Arts, Culture & Media

What do bikinis, Tarzan and 'Life of Pi' have in common?

Bikini.jpg

Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images

For the election of the most beautiful bather, a candidate appears for the first time wearing a bikini, 05 July 1946 at the Molitor swimming-pool in Paris.

What do bikinis, Tarzan and the movie "Life of Pi" have in common?

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

The answer? A swimming pool in Paris called Piscine Molitor.

Once upon a time, if you wanted to take a dip in the French capital, Piscine Molitor was the place to go and the place to be seen.

But after riding the high life for decades, Piscine Molitor closed in 1989.

This week however, after 85 years, the pool reopened, under new management and with a hotel and all sorts of amenities.

Claude Weill has lived across the street from the pool his entire life.

He used to swim at Piscine Molitor when he was a kid. He is now 87.

“I’m very excited to see the pool reopen,” he says. “I used to swim there when I was 10.”

Weill loved the pool so much he decided to write a book about it.

As for the connections with bikinis, Weill says the swimwear made its debut at the pool in July 1946.

“It made a lot of noise,” he recalls, “no one had ever seen that [the bikini] before.”

The pool was a celebrity magnet too.

Johnny Weissmuller, the future "Tarzan" actor was a life guard at the pool.

It was before he was famous for his acting. But by that time, he had won three gold medals at the 1924 Paris Olympics and two others in Amsterdam in 1928.

In 2001, Piscine Molitor made its way to a novel and later on into a movie called "Life of Pi."

The main character in the movie was named after Piscine Molitor. In the film he says he was named after Piscine Molitor because his father "wanted his soul to be as clean as the pool's water."

But, as the film shows, he later changes his name to Pi because the kids made fun of him at school.

Local residents long felt that the swimming pool must be restored to its original glory. They set up the group SOS-Molitor, which pushed for the pool's renovation.

SOS-Molitor later became Piscine Molitor, and finally plans to revive the structure became possible.

Today, Piscine Molitor, located in Paris' 16th arrondisment, is a hotel with spa and a swimming pool. It will cost $200 to spend a day swimming there.

Claude Weill says he'll be heading across the street to take laps at the pool.

"It's been open for two days now, I haven't had a chance to swim but I hope I will [get a chance]," he says.

But, since he's a long time resident of the neighborhood and has written a book about it, he says he won't be charged the whopping $200 per day fee.

  • Weissmuller_Molitor_CROP.jpg

    Credit: AP Photo

    Olympic gold medal winning swimmer and actor Johnny Weissmuller, born Johann Peter Weissmuller, in his swimming costume pictured around June 3, 1930 at the Molitor swimming-pool in Paris.

  • pool1.jpg

    Credit: Romain Veillon

    Piscine Molitor shut down in 1989 and after its abandonment, it became a place for graffiti artists to showcase their work. Photo taken in 2011, prior to the renovation.

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