Friday, 27 June 2014

Tarzan The Lifeguard

We forget how popular some activities were in the past. Swimming (or mixed bathing as it was sometimes known), was really an Edwardian invented activity, but still considered very daring in the 1920's and 1930's .... young men and women, for obvious reasons were particularly drawn to it as a 'racy' pastime. So much so, that some very swanky establishments were opened up in which they could take part.

Paris was not unnaturally the home of some of the best of these .... 'Gay Paree' wasn't a completely forgotten epoch, and so the bright young things of the Roaring 20's, and the less roaring 1930's, flocked to Paris as one of the great places to meet up, and be seen.

Weissmuller At The Molitor

So its perhaps no surprise that Johnny Weissmuller ... yes he of 'Tarzan' fame, was a life guard at the premier of the Paris swimming establishments ... Piscine Molitor. Once one of Paris's most fashionable public swimming pools, it was even fitted with Art Deco changing cubicles. Weissmuller had already won three gold medals at the 1924 Paris Olympics, and a further two at the Amsterdam Olympics in 1928, but he then stayed in Europe, and spent a summer season at the Molitor baths, giving swimming lessons and rescuing bathers in distress (of which one suspects, there quite a few, of both sexes), while he also trained using the pools rowing machines and punchballs, to such good affect, that he was offered the modelling role as Adonis, (wearing only a fig leaf), in a movie entitled Glorifying the American Girl in 1929.

Of course his real acting career only started in 1932, when he was signed up by MGM to play the role of Tarzan in Tarzan the Ape Man.

Tarzan The Lifeguard

There was one other historic moment to occur at the Molitor, which was a photo-shoot in July 1946, when the modern 'bikini' was revealed to the world for the first time, modelled by the one-time nude dancer, Micheline Bernardini - who is then said to have received more than 50,000 excited fan letters.

Micheline Bernardini - First Bikini

Still all that was too come, and it must have been something of a shock to those earlier patrons of the Molitor, when they later saw the 'American Lifeguard', appearing on the silent screen as 'Tarzan'. His period as a pool attendant must really rank high up there on the 'before they were famous' register.


  1. WOW I never realised that the bikini was 'invented', I assumed it evolved.

    1. Well in all fairness, you may well be right .... but I have not used the word invented, what I said was revealed. I did know that there are wall Illustrations of both Ancient Greek and Roman women wearing bikini-like garments, while performing athletic types of events. But according to Wikipedia, French engineer Louis Réard introduced the modern bikini on the 5th of July 1946, and borrowed the name for his design from the Bikini Atoll, where post-war testing on the atomic bomb was happening .... presumably because he thought his design was EXPLOSIVE LOL

      Thanks for the comment.


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