Big naturals are more than just a body part. They’re an energy, a culture, a lens through which we consume and create the world around us. And while big-breastedness may be both spiritual and bodily, there is a material world and timeline of events that document how this culture came to be. As MEL’s resident boob culture writer and a woman of breast-experience, I’ll be analyzing these objects and happenings, telling the stories of their origins and their impact on society. This is Big Moments in Big Naturals.
The entirety of Seinfeld hinges on being neurotic and poorly well-adjusted, traits that Jerry, George and Elaine often attempt to conceal with a manic overconfidence. In every episode, there’s always something that forces at least one of them to show their hand and reveal themselves to be the unhinged egomaniacs they attempt to cover with a thin layer of cool disaffectedness. George is always the first to crack, then Jerry, then Elaine. But there is one episode, “The Caddy,” where it’s Elaine who crumbles immediately. And the thing that does her in is a set of gorgeous, large, unencumbered breasts, affixed to the nemesis from her youth, Sue Ellen Mischke.
“The Caddy” first aired on January 5, 1996. To summarize the episode, Elaine runs into Mischke on the street, who approaches her, tits-a-swingin’ in a loose sweater. Mischke is tall and beautiful, a real Amazonian, whereas Elaine stands against her at, well, breast-height. Elaine returns to George and Jerry with notes of the encounter, stating that Mischke has never worn a bra. “Oh, that’s just shameless. Disgusting,” the two say, feigning disturbance.
Elaine then recalls that Mischke once stole her boyfriend, cutting to a flashback of them at a party. “She goes walking by in this little floozy outfit,” Elaine says, as we see a younger Mischke looking stunning and carefree in a red, cross-front bodysuit, sans bra. Elaine concludes that with Mischke’s birthday approaching, she’ll be getting her a bra herself. The next day, Mischke comes to Elaine’s office, wearing the bra as a top. Later, as she walks down the street, Kramer and Jerry are so distracted by her while driving George’s car that they crash.
Kramer decides to sue, but in court, Mischke claims it couldn’t have been her they were ogling, as the bra they have as evidence doesn’t fit. The episode concludes with a reference to the O.J. Simpson acquittal, which occurred just four months prior — a bra needs to fit against a person’s skin “like a glove.”
If all that sounds like a gigantic yarn spun around a pair of big naturals, it was. “Putting those episodes together is always a jigsaw puzzle — you sort of see these empty spots and then look for something that might fit,” says Andy Robin, a writer on “The Caddy” who wrote various episodes of Seinfeld between Seasons Four and Nine. The first piece of the puzzle didn’t actually relate to breasts at all, though. Instead, they were toying with the idea of getting George’s car “all crudded up.”
Back when Robin was writing the episode, he had a designated parking spot right outside of Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld’s office. On one occasion, his wife picked him up in her car, and he left his in the spot for a few days. “It gave Jerry and Larry the impression that I was the first person there in the morning and the last to leave at night,” he says. “I looked like a really hard worker. And so, we wanted George to exploit that same stupid trick.”
In addition to that little plot point, they’d also been directed by David and Seinfeld to include some mention of the Simpson trial. “They were just fascinated by it,” says Gregg Kavet, Robin’s co-writer who worked with him on Seasons Six through Nine. Running with the car theme, they agreed there’d have to be an accident — all they needed was a reason for the crash. “Greg or I thought about being distracted by an attractive or scantily clad woman,” says Robin.
Meanwhile, Kavet wondered whether it was realistic to have someone walk around brazenly in a bra. It was plausible, but it’d have to be distracting enough to cause Kramer to crash. Thus, they decided, said bra would have to be worn by a beautiful, big-breasted woman.
Of course, by today’s standards, seeing a woman wearing a bra as a top — or going braless — really isn’t a big deal, especially in New York City. But as Robin and Kavet explain, it was unheard of back then. Bralessness had trended a bit in the 1960s among hippies, but by the mid-1990s, bras were back, and to go without one was to associate yourself with a relic of the past. Moreover, it represented a free-spiritedness and lack of inhibition that Elaine, Jerry and George just didn’t have. That’s why Mischke and her breasts were so affecting. “[Mischke] was just a very in-your-face person,” says Robin. “It was her ability to flaunt it. She had an extreme confidence that really threw Elaine.”
This character naturally required the right actress to fit the part, and both Robin and Kavet were involved in the casting process. “It was easily the funniest and most contentious casting session I’ve ever been in,” says Robin. They can’t remember who else was in the running for the role, but there were two others in addition to Brenda Strong, who ultimately took the part. Apparently, there was a sort of inverse relationship between their acting skills and their conventional attractiveness — the more attractive she was, the worse she was at acting. Strong, they say, was the best actor.
Though Kavet and Robin wanted one of the other actresses, David liked Strong, and his pick won out. The episode is likely better for it, too — it’s hard to imagine a woman with a more beautiful, dominating presence. At 5-foot-11, Strong is a good eight inches taller than Elaine, and while her tendency to flout the breast conventions of 1996 made her a bit of a wild card, she otherwise had a rather polished, put-together appearance. This only highlights the power of her breasts — all of Mischke’s threatening traits are condensed into this one body part, and they’re impactful enough to cause Kramer to crash a car.
At the end of the episode, we’re left with several questions about boobs we may not have had before. What is a bra? Who is it for? And what is it about boobs that’s so consuming? For Mischke’s part, she seems not to care. She’s uninhibited by society’s definition of boobs and their accouterments, and that’s what makes her so beguiling. Jerry even becomes overwhelmed with his attraction to Mischke, citing her “freewheelin’” nature as her selling point. Still, never does anyone stop to think what it is about a woman daring not to wear a bra that strikes them as radical. Instead, they’re stuck on Mischke’s confidence to shirk social norms, and to do so with grace and ease. It’s not Mischke who’s so absorbed by her own breasts, it’s everyone else.
Most interestingly, however, boobs aren’t even the central theme of the episode — we’ve yet to even mention the golf plot that gives the episode its name. “The story we originally loved ended up being the most minor story in the episode,” says Kavet. And despite the whole episode originally hinging on George’s car, that, too, is only a minor part of the overarching narrative. “We’d often start with something that really happened, the most realistic part of the story,” he says. “By the time you layer all these other things on it, sometimes it serves as a backbone that holds stuff together. But it’s not the story that really pops.”
Instead, it’s the “Big-Titted Wonder” Sue Ellen Mischke who earns that honor, and probably always will. Let’s all just hope we’re not behind the wheel when we see her.