May 6, 2020

The Aquacade was an extravagant synchronized swimming show and in my upcoming novel We Came Here to Shine, one of my main characters, Vivi, is the star of the Aquacade. The novel takes the reader behind-the-scenes of the production: the choreography, cast friendships & rivalries, secrets, and Johnny Weissmuller (aka Tarzan), who was the male lead.

Eleanor Holm, the “real” female lead of the Aquacade dedicates the pool in February 1939, 3 months before the Fair opening. She must have been freezing in that swimsuit—check out the others in fur coats! Billy Rose is on her left. Grover Whalen, Fair President, on her right. Three bottles of champagne were smashed against a concrete catwalk (an unexpected result of the ceremony was that Holm and several of the dancers were cut on their legs by flying splinters of glass from the bottles). (from Biblion)

The Aquacade pool was 275’ long and the stands held 10,000 people.

Eleanor Holm and Johnny Weissmuller, the stars of the 1939 Aquacade. Holm swam for gold in the ’32 summer Olympics, but was kicked off the ’36 team when she was accused of being drunk at a party aboard the SS Manhattan en route to Berlin. (Read more about that scandal in Elise Hooper’s book Fast Girls, about the ’36 Olympic track team.) She and Billy Rose married in 1939 upon his divorce from Fanny Brice. Weissmuller won five Olympic golds in the ‘20s, went on to play Tarzan in 12 films, and is the most famous of all who played Tarzan because of his iconic yell.



Cover and inside spread of the official Aquacade program. It’s filled with ads, articles, & photos along with the program of events. Cover price: 15¢. (I bought this on eBay for $15.)

Billy Rose checking out the the auditioning “girls.”

Official postcard from the fair.

More World’s Fair Wednesday posts…