TEEN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (22)
June 5, 2023
One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of heartthrobs from our adolescences). Series edited by Heather Quinlan.
By the time I hit my teen years, my unrequited crushes had mostly shifted away from popular culture and into my 7th grade Spanish class. So I need to flash back to age nine for my true “teen heartthrob,” specifically in the November 1978 Swimsuit Issue of Sports Illustrated. I do not remember the cover, as the issue’s spine always seemed to be bent back to reveal an inner photo: Cheryl Tiegs. She was standing somewhere (background blurred out) in a white mesh one-piece bathing suit. And the thing about mesh is, you can see through it. Which for a 9-year-old boy is life-altering.
I didn’t own this issue of Sports Illustrated, but one of my buddies must have, or perhaps an older brother. A small group of us boys would furtively look at the photo in the schoolyard. I don’t recall any dirty or faux-boastful comments. We were in 4th grade and in silent awe. Maybe someone solemnly said “Whoa.” Maybe I did.
Now, it wasn’t the first time I’d seen a photo of a beautiful woman in a swimsuit. Farrah Fawcett’s legendary poster had arrived in the world two years earlier and people were still talking about it. But even in my extremely pre-sexual state, that was something different. That was a come-on, a laughing tease, a trait that would carry on through that first generation of supermodels: Christie Brinkley, Paulina Porizkova, Elle Macpherson, et al. Oh the fun we’d have if you were here, but you will never, ever be here. For me and Cheryl, it was more… pure. She was smiling as if to say, “I am gorgeous but I am nice.” Even with the mesh suit.
At the dawn of the ’80s, Tiegs maintained that “good girl” image. While her print peers all proved the adage SEX SELLS by transitioning to commercials, TV shows, movies, and the hood of Whitesnake’s car, Cheryl Tiegs simply teamed up with a trusted American retailer, and I’m not talking about Victoria’s Secret. No, it was good ol’ boring Sears. Hey, that’s where my family shopped! Tiegs became the face of those mall anchor stores and had her very own clothing line. And the 1981 poster of her on my wall didn’t come from Spencer Gifts; it fell out of the Trenton Times as a Sunday Sears promotional supplement. There was Tiegs in prone position on grey carpeting, in a sleeveless, plunging-neckline (non-mesh) top and jeans, under the slogan “It’s got to be Cheryl Tiegs.” You unfolded the poster to reveal several of these horizontal panels, Tiegs now cavorting with a baby jungle cat. Probably neutered, just like the photos themselves.
Over time, malls shut down (Sears is down from 3,500 stores to 18), Sunday papers became apps, and I moved on to real girls, who ignored me even more than that poster did. But I recall my simpler single-digit days with great fondness, and like to think Ms. Tiegs helped keep me the nice boy that I basically still am today.
TEEN YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Heather Quinlan | Adam McGovern on ANDY GIBB | Crockett Doob on DREW BARRYMORE | Kathy Biehl on THE MONKEES | Josh Glenn on SHAUN CASSIDY | Catherine Christman on ELI WALLACH | Carlo Rotella on VALERIE BERTINELLI | Miranda Mellis on EDDIE VAN HALEN | Paul Finnegan on KIM WILDE | Heather Quinlan on MIKE PATTON | Mariane Cara on NKOTB | Mimi Lipson on ARLO GUTHRIE | Gabriela Pedranti on GUSTAVO CERATI | Michele Carlo on MICHAEL JACKSON | Ingrid Schorr on PAUL McCARTNEY | Carolyn Campbell on ROBERT REDFORD | Erin M. Routson on JOHNNY KNOXVILLE | Amy Keyishian on JIM MORRISON | Fran Pado on TONY DEFRANCO | Krista Margies Kunkle on LUKE PERRY | Lucy Sante on FRANÇOISE HARDY | Lynn Peril on DANNY BONADUCE | Jack Silbert on CHERYL TIEGS | Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons on CHRISTIAN SLATER | Cynthia Scott on LEONARD WHITING | Elizabeth Foy Larsen on OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN.
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