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Up Against The Wall
Bruce Newman
February 07, 1989
For some collegians, swimsuit photographs are the last word in dorm decor
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February 07, 1989

Up Against The Wall

For some collegians, swimsuit photographs are the last word in dorm decor

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O.K., wait. Nobody here is talking about marriage, O.K.? Marriage is a very big step, especially when you are still waiting for your face to clear up. On the other hand, nobody is ruling anything out. Is that understood? Admittedly the outlook is bleak. First, Christie married Billy Joel, then Kelly was supposed to marry Rod Stewart. And what's this about Paulina and that guy from The Cars, who aren't even that good anymore? Those girls could have had anybody they wanted, and they chose those toads. Rock stars—how are you supposed to compete with them? O.K., wait, maybe if I started making my bed....

They are the men of McNutt Quad and Delta Tau Delta and Sproul Hall and a thousand off-campus apartments—men whose damage deposits will never be returned. They are the men (and a few women, too) who await the arrival of each year's swimsuit issue with full hearts and empty walls. Many of them sport heavy orthodontic work, and most of them are majoring in undecided, which is pretty much how they feel about life. They see the flawless smiles and the tawny skin, and for a moment they are transported. It will not last, cannot last, but to keep the moment fresh for as long as possible, they take out the scissors and tape and they put the photos on their walls.

And while most of them know the names and mole patterns of every model who has appeared in a swimsuit issue since their hormones kicked in, they are still achingly young, and they lack the kind of historical perspective they will have later on. UCLA freshman Maurice Poe, for example, insists that he "mainly" remembers Cheryl Tiegs "because she was one of Charlie's Angels. Wasn't she?" Well, to be fair, there were a lot of Angels coming and going toward the end there. Poe may actually be confusing Tiegs—who developed her own fashion line for Sears—with Jaclyn Smith, whose Jaclyn Smith Collection can be seen at K Mart.

While clothes may or may not make the woman, the absence of them—most of them, anyway—can make women, confronted by swimsuit photos cut from a magazine that's supposed to be devoted to sports, well, cranky. "Guys come in my room and just stare," says Jon Lunardini, a Notre Dame freshman with a grouping of 15 SI swimsuit pictures on his dorm wall. "Girls come in and say, 'Oh, that's gross.' "

Gross is one of those relative terms, of course. At the University of Michigan, sophomore David Hyman has meticulously mounted the last eight swimsuit covers and hung them in a large frame over his unmade bed. "It helps, because the winters are pretty rough here," Hyman says. UCLA freshman Dave Gwynn, on the other hand, has plastered the pictures over most of his available wall space, as well as his bed frame and even on the plastic cover of his stereo turntable.

And then there is Jay Lopez, a sophomore at Stanford, who says he first got his hands on a swimsuit issue when he was 12, "but then my mom grabbed it and hid it from me." (Attention school librarians, there is a lesson to be learned here: The forbidden fruit never falls far from the tree. Or something like that.) Lopez says he doesn't even read the SI swimsuit issue anymore. "I just buy it for the pictures," he says.

Lopez has an array of both calendar and magazine photos spread over one wall, and on the same wall he has hung a three-man slingshot (designed to fire water balloons over long distances) and Alf underwear. Over pictures of Stephanie Seymour and Kathy Ireland from the 1989 calendar, Lopez has pasted one of those cartoon word-balloons so that it appears Seymour is saying I LUST 4 JAY. The words are written in orange crayon. "It glows when I shine the black light on it," says Lopez.

Many people may feel the display of so many women in so little clothing is frivolous, but Lopez is not one of them. "You need pictures around here," he says. "They say nine out of 10 girls in California are beautiful and the other one goes to Stanford. We get a lot of crap about these pictures from the women. They're all feminists around here. I tell 'em if they don't like it, they don't have to stay in my room. But I've got nothing against women. This equal rights crap—let 'em do what they want, I say." Evidently the only thing undeclared about Lopez is his major, which, assuming he lives that long, will probably be economics.

Sophomore Stacey Jessiman lives in the dorm room next door to the Lopez bestiary. She has Monet posters on her wall and is studying international relations and art history. "What bothers me is that he feels the need to put up so many" Jessiman says. "I just feel like he's exploiting the female body. There's a lot more to admire about women than just their bodies."

At the other end of the sensitivity spectrum is Dan Fernandez, a second-year graduate student in electrical engineering at Stanford who has an SI swimsuit calendar in his small office in the Durand Building. Fernandez takes a very demure approach. "If I'm going to bring a girl to the office and I don't know her very well, I'll take it down," he says. "I wouldn't want a first date to see my office wall that way. Some women might get offended, or maybe nervous." He does not say why he would want to take a first date to his office, where he studies things like radar scattering, the technique of reflecting electromagnetic waves off an object and inferring from the data the object's size and shape.

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