Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My encounter with Richard Simmons!

Dear bucket list,
You are now one item shorter. I had a *lot* of fun on  my 2- week tour of the West Coast, but this was the absolute highlight: taking a class at Richard Simmons' Aerobic studio! (Yes, he's still alive!) :D

Not only is Richard alive and well, he's 62 and he's in better shape than almost everyone I know. He still teaches classes at his "Slimmons" studio in Beverly Hills (when he's in town), and I was lucky enough to be in town when he was there.

Now first of all, I had to borrow sneakers (thank you, Karen Nash! So glad we are the same size and I disagree, 7 1/2 is not big!). I left my sneaks at a friend's house at my previous stop in Niles, CA. Stayed up too late jamming the night before I left, flaked out. I was standing on the sidewalk talking on my cell phone to my friend in Niles, making sure that my shoes were, in fact, at his house, when a big black car rolled up, and Richard popped out and yelled "GET OFF THAT PHONE GIRL!" Seriously!  I totally did - I was so surprised I pretty much just hung up on my friend (apologies to Michael McNevin- I explained later).

Then Richard ran up, gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek and introduced himself. He then entered the building and greeted every single person there with a hug and a kiss and let me tell you it's no small class when Richard is there. He kissed a lot of cheeks, and he knows every person there.

Yes, he still wears striped shorts. His tank tops have "bling" on them now. And check it out. He still uses a record player to teach class:

He uses *real* songs, something I've always loved about his fitness videos (don't you just hate those aerobics videos with repetitious drum beats and synthesizers and no lyrics, no melody? Boring!!) But not Richard. He has great taste in music.

At one point, he had a Sheryl Crow song ("All I wanna do") and I think he was playing it at 78. It was like double-speed and sounded like the chipmunks. It was hilarious.

Here's something I didn't expect: in class, he swears a lot! Now there's a bonus you can't get on the DVDs! And when he's leading class, he kind of looks deranged. It was crowded as heck, I couldn't see or hear the cues (I just followed whoever was close to me who looked like they knew what they were doing), he blasts the music so loud I wished at one point I had earplugs.. And I LOVED EVERY SECOND OF IT!

I'm telling you he could have had me jog around the room for an hour and I still would have been grinning from ear to ear. He's so charismatic and enthusiastic. And I guess I'm infatuated. That helps.

Those of you who have read my book already know Richard is one of my big inspirations in life. But I got some surprised reactions from others when they saw how excited I was about meeting Richard. You would think I was about to meet a giant rock star. I was babbling and gushing.

I think the world of this man. Not because he is famous. Not because he's kooky and a little nuts (something I do admire). And not just because he conquered his own demons and has lost and kept off the weight for decades- he lives what he preaches. But most of all, I admire this man because he uses everything he learned from his own battles with weight and self-esteem to help others, and he does it in a way that is consistently loving, supportive, non-judmental, inclusive, caring and FUN.

As you can see, I need to drop 20 pounds myself, but here's a guy who encourages you to have fun and love yourself along the way. Don't ever change, Richard!

(Want to go to Richard's studio? Class was only $12! )

Carla Ulbrich, The Singing Patient,
is the author of "How Can You *Not* Laugh at a Time Like This?"
Get Carla's Book at
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