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Letters and More Letters
Leigh Montville
February 07, 1989
What do swimsuits have to do with sports? Well, the mailman gets a workout
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February 07, 1989

Letters And More Letters

What do swimsuits have to do with sports? Well, the mailman gets a workout

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I am writing to you about Joseph A. Loscalzo. Do you remember Joseph A. Loscalzo? You published his letter in 1979. Do you remember his letter? He was 11 years old in 1979. He wrote to you about the swimsuit issue, in which the photos that year bore the headline SHE SELLS SEA SHELLS BY THE SEYCHELLES. Christie Brinkley was the cover model who was selling those seashells.

Do you remember?

"I am 11 years old," Joseph A. Loscalzo wrote from Woodbury, N.Y. "I usually enjoy SI, but not the Feb. 5 issue. I don't want to see girls in bathing suits. I want to see sports like football, baseball, etc."

I recently talked with Joseph A. Loscalzo. He is 21 years old now and a senior at Bucknell University. He said the letter was his idea. He complained to his parents, and his father, Joseph Sr., helped him with his writing. They thought it was a good educational experience. He told them that he was almost as upset with all of those pages that were given to the story about the Seychelles as he was about the pictures, but the letter concentrated on the pictures.

"I never realized what a big deal it would be," Loscalzo says now. "I heard about that letter for a long time afterward. Kids at school—kids I didn't even know—asked me about it. Friends of my brothers talked to me about it. Everyone talked about it for a long time."

I am writing to tell you that Joseph A. Loscalzo has had a change of heart. He says he now thinks it is all right to include those pictures of those girls in those swimsuits in his magazine.

Each year there is a pool in your office on the number of subscription cancellations that will be received after the swimsuit issue appears. Are you aware of this? The winning number last year was 71. The record low of two years ago was eight. The high was 442 in 1975.

I found all of this out when I went to your editorial headquarters in the Time & Life Building in Rockefeller Center in New York to inquire about the people who write you letters. I was asked to join the pool.

"It's a dollar to enter," said Linda Verigan, the woman in charge of replying to this mail. "You get to look at the issue before you pick your number. The more revealing the bathing suits, the higher the number of cancellations. That is the usual rule, although the numbers seem to be lower in recent years."

The letters about the swimsuit issue have become a ritual, a tradition. Are you also aware of this? There are people who swear they enjoy the letters about the swimsuits as much as the pictures of the swimsuits. There now are letters about the letters, which sometimes are about the previous letters, which.... It is a postal tidal wave that begins soon after the first readers pick up their copies of the magazine.

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