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Archive for the ‘SPORTS’ Category

In the early morning hours of August 6, 1922, crime novelist Agatha Christie and her husband, Archie Christie, sailed into Honolulu, Hawaii, on the Makura and hailed a taxi.

On their drive to the Moana Hotel, they passed between palm trees and hedges of hibiscus, red, pink, and white oleanders, and blue plumbago. At their hotel, the sea washed right up to the courtyard steps on Waikiki Beach.

They checked into their rooms. From their window, they saw surfers catching waves to shore. They hurriedly changed into their swimsuits to rush down, hire surfboards, and plunge into the sea.

Surfers at Waikiki Beach, Honolulu. Aug./Sept. 1922. Photograph by Agatha Christie

Surfers at Waikiki Beach, Honolulu. Aug./Sept. 1922. Photograph from Christie Archive

brit emp exh 1924 stamppThey had been looking forward to that moment since leaving England eight months earlier. In the interim, the Christies had traveled three-quarters around the world as part of a government trade mission to drum up interest in the 1924 British Empire Exhibition. Their travels had taken them from England to South Africa (where they were introduced to surfing), Australia, and New Zealand. They now had a month-long holiday in Hawaii – all to themselves – before they would rejoin the mission in Canada.

Surfing was much different in Hawaii than it had been in South Africa. The most obvious difference was the surfboard. In South Africa, the boards were short, curved, and made of light and thin wood.

Agatha Christie and a young naval attaché named Ashby stand on Muizenberg Beach, South Africa, following surf bathing, Jan.-March 1922

Agatha Christie and a young naval attaché named Ashby stand on Muizenberg Beach, South Africa, following surf bathing, Jan.-March 1922. Photograph from the Christie Archive

In Hawaii, however, they were great slabs of wood, ridiculously long and even more ridiculously heavy, made even heavier by the fact that, to find a decent wave to catch, a person had to paddle the board a long, long way out from shore to a reef where the waves broke.

Agatha Christie with her Hawaiian surfboard. Aug./Sept. 1922

Agatha Christie with her Hawaiian surfboard. Aug./Sept. 1922. Photograph from the Christie Archive

In South Africa, the waves broke close to shore and were gentle.

Modern day surfing in Muizenberg, South Africa

Modern day surfing in Muizenberg, South Africa

Then there was the matter of what to do when you caught the right wave. In South Africa, surfers rode the wave on their stomachs. In Hawaii, they rode it standing up.

Spotting the right wave to catch was tricky. Agatha recalls:

First you have to recognize the proper wave when it comes, and, secondly, even more important, you have to know the wrong wave when it comes, because if that catches you and forces you down to the bottom, heaven help you….”

On that first day, Agatha indeed caught “the wrong wave.” She and her board were separated and she was forced far underwater. She swallowed “quarts of salt water” and arrived on the surface gasping for breath. A young American retrieved her board for her, saying:

‘Say, sister, if I were you, I wouldn’t come out surfing  today. You take a nasty chance if you do. You take this board and get right into shore now.'”

She took his advice and, in time, Archie joined her. They were bruised, scratched, exhausted, but not defeated. Agatha was determined to become expert at surfing.

The second time she went in the water, the waves tore her long, silk bathing dress off her body. She covered herself and went into the hotel gift shop where she bought a “wonderful, skimpy, emerald green wool bathing dress, which was the joy of my life, and in which I thought I looked remarkably well. Archie thought I did, too.”

Agatha Christie, sunburned and relaxed. Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Aug./Sept. 1922. Photograph from Agatha Christie Collection

Agatha Christie, sunburned and relaxed. Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Aug./Sept. 1922. Photograph from the Christie Archive

In a few days, they moved to a more economical chalet across the road. They spent all their time on the beach or in town drinking ice cream sodas and buying medicines for sunburn. They learned to wear shirts on the beach as their backs were covered with blisters from sunburn.

Their feet were cut to ribbons from the coral so they bought leather boots to wear in the water.

After ten days, Agatha’s skills on a surfboard were improving. After

starting my run, I would hoist myself carefully to my knees on the board, and then endeavor to stand up. The first six times, I came to grief….[but] Oh, the moment of complete triumph on the day that I kept my balance and came right into shore standing upright on my board!”

Because of such vigorous paddling, Agatha developed a strain in her left arm. The pain was excrutiating and would wake her in the early morning hours. Nevertheless, Agatha continued to surf because there was

Nothing like it. Nothing like that rushing through the water at what seems to you a speed of about two hundred miles an hour….until you arrived, gently slowing down, on the beach, and foundered among the soft, flowing waves.”

Researcher Peter Robinson from the Museum of British Surfing says that Agatha Christie is probably one of the first British “stand-up surfers,” along with Edward, the Prince of Wales, who also surfed in Waikiki in 1920 and went on to become King Edward VIII of England for a year. Not to be outdone, let me remind my readers that Agatha Christie is literary royalty, being revered as the Queen of Crime. In 1971, she was made a Dame of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.

For more on Agatha Christie, click here.

Source: Christie, Agatha. The Grand Tour: Around the World with the Queen of Mystery. United Kingdom: HarperCollins Publishers, 2012

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Crime author Agatha Christie loved to swim on the Devon Coast.

Crime author Agatha Christie loved to swim on the Devon Coast. Photo from the Christie Archive

Agatha Christie (1890-1976) never outgrew her childhood love of sea bathing. She spent her early years in the coastal town of Torquay, England, in Devon, on the English Channel. In summer, she swam in the sea practically every day, even if it rained or stormed. Not only locals like Agatha enjoyed Torquay’s beaches. Torquay [tor-kee] was a posh seaside resort, a popular winter and summer holiday destination for wealthy Europeans and royal personages. With its reputation for a healthful climate, the area is called the English Riviera.

a Great Western Railways travel poster illustrates the allure of the Devon Coast

A Great Western Railways travel poster illustrates the allure of the Devon Coast. Undated

When Agatha was a young girl, the beaches in Torquay were segregated by sex. The Torquay Council kept a strict watch on the propriety of sea bathing. In 1899, a bylaw stated that “no person of the male sex shall at any time bathe within 50 yards of a ladies’ bathing machine.” Men and boys swam at the Gentlemen’s Bathing Cove where there was no dress code. Men swam there in the nude or “in their scanty triangles,” Agatha recalled, “disport[ing] themselves as they pleased.” Women and girls were restricted to swimming at the Ladies’ Bathing Cove. Their beach was small and stony, and steeply sloping.

The Ladies' Bathing Cove, Torquay England, undated. Note the bathing machines at the shoreline.

The Ladies’ Bathing Cove, Torquay, England, where crime author Agatha Christie bathed in the sea. Note the bathing machines at the shoreline. Undated photo

The women swam in pantaloons and frilly dresses that covered them up.

A page from a Newcomb Endicott Company Spring Catalog, ca. 1910. Most women sewed their own bathing suits.

A page from a Newcomb Endicott Company Spring Catalog, ca. 1910. Most women sewed their own bathing suits.

Agatha loved going to the Ladies’ Bathing Cove with her family. Once there, Agatha’s mother and grannie would stake out a spot on the beach with their picnic things, but Agatha couldn’t wait to plunge into the surf. She changed into her swimsuit in one of the 8 bathing machines parked near the water’s edge. Bathing machines were private, portable changing rooms on wheels.

Once inside the machine, “an ancient man, of somewhat irascible temper” picked up the “gaily painted striped affair” and hauled it down the hill and into the water. Agatha exited the bathing machine, stepping down a short ladder into the chilly waters of the English Channel.

Swimmer exits the bathing machine in her Victorian swimsuit ca. 1905

Swimmer exits the bathing machine in her Victorian swimsuit ca. 1905

Agatha would then swim out to an anchored raft, pull herself up, and then sit upon it, sunning. Getting to the raft was a minor feat in itself, even though Agatha was a strong swimmer, because once in the water, her woolen swimsuit became completely sodden and heavy, making her sink under its weight. Women sewed weights in the skirt hems to keep them from rising up in the water, compounding the problem. It was a recipe for disaster: women sinking under the weight of cumbersome dresses, women who could not swim, crashing waves, no lifeguards, and water so frigid that limbs went numb and faces blue. Only some beaches had attendants to help women in the surf and ropes to hold onto.

Trivial matters like safety aside, what really occupied everyone’s mind at the Turn of the Century in England was protecting women’s modesty. The beach at the Ladies’ Bathing Cove was immensely private; it was completely invisible from the windows of the Torbay Yacht Club situated above it on the hill.

The beach may have been ultra-secluded but the sea around the raft was not. It was perfectly visible through the club windows. In her autobiography, Agatha wrote:

…[A]ccording to my father, a good many of the gentlemen spent their time with opera glasses enjoying the sight of female figures displayed in what they hopefully thought of as almost a state of nudity! I don’t think we can have been sexually very appealing in those shapeless garments.”

In 1903, when Agatha was 13, the Torquay Council approved mixed bathing on its beaches. Men and women could now frolic in the surf together at Tor Abbey Sands and Corbin’s Head Beach, as well as on the more aristocratic Meadfoot Beach, the one Agatha’s mother’s preferred.

Here is a mixed group of bathers photographed in Eastbourne around 1906. Mixed bathing in England became widely accepted at about this time.

Here is a mixed group of bathers photographed in Eastbourne around 1906. Mixed bathing in England became widely accepted at about this time.

Although allowing the sexes to mingle was considered to be a very progressive social move, ironically, it placed an even heavier burden on the women. In order to properly mix with men on the beach, Victorian standards of modesty dictated that women had to wear far more clothing than before! It was strictly forbidden for women to let their bare legs show. To caps, dresses, bloomers, and shoes, they added thick, black stockings. Agatha remembered the taboo against legs:

I really don’t know why legs were considered so improper: throughout Dickens there are screams when any lady thinks that her ankles have been observed. The very word was considered daring. One of the first nursery axioms was always uttered if you mentioned those pieces of your anatomy: 

‘Remember, the Queen of Spain has no legs.’

‘What does she have instead, Nursie?’

‘Limbs, dear, that is what we call them; arms and legs are limbs.'”

Women wearing Victorian swimwear and keeping their legs hidden from male view. 1905, origin unknown

Women wearing Victorian swimwear and keeping their legs hidden from male view. 1905, origin unknown

At first, Agatha’s mother insisted that Agatha wear stockings to the beach, but:

Three or four vigorous kicks when swimming, and my stockings were dangling a long way beyond my toes; they were either sucked off altogether or else wrapped round my ankles like fetters….”

907 studio photo of famous champion Australian swimmer and silent Hollywood film star, Annette Kellerman. Her contribution to women's liberation was her advocacy of a comfortable women's swimsuit.

1907 studio photo of famous champion Australian swimmer and silent Hollywood film star, Annette Kellerman. Her contribution to women’s liberation was her advocacy of a comfortable women’s swimsuit.

Australian swimmer, diver, and entertainer Annette Kellerman – “The Diving Venus” – set out to challenge legal restrictions on women’s bathing suits. She believed that swimming was the ideal exercise for women and that pantaloons and skirts prohibited free movement, allowing women only a dip, not a swim, in the life-giving sea. Kellerman was well-known in Britain. In 1904 she swam 26 miles of the River Thames, performed underwater ballet in a glass tank at the London Hippodrome, and tried (and failed) three times to swim the English Channel.

In 1907, preparing for a promotional coast swim, Kellerman was arrested for indecent attire on Revere Beach, Boston, in America. She was wearing one of her clinging, one-piece swimsuits that had no skirt, revealing her thighs.

Kellerman pleaded her case before the judge. Her swimsuit, she explained, was practical, not provocative. Swimming in a Victorian swimsuit with its

‘shoes, stockings, bloomers, skirts, corsets and a dinky little cap,’ she said, made as much sense as ‘swimming in lead chains.'”

The judge dismissed the case, accepting Kellerman’s arguments in favor of swimming as healthy exercise and against cumbersome bathing suits, provided she wore a robe until she entered the water. Her arrest made international headlines. It was the birth of Twentieth Century bathing suits for women; from then on, swimsuits began to be designed for more practical use.

Wearing modern one-piece suits inspired by swimmer Annette Kellerman, women bathers gather seaweed and laugh.  Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire in Wales, 1916

Wearing modern one-piece suits inspired by swimmer Annette Kellerman, women bathers gather seaweed and laugh. Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire in Wales, 1916

Source: Christie, Agatha. Agatha Christie: An Autobiography. New York: Berkley Books, 1977.

For more on Agatha Christie, click here.

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(See previous post, “Arnold Schwarzenegger: I Have a Love Child.”)

ABC News has reported that Mildred Patricia Baena — who the network says worked as a housekeeper for the family of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver — is the mother of the former California governor’s fifth child, a son. The boy, Joseph, who is 14, is the spitting image of Schwarzenegger, down to his signature grin.

Former Schwarzenegger housekeeper Mildred Baena, 47, poses with her son in a photo from her MySpace page. The son is purported to be Arnold Schwarzenegger's out-of wedlock child who was born on Oct. 2, 1997, five days after Arnold's wife, Maria Shriver, gave birth to his son, Christopher.

Compare the two faces of Arnold and his son.

Arnold Schwarzenegger as a young bodybuilder

Mildred "Patty" Baena's son, fathered by Arnold Schwarzenegger

See TMZ for the latest on this developing story.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger

Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, 63, admits fathering a child with a member of his household staff. For over 20 years, the unnamed woman worked for Arnold and his wife, Maria Shriver, and just recently left her job.  

Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger during happier times.

Although the event happened over 10 years ago, Arnold just revealed it to Maria, 55, earlier this year, leading to the couple’s split. The couple have four children together, ages 14, 18, 20 and 21.

Read more at The Daily Mail

Readers, read more about Arnold on this blog: “Arnold Schwarzenegger: Master of All He Surveys.”

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Arnold Schwarzenegger in Malibu, California, 1988, photographed by Annie Leibovitz

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Malibu, California, 1988, photographed for Vanity Fair by Annie Leibovitz

The portraits of Arnold Schwarzenegger by Annie Leibowitz represent a long collaboration. The two first worked together in 1975, when Arnold was competing in the Mr. Olympia body-bulding contest in South Africa. Arnold was 28 then and had already won the contest five times. It was this Mr. Olympia competition that formed the basis for the film “Pumping Iron” that introduced Arnold to the world.

In her memoir*, Leibovitz recalls a photo session that took place in Arnold’s hotel room during the Mr. Olympia competition.

“Arnold was walking around naked that morning. Like most models or athletes who love their bodies, Arnold didn’t mind being naked….”

Arnold had big dreams for himself. Leibovitz heard Arnold say to the “Pumping Iron” filmmakers:

“‘I got the feeling that I was meant to be more than just an average guy running around, that I was chosen to do something special. I was always dreaming about very powerful people, dictators and things like that. Or some savior, like Jesus.’

Ten years later he was the Terminator. I shot him for the Vanity Fair Hall of Fame in 1988 [image shown here]. We were shooting on the beach and he said he had a horse, and I said well, bring it along, not thinking much about it. I couldn’t believe it when the horse showed up. It looked like Arnold. Arnold’s thigh in those white pants looks like the horse’s thigh.” 

*Leibovitz, Annie. Annie Leibovitz at Work. New York: Random House, Inc., 2008.

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