Bubbling Up In The Hot '70s: Jacuzzis, The Untold Story

Culture | February 16, 2019

Left: Al Pacino in 'Scarface.' Right: A heart-shaped hot tub at a Cove Haven resort in the 1970s. Sources: eBay; goretro.com

Turn the lights down low and fire up the jets -- it's Jacuzzi time in the '70s. Jacuzzis and hot tubs proliferated in the decade of disco, with these relaxing and soothing bathtubs becoming the must-have feature for a truly swanky, sexy pad. Jacuzzi room decor seemed to strive for a perfect balance of comfort and indulgence, with shag rugs and wood paneling. Of course, the outdoor hot tub was a thing too -- how peaceful it was to admire the natural scenery while tiny bubbles tickled you belowdecks, and really the rest was history. Jacuzzi bathing was so much more than a bath -- it was an experience.

Jacuzzi was a brand name that came to be used to refer to all hot tubs containing air jets; meanwhile, in the age of Jacuzzis, hot tub became a verb -- one would go hot tubbing with friends. Or, if one were adventurous or lucky, complete strangers.

Did one wear a swimsuit in the Jacuzzi? Personal choice, but true Jacuzzi aficionados wouldn't be caught dead in trunks or a bikini. The social nudity of hot tubs and Jacuzzis made them excellent settings for steamy scenes in movies, if not main characters in movies -- from Hollywood Hot Tubs (1984) and Hot Dog: The Movie (1984, and yes, we know it was about skiing) to the present day and Hot Tub Time Machine (2010). Hot-tubbing James Bonds included Sean Connery (in Never Say Never Again, 1983) and Roger Moore (in A View To A Kill, 1985). John Travolta and Lily Tomlin attempted Jacuzzi lovemaking (which is harder than it sounds) in Moment By Moment (1978), as did Anthony Hopkins and Bo Derek in A Change Of Seasons (1980). Irascible millionaire Thornton Mellon (Rodney Dangerfield) practiced marine biology with several coeds in a Jacuzzi in Back To School (1986), and the final boss, of sorts, in Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards (1987) was a babe in a Jacuzzi.

With all this high-profile hot-tubbing and Jacuzzifying, we're surprised they ever waned in popularity. But they did. Here's a look at the history of Jacuzzis that might just inspire you to call the plumber and install one yourself.

Hot Tubs In History

Martini glass hot tub/Jacuzzi, New Year’s Eve 1960. Source: (anothermag.com)

The concept of using heated water for relaxation and therapeutic purposes has been around for ages; documented as early as A.D. 737 in public bathing spots. We know that throughout history, ancient cultures utilized hot springs -- natural bodies of water that are heated by geothermal forces -- for bathing and social purposes.

The appeal of natural hot springs began to grow to a more modern society, thereby evolving throughout history, inspiring man-made spas.

Knowing and appreciating the practicality and benefits of natural hot springs, many began to fashion their own, albeit primitive at times, tubs of heated water when the real thing wasn’t available. These make-shift hot springs were filled with water that was warmed using heated stones. These systems were called, simply, hot tubs and were used by many cultures including the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Asians and Early Native Americans.

Seven Pumps For Seven Brothers

The Jacuzzi Brothers. Source: (escapewithjacuzzi.com)

Before long, a piping system was engineered to transfer hot water from a furnace to another container of water. It was a huge stride which marks the advent of the importance of hydrotherapy, also known as hydromassage.

The modern-day hot tub, also universally known as the Jacuzzi, was invented and engineered by, you guessed it… the Jacuzzis! The Jacuzzi brothers, seven in all, immigrated from Italy to sunny California in the early 1900s. The family boasted a collective plethora of ingenuity and when they put all of their brainpower together, they made huge strides for society. Initially, they made their living as inventors of other things here in the U.S. Their primary focus was on designing advancements in aviation as well as water pumps that were used in farming and agriculture. Having landed in California, their technology proved to be extremely beneficial for the many orange groves there.

A Family Business

Jacuzzi Brothers Storefront. Source: (escapewithjacuzzi.com)

The Jacuzzi brand we have come to know today was a spinoff of the famous brothers' submersible pump invention used for irrigation.

The Jacuzzi brothers essentially catapulted their family name into the history books when they invented the world’s first submersible pump. This new invention made it possible to draw water directly from the ground into pipes that disbursed it where it was needed. That is how the Jacuzzi brand made its historic mark.

We Have Jacuzzis Because Of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Jacuzzi J-300, 1956. Source: (escapewithjacuzzi.com)

The J-300 was the Jacuzzi Brothers' first crack at the modern hot tub experience in 1956.

Rheumatoid arthritis was actually the catalyst for the Jacuzzi brothers' invention of the modern-day hot tub. One of their family members, a child, in fact, had developed the crippling condition and was in need of relief. With this child as their inspiration, the brothers pulled their collective knowledge of hydraulics to invent a hydrotherapy pump. The pump was completely portable and could be submerged in an ordinary bathtub.

The 1956 modern invention soon became recognized as not only therapeutic but also rejuvenating and relaxing.

A Spa Of One's Own

In the infamous PC game 'Leisure Suit Larry In The Land Of The Lounge Lizards' (1987), our hero has the option to turn the bubbles on or off to please his date.

The J-300 was the Jacuzzi Brothers' answer to rheumatoid arthritis but the effects would prove to be more far-reaching than they had imagined. This invention was responsible for transforming the every-day bathtub into a home spa and effectively launched the wellness industry which only continued to grow and is still growing today.

In 1968 Roy Jacuzzi, a third-generation member of the immigrant Jacuzzi family, invented the world’s first combination whirlpool and bath. He called it the Roman. The Roman featured integrated jets with a 50/50 air to water ratio. Air jets were installed directly into the tub for a titillating experience. It was a dream come true for arthritis sufferers and hot bath fans alike! These hot tubs were mainly used indoors but as time passed, future hot tubs became made to be used outdoors as well.

The Bigger The Better

Al Pacino takes a dip in his excellent Jacuzzi in 'Scarface,' 1983.

The ‘70s ushered in the concept of the novelty and multi-person hot tubs. Hot tubs became widely referred to as Jacuzzis around this time for the mere fact that the Jacuzzi family had revolutionized the concept. The Jacuzzi became more than therapeutic… it became a social gathering spot for family and friends coming full circle from the Roman days; hence the name, the Roman.

Things Could Get Steamy

Bond Girl Fiona Fullerton and Roger Moore, Agent 007. Source: (telegraph.co.uk)

Outdoor hot tubs became more than therapeutic as Roy Jacuzzi launched the family brand to the next level.

Roy Jacuzzi worked in and around the family business beginning as a teenager and developed a fondness for the family brand. He, like his predecessors, was inventive and carried on the family tradition with an invention of his own.

Candido, Gelindo, Frank, Joseph and Valeriano Jacuzzi. Source: (atlasobscura.com)

The Jacuzzi brand didn’t stop in the groovy era… they were just getting started. From that point on, the Jacuzzi hot tub continued to evolve and is, in fact, still evolving today. The Jacuzzi name has been so legendary throughout the history of the hot tub that we hear it and sometimes take for granted the significance of this brilliant invention that won’t be drying up any time soon. The modern-day Jacuzzi, as we know it now, all started with the innovation of a family of immigrants with very little formal education.

Tags: A Brief History Of... | Dating In The 1970s | The 1970s

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Rebeka Knott


Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.