Not to get all travel diary on you, but I just came back from a trip to Los Angeles, and feel compelled to share with you the cheap thrill that is Richard Simmons' aerobics class:
I sought this class out on the recommendation of a friend who goes every time he's in L.A., and it was everything I hoped it would be. The Slimmons Studio (it gets worse every time you say it) has an outdated Beverly Hills vibe, painted in pale teals and pinks that could use a fresh coat, like you'd imagine the employee break room at The Peach Pit. No one ever picks up the phone there, but the outgoing recording recommends you show up an hour prior to classtime to guarantee a spot—no reservations are taken. It wasn't quite that bad (we would have been fine 40 minutes ahead of time for an 11:30 Saturday slot), but the small entry room steadily filled with middle aged women wearing "I Sweat with Richard Simmons" t-shirts, younger men, and ironic young women wearing zany and/or retro workout clothes.
There were still hardly any people there when Richard swooped in the door wearing the above boa-ish pouffs and ridiculous eyewear, plus a loose black top with bedazzled glittery flames all over it, shredded Champion workout shorts, nude hosiery, white scrunchy socks, and white tennis shoes. Almost immediately he dramatically sidled up and gave us each long, rather forceful kisses on the cheek before drifting off to teach his pre-Sweat motivation class, which ended with him throwing open the doors to let in the rest of us, music blaring (opening song: "Sexy Back," followed by hits including "What A Feeling," "Conga," and "I Want Your Sex") and instantly launching into a long dance-party cardio session. It consisted of him leading us through easy-to-follow jazzercise movements made ridiculous. We did variations on the cha-cha, moves where you link your arms and "do the snake" with them, bobby sock-esque hand-over-hand waves, that thing where you trace the outside of your head really quickly like you're applying hair product, and so, so many more. It was almost impossible not to crack up while doing them, and it was an undeniable blast.
Frequently Simmons leans over to turn the music down so he can yell out borderline-inappropriate things like "I wanna lick your neck!!" and "Make it SEXY, DAMMIT!" I guess I was too young to pick up on it when he was in his heyday, but I did not really anticipate that he would be so horny. During one protracted section of the class, he had everyone form a circle around the edge of the room, pulling people into the middle to do the moves with him as we all bounced along. He selected both men and women, but did not fail to single out every reasonably fit young man in the house, ripping the shirts off of each (and in at least one case, stuffing it down his own shorts) before leading them to the center of the floor. I saw him mouth to at least one guy pre-pounce that he was "comin' ta getcha." He referred to himself several times as "Little Dickie," and once to "Little Dickie kisses."
In addition to his constant words of encouragement related to how we were/weren't going to get laid that night, another surprise was that he's kind of mean. He loves to give people personal attention, but a healthy portion of the time it comes in the form of browbeating, like asking a struggling 20-something their age and then squealing, "Twenty FREAKING four? You should be ashamed of yourself! You should just go home and sit in a dark room by YOURSELF!" Luckily we managed to avoid any negative attention, although he did blow me a kiss at one point, and after we were warmed up and sweaty he came over to sort of make out with Laurel's bicep, then turned to me and bestowed a series of kisses down the length of my back. Needless to say, I bought a towel to remember it by:
We knew it was going to be kitschy, but we weren't sure if it would actually be difficult. In a city where the norm is to work out not once but twice each day, though, you really can't front. I wouldn't say he broke my ass, but the abs and arms portion of the class definitely pushed me. I'm still kinda sore.
After all the verbal abuse, the class ended with his becoming all verklempt and giving a pre-Oscars pep talk about how every single once of us is a star, climaxing with a final shouted command: "DON'T LET ANYONE TARNISH YOUR STAR!"
SO, long story short: Next time you're in L.A. and feel like combining exercise with a pansexual dance party, nostalgia kitsch, confusingly supportive verbal abuse, and you've got 12 bucks? So worth it.