Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bikini or Monokini? The Name of the Game

A. So the sexy bikini was named after Atomic testing in the Bikini Atoll, where things were warm, sunny, and Pacificky if not exactly pacific. The indigenous people of Bikini were "relocated" to nearby islands so the US Government could test and explode A-bombs in the 1940s as well as the first H-bomb, in 1954.

Most of us know of the forced relocation of various peoples to/throughout North America; many also know of Japanese American internment during WWII. Fewer may have heard or read about the forced removal of inhabitants from the Bikini Atoll. If less is more, here's the gist:

Bikinian Anthem (1946) by Lore Kessibuki (1914-1994)

No longer can I stay, it's true.
No longer can I live in peace and harmony.
No longer can I rest on my sleeping mat and pillow
Because of my island and the life I once knew there.

The thought is overwhelming
Rendering me helpless and in great despair.

My spirit leaves, drifting around and far away
Where it becomes caught in a current of immense power
-And only then do I find tranquility.

B. That's the Bikini Atoll end of the story. The other end is in Paris, where a guy named Louis Reard / Luis Réard (1897-1984) whimsically applied the scary Atomic world to the racy bathing suit, and paid Micheline Bernardini, an exotic dancer from the Casino de Paris, 16 rue de Clichy, to model it for photographers and reporters. From the sample research I've done so far, the name of the original bikini model also comes up occasionally as Michele or Michèle Bernadini. As it turns out, her name was probably a stage name inspired by Micheline Bernard, an actress from the 1930s. In any case, the entire July 1946 stunt was ultimately a success in marketing -- the two-piece had been around, but not as the bikini. Since the 1960s, there's also been the development and marketing of the monokini/unikini -- or topless bathing suit -- with wordplay on bi- and mono-, yet one more step away from the original Bikini Atoll.

C. There is plenty of information available about the Marshall Islands and the people displaced from the Bikini Atoll. A good place to start is Radio Bikini (1987, DVD 2003).

D. I do not know what became of Micheline Bernardini, though I suspect her life to have been like something along the lines of the protagonist in Mary Gaitskill's Veronica (2005).

Today's Rune: Journey.

Birthdays: Louis de Buade Comte de Frontenac et de Palluau, Gérard de Nerval (Gérard Labrunie), Richard Wagner, Catulle Mendès, Mary Cassatt, Arthur Conan Doyle, Laurence Olivier, Vance Packard, Sun Ra / Le Sony'r Ra (b. Herman Poole Blount), John Barth, Harvey Milk, M. Scott Peck, Richard Benjamin, Theodore Kaczynski (the Unabomber), Morrissey (Steven Patrick Morrissey), Naomi Campbell.


JR's Thumbprints said...

How about the Nudokini? As always, these are some interesting facts heading into the warmer months.

Anonymous said...

I was born wearing the best bathing suit I've ever tried.

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