Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sweatin' With the Oldie

There were two reoccurring nightmares I had as a child. One where I would be leaning over a tall cement bridge when suddenly I slip and plummet into the murky green water below infested with alligators. After a long struggle of trying to get away, one of the alligators would finally capture and wolf me down for dinner. Oddly enough, I would continue to dream about those around me dealing with the aftermath of my demise. The other night scare was a sweaty wild-eyed Richard Simmons chasing me from a crowded area (sometimes a carnival and sometimes a mall) all the way to my home in Palo Alto in an attempt to kidnap me. Unlike the alligator, however, I would always succeed in escaping Mr. Simmons by finding an abandoned bicycle and pedaling as far from him as I possibly could.

These frights never left my memory, so when my friend Sarah decided that for her birthday she wanted her friends to join her for a workout at Richard Simmon’s studio Slimmons in Beverly Hills, anxiety took hold. Being trapped in a small room with this crazed fitness tormentor that often caused me to wake up in a sweat did not exactly sound like a birthday party to me, but my inability to say “no” triumphed over my juvenile fears.

Dressed like a Jane Fonda workout video, I stood in the Richard Simmons photo decorated waiting room with an intense need to pee. The ladies room was in the back of the studio, making it so I had to walk in on an inspirational speech he was making to the class before. I tried to be as discreet as possible but my electric blue spandex made that impossible. “YOU!!!” he cried. I froze in absolute horror. Could he still kidnap me at 32? My Nikes seemed to be glued to the waxed hardwood floor. I scanned the room for a bike I could pedal to safety on. There was no bike!

“YOU ARE SO CUTE! YOU LOOK LIKE A FLOWER! NO, no, no, no, no. You don’t belong here. This place is for ugly people.”

It took a second for me to register what he had just said. I smiled, took a deep breath, and picked up my formerly glued sneakers and briskly walked to the bathroom. My mind was at ease. He wasn’t a scary man that was going to get me. He was a short slight man with a thinning afro who thought I looked like a flower. He was a man wearing a cop uniform that he eventually would strip off to reveal a tank top with two stars on his nipples. He was a man that spent the class screeching insults to those that weren’t lifting their legs high enough only to end his faux abuse with a mischievous giggle. He was a man that separately dragged each newbie (including me) into the middle so he could dance with them, and if they were a guy take their shirts off and lick them. He was a man that screamed out wildly inappropriate orders such as, “IF YOU DON’T WORK HARDER THAN I’M GOING TO LOCK YOU UP LIKE ANNE FRANK!!!!!!” He was a high spirited fun-loving man that remembered everyone’s name.

The shocking, campy, and unexpectedly witty in a way that I shouldn’t be laughing but I am sort of way he has of insulting his class, gave me a clearer understanding of why I had been so scared of this outrageous TV personality. By attending his aerobics class as an adult, however, I got to see his flamboyant shrieks and silly humor as his way of making exercise fun. He’s a bomb of energetic glee who makes one forget they’re actually breaking a sweat. By the end of class, we all got a great workout, Sarah was sung “Happy Birthday” and given a figurine necklace of Richard jumping out of a cake, and I received a kiss from the man that once haunted my dreams but that I now actually like.

*1980's Richard Simmons in the red and white striped short shorts and red tank he made famous.

*About to workout with the man himself at his studio Slimmons in Beverly Hills, CA.

*I'm wearing a 1980's dark gray leotard (it was my Mom's); electric blue spandex leggings from American Apparel; Nike sneakers; blue wrist band from American Apparel.

*The birthday girl Sarah on the left, Richard, myself, and Sarah's cousin below.

*Sarah's birthday gift from Richard: a figurine necklace of himself jumping out of a cake.

*Richard decided to be a cop today.

*Getting a big wet one from Richard. When he wants something from you...he'll get it!


  1. Absolutely love this! Please tell me you shared your nightmare with him? :)

  2. Hahahhahahahaha I LOVE it!!!!! Our mothers generation for sure! Love the picture of him kissing you! Did you catch him on who's line is it anyway? So glad you got over your fear and replaced it with such an amazing memory :) xoxoxoxo