Still Finding My Inner Babe After All These Years

The past two weeks have been about as intense at it gets here in my little corner of Hollywood. My very full plate included “shipping” a magazine (a quaint term harking back to the days when we physically shipped the layouts to the printer), giving my annual Oscar party, prepping for the biggest work weekend of the year and fighting whatever crud has been going around L.A. It all culminated in that very big work weekend in Columbus, Ohio, which went pretty darned well if I do say so myself. Now I’m enjoying the big whew and the lingering adrenaline rush. According to NBC news, there were  60 car wrecks in a three-hour period on the roads outside Columbus on Sunday, and we must have seen six on the way to the airport at 7:30 a.m. It was good to get home, where the weather was  65 degrees and threatening to be sunny.

A wild pace, but I confess: I love it when my life goes a little crazy this way. Granted, I could have done without the spasmodic coughing fit at my Bev Hills hair salon last Tuesday, but all the rest was real living.

Many tales to tell from all of the above, but this one is about my trip to Columbus. Covering events as a reporter and grab-shot photographer is the fun part of my job, and having missed out on this particular trip last year for the first time since the early ’90s, I was determined to make the most of it.

My beat is the world of physique competition, principally women’s physique competition—everything from bodybuilders to bikini babes. If they get onstage in bathing suits and have a passing familiarity with a dumbbell, they’ve been featured in my column “Pump & Circumstance” in Iron Man magazine. How I tumbled down that particular rabbit hole is yet another story for another day. How my job description has exploded with the technology is what keeps me chuckling now. Who knew when I chose writing and editing because I had no confidence to be an actor that it would end up being the same thing? Or that I’d be too old to worry about it?

Until a few years ago we wrote contest reports, for the magazine and then for the Web site, the latter requiring one to write faster, which is not my strong suit, but I managed grind it out. Now it’s all video, shot immediately after the show—just me and the microphone standing there, light reflecting off my glasses as I try to read from my notes and talk while looking good. Sometimes I’m alone; more recently, I’ve brought in one or another of my girlfriends in the industry to assist with the commentating. This time I had them both—a bold experiment that could have been a disaster. The point of mentioning it is that, as I  was barreling through all that deadline-laden activity, calling the doctor at the last possible minute and rushing to make an 8:15 a.m. plane on Thursday, there was an added pressure: I would be appearing with two gorgeous, fabulously weight-trained younger women who excel in the hair-and-makeup department. Basically, I would have to look even gooder than usual.

As you might imagine, I had no time to shop, which meant two things: 1) I had to hope that the blue print top would look as slimming on camera as it does in real life (it didn’t), and 2) I would have to wear the bejeweled black sweater. The last time I wore that costume in Columbus, I learned the hard way that “arranging” the sweater does not disguise my lack of a smooth V-taper. Clearly, I would have to break down and wear the Flexee waist cincher I had purchased a couple of years before and never had the guts to wear. Literally, as my stomach was just not at its best the night I planned to put it on. So for a couple of years the Flexee has languished in tissue, tags still attached, in its Macy’s bag.

Oh, well, I thought, as I tossed it into the suitcase. At least it’s clean.

My friends, Carolyn and Nancy, did hit it off, and it was a lively weekend. When the time came for me to get into my merry widow, however, I was all alone. Attaching a couple dozen tiny black hooks was a challenge, even with the reading glasses on, but I prevailed. Inch by inch I managed to nail the tiny eyes, and the Flexee slowly did its magic, making me skinnier and skinnier—I felt like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind, ordering Mammy to go “Tighter! Tighter!” The result was a revelation—the waist and bosom I never had, not even at 20. What’s more, I now know that if I ever get to walk a really important red carpet (where I will undoubtedly be wearing something sleek by Vera Wang or Armani), I will survive.

Of course I fluffed the line. I was going to start by announcing, “Well, I brought the girls,” very Bette Midler, before I introduced Carolyn and Nancy. Instead I almost forget the introduction and barely slipped it in. Thommy (my late dear friend) would have loved it.

So the big weekend in Columbus is over. We’ll all live with the results. We’ll have to because it’s out there in Internetland forever and ever. I think I held my own in the looking-good department, especially considering the 25-year-age range that I was at the top of. Not that I’m fighting the aging thing (what’s the point?), but being able to look hot at my stage is a huge rush if you were as late a bloomer as I was. I’d also like to point out that I was sporting the least amount of makeup of the three of us, so thank goodness the camera lights blew everything out.

Photo: I brought the girls: Nancy Di Nino (left) and Carolyn Bryant with “Ruthless Ruth.” You can almost see the outline of the waist I didn’t have at 20.

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