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Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll

The Evolution of an American Youth Culture

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Douglas Brode

Sex, Drugs, & Rock ‘n’ Roll analyzes the cultural, political, and social revolution that took place in the U.S. (and in time the world) after World War II, crystalizing between 1955 and 1970. During this era, the concept of the American teenager first came into being, significantly altering the relationship between young people and adults.
As the entertainment industries came to realize that a youth market existed, providers of music and movies began to create products specifically for them. While Big Beat music and exploitation films may have initially been targeted for a marginalized audience, during the following decade and a half, such offerings gradually become mainstream, even as the first generation of American teenagers came of age. As a result the so-called youth culture overtook and consumed the primary American culture, as records and films once considered revolutionary transformed into a nostalgia movement, and much of what had been thought of as radical came to be perceived as conservative in a drastically altered social context.
In this book Douglas Brode offers the first full analysis of how an American youth culture evolved.
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Chapter 6. Surf/Sex/Sand/Spies: The Battles of Bikini Beach

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← 96 | 97 → ·6·

SURF/SEX/SAND/SPIES

The Battles of Bikini Beach

“Surfing expresses . . . a pure yearning for a visceral, physical contact with the natural world.”

—Bruce Jenkins, North Shore Chronicles, 2005

The bombings of Hiroshima (08/06/1945) and Nagasaki (08/09/1945) brought to a close our war in the Pacific while ushering in the Atomic age. A notable test occurred on July 1, 1946, at remote Bikini Atoll. Among those aware that a brave new world had dawned was French designer Louis Réard (1897–1984), who earlier realized conventional swimsuits no longer satisfied daring young Parisiennes. Inspired by the bomb test, he announced on July 5 at the Piscine Molitor fashion-show that his equally explosive swimsuit would appropriately be called The Bikini.1 Even in Gay Paree, this “scandalous” item created a furor. Réard grasped that no professional model would display herself in something so skimpy.2 Micheline Bernardini, a Casino de Paris nude performer, did the honors. Critics complained that civilization would be threatened by a fashion item recalling the ancient pagans. An appreciative minority argued that the Bikini came into being because it had to; the world was ready for something shocking in fashion even as it reeled from spectacular scientific innovation. The international press, ever hungry for new fodder, turned Réard’s event into a “media sensation.”3

If models were initially wary, chic Gallic women living in the breezy climes of St. Tropez embraced The Bikini wholeheartedly. As...

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