The merchandising that accompanied the 80's fitness craze did not stop with legwarmers, designer
unitards and Jazzercize videos. The Celebrity Workout book became a phenomenon of its own. At
an oversize 10 x 12 inches, the books feature extra-large diagrams and photos of your favorite
celebrity performing squats and arm presses as convincingly as she spat out bad dialogue
on Dynasty (Linda Evans) or Dallas (Victoria Principal...whose sister books, The Body Principal
and The Beauty Principal, deserve their own column). I don't think anyone actually propped open
these books, lay down, and started doing leg lifts in front of Donahue. Instead, these collectible volumes
were designed to be prominent coffee-table display pieces. They were perfect next to the cute
little bonsai tree your mother-in-law gave you for your last anniversary. They also looked nice in
gynecologist waiting rooms.
The majority of the books feature female celebs showing off their tight gluts and amazing feathered
hair. Carla Ferrigno is the wife of Lou "The Hulk" Ferrigno and mother of Shanna. (Shanna currently
"stars" on E's Filthy Rich Cattle Drive, one of the most insipid reality shows of all time that features
spoiled assholes playing pioneer in the Nebraska outback or something retarded. The only redeeming
thing about it is that you get to see what the offspring of Pat Benatar looks like.) Mrs. Hulk released
For Women Only: Carla Ferrigno's Total Shape-Up Program in 1982. Her book features a novel exercise
regiment that requires a partner's participation. Straddled on the back of her giant husband, Carla
works her hamstrings. Or maybe it's a specialized form of kegel clench? I wish it were me up there.
I'd be wearing a cowboy hat. And nothing else.
Raquel Welch also got into the swing of things with her 1984 book, Raquel: The Raquel Welch Total
Beauty and Fitness Program. She takes a slightly more spiritual approach and is depicted in a variety
of yoga poses that the average human would not be able to do even with the helping hands of the Dali Lama
himself -- let alone from a photo in a book. How many skulls were cracked open on dining room table
corners after ill-fated attempts at Raquel's "reed?"
Coverage of celebrity fitness books wouldn't be complete without a shout out to everyone's
favorite weight gain/loss talk princess, Oprah. Her book, Make the Connection: Ten Steps to a Better Body -- And a Better Life,
came out a little later in 1992. It was slightly smaller in size and doesn't really fit in to my broader topic -- BUT -- my main point in
mentioning it is to show you this perplexing photo from the book. Is she trying to prove she's really
not as big as one? If you understand this better than I, I'd really like to know.
Then there's the John Travolta offering. He was the only male example of the genre I could dig up.
I was convinced that at least Swayze had to have something out there. Or Kevin Bacon. Admittedly,
there IS an entire Richard Simmons library. However, I just can't bring myself to see it in the same
light -- no one buys Richard's books because they like looking at him. People purchase things like
Never Give Up and Still Hungry After All These Years: My Story to get inspired.
John stands as the lone male in the annals of celebrity workout book movement.
Like Tom Cruise, John is largely recognized as an action star -- or at least he is in the movies comprising the latter half of his career. The early
years, as you'll see, were full of action...just not the kind involving guns and explosions.
Also like Tom Cruise, (according to several independent "sources"),
John dabbles a bit in cock play. I'm not saying he's gay,
exactly...just that he's frequently seen around L.A. with his boy toy. And that he likes to hit on men in health club saunas.
And that he's gay.
Said "sources" also state that Ms. Kelly Preston, John's lovely bride, spends her fair share
of time swinging for the girls' team. John shouldn't get to have all the fun. Just ask Nicole Kidman
how it works.
Why do I know all this? When questioned about my sources, I shall never uncloak their identities. Don't even
ask. As a reputable reporter who never says anything that isn't one-hundred-per-cent non-libelous, I
shall not break the confidentiality clauses inherent to the biz. Even if I were to be strung up over
hot coals and forced to listen to Celine Dion albums for thirty-six hours straight, I would never peep
out so much as a single syllable of their names. I would be able to do this because I would have already
gouged out my own eyes and bled to death before the second hour of Dion rolled around. Celine's just too much
diva for one lowly mortal to handle.
In 1990, the National Enquirer ran a cover story based on [Paul] Barresi's claim that he'd had a two-year
love affair with John Travolta. He told the tabloid he'd met Travolta in 1982 when the actor followed him
into the shower room of a Los Angeles health club. They later had sex "dozens of times," Barresi said.
This ditty comes from the book, Hollywood Interrupted: Insanity Chic in Babylon - The Case Against Celebrity,
a read I'd recommend if you want some good inside dish that the celeb handlers and publicists prefer you didn't have.
Barresi later retracted his Travolta story and sent a letter to the star's lawyer Marty Singer denying that he'd
ever engaged in "homosexual activity" with Travolta. Barresi's Hollywood low life was interrupted when copies
of the Enquirer piece were disseminated amongst his family members, neighbors and fitness clients. He
intuitively blamed Travolta's mother church, Scientology, for that classic "black PR" campaign.
It is well known that Church of Scientology looks upon homosexuals as "aberrations" and will go to great lengths to ensure that such "lies" about its
members are not propagated.
John Travolta became a scientologist in 1975 when an actress gave him a copy of L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics
on the set of his first movie, The Devil's Rain, which was filming in Mexico. This family flick is about
"a bunch of Satanists in the American rural landscape have terrible powers which enable them to melt their
victims. However one of the children of an earlier victim vows to destroy them." The Devil's Rain proved to be only the beginning:
When I returned to the United States I began Scientology training and auditing. My career immediately took
off and I landed a leading role on the TV show "Welcome Back Kotter" and had a string of successful films.
I have been a successful actor for more than twenty years and Scientology has played a major role in that success.
I would say that Scientology put me into the big time.
Further, as evidenced from an interview
with Mark Lawson of the BBC, John Travolta is not only in the Big Time, he can also heal you.
ML:I've read in terms of Scientology accounts of healing experiences that you have been involved in, is that right?
JT: There are several "Assists", that is the name of the programme, and these are different depending on
what is wrong with the person, they just help the person heal quicker. By getting in communication with
their body, I do use them because I can and I know how they work and I know that they do work. To date I
have never failed helping a person feel better at least.
ML: You healed a British rock star?
JT: Yes, Sting, that was in Canada and he was under the weather he had a sore throat and flu symptoms or
something. I think I did two or three different types of "Assists" and he felt better.
Sting. He made Sting feel better. What more proof do you need?
John's powers apparently couldn't heal Michael Pattison, a man who turned to Scientology to un-gay himself.
He claims that Travolta was held up by the Church as an example of someone who has been cured of such "ruin."
John Travolta has been dragged into a court battle between a gay
artist and the powerful Church of Scientology. Michael Pattison says he turned to the sect to "cure"
his homosexuality after it used 44-year old "Face Off" star Travolta to illustrate how the church could
turn gay people straight. Now Pattison is suing the church and 22 of its members for fraud, claiming he
spent 25 years and a half a million dollars trying to deal with his own homosexuality -- but is still gay.
Pattison became more convinced of the church's supposed powers when Travolta married his pregnant
bride Kelly Preston in 1991. The marriage came after a male porn star (Paul Barresi) had given graphic
details of an alleged two-year gay affair with Travolta. At the time, Travolta was romancing co-stars Olivia
Newton-John from "Grease", Marilu Henner from the Broadway production of the same musical and Debra Winger
from "Urban Cowboy", the porn actor said, adding that the affair finished before Travolta started dating Preston.
"That contributed to my continuing belief in the misrepresentations that Scientology processing and courses would
`handle' my own homosexuality", says Pattison in his lawsuit.
Hmmm...marrying a pregnant scientology bride to stifle the gay rumors...sound familiar?
John and Kelly have two kids, the second of which was born via the drug free "silent birthing"
method. Lately, this has been all over the news because Tom
and Katie (or TomKat if you like the cute diminutive) plan to birth "their" child this way. The mother is not
allowed to scream or cry out during labor. She is permitted "soft moans" -- which are probably on par with
the noises Katie made when she was served up a sperm cocktail via syringe. The parents continue to maintain
their silence around the kid for seven days. This allows the baby to acclimate naturally to its surroundings
and supposedly minimizes trauma later in life. This method of silent, ripping pain
is not mandatory, but
"highly encouraged" by the Scientology powers that be. Given that Tom is a half step
away from donning a Super Scientologist cape and trying to fly off the nearest tall building, you can bet
that his robot concubine will proscribe to the preferred alternative. A contract is a contract, after all.
John Travolta got his start as Sweathog, Vinnie Barbarino, on TV's Welcome Back, Kotter. His big break, however, came in
1977 with Saturday Night Fever. To this day, even a few bars of The Bee Gees' Stayin' Alive will prompt frat
boys around the globe to break into an impersonation of the famous disco stallion. You've seen them. They just
can't resist that smooth disco groove.
In Saturday Night Fever, Travolta stars as Brooklyn chump, Tony Manero. By day, Tony is a lowly paint store clerk, but at night --
whoa, look out! -- he's gonna wear him some polyester and he's gonna dance! Tony and his boys spend every weekend
at Odyssey 2001, the local guido hotspot. Until this past February, the real club where the dancing scenes were
filmed was still operating in Brooklyn. Rated "a top gay dance club," Spectrum still featured the light-up floor
and 70's décor seen in the film. I went there about eight years
ago with an ex-boyfriend, a local Brooklynite. I saw the floor light up myself, which apparently was a big deal,
as they didn't bust out the glam so much anymore. They did not play Stayin' Alive. Concerning this, I was not disappointed.
Directed by Sylvester Stallone, Staying Alive (which, unlike those grammar bad boys, The Bee Gees, does not drop the "g" in "staying")
was the 1983 red-headed stepchild sequel to Saturday Night Fever.
In the six years since we met him, Tony has clawed his way out of the paint store to snag a gig in the Broadway
production of "Satan's Alley." He wears a loincloth. I think that's all you need to know. Oh, and that
Frank Stallone, Sly's brother, had a small role in the film and contributed his vocal stylings to the soundtrack.
His song, Far From Over -- which was nominated for Best Song by the Academy and reached number one on the charts -- was also
used as the musical backdrop to the classic Martin Short synchronized swimming skit on Saturday Night Live.
Given the choice of seeing a shaved-down and oiled-up John Travolta leaping across a stage and a 'tard in a pool,
I'll take the 'tard, thanks.
Probably one of Travolta's most enduring lines comes at the end of Staying Alive. Tony is just about to leave the
building after a Satan's Alley performance when his lady-friend, Jackie, chases him down. Jackie is played by
actress/dancer/singer, Cynthia Rhodes. Cynthia also appeared in Flashdance as Tina Tech, in Xanadu (the best,
uh, roller skating movie of all time) and as botched-abortion
Penny in Dirty Dancing. Cynthia was the lead singer of Animotion, best known for their 1985 hit, Obsession, which appears on
every 80's CD compilation known to man. She also appeared in Toto's Rosanna video. Finally, a step down on the musical food chain,
she is married to, and has three kids with, sax-master Richard Marx whom she met on the
Staying Alive set. He was hired to contribute a song to the soundtrack. Just picture it: Cynthia running her fingers through Richard's lush locks while in the
throes of passion. Bet you didn't think you'd have to imagine Richard Marx sexing it up today, did you? Ha, ha -- I win.
So yeah, Jackie/Richard Marx's wife runs after Tony:
"Tony! What are you gonna do?"
He turns, looks at her, butt chin cleft flexing, and replies:
"I'm gonna strut."
That's it. That's what he's gonna do. Cue Stayin' Alive (the song) and off he goes -- a prolonged ass
shot that rides out over the credits. I think, if I remember correctly, there's a freeze frame that
captures him jumping up in the air, kicking up his disco-booted heels. Maybe with a raised fist? Since Sly
Stallone directed it, this seems like it would make sense. Prolong that last moment of victory for our
prized hero. The hero of Satan's Alley. Fuck yeah!
John Travolta: Staying Fit!
In getting back to the point of this article, right around the time Staying Alive hit theaters, John Travolta's
work out book, Staying Fit, hit the shelves and coffee tables of the American housewife and Gay Professional.
The book demonstrates how Travolta whittled himself into shape for the Staying Alive/Satan's Alley role, as well as how to
look one's best when a tiny scrap of cloth is all that covers one's genitals. He enlists the help of Marilu Henner
for the partner exercises.
For the pelvic thrust series, John chooses black spandex so that his, uh, silhouette might be that much more defined.
For his ab sequence, he bares nearly the whole show, save for his modest shins. Whose job was it to shave him? His body baldness is made more striking
when contrasted with the other weightlifter shown in the book. A hirsute fellow who favors teeny-weeny man shorts
is obviously meant to be the foil to Travolta's nubile, tanned physique. Or maybe it's to appeal to the Bears who
also bought the book? Either way, I'm not sure I've ever seen quite so much hair on a human body before.
Skin this dude when he dies and you've got yourself a new rug for the den. Just curl up with a mug of cocoa
and your favorite Frank Stallone album and sink into its luxury. Maybe watch some Kotter re-runs on Tvland if
the mood should strike you.
Even if you don't get into Satan's Alley fighting shape, the John Travolta Staying Fit book guanrantees that you will:
Feel the fire.
Feel the burn.
Question sexuality as you known it.
Most of all, youu will feel a sense of release. Raquel certainly does.