Thursday, 9 June 2011

Esther Williams Did it Better

Please welcome mystery author Heather Haven. Her love of sleuthing has outed Esther Williams secret to perfectly coiffed hair out of the pool. Will I be using it? No, but should I ever have the need, I will know what to do. (grin)

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When I was a child, I remember seeing photos, magazines, and movies starring the beautiful film star and competitive swimmer, Esther Williams. I guess somewhere inside my nine-year old head, I knew she was gorgeous, with long legs and sexy bathing suits, but when you're a kid, you don't look at things the way the rest of the world does.

Besides, I was practically a junior Esther Williams, minus the gorgeous, long legs. Born and raised in southern Florida, I spent my youth in water of one form or another. Ocean, pool, creek, river, it didn't matter, I was there. I also competed in local swim meets until I discovered rock and roll at age twelve. Until that time, my life was spent in one bathing suit or another, practically year round. In fact, when we go through family albums, most of us knew what year it was by what swimsuit I was wearing.

But back to E.W. What impressed me about our glamorous mermaid wasn't all the fancy dives and breast strokes but how she could pop up out of the water with a sparkling smile and eyes wide open.

I mean, how, how, how? Have you ever tried opening your eyes coming out of either chlorine or salt water, not to mention wearing a smile? I could never do it and man, I have tried. My eyes would sting, get bloodshot, and blink like crazy. I would wind up grimacing and looking more like a character out of a Max Sennett's comedy rather than a glamorous film star. And forget smiling. Smile and your mouth fills with water. Okay, at the time I was a nine-year old missing a few teeth, but I still can't do it, complete choppers and all.

Then there was Esther's hair. In real life, if you're wearing a swimming cap, your hair is going to be lying flat against your head, dripping wet. Granted, there are some swim caps that can keep out a certain amount of water, especially if you don't dunk your head. These are the ones applied with a shoehorn, cause an intense headache, and a bright red line across your forehead. In truth, a swimming cap is merely worn to keep the hair off your face and out of the pool's water. Anything else is false advertising.

Minus the cap, when you come up out of the water you are going to be temporarily blinded by the hair plastered against your face and over your eyes. At least fifteen seconds will be spent spitting out water, rubbing eyes, and pushing back gobs of sticky, wet hair so you can see again.

Anyone remember our gal pal going through any of that in her movies? Of course not. Putting aside the smile and batting eyelashes, most of the time her hair was beautifully styled atop her head. This was even after she came up from a 20 Thousand Leagues Beneath The Sea dive. Every single hair was magically in place. In fact, it didn't even look wet!

It was a mystery that started me on my career of sleuthing. I have never found out how she managed to smile so brightly and bat those fake eyelashes -- maybe drugs? But, after years of research, probing, and heartbreaking toil, I happened upon an article revealing the secret of Esther's impossibly neat and dry coiffeur. Vaseline! Yes, petroleum jelly was the hush-hush ingredient, revealed by a hairdresser who is currently in the witness protection program.

I don't think I could have handled this revelation as a kid, so keep the news away from your children. Unless you are asking, who is this Esther Williams? Then all I have to say is, be still my heart; am I really that old? Thanks a lot and happy swimming.

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Heather Haven is the author of the Alvarez Family Murder Mystery series. Book one, Murder is a Family Business, and book two, A Wedding to Die For, can be purchased at MuseItUp Publishing: and other fine ebookstores. Visit Heather at her website:

Follow Heather's blog at:

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Just because a man cheats on his wife and makes Danny DeVito look tall, dark and handsome, is that any reason to kill him? The reluctant and quirky PI, Lee Alvarez, doesn't think so. The 34-year old ½ Latina, ½ WASP and 100% detective has her work cut out for her when the man is murdered on her watch. Of all the nerve.

Set in the present, Murder is a Family Business is the first in a series of humorous mysteries revolving around Lee Alvarez, a combination of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone and Janet Evanovitch’ Stephanie Plum, and the rest of Alvarez Family, detectives all. Completing the family is Lee’s Never-Had-A-Bad-Hair-Day aristocratic mother, Lila; computer genius brother, Richard; beloved uncle “Tio;” and her energetic orange and white cat, Tugger. When this group is not solving murders, they run Discretionary Inquiries, a successful Silicon Valley agency that normally deals with the theft of computer software. Seemingly light and frothy on the surface, the novel nevertheless explores familial love, the good, the bad and the annoying.


Heather Haven said...

Thanks for having me over! Loving it.

Roseanne Dowell said...

OMG, I remember her too. She was beautiful, wasn't she. Okay, you cleared up one mystery, but pray tell HOW did she come up smiling with eyes wide open? Something tells me some trick camera work there. I remember those bathing caps too. Does anyone wear them anymore? I guess I'm dating myself too, but hey, I am what I am (age wise) and nothing I can do about it.

Nan D Arnold said...

Don't ya thing a zillion makeup artists helped, too? Not to mention the ol' camera man. I am out of my league, hate water, but bend to your practical experience. Enjoyed your book, love the addition of a kitten...sooo cute. Murder and cats, such a natural blend. The Spanish and location for extra treats.

Pat Dale said...

Vaseline? Really? Wow, I'd never have guessed that. Considering her movies were done before thay had the technical capability to do the things they do now, I understand. But Vaseline? I can't imagine a gorgeous woman coating her hair with that stuff. Go figure... LOL
Pat Dale

Faith said...

I love a good mystery!

Been ages since I've seen anything with Esther Williams, so will have to refresh my memory.

Anthology Authors said...

I have never tried keeping my eyes open when coming up from the pool, but I'll have to try it some time to see if I can do it...if I remember. LOL

Those types of bathing caps, Roseanne, aren't seen very often. Generally, you only see them on the blue-haired ladies in the pool. The younger generation wears swim caps. Most of them are black, but I'm starting to see more color and fun patterns. :) (BTW, I'm a swimmer. grin)


Julie Lynn Hayes said...

I remember watching Million Dollar Mermaid years ago - I loved it! I need to watch it again, I think. I read her autobiography. It was fascinating, especially talking about the love of her love, Fernando Lamas. She also had some interesting things to say about Johnny Weismueller!

Great blog, thanks for the memories, your book sounds very interesting! Best wishes on it!

Kate Richards said...

I love Esther Williams! I wonder if that petroleum jelly ever came out of her hair? Seems like it would be almost permanent.

Your books sounds great! I love a good mystery and funny is even better.

Janice said...

Okay, the Vaseline explains the hair. But the rest has to be movie magic and trick photography.

Heather Haven said...

Wow! Thanks to all of you who dropped by and made a comment. They had an Esther Williams marathon on AMC recently, so that prompted my article. It made me realize how talented she actually was. I never saw her in the movies, a little before my time, but they were played on TV a lot. In Florida, she was considered quite the goddess. And you know us gals, we like our goddesses. Even if they are all wet! I've been wondering for years just how they got that Vaseline out of her hair. Hollywood tricks!

Toni V.S. said...

I remember Esther and --yeas...that smile as she popped out of the water is foremost in my memory

Sylvie said...

I watched most of those old movies on the Late Show and the Late, Late Show back in the day. So that's how Ester did it!

Fiona McGier said...

Esther was one of the women my Mom would refer to, as in, "You don't need swimming lessons! Who do you think you are, Esther Williams?" Or, "You don't need new ice skates, because you're no Sonya Henny!"

That was back in the day when you had to have an actual talent of some kind, to be a star! Unlike reality stars of today who just breathe and we are supposed to be impressed!

I've actually heard that vasoline is a trick to make your teeth appear shiny on camera also. Ew!