Simmons’ Shame Out of the Closet

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The long, slim cardboard box sat around for more than 5 years, leaning behind the television in the basement then, sitting in the hallway collecting dust, unopened, since I first reviewed the contents and put it aside – almost ashamed that I’d bought it. It contained a metal bar to hold behind your head to aid with ab crunches. It also held a strap that created tension during certain exercise sets.

It wasn’t the equipment I was hesitant to reveal. What was I hiding? I had used exercise videos for years working out with Denise Austin, Kathy Smith, Lilias Folan and others, but the three videos that came with this equipment might be too much for me. Something motivated me to make this the day I found out.

I tore off the cellophane and slid one in the VCR.

Machine gun fire rat-a-tatted toward me from my TV screen while an announcer stated, “Al Capone, John Dillinger, Bonnie & Clyde, Dutch Schultz, what do these famous gangsters have in common? Each started on their life of crime by illegally duplicating Richard Simmons videos. Don’t let this happen to you!” The closing of a cell door resounds as prison bars slide across the FBI warning.

Who, but Simmons, would begin a fitness video with this? I laughed and tried to get serious in time to fall in with the exercise routine, but I stopped again just to take in the Richard Simmons persona. I tried to ignore the too-big hair and decided he did have great legs.

The music wasn’t bad either. He used a live group that sang some oldies in a style that closely resembled the original hits. It was a pleasant change from the synthetic music I was used to on other tapes that often included the sound of softly crashing waves flowing to shore behind the instructor. Why would I want to exercise while I watch waves slap against a beach? Daydream would be more to speed.

OK, this was going to be different. If I could get in the groove with Richard without anyone else seeing me… but that was impossible. The girls were sleeping on the floor in front of the television.

“He’s just too much, Mom,” Jo said as she rolled over squint-eyed at what was happening around her.

“What a nasty thing to wake up to!” Kathie followed suit as she came around, too.

“You’ve gotta see this!” I said as I ran back the tape.

The machine gun fired again, then came the announcer, “Al Capone, John Dillinger…”

I didn’t do much exercising that morning. Better luck next time (when no one else is home).

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