Before I bought a scale I used to walk to the gym, weigh myself and then hike, and I use the word hike loosely here, the three blocks home. In my defense, the walk back was uphill. So a few years ago I decided to get serious and hire a trainer, or rather hire the one that Bally’s Gym assigned to me. He'd been Mr. Bulgaria twice, Mr. Northern California in the early 90’s and had written three fitness books, which was three more than I'd written. I felt sorry for him; his business card was an unevenly scissored piece of Xerox paper. He was earnest and committed and I knew he had a family waiting in a cramped one-bedroom apartment somewhere in Koreatown expecting him to put borscht on the table. He had that sad, vacant look that people who do not ever expect to catch up with life have.
I hate working out but I hate eating even more. I don’t like food. Hand me a pill called LUNCH and leave me alone. I refuse to cook. If you don’t want to impress me, invite me out for dinner and then ask me where we should go, what we should eat and what we should order. Then as we’re eating, ask me how my Sea Bass is, or if I want to try your Carpaccio or split a dessert. Just so we’re clear, I don’t like to discuss food, shop for food or try out new food at the trendy new restaurant in Who Cares, New Jersey. I can hardly wait until I’m rich enough to have Ina Garten move in. It’s the only reason I’m still breathing in and out.
I only kept going to the gym because there were cute guys there. But sometime in the last two years my gym became a meeting place for old Chinese women. Mr. Bulgaria deftly escorted me through them as if he was afraid I'd stop and spontaneously break into a mah-jongg game.
The gym rat in our family is my sister, who once graced the cover of Muscle & Fitness Magazine. She goes around spewing communist propaganda like, “I’m really craving an apple.” Please, Johnny Appleseed didn’t crave an apple. If you’re at her house and want something fattening to eat, you have to lick the grease off her stove. She’s the kind of person who you'll ask, “How do I look in this bathing suit?” and she’ll say, “You look fabulous.” Then ten days later she sees you in shorts and says, “Gee, you really look great; not like you did in that bathing suit.” She got so addicted to exercise that she had to join a 12-step program. I don’t think it worked because now she’s up to 27 steps. As for the rest of our family, we would rather die with a stent in our hearts than a deltoid on our wherever-the-fuck the deltoid goes.
I went to World Gym in Venice with her one day many years ago. Arnold Schwarzenegger owned it then and Stallone hung out there a lot. I was having a rough time in the business and my sister, who was friendly with both Arnold and Sly, had told them about my struggle. Sly was there that day and when she introduced me to him, he had that crooked half-smile going on and came towards me with his arms outstretched. “Aaaayyy, somebody needs a hug.” His bodyguards surrounded us and Sly hugged me like I owed him money. I knew he had had a rough ride in Hollywood before Rocky hit and I knew he understood where I was in my slide into artistic hell.
“Aaaayyy, don’t give up, it can happen to you,” Sly said. I’ve never given up because of that.
Sly and his body guards left and my sister and I began to work out in earnest. She did anyway, I was staring into space and wondering if Sly noticed that I hadn’t plucked my eyebrows. I watched as she admired her calves. Inspected them as if they had USDA stamped on them and were going to market in a refrigerated truck. A line formed. Now other people were inspecting her calves. Suddenly one of these voyeurs took time out from his busy schedule of ogling her and eyed me suspiciously.
“What’s that on the back of your arm?” he asked.
“Well,” he continued, “have a doctor look at it; it might be cancer.”
This was a repost from 2006. It was my 11th post! But it has a Sly Stallone anecdote that endeared me to the man for life. I'm so sad for him and Sasha and everyone who knew and loved Sage.