROCKS like this one has?!)
One of my favorite little hunks, who was also profiled here not too long ago, is Dewey Martin. A slim, boyishly cute leading man during part of the '50s, he was married for a little while to singing superstar Peggy Lee until resentment over her late-night lifestyle and propensity for having former husbands hanging around, led to disharmony. Oh to be the one who got to slather on his sunscreen on this day. (Oh, who am I kidding? Sunscreen?! He'd probably never even heard of it! Okay, fine, the cocoa butter.)
This next shot is not a swimsuit, per se, but I wanted to post the photo here at some point and this is as good a time as any. (Sorry, my loves, but there isn't going to be a Martin Milner tribute!) It's a promotional photo of Marty from The Private Lives of Adam and Eve, a 1960 spoof in which he and Mamie Van Doren dream that they are in the Garden of Eden with Mickey Rooney as the The Devil! Though the movie is a campy goof, Milner does look pretty nice in his fig leaf-cum-jockey shorts.
We now revisit Mr. Hudson again, briefly, still at the pool, but, by now, more confident and poised, better groomed, more defined and just generally lookin' great! I try not to repeat in my posts like this, but sometimes you just can't help it. When Rock slid, he slid badly, but in his day he was a very handsome and physically appealing man.
One of Hudson's contemporaries (and also costar in The Last Sunset) was Kirk Douglas. Kirk never shied away from strutting his stuff either, performing part of Spartacus in a gray loincloth and choosing abbreviated and clingy swimwear. Here he is at The French Riviera giving braid-aid to a young female companion. Douglas favored the simplicity of the Speedo-style suit from this point on through to the time he played Andrew Stevens' father in Brian De Palma's The Fury.
For insight into what the smart gay was wearing while at the sandy shores in the late '50s, we have to rely on Elizabeth Taylor's memories of her lascivious vacation companion Sebastian Venable in Suddenly, Last Summer. The character was portrayed by an unnamed actor whose face was not shown, lest the spell of mystery about him and his reported dynamic looks be lost by the reality of a certain visage being depicted. As was often the case, Liz is getting the best view, but I like this flimsy suit.
The 1960s offered more choices in swimwear for men. There were clingy briefs, loose trunks and even square-cut combinations of the two. Here, we see a surprisingly sexy Clint Eastwood (sorry, but I really can't say I ever found him to be such prior to this!) in some fun, slinky trunks. This was a flip from the western duds he wore as Rowdy Yates on Rawhide. I love his expressions in these two shots taken in the early days of his career and the suit is just plain adorable.
Those Gidget movies, taking place at the beach as they often did, afforded some great opportunities to see the swimwear of the day. Here in 1961, in Gidget Goes Hawaiian, is Michael Callan (far left) in a positively yummy set of diamond-checkered trunks. In the middle, in red, is James Darren in a less interesting pair. The actor at the far right, in green trunks, seems to be packing the most into his, but, as Bette Davis once lamented, “Why is it always the homely ones?” (I know, I know... not only was she wrong, but such a thing hardly matters in the great big swim of things.)
What a shame that the photographer chose to keep Bonanza's Michael Landon in the water (not to mention attached to his rather imposing wife, Lynn!) in this shot. We know that Mike would have made quite an impression in those skimpy trunks once he got out of the pool.
Fans of the trim and lean type might enjoy young Davy Jones of The Monkees fame. We don't tend to see a tremendous number of shirtless pics of Jones, who was usually decked out in flashy '60s clothing. It looks like he has some sort of little scar near his belly button. (Appendix? Probably a little high and centered. I know nothing of such procedures...) I once met Mr. Jones and got an autographed photo of him, but the chef at the country club where I worked worshiped him so much, I felt I had to do the right thing and let her have the picture!
Another '60s (and '70s) star was toothy, cute Doug McClure. As costar of The Virginian and of various movies, he had a pretty strong teen following. He looks beefier in this particular shot (from the 1964 movie The Lively Set) than he usually appeared, but I certainly find nothing wrong with that! I like a little man with my man.
I've already devoted a post to the wonders of Hugh O'Brian (as well as a testament to my favorite movie of his, Love Has Many Faces), but here he is playing bumper pool with a lovely partner, young Miss Natalie Wood. (I love her get-up, by the way! And note the ever-present bracelet over her “deformed” wrist.) This isn't a particularly flattering shot of Hugh, who we know could look amazing in a pair of swim trunks, but Nat's expression was so appealing I decided to post it.
By the late '60s, men's swimsuits were becoming increasingly abbreviated (yes!) and showed off amounts of skin that would have stunned people decades earlier. Here we have Robert Culp (along with frequent I Spy guest star and Culp's wife from 1967-1970, France Nuyen) enjoying a snack on the beach while sporting a skimpy white Speedo. In a few years, some suits would utilize even less fabric than this already revealing one.
In a recent post featuring Swedish paper dolls, there was a Rod Stewart one that was depicted wearing colorful briefs. The artist doesn't appear to have been too far off the mark now that we view this shot of Rod and his then-significant other Britt Ekland. The unisex aspect of '70s clothing is driven home by the fact that her tank top goes with his bikini bottom (who knows whether the ensemble was meant for a man or if it was sold for use by both sexes?) Things went way south when this couple broke up in 1977 and Britt slapped Rod with a $12.5 million palimony suit, which she lost.
Rod wasn't the only rocker to take the Speedo to heart. Many a musician lollygagged on a yacht somewhere with a babe in one arm and a drink in the other while wearing the teensy briefs. Here we have the members of the heavy metal band AC/DC on vacation and looking more than a little awkward out of their rocker duds. Amusingly, the one who looks the most at ease is the one with the least on! These are not my type of guys, but I try to let various looks have their moment in the sun. Gun to the head, I guess I'd take the one second from the left. (I'm not even versed enough to know his - or any of these guys' - name, but I do know that whoever he is, he had a lifelong fondness for posing with his hands that way.)
When The Carol Burnett Show alum Lyle Waggoner posed for Playgirl, he declined to show any real nudity, but he was willing to show off his terrific body in this slight, pale green swimsuit. He was in really great shape! My question is, why is the pool so friggin' dirty and full of leaves? Tinseltown homeowners are supposed to have pool boys come by regularly, especially prior to a photo shoot!
'70s TV icon Telly Savalas, of Kojak fame, favored the Speedo to compliment his deep tan, shaved head and gold necklaces. This sort of iconic image is one that would later be lampooned and giggled at for its overt machismo which somehow spilled over into appearing effeminate and foolish.
When it comes to the Speedo on celebrities, there is nothing, and I do mean nothing, that can compare with the series of television specials broadcast (once or twice yearly) in the '70s and '80s, Battle of the Network Stars. Words cannot describe how much I loved these programs. It was so much fun to see all my favorite TV stars from NBC, CBS and ABC together, trying to outdo each other in sporting competitions. The gravy was that every male star appearing on a team was (apparently) forced into wearing a Speedo. Sometimes the results were disastrous (Hill St. Blues' Charles Haid and Lou Grant's Ed Asner, to name two!), but usually they were splendid.
Here we see Magnum P.I.'s Tom Selleck preparing to take part in the kayak relay race and also doffing his t-shirt prior to stepping into the dunking booth. Selleck had one of the all-time greathairy chests. Needless to say, today's TV stars would not be caught dead wearing such swimsuits on a network special.
Marc Singer was another participant and showed off a particularly well-defined physique. He's in astonishing shape here, but what really has me worried is his left foot! It looks like he has somehow sprained it very badly (or else Herve Villechaize was down there finger-painting?) It was not at all uncommon for the celebs to hurt themselves slightly or even significantly as they fought it out for the glory (and the money) that came with being the winning network.
I have no memory of anyone not wearing a Speedo during the pool events on Battle, but nevertheless, here is a photo of John Davidson in compression shorts! Not sure if he wore those to run and then switched them to swim or if he was one of the very few men who was allowed to forgo the obligatory Speedo. Perhaps he didn't swim at all in order to avoid getting his hair wet?
One of the most gasp-inducing sights in the program's history (and, sadly, I have neither a photo nor a screen cap of it, though a blurry video appears on youtube.com) was the time that a half-erect Michael J. Fox climbed up on the diving platform to wave at fans, his green Speedo unable to conceal what was happening! Here, he is shown, covered up, with hunky Mark Harmon. Both of these guys participated in the specials frequently.
This photo isn't from Battle of the Network Stars, but Maxwell Caulfield was never shy about showing off his own remarkable physique. In fact, he performed in the Off-Broadway play Salonika with Jessica Tandy and Elizabeth Wilson that required him to be completely naked for forty minutes. Another costar (this one from The Elephant Man), Juliet Mills, who was eighteen years his senior, left her husband for him in 1980 and the two have been inseparable ever since!
I don't believe Dennis Cole ever participated in a Battle of the Network Stars (though I could be wrong), but I think this is from some other celeb event that involved swimming and/or other athletics. A former posing strap model during the '60s, this is already more clothing than he had on in those days! Most any TV series spotting of Mr. Cole includes a glimpse of Dennis Jr.
Shatner, who was in reasonable shape then, though certainly not slender, would sometimes make humorous references to Zmed's physique. In fact, in a scene taking place directly after these snaps, he wanted to work on a case by himself and told Zmed to “go work on” his pecs in the meantime.
I get a lot of visitors to The Underworld who are on the lookout for '80s TV star (and costar of Caulfield in Grease 2) Adrian Zmed. Zmed, who spent from 1982 to 1985 on William Shatner's cop show T. J. Hooker, made it a habit to show off his own bod whenever possible. His character on the show lived in a swanky apartment complex that had its own swimming pool and occasionally he would be shown strutting around in a slinky Speedo.
Even if a hunky star opted not to wear such a revealing piece of swimwear, shorts lived up to their name in the '80s and were SHORT. None of those knee-length board shorts, thankyouverymuch! Check out that example of male perfection, the ill-fated Jon-Erik Hexum as he lounges by the pool in a trim pair of gym shorts. Like many of the men featured here, there is a separate tribute to him elsewhere on this site. You can click on his name in the column to the right to read more about him.
As I mentioned above, the star-posed-on-diving-board publicity photo scheme had a longstanding history and was not completely abandoned even into the late '80s. Here we have burgeoning action star and martial artist Jean Claude Van Damme early in his career giving it his best shot on a diving board. Van Damme was one of the few stars to continue to embrace the Speedo as the end of an era approached.
By the time the '90s rolled around, the Speedo was a complete joke in America, with only athletes, bodybuilders, professional wrestlers and certain foreign visitors donning them. Even many collegiate and professional swimmers and divers have since moved on to more full coverage suits. Sometimes one might rear its head as a gag, such as in this shot of Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of South Park who enjoyed using clothing in order to generate attention for themselves. (That's Stone, by the way, in the blue suit.)
Like so many of my posts of this sort, it's been pretty scattershot and I've probably bitten off more than I can chew, but hopefully you still enjoyed the pictures, at least! No matter where you are, if it's hot out, try to stay cool. If that means horsing around in the water (like Mr. Burt Reynolds and Ronny Cox are doing in this picture, taken at the motel during the location filming of Deliverance), then go for it! Just remember to keep the pool clean, unlike Lyle Waggoner. If it means hiring out a pool man (such as Mr. Mark Harmon portrayed in the TV-movie Prince of Bel Air), then so be it.