David Dodge & the

Art of the Bikini
Bikini postcard

   “The bikini bathing suit … was a logical development that came along later. The origin of the name now universally applied to ladies’ minimal two-piece sun-and-swim wear is obscure. It has been suggested that the same American newspaperman who whispered the name of Our Lord in awe at the enormity of the first underwater atomic explosion off Bikini Atoll said the same thing on the occasion of his first hinge at an up-to-date French girl dressed for the out-of-doors, in this way linking the two. However it may have got its name, the bikini did not exist until it—better to say its crude, overenveloping prototype—was created back in 1943 by a dedicated girl-watcher named Ewing Krainin who later, not entirely by coincidence, took the photograph of Lilou that leads the eye so cunningly to these lines. It was Ewing who stitched together a black-and-white polka-dot dance-set for a model named Chili Williams and shot the pin-ups that kept homesick GI’s fighting for democratic principles The Rich Man's Guide to the Rivieraduring the final phases of World War II. The French got into the act later, refining the original garment in their own way. By the time I discovered the Côte d’Azur and its potentialities, the bikini was firmly settled on its adopted home grounds waiting for a historian.” (The Rich Man’s Guide to the Riviera, p. 34)

   “The agent saw nothing that interested him professionally. A girl who came across the boulevard from the hotel and went down to the beach wearing a zebra-striped bathing suit that was startling even for Cannes made him hesitate, but the man who followed her gave him a cold look. The agent walked on.” (To Catch a Thief, p. 39)

   “Francie was noticeable on both occasions; on the beach because of the bathing suits, at other times because she wore no personal ornament of any kind at any time, not even rings or a bracelet.” (To Catch a Thief, p. 40)

To Catch a Thief
   “Almost immediately a girl in a Bikini came up to the steps where he stood. She smiled at him.” (To Catch a Thief, p. 56)

   “She looked extraordinarily young and pretty in slacks and a slipover that emphasized the trim neatness of her figure almost as well as the Bikini.” (To Catch a Thief, p. 160-161)

   “Francie arrived before they had finished the coffee. She wore the zebra-striped bathing suit he remembered, a robe over it, the white bathing cap, and sandals.” (To Catch a Thief, p. 235)

   “For example, it is a fact that one summer when we were living at a small pension on the Côte d’Azur, I went for a drive along La Croisette with a friend named George, newly arrived in France. We were in an open convertible he had rented, and he was driving. La Croisette is the boulevard which runs along the beach at Cannes between a row of swank hotels and the sand. It is not very wide, and it carries a lot of traffic, pedestrians as well as automobiles, during the summer season. The pedestrians are often French girls on their way to or from the beach, and French girls are not only justly proud of their lovely figures but uninhibited about exposing them to the healthful rays of the sun. That particular summer a favorite bathing costume for young women at Cannes consisted of a small cache-sexe, or basic triangle, plus two round patches at a higher level which were attached to the wearer by suction or glue or will power, I’m not sure which. At least they had no visible external support. From the rear and at a distance, the girls apparently wore nothing at all except their shoes.
   George, fresh from Boston, said, ‘Wow!’ in a strangled voice as we turned into the boulevard and caught sight of a redhead going away from us. The car tried to leap a curb and climb through the plate-glass window of Wagon-Lits Cook.
   I said, ‘Watch where you’re going!’
   ‘How can I? Holy mackerel! Look at that one!’
   His hat jumped three feet straight up in the air, the way startled hats jump in the funny papers, although I suppose it was only a trick of the breeze. I said, ‘She’s got nothing you can’t gawp at on the beach any time you’re interested. Keep your eyes on the road!’
   ‘I’m— My God! Where are the police? This is incred— Look at that! And that! They’re all stark, staring naked! Do you mean to sit there and tell me—’
   I never learned what it was I supposed to be sitting there telling him. He had craned Poor Man's Guide to Europehis neck so far around to take a second look that he turned the car with him, heading it for more plate glass. This time it was the window of Cartier’s, full of diamonds. There was nothing for me to do but try to haul the wheel in the other direction. When the agents de police unwrapped us from a palm tree, I explained that my friend had suffered a dizziness which made his eyes go out of focus and that I would drive him safely home if the car still ran. I got it, and George, away from La Croisette without further trouble, although he was breathing hard most of the time and would have jumped out of the car, baying like a hound, when we passed a particularly fascinating blonde girl clothed mainly in dark glasses, if I had not hauled him back by the coattail and told him to act his age.
   On these facts, George still thinks I’m a cold fish with ice water in my veins and steely self-control. The other facts—that only a week had passed since I craned my neck at the wrong moment and rammed my own car smack into an expensive Cadillac where he had been lucky enough to hit a tree, and was as a result driving his car with a suspended license which would have landed us both in jail if I had so much as let my eyes waver toward the blonde—he knows nothing about. As I have said, it’s all in the way you slant the report.” (The Poor Man’s Guide to Europe, p. 7-8)

   “In connection with bikinis and other treats to the eye, it is generally true that most Europeans are less prudish than most Americans, although this does not mean that their moral standards are any lower.” (The Poor Man’s Guide to Europe, p. 288)

Kendal in Cannes   “The first time Holland saw her, which was the first time he suspected her existence, she was giving her name to a hard-working master of ceremonies on a platform raised from the beach in front of Holland’s hotel, in Cannes. He had been strolling the Croisette, enjoying a cigar and the sun, not thinking about anything in particular until he looked down from the esplanade above the sand just as the master of ceremonies held a hand microphone to the girl’s mouth and jollied her to speak up to the crowd standing around the platform where she was, for the moment, the center of attention. In the sketchy, next-to-nothing, impersonal patches of body covering that were the uniform of her age and sex on any French beach, she would not otherwise have caught his notice.” (Carambola, p. 3)

   “Another candidate, a smoothly tanned, consciously enticing girl with hair the color of Kendal in Canneschampagne, came up the steps of the platform to identify herself for the microphone. Two dozen cameras focused on her leopard-skin bikini, and several of the beach boys whistled.” (Carambola, p. 5-6)

   “The Turk was more than willing to discuss bauxite development but kept having his attention distracted by the hopefuls; still on hand, still prettily hoping. None of them, or at most very few, could afford to stay on at the playground at La Belle Poitrine’s high rates, but the strip of sand in front of the hotel was open to all and a pretty girl could be seen and noticed there by hotel guests who, like the Turk, were not blind to pretty girls. They were the geisha of the Mediterranean; all young, all enticingly on display … Several of them, as entrancing as naiads in the inconsequentialities of their universal beachwear, sunned themselves on the sand near Holland and the Turk. One was the girl with champagne hair who had won the beauty contest.
   The Turk could not keep his eyes from the leopard-skin bikini. He was embarrassed by his inability to concentrate on bauxite.” (Carambola, p. 34-35)

Kendal, André Sonier, assistant manager of the Carlton Hotel,
and an unknown blonde, ca. 1956
Angel's Ransom
   “Valentina had taken simple and effective steps to live up to her promise to concentrate Bruno’s interest on herself. Under a robe which she discarded in the hot sun beating down on the foredeck, she wore a minimal bikini that did nothing to disguise the lush ripeness of her figure. Her skin was a warm golden brown, smoothly and evenly tanned, and her beauty a harsh if unintentional cruelty to Laura di Lucca, who was graceless in a too-frivolous playsuit.” (Angel’s Ransom, p. 95)

David Dodge Home | Novels | Travel Books | Short Stories | Travel Articles | Plays | Bibliography | Biography | Scrapbook | Miscellany