The Babe Goddesses You can look, you can dream, but you'd better not touch these heavenly bodies

February 15, 2001

Beware, hapless viewer, unsuspecting beholder of the marvelous
creatures presented on these pages. I offer you here a
cautionary tale, knowing full well that I'm writing for a
readership that's really a viewership. Putting my words beside
these images is like trying to get an audience with the Greek
and Roman gods--they'll most likely ignore you, or be extremely
irritated by your entreaties. But how's this for an incentive:
What I have to say here might save your life.

A reference to the ancient gods of Greece and Rome is appropriate
because this issue is centered in the Mediterranean and is
replete with Babe Goddesses. This is our Swimsuit Odyssey; we
went to Tunisia and Morocco and Greece to present the beautiful
images between these covers.

I begin my cautionary tale with none other than Plato, the Greek
philosopher who invented the ideal Form, the guy who put the high
in hierarchy. Plato believed that everything we see is merely the
approximation of an ideal form, the superlative: the perfect
drinking glass, for example; in fact, the pure essence of
drinking glass. The drinkingest, glassiest of glasses. You get
the idea. Plato posited that all these ideal forms exist beyond
the known world. When it came to ideal forms, Plato agreed with
MC Hammer--"U can't touch this!"

What better example of an ideal form than the Babe Goddesses on
these pages? The gods and goddesses of mythology, after all, hit
their peak-week and stayed there eternally, pigging out on nectar
and ambrosia, waistlines unaffected. A Babe Goddess is a woman so
beautiful that she puts a distance between herself and the world,
between herself and you. You stand there feeling the gravity of
your own weight while she floats by, oblivious to you and all
other earthly concerns. You'd like to reach out to her, perhaps
hold her in your arms, but you can't. And that, dear viewer, is,
whether or not you realize it, a very good thing, and you should
consider yourself to be extremely fortunate. For woe to those who
attempt to penetrate that sheath that separates the Babe
Goddesses from the rest of us.

On this point Zeus, like Plato, would bring down the Hammer:
Can't touch that! Not because Zeus wanted to keep all the babes
to himself, although I'm sure that was part of his agenda. No, it
was because of the code. The mortal-to-god code. Along with
passing out duties for all the gods, Zeus enforced plenty of
rules on how mortals were to interact with the gods, all of them
proscriptive. You never challenged the gods, never tried to cheat
them. You never hid the good parts of the sacrifice--like sticking
the meaty parts of the goat under the entrails, for example.
Steal something from a god and you'd end up like Prometheus,
bound to a rock while an eagle snacked on your liver every day
for oh, say, a very long time. Another big no-no for Zeus was
that no mortal could ever, under any condition, put a move on a
god or goddess. In fact, should a mortal gaze upon a goddess's
true form, chances were he'd be toast. Which is why, when gods
were forced to come down to earth for whatever mortal clamoring
or transgression needed to be addressed, they morphed into human
or animal form. For our protection.

Zeus and his brothers, Poseidon and Hades, were all about
hierarchical structures, and nothing bespoke hierarchy more than
traditional gender roles in sexual relations. At the top of the
pile--in this case, Mount Olympus--were the male gods. Next in line
were the female gods. So far down the line that they may as well
not have even been in line were humans. As far as Zeus was
concerned, humans were the epitome of the imperfect, the lowest
of the low.

Of course, gods will be gods, and accidents happen. Mating with
humans was something the gods might do on a whim. When a god
mated with a woman, the offspring were the heroes of legend:
Achilles, Hercules, Theseus. But when a goddess mated with a
man, the result was trouble. Big trouble. In fact, there was
hell to pay--for the man, that is. The goddess would simply
shake her impeccable head and be on her way. Even then, beauty
had its privileges.

Every red-blooded Greek and Roman stud in antiquity knew these
rules, knew that goddesses, however desirable, were off-limits.
But a lot of time has passed since Zeus was in the headlines, and
we've been lulled into a complacent stupor. We've forgotten the
old taboos. As you savor the pulchritude displayed in this issue,
I know what you are thinking--you imagine yourself piercing the
Platonic veneer of the glossy page and touching these divine
beings. Well, forget it. You don't want to know how much grief
you would be in for if you somehow got your trembling,
all-too-mortal hands on one of them.

Don't believe me? Look to your mythology. Take Anchises--one of
the lucky ones--who was only blinded or maimed, depending on which
author you read, after boasting about his roll on the animal
skins with Aphrodite.

What happened to Tithonus makes Anchises's fate look like a
sleigh ride. He hooked up with Eos, who wanted to keep him as her
boy-toy for all eternity. She begged Zeus to make it so but
forgot to stipulate that Tithonus should remain ageless. Zeus
granted her wish all too literally, and so poor Tithonus was made
immortal all right, except that he kept getting older and older
and older, shriveling up like a raisin--until he was little more
than a scratchy little voice, begging to die. Eos carried him
around in a cage until she got tired of that and turned him into
a grasshopper.

And what of Actaeon? His nasty end might convince you that
Tithonus got off easy. While out stag hunting with his faithful
hounds Actaeon happened upon the beautiful Diana bathing in a
stream, attended by her water nymphs. Horrified that a mortal man
had seen her naked, she turned Actaeon into a stag. His hounds
immediately turned on him and tore him to ribbons.

I could go on and on with these divine date-from-hell stories,
but I'll spare you any more of the gruesome details. It's now
time for you to peruse the bevy of Babe Goddesses here. But
forewarned is forearmed. Turn these pages warily, knowing, like
the good rationalist Plato wanted you to, that you're going to
stay in your world and they will stay in theirs, and everything
will be fine.

And remember what you've learned here. Someday you may go to
Atlantis, or Caesars Palace, and suddenly happen to find yourself
standing or floating next to someone who looks like one of these
goddesses. Perhaps she will look at you and smile and tip her
perfect chin just so, or perhaps she'll even put her lovely hand
in yours.

Should this happen, you know what to do: Run like hell.

COLOR PHOTO: ERICH LESSING/ART RESOURCE, N.Y. TIEPOLO'S Apollo and Daphne (CIRCA 1740) COLOR PHOTO: SCALA/ART RESOURCE, N.Y. TITIAN'S Diana and Actaeon (1556-59) COLOR PHOTO: KAVALER/ART RESOURCE, N.Y. TINTORETTO'S Venus, Vulcan and Mars (CIRCA 1550) COLOR PHOTO: THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART, GIFT OF LOUIS C. RAEGNER, 1927 GEROME'S Pygmalion and Galatea (1890) COLOR PHOTO: SCALA/ART RESOURCE, N.Y. TITIAN'S Venus and Adonis (CIRCA 1555) COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ORNAMENTAL FRAMES BY JOE ZEFF

A BABE GODDESS IS SO BEAUTIFUL SHE PUTS A DISTANCE BETWEEN
HERSELF AND THE WORLD

ZEUS THOUGHT HUMANS WERE THE EPITOME OF THE IMPERFECT, THE
LOWEST OF THE LOW

EVERY GREEK AND ROMAN KNEW THAT GODDESSES, HOWEVER DESIRABLE,
WERE OFF-LIMITS

WHENEVER A GODDESS MATED WITH A MORTAL MAN, THERE WAS HELL TO
PAY--FOR THE MAN

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)