Category Archives: Humor

Esther Williams in Dangerous When Wet

Went trolling through the satellite TV a few weeks ago, specifically on AMC, and found a movie about an Arkansas girl who attempted to swim the English Channel. So of course, I did the only thing I could. I recorded it.

Finally, this morning I watched it. It was billed under the humor genre, with musical thrown in. The first and only person I knew in the movie was Pa, played by the guy who was Uncle Charlie in My Three Sons. I recognized him immediately from his voice, despite the odd reverse-fuzz lens they used on him. (It looked like they blurred his face while keeping Esther Williams’s face clear.)

The woman playing the channel swimmer had such a beautiful stroke that I had to look her up. Well, lo and behold but Esther Williams. I remembered immediately. When Ms. Williams died this year (she was 91, God bless her and her wonderful genes), there was much talk of her “aqua-musicals” and the fact that she was a great swimmer. Well, great she was. She was a three-time U.S. National Swimming champion, missing the 1940 Olympics because of WWII. She did some diving and synchro, as well, as evidenced by her performances in these aqua-musicals.

Dangerous When Wet was a cute little family movie, hokey and corny at the same time, but sweet. It was filmed in 1953, and set at the same time. Esther played Kate Higgins, a farmer’s daughter from a physically fit family who daily swam laps in a swimming hole on their farm. Kate desperately wanted to make the farm profitable, but lacked the money to fix the barn, get a new milking machine, and buy a prize-winning steer. When a snake-oil salesman comes to town, he talks the family into swimming the English Channel. You see, he’s a promoter, and he can get his boss (the elusive Colonel, creator of the tonic Liquipep (a predeccesor of Maxim, perhaps?)) to bankroll their training and travel. And they could win money in the EC race to buy all the equipment they need for the farm.

So he does, and most of the film is of Kate training (the family is quickly forgotten by the writers), while falling in love with a French champagne salesman. Not sure where it was filmed, but “Dover Harbour” is filled with channel aspirants, all training for the Daily Mail EC race. There is even a large actor portraying “The Egyptian” which is obviously Abu Heif, one of the best marathon swimmers of all time.  (Openwaterpedia says that the Crocodile of the Nile’s career spanned 1953-1972, so I wonder if a channel expert on the film knew of him this early?)

What I liked most about the film was not the Tom & Jerry sequence (cheesy to the extreme) or the love story, although that is funny in the end. No, what I liked was that the film stuck to the rules of channel swimming throughout. At the start of the race, the director announces to all of the dozen or so swimmers:

Do not touch your rowboat. Or your trainer. Or you will be disqualified. When you reach Dover, you must wade ashore unaided.

Could you have asked for anything more for a movie about the English Channel? Not only that, but when the family first step foot on Dover beach, they meet an old fisherman that tells them they’re not going to swim 20 miles, but more like 30-40. “But I looked myself, it is only 20 miles to France!” The fisherman explains to them about the tides and how you can’t swim straight. “It is 20 miles as the fish fly.”  When Kate is doing poorly near the end of her channel crossing, her love interest jumps in the water. As he approaches her, she says, “Stay back, don’t touch me.”  When she finally makes it to England (sorry…spoiler!), she repeatedly tells him to back off and not touch her. Now, for the movie’s sake she crosses some imaginary finish line which is still wet (albeit, only about an inch or two of water), but she finishes the swim.

And in good old 1950’s style, during the ending sequence, as the family are all singing, carrying their luggage to leave England, Pa knocks on Kate’s hotel door but the Frenchman answers. All are aghast. A man in my adult single daughter’s room? How dare he. Then Andre produce’s Kate’s hand, with a ring on it. And they all go dancing and singing into the credits.

So, a fun movie, with an actor who actually knows how to swim, and swim well. (Compare that to action films with “tough broads” who, when they run, well, you know, run like girls.)

Movember is over

Well, Movember is done. I’ll shave today, it no longer being November. I did my best, not sure if I “beat” anyone, as if you can actually beat anyone at moustache growing. And, as you can see, dear reader(s), I decided to grow both a moustache and a beard. I looked too porny the first week, and didn’t want to scare the kids.

Not that what I was able to grow didn’t scare any kids. You be the judge(s).

Movember is over
Movember is over

Wow! I’m popular.

Yep, you read that right, dear reader(s). I’m popular. Not like Matthew Caws, certainly. Those days are over. But, dagnabbit, I’ve got readers who are neither family nor other swimmers. Real, live, actual readers who don’t like me; who have a vehement reaction to my blog creations; who disagree with my opinions; who take the time to write me emotional comments filled with derision and presumption.

Technically, I think that means what I create is art, and thus I am an artist.

Specifically, the recent comments all surround my skepticism over Diana Nyad’s latest swim. For those readers who have been sleeping in a media-free cave for the last couple weeks, Nyad recently swam, assisted, from Cuba to Florida. In the 10 days since I last wrote about the swim, I’ve read hundreds of posts from marathon swimmers way more experienced than I, as well as posts from a few of Nyad’s crew (thank you, Chris!). Also included in my reading were posts by no-sh!t oceanographers and scientists exponentially smarter than I on things like currents and jet stream and, well, science. Bottom line: I can buy that Nyad caught an unbelievably lucky break when it comes to currents.

What I cannot agree with though is that what she did should be categorized as an unassisted swim. She wore a jellyfish-sting preventative suit, non-buoyant according to her and her team, which did not aid her forward progress. But what the suit did do is prevent any jellyfish stings, sunburn, perhaps even help her keep warm. Further, she could not put the suit on herself. She would have to float there, for a purported 12 minutes, while members of her team, in the water and on the boat, put the suit on her, and duct taped the ankles and wrists. She had additional team members in the water putting the jellyfish preventative maquillage on her face as well as sunscreen. All of this counts as assistance beyond the generally accepted support one is allowed when doing unassisted swims. (Generally accepted support includes things like being thrown feed bottles tied to a string from which the swimmer imbibes calories, or having a boat or kayak nearby for both safety and navigation.)

All of that support means that what she did was an assisted swim, which flies in the face of her team’s initial tweets and blog postings, announcing that she’d swum farther than anyone else. (Walter Poenisch and Susie Maroney would beg to differ). Add to this the blog post that initially made me skeptical, the now infamous 7.5 hour stretch on night two when she reportedly took in no nutrition or liquids, something that is highly improbable, no matter the fitness of the swimmer.

Condition Report
Monday September 2, 2013 at 715am. Swim Time: 46:15
reported by: Katie Leigh

Diana has gotten very cold, so the handlers were not stopping her to eat and drink overnight in the hopes that swimming would keep her warm. Additionally it was difficult to get her oriented to the boat and where to go in the dark.

Both doctors were aboard Voyager all night long to monitor Diana’s condition.

Diana’s Condition Report, First Light
Monday, 7:30 a.m., Swim time: 46:31

When the whistle blew for Diana’s first feeding stop since before midnight, it took her longer than normal to reach Voyager and Handlers Bonnie, Pauline and Lois Ann, who were positioned on the swim platform near the water’s edge.

And now, after scrutiny from her peers, the blog has changed with the addition of this entry:

First Feeding Since Storm
2:00am Monday September 2, 2013. Swim time: 41:00
Reported by: Candace Hogan

Voyager on VHF radio communicating to the flotilla 41 hours into the swim:

Diana came in for the first time since we’ve resumed formation, for a feeding. She knows where she is; she understands what’s going on. Almost 90 percent [coherent] she asked me specific questions.

Another boat responds: God speed, Diana.

If it were anyone else, any other marathon swimmer, with two independent observers on-board known to the community (unlike Hinkle and the variously spelled McVeigh/MacVeigh), I would have chalked this mix-up of blog entries to too many people, too confusing of a time. But Nyad already proved in the past that the truth has to be wrung out of her (in attempt four it wasn’t until the community questioned her claims that it was revealed she had spent many hours on a boat during a storm and not, as she originally reported, swum the entire time).

As I’ve said before, even assisted, what she did was incredible. 53 hours horizontal. For the uninitiated, that’s rough. Just look at her coming up to the beach having trouble standing. That’s because all the blood from her head is rushing to her feet! She was the third to swim the distance assisted, and the first without a shark cage (although Poenisch’s was made out of chicken wire, which begs the question: what use would it have been against a hungry shark?).

[Last minute edit: For a more succinct overview of some of our concerns, please see Evan Morrison’s excellent post here.]

Funniest blog title and post

OK, just started reading fellow marathon swimmer Michelle. Very funny. But this post really caught my eye. I’m sure you can see why.

Life in my swimsuit. Got crabs?

I had to read this post. And it just got funnier. Michelle lists all the things she’s found in her swimsuit. For those not in the know, or for those who only swim in a pool, you must understand that when swimming in open water, women, because of the way God designed them and the way man (in the neutral grammatical sense) designed swimsuits, discover many interesting things in their suits. Sometimes those things are living. And they continue to move, trying sometimes vainly to escape the grip of the well-bosomed female marathon swimmer.

Really. Click on the link above. You have to read her list of items found in her suit. And the picture at the bottom. Imagine fantastic numbers of those things tickling your chest!