Saturday

Jul. 5, 2003

Teenage Interplanetary Vixens Run Wild on Bikini Beach

by Allison Joseph

SATURDAY, 5 JULY 2003
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Poem: "Teenage Interplanetary Vixens Run Wild on Bikini Beach," by Allison Joseph from The New American Poets: A Bread Loaf Anthology (Middlebury College Press).

Teenage Interplanetary Vixens Run Wild on Bikini Beach

A wash of surf guitar rolls
over cheapo credits, beach music
for three gone chicks to frug to
as they descend from their
styrofoam spaceships in stellar
bikinis, gyrating their hips
as they land on the swinginest
beach in Southern California,
hairsprayed beehives intact
after lengthy space travel.
Will our gals find romance
though adrift from their planet,
the skin they reveal through
chintzy bikinis green, clammy
with make-up? Whoever said
production values could stand
in true love's way? Whoever
said talent makes a movie?
Our trusty aliens sally forth
to find the humans of their dreams,
guys who spend all day on surfboards
rigged up before cardboard backdrops,
hoping the camera records
only from their waists up,
who can't choose between
greasy pompadours and Beatle cuts,
so they end up looking
like dead raccoons have settled in
to die atop their heads.
Our heroines must lure them
with frantic dancing so frenzied
that stretches and splotches
of melted green monster make-up
are visible to any viewer.
If you can make it past
the badly dubbed dialogue,
if you can match each alien
to her name, her guy, then
you might care if this plot's
resolved, might wonder whether
our green space babes will find a way
to fix their faulty ship.
But you don't care.
All you want to see
are poorly painted women
running amok in a sand-filled
studio set, all you want to hear
are wild guitars screeching sex
to the girl who sits beside you
in the theater's dark, her breath
quick as a go-go dancer's,
her hand the hand you clutch,
palm sweaty in yours.


Literary Notes:

On this day in 1954 Elvis Presley recorded his first rock and roll song and his first hit, "That's All Right, Mama." Elvis had grown up listening to all kinds of music, from country to blues, but his favorite music was gospel. He first went to the Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee to make a private recording of a gospel ballad for his mother's birthday. When the woman at the front desk asked him what kind of a singer he was, he said, "I sing all kinds." She asked him who he sounded like, and he said, "I don't sound like nobody." Elvis paid to record a few more songs, and the producer Sam Phillips thought he might have some talent. In the summer of 1954, he went back to the studio for his third session. In between takes, Elvis and the other musicians started fooling around and singing a blues tune called "That's All Right." Sam Phillips asked them to start over from the beginning and recorded the song. He then rushed the record to the biggest DJ in Memphis. The song was a hit. A few weeks later, he sang the song at a local music show at an outdoor park. Elvis was very nervous while singing the song and started shaking his leg in rhythm to the music. The girls in the audience went crazy. He went on to become the person most responsible for popularizing rock & roll in the United States and around the world. Bob Dylan once said, "When I first heard Elvis's voice I just knew that I wasn't going to work for anybody and nobody was gonna be my boss. Hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail."

It's the birthday of the great American showman P(hineus) T(aylor) Barnum, born in Bethel, Connecticut (1810). In 1835, Barnum moved to New York and went into show business. He discovered that Americans loved to be fooled and he got his start running museums of freaks in New York City. Among the exhibits were a human head attached to a fish's body called "the Feejee Mermaid," the original bearded woman, and the Siamese twins Chang and Eng. His most profitable exhibit was the twenty-five inch tall man nicknamed Tom Thumb, who drew about twenty million ticket buyers to the museum. Tom Thumb was so popular that Barnum took him to meet President Abraham Lincoln, as well as Queen Victoria.

Today is the anniversary of a revolution in swimwear design. On this day in 1946, the bikini was introduced to the world by French designer Louis Reard at a popular swimming pool in Paris. Reard was struggling to find a name for his new bathing suit a few days before he put it on display. He chose the name "bikini" after he read in the newspaper that the United States had exploded a nuclear weapon near several small islands in the Pacific known as the "Bikini Atoll." In an advertising campaign Reard said that a two-piece bathing suit was not a bikini unless it could be pulled through a wedding ring. The bikini was banned in Italy, Portugal, and Spain. Decency leagues pressured Hollywood to keep it out of the movies. It finally became acceptable after Brigitte Bardot wore one in the French movie And God Created Woman (1956). In 1960, Brian Hyland wrote his hit song, "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini," and a few years later the American movie Beach Party (1963) was released, featuring the bikini-clad Annette Funicello. Bikinis were finally safe enough for America.



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