Monday, July 25, 2011

Pole Dancing Fitness

I recently saw an ad on TV for a workout center in Las Vegas.
It wasn't a Gold's Gym or a come-on for the Las Vegas Athletic Club.
It was a 30-second spot for a pole dancing fitness studio.
Yes, pole dancing, that All American activity conducted in gentleman's clubs from coast to coast.
While the studio claims it was founded and owned by a woman, I know that this concept had to have been originally conceived by a man.  And men everywhere should stand up and applaud.
Somehow, a man has convinced a significant number of women that they should give up Pilates and Zumba, two regimens that most men can neither understand nor pronounce.
I'm pretty sure that if one of my friends signed up for a Pilates class, they'd show up with an eye patch and a parrot on his shoulder, answering every question with "Arrr, matey!"
As for Zumba, most guys simply think it's the latest sports car offering from Mazda.
Instead of these two exercise programs, a man has managed to convince women that they should sign up and pay for a class that will teach them how to become strippers.  I mean, "exotic dancers."  (I've always been amused by that term, as if showing up somewhere as naked as the day you were born, something every single one of us has experienced, is somehow unique and exotic.)
This guy is a genius.
I would love to have been in the room when this idea was pitched.
"You wanna lose weight?  Wanna firm up those abs?  Become a stripper."
To be honest, I think the guy may have the cart before the horse a little bit on this, but I admire his moxie.
I can just see me trying to talk my wife into doing stripper routines as a form of exercise.  I'm sure it would improve her arm strength, particularly from lifting all those pots, pans, rolling pins, and other weighty items she would use to conk me over the head repeatedly for even bringing up such a topic at our dinner table.
However, other women are obviously buying into this.  They are signing up to take a class in pole dancing, which has to make their husbands and boyfriends happy (not to mention saving those guys a fortune on Friday nights).
I can see another advantage to this phenomenon.
For those men not fortunate enough to have a spouse or girlfriend enrolled at the pole dancing fitness emporium, they can now attend the kind of establishments where pole dancing takes place without lying to their loved ones.
"And where do you think YOU'RE going at this hour on a Saturday night?"
"Honest, honey, I'm headed over to the gym.  You know, the workout place."
I suspect it will take Under Armour, the athletic apparel company, all of about five minutes to start selling a new workout outfit for pole dancing athletes complete with crotch pockets to hold the 10 dollar bills.
I'm excited about some of the additional opportunities this will create.
By legitimizing pole dancing as an athletic endeavor, it won't be long before it's added as an event at the Summer Olympics.
"And now, ladies and gentlemen, representing the U.S. team, it's Sugar Flame."
It will be worth the price of admission just to see the entry from the American Samoa Olympic team put the vertical bar to the test.
It's also going to be interesting to see the Olympic judging panel made up of guys in trench coats and refugees from all-night bachelor parties.
Being curious by nature, I actually checked out the website for the pole dancing school in Vegas.  I can tell the studio is operated by learned fitness professionals by the introductory statement which claims their classes will help you "loose weight, change your body, shrink your waste line and feel great!" (Notice the spelling of "lose" and "waist.")
I learned that they also offer a variety of other fitness courses, including (and I'm not making this up)...lap dancing. 
I haven't seen the FDA's bulletin on how many calories are burned while engaging in this workout routine, but I can tell you that for the first time in a while, I'm thinking about getting in shape.
Or at least volunteering to "spot" someone at the gym.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Taking My Clothes Off For Sarah Palin

I'm not usually a big fan of Russian politics, anymore than I'm interested in WWE wrestling.  I don't like fixed competitions with rigged results.
However, based on a recent story from the Reuters news service, my attitude is about to change.
According to the story, a movement is gaining traction in which women are taking off their clothes in support of the 2012 campaign to elect Vladimir Putin president of Russia.
To American men, this might sound like a brilliant campaign strategy, one which would certainly get the attention of that all-important demographic of males aged 18 to dead. 
But when you think about it, maybe there's a different message afoot in the home of the Kremlin.
Instead of the treat we might intuit, the idea might actually be the reverse in Moscow, where it's pretty likely voters will vote for Putin just to get these women to put their clothes back on.
After all, we're talking about Russian women.  Not the most attractive collection of females on the round blue marble.  Oh, to be sure there are notable exceptions, with gorgeous Russian models and actresses like...well, okay, I can't think of any at the moment, but I'm sure they exist somewhere.
The point is, I advocate taking one's clothes off as a political statement and vote-getting ploy.  There's a whole host of female movie stars who would influence my vote in the direction of their desired candidate with just the show of a little skin.  I won't name those movie stars here, because my wife would use the names to compile a list of all the upcoming movies I won't be allowed to watch in the next few decades.
I suspect I'm not alone in this group, and there are millions of registered male voters whose ballot might be swayed by their favorite Hollywood hottie in the buff. 
Because I'm a patriotic American who loves his country and is rabid about the democratic process, I encourage this notion.  Anything to improve turnout rates at the polls, which are currently less than the weekly voting for such TV shows as "American Idol" and "America's Got Unlimited Access To Prescription Drugs."  (I might have the name wrong on that last program, but if you've seen the recent lineup of acts on the show which features Piers Morgan, Sharon Osbourne, and Howie Mandel as judges, you know my observation is dead-on.)
So if the trick of taking off clothes to influence votes will work in Russia, it should certainly work here in the birthplace of campaign gimmicks.
And to be fair, this isn't limited to nekkid women.
If Brad Pitt agreed to take off his clothes to get women to vote Foghorn Leghorn for president, I suspect the inaugural address on Jan. 20, 2013 would begin "My fellow, I say, my fellow Americans..."
And if nekkid hotties will lead people to vote in favor of certain candidates, I believe the reverse must also be true.  There are times when moral decency would demand that Americans should vote against candidates if it meant certain people agreed to keep their clothes on.
It's in this spirit that I make this announcement:
I don't know who will or won't ultimately make it onto the presidential ballot for 2012.  I don't have any favorites in either party.  But if Sarah Palin is elected president of the United States, I will appear nekkid in downtown Mesquite at noon on Jan. 21, 2013.
If you've seen me in person or looked at any of my publicity photos, you know what a horror show this would be.  How bad?  Let's just say that, unlike the periphery of most public spectacles, there won't be any vendors selling food items from carts on that day.  In fact, it's possible that people could lose their appetites for weeks afterward, adding undue pressure on the local food service economy.
If Palin wins, I'll be forced to follow through on my promise.  I'll probably be arrested immediately after for indecent exposure, and assault with an ugly weapon (my enormous belly).
But I must do what I must do to keep my country from making a bad decision.  I've learned that when speaking up and speaking out in favor of certain candidates, a lone voice gets lost in the babble.  Electing Palin as president would be catastrophic for the country I love, although it would mean a permanent eight-figure salary for Tina Fey's weekly return to Saturday Night Live. 
So I'm making this stand in the best interest of my nation.
Please don't let this happen.
Vote "Anyone But Palin" in 2012, so I can keep my clothes on.  It's a win-win, because a successful result means Americans will sleep better at night.  For both reasons.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Nap Time

When I was kid, I hated nap time.
It wasn’t necessarily the physical act that frustrated me.
A big part of it was knowing there were still plenty of Hot Wheels races to be run, G.I. Joe adventures to be undertaken, and thousands of innings to go before I should have to sleep.
I suspect there was also a part of me that believed I was missing out on all the best things in life which were going on while I was wasting hours in my bedroom, envisioning the toys which sprang to life while the nightgown-clad toymaker was asleep upstairs in the Merrie Melodies cartoons on TV.
I distinctly recall getting into trouble with Elizabeth, the Colombian woman who served as my day-care provider in the 60’s, over sneaking out of bed when I was supposed to be snoozing.
(It wasn’t until I was older that I realized nap time for kids is less about letting the children rest and recover from their morning activities, and more about letting the adults rest and recover from the child’s morning activities.)
My day care center, which was actually Elizabeth’s house, didn’t involve foam pads and half-pint cartons of milk and festive colors on drab white concrete block walls surrounded by licensed professionals.
My day care center involved trees for climbing, mud, bugs that would actually sting (and which to my childish surprise were never poisonous), sharp pieces of metal, mud, dogs that would occasionally bite, forts, pointy sticks, gumball and pine cone fights, mud, and enough sports-related injuries to fill an orthopedic surgeon’s appointment book for a year.
I don’t remember a lot about the inside of Elizabeth’s house, mostly because I didn’t spend much time there outside of the mandatory mid-day nap times.
I do recall the few times I was indoors and enduring some remedial behavioral modification.
Elizabeth wasn’t big on positive reinforcement, time outs, or other child rearing psycho babble aimed at preserving my fragile child psyche.
When I messed up, I would hear about it.
When she was mad, Elizabeth would go off like Ricky Ricardo on crystal meth, rattling loudly at me in unintelligible Spanish.
Occasionally, my corrections would involve a switch, which Elizabeth could wield like a practiced vaquero on the pampas.
She could slice through the air with it and make it snap like a green bullwhip, which in my memory is way worse than the few times she actually spanked me with it.
Elizabeth was a huge believer in nap time for youngsters.
As I got older, into my teens, I didn’t enjoy nap time any better than I did as a kid, and for many of the same reasons.
My adventures involved girls named Robin and Judy instead of plastic warriors named Joe, but innings and football quarters were still a big part of my waking day.
Into my early 20’s, I still hated going to sleep.
As a musician, 3 a.m. was prime time after a show if you knew where to look, even in a small Maryland town of less than 9,000.
I became a big advocate of the phrase made famous by Sam Elliot in the movie “Road House,” which was that “I’ll sleep after I’m dead.”
Now, I’m old.
For me, sleep is no longer part of the daily journey.
It’s a beloved destination.
I find myself checking the clock not to see whether I should chance trying to stay up all night like I did in my pre-marriage years, but to ascertain whether the clock is giving me digital permission to close my eyes.
On weekends, I find excuses for taking naps, instead of excuses for avoiding them.
I’ve even been known to take out the trash on a Sunday afternoon just so I can claim exhaustion and Z-out on the sofa for the rest of the day.
Today, I dread sunrises the way I once despised nightfall.
Fortunately, as I get older, mid-day naps have become more socially acceptable.
I’ve even threatened to move to Mexico in order to partake in the custom made famous in Speedy Gonzales cartoons, known as the afternoon siesta.
When I reach retirement, I will finally be able to catch up on all the sleep I lost when I was a kid and a teen.
And believe me, I won’t engage in retirement-age endeavors like Bingo, shuffleboard, and golf.
Instead, I’ll close my eyes and dream about them, where I’ll yell “Bingo” every 10 minutes in my sleep, bat the shuffleboard disc out of the park like the backyard home runs of my youth, and hit 18 consecutive holes-in-one without ever getting my plaid pants dirty.

This column originally ran in in October of 2008.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sleeping With A Movie Star In Kanab

Don’t tell my wife, but a few weeks ago I slept in a movie star’s room, and woke each morning to her stunningly beautiful face staring at me with her piercingly sexy eyes.
Okay, so my wife already knows.  In fact, she was also in the same bed.  And if you ask her, I think she’ll even admit that she liked it, and would do it again in a heartbeat.
Before this turns into an MTV reality show, let me explain.
During the last few weeks, my wife and I made two trips to Kanab, Utah, also known as “Utah’s Little Hollywood.”
With more elevation than people, listed at 4,909 feet above sea level versus a population of 3,803, this quaint little town has capitalized on their movie past and wild west roots. 
That past includes a slew of western movies filmed in the area surrounding the town, including John Wayne’s “Stagecoach,” Frank Sinatra’s “Sergeants Three,” Clint Eastwood’s “Outlaw Josey Wales,” and parts of the Mel Gibson film “Maverick.”  Some of the scenes from “Planet of the Apes” were also filmed in the area.  At a movie set built outside of town, it was also the filming location for TV shows like Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, F Troop, Daniel Boone, and even a few episodes of Lassie.
When you think about it, the image of the American west that most people hold in their hearts is actually the scenery surrounding Kanab.
The movie business became a cottage industry for the town, as local residents welcomed the Hollywood glitterati, provided services for the visitors, and even worked as movie extras and stuntmen.
When the world’s love affair with westerns on the silver screen faded in the mid 1970’s, so did the steady stream of movie stars and film crews.
For a lot of communities, this would have been the death knell, with the main streets becoming as deserted as the abandoned movie sets that today feel like stumbling upon a ghost town.
But just as the films depicted the hardy stock to be found among the inhabitants of the old west, the citizens of Kanab and the surrounding area persevered, survived, and prospered.  And they did it in a proud way.  They didn’t try to repackage their town as a destination for alternative energy projects, or pretend to be an option for new industry. 
Instead, they embraced their heritage as a film location and the essence of the old west.
Along route 89, the main road which cuts through the middle of town, building facades hint at a western theme.  At Houston’s Trails End, a restaurant on that thoroughfare, the waitresses actually wear leather gun belts and carry the occasional six shooter.     
On both sides of the road, dozens of metal plaques have been erected with the names and photos of movie stars who spent time in Kanab, and the movies that were shot there.  That includes “The Duke,” John Wayne.
On the Fourth of July, the town holds a parade filled with plenty of reminders from the boom days when the old west on film WAS Kanab.
Every August, they hold the Western Legends Roundup, featuring stars from old movies and TV shows like Clint Walker and James Drury, as well as the families of other western stars like Roy Rogers, Jr.
At the heart of the town, both geographically and metaphorically, is the Parry Lodge.
It’s the place where most of the movie stars stayed while shooting the more than 100 movies filmed in the region.
Built in 1931 by the Parry brothers, it became the headquarters for many of the movies thanks to relationships developed between Whit Parry and producers in Hollywood, back when deals were made based on handshakes and friendships instead of low bids and production contracts.
Today, many of the rooms at Parry Lodge bears the name of a movie star that once stayed there.  In the dining room, autographed photos from the stars who broke bread there adorn the walls.
In June, my wife and I stayed in the Julie Newmar room, a tribute to the curvaceous actress who appeared in a number of westerns including Mackenna’s Gold.  Most people also know her as the original Catwoman on the old Batman TV series.
Each morning, after sleeping in Julie’s room, I awoke to a large and stunning black and white photo of the actress in an Indian costume which hung on the wall next to the bed.
To say the least, I enjoyed our stay.
This week, my wife and I hit the jackpot.  We spent two nights in the John Wayne bungalow, located next to Julie’s spot.
Unfortunately, while there were a couple of movie posters from The Big Trail and Stagecoach hanging on the wall, there was no life size photo of The Duke for my wife to swoon over each morning, so I don’t think we’re quite even yet.
It’s obvious the rooms are old, but maintained with care and love.  It’s a thrill to imagine sleeping in the same room where John Wayne once kicked dust from his spurs, or sitting in a dining room where Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr. once swapped jokes.  According to the lodge, the rooms bearing names match up and were actually occupied by their namesakes.  It’s fun to see the names of Ronald Reagan, Maureen O’Hara, Telly Savalas, and other screen icons written on wooden plaques above each entry door.
The grounds are gorgeous, with a pool that was allegedly suggested by Wayne himself, according to local legend.  In fact, according to the lodge staff, Wayne put up half the money for the pool.
Behind the AParry Lodge is an old barn that has been converted into a theater where every night they show one of the old movies filmed in the area.  My wife and I enjoyed “Trooper Hook” while there in June, an old 1957 flick starring Joel McCrea and Barbara Stanwyck.  And of course, while wandering the property later, we found the rooms bearing the names of these two legends.
Best of all, the lodge and the peaceful yet bustling town are filled with friendly, welcoming people.
My wife and I enjoyed both stays, although each was too short.  In addition to the fun of sharing in these throwbacks to a golden era, the solitude of the lodge allowed me to do a lot of writing, so it’s guaranteed that we’ll be back.
Until then, as a way of showing the welcoming nature of my hometown, I’d like to offer an invitation.
In an effort to return the favor, Julie Newmar is welcome to stay in my room any time she happens to be in the Mesquite area.  I’ll even provide the Indian outfit.  It will be great to once again see her face every morning, as true beauty remains no matter what the age. 

Of course I’ll be offering my “good morning” from the living room sofa, which is where I’ll probably be sleeping once my wife reads this, but it would be a restless sleep worth having, complete with visions of movie stars, chases on horseback, gunfights, and the spirit of the old west that can still be found in Kanab.