By Jeff Finkle
Whether you grew up watching Baywatch or it just seemed to always be on while you were high in your college dorm room, the image of Erika Eleniak as original Baywatch babe Shauni McClain running in a red one-piece bathing suit is as embedded in your memory of that time period as Hammer pants or flannel shirts. Thankfully, it is way more visually pleasing to look at photos of the beautiful Erika Eleniak than David Hasselhoff strutting around in swim trunks, and even her name should bring a smile to most of us with an X and Y chromosome who remember the ‘90s. With her girl-next-door smile, platinum blonde hair, striking eyebrows and a bounce on the beach that was larger than her brows (and just as natural), she was many a young man’s crush.
Before Eleniak found herself dealing with some cheesy plot twists on the set of Baywatch, she graced the cover — and more importantly to teenage boys at the time, the middle — of Playboy as Ms. July, 1989. In 1992, the same year she decided to leave the beach and the Hoff behind, Eleniak starred alongside Steven Seagal as Jordan Tate (who also happened to be Miss July, 1989) in Under Siege. Besides being the most entertaining of the Die Hard clones of the time, Under Siege has a very memorable scene in which Eleniak jumps topless out of a cake. Of course, Seagal’s stone face expression doesn’t change when he sees her, proving he is indeed a robot.
Eleniak went on to play Ellie May Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies movie and act alongside another master thespian, Dennis Miller, in the B-Movie Bordello of Blood. She acted in TV movies like Fatal Lessons: The Good Teacher in 2004 and still can be seen in independent films and Lifetime movies like 2011’s Holiday Spin. True film nerds most likely already know that Eleniak was the girl that Elliot boldly kissed in the classroom in E.T. Sure, Elliott got to meet an alien, but how many boys can say they got to kiss a future playmate?
Enjoy 20 of our favorite Erika Eleniak photos in the gallery above, and a few video clips of her in action below, and tell us: Who’s your classic ’90s crush?
(Erika Eleniak workin’ a swimsuit on Baywatch)
(A censored version of Erika Eleniak’s famous cake-scene in Under Siege. Sorry, we can’t show it all here.)
(Erika Eleniak in Fatal Lessons: The Good Teacher)
(Erika Eleniak being interviewed on something called Metal Rules TV in 2012)