In Bruce Brown’s 1966 landmark surfing documentary, The Endless Summer,
the filmmaker follows two world-class surfers around the world, pursuing an eternal summer of surf.
You don’t have to be a surfer to enjoy the film that taps into the wanderlust of the season, sending us to far-flung beaches in search of the perfect wave and the ideal escape from life: the perfect summer vacation.
As kids, summer started the last day of school. We sang of our freedom: “No more pencils, no more books/No more teacher’s dirty looks.”
Summer was easy then, magically unfettered from responsibility. The sun-drenched world was boundless, inviting and carefree, smelling of chlorine and suntan lotion and hot dogs on the grill.
Perhaps the optimistic mouse living in the human world in E.B. White’s children’s classic, Stuart Little, said it best: “Never forget your summertimes, my dears."
No need to worry, Stuart. We have been chasing those warm memories
our entire life.
In that spirit, a look at summers past . . .
1. Love in The Sun: Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello created a wave of innocent beach party films in the ’60s. Such movies as Beach Party (1963), Muscle Beach Party (1964) and Beach Blanket Bingo (1965) sent hordes of teens to drive-ins for escapist fun. On screen, Frankie and Annette were as inseparable in the public’s eye as Fred and Ginger or Tracy and Hepburn. Through all the films, Frankie chased while Annette, the former Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeer, remained chaste. The pair remained lifelong friends, even reuniting in 1987’s Back to the Beach, released more than 20 years after How to Stuff a Wild Bikini.
2. The Coppertone Baby: Developed by Benjamin Green, a WWII airman, Coppertone suntan lotion hit the beach in 1944. But it wasn’t until The Coppertone Girl was revealed in 1953 that the lotion really took off.
Joyce Ballantyne Brand, a commercial and pinup artist, created the famous Coppertone Girl advertisement using her 3-year-old daughter as a model.
Her illustration showed a dog tugging at the bathing suit of a little girl, exposing her bottom and tan line.
In a 1991 interview, Brand, who was paid $2,500 for the image, said she used her daughter because she “worked cheap and was convenient.”
The initial billboard campaign carried the slogan “Don’t Be a Paleface.” Other, more sensitive, slogans have bee used over the years, like “Tan, Don’t Burn,” and the little girl has become somewhat less exposed in the ads.
Brand, who died in 2006 at the age of 88, was an accomplished artist and carved out a successful career in a field dominated by men at the time. Her cheeky Coppertone work bares testament to her wit and skill.
3. Pocket-Sized Fun: To the joy of teenagers, and the chagrin of parents, the world changed forever in 1954 with the introduction of the first transistor radio, the Regency TR-1. Prior to its debut, the radio was a piece of furniture families huddled around. Pocket-sized, the transistor radio was perfect for a postwar U.S. on the go. From the beach, to the ballpark, to the backyard, the ubiquitous transistor radio played the soundtrack of summer in style, as this very mod Chic KT-91 nine-transistor beauty demonstrates. Popular with collectors, it’s worth $150-$250.
4. Made in The Shades: Maybe you’ve been told you should wear sunglasses to protect your baby blues against the sun’s UV rays. Or maybe you’ve heard they prevent squint wrinkles. Please. The only reason to wear sunglasses is to look cool. Have we not learned anything from Hollywood?
Summer is always about being cool, even when it’s hot. Especially when it’s hot.
Hollywood has given us Tom Cruise’s Top Gun in Ray-Ban Aviators, Sean
Connery’s James Bond in Polaroid Cool Rays and Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly in Wayfarers.
All very chic, but no one was cooler and rocked sunglasses so effortlessly than Grace Kelly in Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, To Catch a Thief. Opposite a dashing Cary Grant, Kelly exudes elegance and relaxed sophistication even while applying suntan lotion on the beach, no easy task that.
5. Hula Hoop's Hoopla: The 1950s gave us sock hops, The Mickey Mouse Club, coonskin caps (thanks Davey Crocket!), Elvis and the hippest fad of the decade.
The Wham-O toy company first marketed the Hula Hoop, the hip-
swiveling toy named after the Hawaiian dance, in 1958. With its wonderfully
alliterate name, keen marketing and general goofiness, the Hula Hoop became a full-blown fad.
In less than four months, Wham-O sold 25 million hoops. At the peak of
the hooptastic fever, the manufacturers were spinning out 50,000 hoops a day. By the end of 1959, 100 million Hula Hoops were shipped.
Alas, the Hula Hoop fad faded like a summer tan in October.
Even so, the Hula Hoop, which was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1999, will always remind us of summer fun when our waists were thin and our hips weren’t yet replaced by titanium alloys.
6. Fun, Fun, Fun: Formed in Hawthorne, California, in 1961, the Beach Boys embodied the sun-kissed dream of summer with such songs as “California Girls,” “Good Vibrations” and “Surfin’ Safari.” The Beach Boys had four No. 1 hits and 15 Top 10 hits. You could practically get a tan just listening to their music. The Beach Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
7. Shark-Infested Pages: Peter Benchley created the perfect beach read. His 1974 novel, Jaws, not only was a heart-pounding summer page-turner, but it kept frightened readers planted safely on dry land, away from the water and his fictitious killing machine, a rampaging great white shark.
The book, Benchley’s first, about a shark terrorizing an East Coast resort town, spent more than 40 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list and sold more than 20 million copies, making Benchley one of the most successful first-time novelists in history.
Benchley’s novel also launched a Hollywood tradition – the summer blockbuster – when Steven Spielberg turned it into one of the top-10 grossing films of all time. Spielberg’s Jaws also scared the daylights out of people, causing swimmers to be terrified of even dipping a toe into ocean waters.
Ironically, Benchley, who died in 2006 at age 65, became an advocate for shark protection later in life.
8. Double Vision: In 1946, designer Louis Réard's two-piece swimsuit debuted in Paris. Parisian showgirl Micheline Bernardini modeled the new fashion, which Réard dubbed “bikini,” inspired by a news-making U.S. atomic test that took place off the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean earlier that week. In the United States, the modest two-piece made its appearance during World War II, when wartime rationing of fabric saw the removal of the skirt panel and other superfluous material. Meanwhile, in Europe, fortified coastlines and Allied invasions curtailed beach life during the war, and swimsuit development, like everything else non-military, came to a standstill.
Réard's bikini liberated the belly button, which until then, had been vigilantly defended as the last bastion of modesty. The bikini has been turning heads ever since, making summer an often dizzying experience.
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