Here’s part 1 (of 4) of Backwaves #1. I’ll post the rest in the upcoming days. I wanted to put some of the drawings I did in the zine up here, but my scanner is broken and I’m too lazy to go to the library. So instead I will post this beautiful picture of Richard (his shirt says ‘GO TO HEALTH!’) Brilliant.
As a young child, my parents never signed me up for any organized sports. Due to a combination of this and my own laziness, I remained an inactive skinny kid for the majority of my adolescence. I thought I was cursed to hate exercise forever due to my natural aversion to volleyball, dodge ball and all the other “alls”. That is, of course, until the day I met Richard Simmons.
Now, I have never actually met the man (the legend!). However, nowadays he does have a tendency to come into my home roughly three times a week via old workout tapes from thrift stores. Who knew that EXERCISE (of all things) could be such a hoot?!
And so, this zine is dedicated to the man in the dolphin shorts and sequined tank tops. Thanks for making me simultaneously sweat like a dog and die from laughter. LONG LIVE SASSY ARMS!
A NOTE ABOUT THE TITLE: A “backwave” is one of Richard’s signature moves. It’s kind of like a pelvic thrust, but you arch your back a lot more. I have never seen this done in any other exercise tape and/or class ever. Weird!
SWEATIN’ TO THE OLDIES
1988, 45 MINS.
The original Sweatin’ that started it all is also the least satisfying. The band is too loud, you can’t really hear what he’s saying and he doesn’t explain the exercises either. This one is also the cheapest looking. I think that the budget was a grand total of $2. Oh no wait, I forgot about all of those classy effects! Sorry, the budget must have been $5.
SET: I guess the theme for this one was high school reunion (there’s a big banner that says “WELCOME ALUMNI”.) It’s basically just a gym filled with a crapload of balloons.
RICHARD’S OUTFIT: The first in a series of tank top/dolphin shorts combos doesn’t disappoint. The shorts are red and white striped and his tank is red with a white bear. Or at least that’s what I think it is. Damn VHS is extremely grainy.
THE ROUTINE: Starts pretty lame. There are so many neck stretches in the warm-up it’s ridiculous. However, the sax player comes out during “On Broadway” with his shades on (indoors!) so that kind of makes up for it. The cardio part really pumps it up. There’s an extremely 80s version of “It’s My Party” that rules, but is sadly followed by a kill yourself “Great Balls of Fire” that requires some hardcore twistin’. And then “Wipeout”! Oy vey Richard, have you never heard of a break?! The effects really make me crack up during that one. Also, the guitar player with the mullet and the white Strat comes out and does the workout while playing guitar. SO CUTE, I DIED! After “Wipeout”, some old dude in a leather jacket with a motorcycle rides up and the band launches into the best/worst version of The Crystals’ “He’s A Rebel” the Earth has ever known. Then, it’s cool-down time with the Cheez Whiz song and some melodramatic lunging.
EXTRAS: One of the best things about STTO and workout tapes in general is the cast of amusing extras and their crazy outfits. The original Sweatin’ really delivers the goods in this department. My favourite people are the woman wearing the denim overalls and the Indian guy who really gets into the shoulder rolls during the cool-down.
BEST LINES: There isn’t a lot of hilarious banter in this one, unlike the other installments in the STTO series. However, there is one truly great moment during “It’s My Party” where the woman sings “Oh what a birthday surprise, Judy was wearing his ring” and Richard screams “NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!” Also, during “He’s A Rebel” Richard shouts “AWWWWWWWW, PIVOT YOUR HEART OUT!” Also, please note that Richard Simmons talks in caps lock.
SWEAT-A-BILITY: Definitely the easiest of all the Sweatin’s. The cardio part is good, but it’s probably okay to skip the warm-up and cool-down if you just stretch on your own instead. Probably.