The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

August 3, 2013

MICHELE M. BENDER | Can we talk?

Michele M. Bender
For The Tribune-Democrat

JOHNSTOWN — “I think,” observed the weatherman, “our hottest days are behind us.”

“NO!” I wailed. Some folks are okay with summer’s end.  NOT ME!

For shy, modest, insecure ladies, swimwear season has passed.

At 12, I needed a “grown-up” suit. Rosemarie Reids were too adult, and Catalinas were too expensive. I settled on a pink-flowered Jantzen.

I recall these swimsuit memories vividly because two significant, noteworthy events occurred this summer distracting us from pesky hurricanes, serial killers, plane crashes, tornadoes, government scandals and outrageous behavior by celebrities.

What two incidents, you ask?

Esther Williams died. Joan Rivers didn’t.

Esther gained prominence in the mid-1930s. An attractive, athletic young woman with Olympic-caliber skills, she developed into a serious aquatic competitor. Unfortunately, World War II prevented her from participating in the 1940 Olympics.

Hollywood, however, quickly recognized a new and rare talent to exploit. Esther starred in a succession of mediocre films. Moviegoers flocked to them.

Esther always played a professional swimmer. Lavish underwater photography wowed audiences, and Esther’s wholesome personality and unpretentious manner won her the respect of her fans.

She died June 6 at 91.

Joan Rivers celebrated her 80th birthday June 8.

She began her career as a comedienne, but as talk shows evolved, Joan found a niche.

Joan is one of the most morally reprehensible entertainers of our time. A narcissistic personality, she fancies herself a fashion icon. She regularly maligns celebrities’ clothing, casual and formal, with obscene, scathing comments, mostly unwarranted.

Granted, many famous artists select costumes that even Honey Boo Boo would reject.

When Elizabeth Taylor was alive (God rest her soul), Joan made her life a nightmare, scrutinizing every item she wore and every ounce she gained or lost.

When Joan went too far, she relied on “damage control.”

“We really LOVE you, Liz,” she’d hiss. “Take better care of yourself.”

At 80, Joan surrounds herself with a cluster of toadies who echo her opinions no matter what.

Summers bring out the worst in her. Vulgar, crude, bathing suit critiques spew from her forked tongue.

Esther, who spent her retirement years designing flattering yet practical swimwear styles, dismissed today’s extreme erotic trends.

“Two Dixie cups strung together with fishing wire is NOT a bathing suit,” she declared.

Joan continues to work, steering her “Fashion Police” program to new lows. She occasionally visits New York for special celebrations, but lives primarily in Malibu, Calif.

Joan, can we talk? Piranhas swim in that water. So do squid and sharks.

Be a sport, Joan. Stay out of the surf. Give the piranhas a breather.