Love Handles: Chapter Four
By Bob Merrick
Out.com is proud to present the wacky and wild (and absolutely true�although some names have been changed to protect the guilty) adventures of a 30-year-old guy in Hollywood who just wants to lose a few (dozen) pounds. And find eternal happiness and fulfillment. Is that too much to ask?
Part Four: Sweatin� with an Oldie�But Goodie
In the fall of 1999, I spent the most miserable six months of my life in a town called Casa Grande, Arizona, working as a producer�s assistant on the movie Three Kings. One of my responsibilities was securing a gym for George Clooney and his friends to play basketball every evening at wrap. I was able to get a local school to give me a key to one of their gyms, but they made me sign off as responsible, meaning I had to go every day to let them in and lock up when they left.
One night, they all began begging me to play. This was a group of pranksters and it was obvious they wanted me to join in because they knew it would make great fodder on set to talk about the �silly girl-like� way I would play. What they didn�t count on was how all of those years of dancing to Madonna videos had made me graceful�not to mention my ability to form a wall like Shaquille O�Neal. Not only did I play that night, but also every night for the rest of the shoot with George insisting I always be on his team. It felt good to not only surprise them, but to also surprise myself, because even I predicted I would be giving them the �silly girl-like� fodder.
Recently, when my friend Amy, an associate producer over at HBO, called and asked me to take an exercise class with her, I quickly found out just how Clooney and the boys felt. �Bob, I know you are experimenting with new exercises and I have the perfect one I have been wanting to take forever.� I wasn�t used to Amy getting so excited as she is generally reserved and level-headed. �Richard Simmons teaches an aerobics class called �Sweat!� at his studio in Beverly Hills and he is teaching this Saturday!�
As visions of short shorts and sequined tank tops danced through my mind, all I could think was, He has his own studio? I was certain I was about to embark on a sidesplitting experience that would give me fodder for months.
A few short days later, we arrived outside Slimmons. Sure enough, pulling up next to us in an extremely butch truck, hopped out the irrepressible Richard Simmons in his trademark red-and-white�striped shorts and a red tank top that had been bejeweled with hearts. I hadn�t been this excited to sweat since the night I had lost my virginity to another man.
Everything in the studio was decorated with pink and red hearts for Valentine�s Day, and I do mean everything. It was Shelby�s palette of �blush� and �bashful� from Steel Magnolias. The friendliest women I have ever met instantly engulfed us�each singing the praises of this establishment of physical fitness. The thing I found jarring was that these women, who were so enthused by the exercise, weren�t as fit or in shape as one might expect, and I couldn�t help but wonder if they weren�t just there to see Richard. It was like trying to trust a hairdresser sporting an ugly haircut. At least it kept me from feeling self-conscious.
Amy and I kept stealing glances at one another as we were fawned over like Dorothy landing in Oz. The munchkins parted and Glinda came in to make her move. Richard began rapid-fire conversation, wanting to know where we worked, our dating status, and then deciding, �Your hair is too fabulous. You can�t be here if your hair is better than mine.� Already I was a thorn in his side. Then, while he was going over his favorite Oscar picks, he bit off half of a baby carrot and stuck the rest in my mouth. I wish I weren�t as inhibited by my personal space issues. His boundless energy reminded me of an excited kitten, ready to pounce and then curl up in my lap at any second.