39 mins. 1996
For these two upcoming tonin’ tapes (Tonin’ Downtown is in the next couple of pages), you need a couple of ”tonin’ rings”. I do not have any “tonin’ rings” so I just use normal weights (like a regular person) or cans of beans (like a poor/weak person).
SET: This one is just a real hodge-podge! Richard takes us everywhere from a strip club to the beach. And by everywhere I mean one soundstage decorated differently for each song. Yeah, so not quite as exotic.
RICHARD’S OUTFIT: Black’n’blue striped spandex shorts with not one but TWO man tank tops (mank tops!)
THE ROUTINE: It starts with a spooky looking guy sitting at an organ with a candelabra, but then he puts on some Ray-Bans and goes “1-2-1-2-3-4” and the band starts playing “Wooly Bully”. Greatest single intro to any work-out tape ever! But dear god, this one is definitely the fakest in terms of the “live” band. There is one great moment during the warm-up though, when the guitar player who kind of looks like one of the guys in The Polymorphines gets up and slaps Richard in the butt with the neck of the guitar. Simply hi-lar. The next song (“Sugar Pie Honey Bunch”) features some unremarkable arm exercises. However, the fun continues for the next work-out jam, “The Stripper”, which they do in a mock strip club! All of the women come out from behind this red curtain, while exercising with their tonin’ rings. This is by far the raciest a work-out tape gets people! It’s funny though, since the extras not participating are all whooping on the sides (I can just imagine the poor kid whose job it was to hold the “WHOOP NOW” sign.) After that delightful romp, we’ve got “Hang On Sloopy”, which takes place at the “beach”. To properly demonstrate the exercises, Richard sometimes goes to the side. I have decided that he totally just does this to show off his rockin’ bod. Also, some random dude is just singing and dancing during this one. Dude, pick up your tonin’ rings and go! “Baby Love” keeps the fun coming with some arm pump-outs and a trio of back-up lip-synchers. The cool-down is next, bizarrely set to “Unchained Melody”. He seriously says “My love is always yours” at the end. Um, k?
NOTE: At the end of my copy of this fine, fine VHS there is a video explaining the tonin’ rings that probably should have been at the beginning. I guess the Salvation Army sold me a defective tape, gosh darn it.
EXTRAS: If you have “Disco Sweat” you’ll recognize Karen, who got a haircut. She is still as enthusiastic as ever! Other notable extras include the black woman in the red pleather skirt/tank top get-up (it’s reminiscent of something Faith would wear in Buffy The Vampire Slayer circa Season 3/”When She Was Bad”) and this one really cute old woman. Adorbs!
BEST LINES: “CAN YA FEEL YER TRAAAAAAAAAAAPS?!???!!!!!!!!!” (which he says EXACTLY like that)
SWEAT-A-BILITY: Boy, my “up-town” is not very toned so this is kind of brutal for a weak sucka fool like myself. Try it and compare how weak/strong you are!
25 mins. 1996
Once again, we are reminded to consult a doctor before beginning this or any other exercise routine. I have never heard of anyone actually doing that ever, so you probably don’t have to either. Unless your eggo is preggo. Then maybe you should consult a doctor? I don’t know how pregnancy works. I just know that pregnant women are hard freaking core, principally because THEY HAVE A LIVING THING THAT TOTALLY LOOKS LIKE A LITTLE ALIEN GROWING INSIDE OF THEM. Crazeeee!
SET: Just a room with some cheesy/kinda cool record mats. They add a few fake palm trees leftover from the “Hang On Sloopy” beach scene in Tonin’ Uptown for “Under The Boardwalk”. Other than that, it’s a little lame. JOKES! It’s still awesome.
RICHARD’S OUTFIT: Same outfit from Tonin’ Uptown. You know it’s low budget when they can’t even afford to buy him a new pair of spandex shorts. What do those cost, like $9? Geez.
THE ROUTINE: Starts with what is probably the single worst version of “Runaround Sue” known to mankind. However, you do get to do a move called the “Sunshine Ring” which totally makes up for it. After that, we are treated to ANOTHER warm-up song (“Stand By Me”, to be precise). It’s basically just a shitload of squats. Also there’s a black man solemnly lip-synching in the background, so that’s weird. Then, we get to go down on the floor and do leg-work to “Reach Out/I’ll Be There” and “Same Old Song”. HURRAH, LEG WORK! Whilst Richard and the extras stretch their calves, a trio of men do some choreographed dancing around them. I wonder if they are embarrassed that they did this, looking back. Bahhh Richard makes you do crunches for “Under The Boardwalk” and I have no abs at all so this sucks. Everyone does a bunch of pelvic tilts in this one. Then, it’s an unremarkable cool-down to “When A Man Loves A Woman”.
PLEASE NOTE: The informative video about the tonin’ rings is at the end of this one too. Ya done goofed!
EXTRAS: Boooooo it’s just the same people from Tonin’ Uptown. What a gyp!
BEST LINES: “THEY’RE CRAAAAAZEEE TODAY! THAT’S ‘COS I TOOK ‘EM DOWNTOWN!” However, nothing compares to Richard shrieking “SO HAVE YOU BEEN NAUGHTY OR NICE???!!!” while slapping his own ass. Beautiful.
SWEAT-A-BILITY: As previously mentioned, I don’t have the tonin’ rings so I just kind of half-ass this one and do it as a stretching tape. I guess it’s good for that, but it’s mostly just fun to watch.
Final parts of Backwaves #1! I don’t know when another issue is going to happen (apparently there are these things called “work” and “school” and supposedly they take up a shitload of time) but I’ll try to get something going soon. Enjoy party fitness dudes, enjoy.
SWEATIN’ TO THE OLDIES 3
1991, 60 MINS.
Apparently, at this point in his career, Richard realized that he really had to go ALL OUT for these tapes. And thus, we are treated with the only carnival themed work-out tape that I know of.
SET: This is seriously the holy grail of campy work-out sets. The theme is a fair/carnival (“Sweatin’ Land” to be precise). There’s a ferris wheel, a carousel, even a guy with a cart full of balloons. No expense was spared for this one! The set just raises so many questions for me though. What is this place? Did they just stumble upon it, or was it created specifically for Sweatin’ 3? And, most importantly, who do I contact to buy the “Sweatin’ Land” sign? I want to put it in my room.
RICHARD’S OUTFIT: Green and white striped shorts with a green tank that says “Ranger” on it.
THE ROUTINE: “Louie, Louie” starts off trying to be even sexier than the warm-up from STTO 2! That girl Kim really seems to get into it. And those pelvic thrusts! Everyone seems to be enjoying those a bit TOO much if you ask me. ALSO, WHY ARE THERE 3 SONGS TO WARM-UP TO?! The cardio part starts with “Do You Wanna Dance” (sadly, not the Ramones version) featuring some cha-cha moves that seem like a precursor to modern day Zumba. During “The Name Game”, the singer comes out and does the moves with Richard. I love it when they do that! Also, she sings about tacos, pizza, doughnuts and cake, so extra points there. Following that is the Beach Boys’ classic “I Get Around” and Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild”, the latter prompting Richard to shriek “YOU’VE GOT TO GET MEAN WITH THOSE FAT CELLS!” There is quite a light show during that one, so epileptics watch out. After that, we’ve got “Rockin’ Robbin”, sung by a delightful fellow with a mullet and hammer pants who Richard makes some hardcore eyes at. After the cardio, we are presented with the most hilarious cool-down moment in the history of fitness videos. Mid-stretch, Richard has a flutist giving it his all to his left and a guitarist who seems to not care at all on his right. I may have cried, I was laughing so hard at the sheer ridiculousness of it all.
EXTRAS: There’s a kid in this one! But only in the first song, so that’s kind of weird. Also, shout-out goes out to the middle-aged white man who looks just like an older version of my gym teacher from Gr.7/8. He even has the same creepy smile! And props to the woman wearing overalls. You go, girl.
BEST LINES: “KEEP THAT HEART UP! KEEP THAT ENERGY UP! KEEP THAT SWEAT UP!” and “CAN SOMEONE GET THE DUST OFF MY SHOE?! LEONA, PLEASE!” (that one’s in the credits/bloopers and is 100% real)
SWEAT-A-BILITY: More sweat-a-licious than the previous STTO, with a bigger emphasis on cardio rather than toning. Fun times!
SWEATIN’ TO THE OLDIES 4 (Also marketed as “SWEAT AND SHOUT”)
The band in this one is insane, compared to previous tapes. Two keyboard players, two guitarists, a trio of back-up singers/dancers and a huge horn section. Oh, and there’s a full gospel choir too!
SET: I guess they must have realized they over did the set for the previous Sweatin’ because this one is BARE BONES! It’s just a plain room, with the band at the back. There’s a bunch of music notes over the top of the stage.
RICHARD’S OUTFIT: Pink and white striped shorts with a pink tank that has some white, glittery music notes in a circle on it.
THE ROUTINE: Hit after hit after hit in this one. The warm-up is to “Shout” and is quite enjoyable, if you’re a fan of fun. Highlights after that include “Dance To The Music”, featuring the nearly-impossible “Guitar” move that no one seems to understand how to do, especially the old, skinny guy in the yellow shirt who kind of looks like Steve Buscemi if you squint. Thankfully, he seems to understand how to do it by the end of the song. “Heat Wave” also stands out for me, simply because you get to do a “Vamp Walk”, some “Cupey Arms” and a hell of a lot of “Shim-Shimmying”. This song also features the “Shortey George”, which has got to be the most random name for an exercise move ever. There’s also a weird version of “Mony Mony”, where the back-up singers do some truly bizarre dancing. “The Wanderer” features a line dance, much to the delight of my country bumpkin heart. The lights really come down for the final cool-down after that. Make sure you stick around after the workout for the strangest black and white best-of moments reel you’ll ever see in your life. Richard CRIES at the end. It’s weird!
EXTRAS: Dear woman wearing pajama pants, an over-sized tee and a windbreaker, why on Earth are you wearing a jacket? You’re just going to have to take it off when you get too sweaty, silly!
BEST LINES: What they lacked in set for this one Richard sure makes up in hilarious banter. Seriously, line after line he constantly delivers. My favourites, however, are “LET THAT FAT JUST WANDER OFF!” and “VAMP IT OUT!!!” Right at the end he says (completely without irony!) “Keep sweatin’, I love ya!” It’s just all too amazing.
SWEAT-A-BILITY: My favourite STTO, in terms of actually working out. So fun, you won’t even realize that you’re doing exercise!
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.