Love Handles: Chapter Four

2.27.2005

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.

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