Jimmy Kimmel: Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue has long-standing place in his heart

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J immy Kimmel admits to being awestruck by the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue in his boyhood. And his adulthood.

That's likely to make for interesting moments when the 50th-anniversary edition's cover model is unveiled on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" Thursday (Feb. 13), before the magazine is released next week. It marks the first time the program has hosted the reveal after six years on CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman" -- which, it should be noted, is in repeats this week.

Kimmel also is set for an exclusive-to-late-night interview with the cover model on his show Monday, and -- mild spoiler alert -- she's rumored to be a real doll, at least on some of the copies.

"My mom's first cousin," Kimmel tells Zap2it, "is a guy named John Iacono, and he was for many years a staff photographer for Sports Illustrated. He still works for them occasionally, and he did baseball and football, but he's most famous for his work in shooting boxing.

"I remember him coming to our house, probably in 1979, when the sports photographers also used to shoot the swimsuit models; they didn't pass it off to fashion photographers. And I remember him talking about this certain issue, and this model named Christie Brinkley being in it."

At the time, Kimmel allows, he "wasn't familiar with" the issue. Yet, he adds, "Being a 12-year-old boy, I remember being very, very excited about it. I think that magazine is still hidden somewhere in the bathroom of my childhood home."

Kimmel also is planning his now-traditional show following the Oscars on Sunday, March 2, plus a week of programs from Texas' annual South by Southwest Festival starting Monday, March 10. For the moment, though, he's happy to devote "Jimmy Kimmel Live" to a milestone anniversary in publishing.

"Fifty and swimsuits is probably not the best selling point," he muses, "but I guess it's one of the few things we really look forward to. Holidays are great, but you have to buy gifts and hang around with your family the whole time. It can be a pain ... but the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue just comes to your home and delights you, and it asks nothing in return."
Photo/Video credit: ABC