Chicago Tribune from Chicago, Illinois on September 2, 1985 · 48
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Chicago Tribune from Chicago, Illinois · 48

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Monday, September 2, 1985
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2 Section 5 Chicago Tribune, Monday, September 2, 1985 IGIUJJO Move over, Jane Fonda: BolkAerobics is here ByrncZbm fittsburgb You might make a pretty good argument that the polka has been aerobic . for ISO years, and there is nothing at all new about groups of people jacking up their heart rates "to, accordion music. Big deal, you could say, it happens at every self-respecting wedding. 1 But no one had ever marketed the -polka as aerobic. No one, until Andy Lo Russo came along, had pHtlhe two words together in commercial harmony PolkAerobics ; and sold a custom tape, designer sweat shirt and fashion skirt. No onaJiad figured that if people were : getting in shape by hopping around ami sweating to music, someone ! should sell them on the idea of doing it to the granddaddy of hqp-arid-sweat music. ; Xnree years ago, Lo Russo, a small-time entertainer from New 'Jersey, seized on this perhaps ob- Muff 'n' puff 'alternatives Polkaerobics is definitely on the fringe of the exercise movement. It's unusual to find an entire aerobics class conducted to anything other than mainstream music. . Jazzercise uses jazz dance-style steps to the same tunes used by the overwhelming majority of aerobics instructors, which is to say contemporary, popular hits such as "Jump" by the Pointer Sis-. ters and "Jump" by Van Halen, designed to appeal to . the sort of person who wears legwarmers in summer. "Only a few alternatives .have surfaced: Teenworks in Wilmette offered Madon-naerobics for a while; an instructor in New York -teaches an exercise class called "Zen and the Art of . Motown"; Heavenly Bodies, a Deerfield organization, - coordinates 20 gospel-music aerobics classes in the Chicago area, with scattered franchises nationwide. There's ptfnkercise at Medusa's oh North Sheffield Avenue; a group in Los Angeles exercises to a live, African-music combo; selected senior citizens classes nationwide use big-band music to get their tickers going; the ..' Old Town School of Folk Music offered folkaerobics ''for a while but cancelled it . for lack of interest. Eric Zorn Culturemonger Wolfe tosses rich into Continued from first Tempo page Chic". But then, Wolfe has always teetered slightly on the brink of this world,- slinging arrows at outrageous fortune and generally pumping irony. He was at it again a few weeks aga in his hometown of Richmond, Va.-, where he spoke at the second' annual Governor's Awards for the Arts. Wolfe gets invited to such functions because, perhaps more than any writer of his generation, he is as much a living, breathing barometer of the culture as the subjects he writes about custom cars "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby", Manhattan's social elite "Radical Chic", Esalen "The Me Decade", the space program 'tl'The'Right Stuff", modern architecture "From Bauhaus to Our House". Just how he ascended to this lofty position, which appears to at once flatter him and offend his Southern sensibilities, may be for future American-studies savants to say. But when one looks back on the Me-Mania of the 1970s and the "whole crazed obscene uproarious Mammon-faced drug-soaked mau ntf .lust-oozing Sixties in American-Wolfe, in all his pyrotechnic prose," was there. ' Jhis is the Designer Decade," he-told the crowd in Richmond, positing, as is now his duty, a new theory for the '80s. "We drink designer water, eat designer cl0COJates and do designer exercises to work off excess fat. . . ." ; "Did you know that in San Francisco, they have designer salads?" he is saying now, Southern gentleman's inflection as matter of fact as if he were talking about the weather. -In his Manhattan home, he is sitting on his Ultrasuede banquette, eating carrot cake and sipping grapefruit juice. He looks, as always, a tad frail. His skin is a distillation of white. Ever the dandy, he is dressed in his signature off-white double-breasted suit, neon-blue tie echoing neon-blue socks! The socks, which poke menacingly beneath his trousers, visually anchor his feet like a pair of lapis paperweights. vious blend of cultural elements-Jane Fonda meets Frankie Yanko-vic, if you will and began an artistic odyssey that ended with PolkAerobics classes beginning here in March. So far, he's passed about 25 stu- dents through the 8-week, 16-class program. The class offers two levels of novelty. The first is that all stretching and exercising is done in pairs. The second level of novelty, of course, is the polka music. Somehow, the thickly textured, heavily rhythmic tunes seem to suggest jolly, overfed people in ethnic attire lurching happily across the dance floor like so many wads of Jell-O. Not fitness, certainly. A PolkAerobics class kicks off, as it were, with familiar aerobics exercises. Every movement is coordinated wuh the PolkAerobics theme song, a frothy clarinet and accordion polka medley with words written and sung by Lo Russo and his ex-wife. The refrain goes: PolkAerobics, PolkAerobics, join in the fun Shape up in polka time. The unique aspects begin with a two-handed partner swing followed shortly by a twist-dance to a few bars of the "Too Fat Polka." How could he not use that tune? What Lo Russo calls the "polka three step" follows, although most would ' recognize it as the standard polka two-step. Indeed, Lo Russo, who also refers to a gallop step as "polka lunge" and employs what a dance master might call vulgar hand positions, is not going to win prizes for polka authenticity. Poor polka. So misunderstood. Contrary to popular opinion, the dance is not Polish or German, but Bohemian in origin. "The polka really got America couple-dancing," says Powers. "The waltz had been too scandalous and intimate for us, but the polka was looser. It allowed a man and a woman for the first time to take the open embrace position and dance in public." Lo Russo, 36, has childhood memories of "having a heck of a time" polka-ing and perspiring at ethnic weddings in Newark. These came back to him in Los Angeles , when he and writer Pat Hirsch, to ' whom he was then married, decided several years ago to put together a live stage show called "Shaping Up America," a jingoistic aerobics presentation celebrating our national diversity that was very much, to hear him describe it, like Up With People in leotards. Lo Russo's life before then had been varied and undirected: a nightclub singer in Miami, a fitness and transcendental meditation devotee in 1973, guitar and drum player in an ill-fated "positive lifestyle" hard rock band in 1975, a licensed masseur, a star of Although Wolfe is known for treating the English language as if it were some sort of cosmic hockey rink, in which dots, dashes, exclamation points and italics slap off the page like errant pucks, in person he is the quintessence of considered calm. Miss Manners would adore him. "This may be the decade of plutography," he opines, offering yet another theory. "Pornography is the graphic depiction of the acts of prostitutes. Plutography is the graphic depiction of the acts of the rich." For more than a year now, , Wolfe has been engaged in an act of plutography himself, writing "The Bonfire of the Vanities." The last major American writer to publish a novel in serialization was Norman Mailer in the '60s. For Wolfe, not known for his speed Liberalism is the etiquette of the intellectual classes Tom Wolfe as a writer, the biweekly deadlines have been "absolute murder." Wolfe's goal has been to realistically portray, a la Victorian social novels, "the high life and low life as they exist side by side in cities today." So he contrasts the dark reaches of the Bronx with the "takeover princes, perfume-franchise queens, gas tax-shelter kings . . . Cincinnati heiresses yearning to make the party-picture pages of W" and other motley individuals relentlessly accumulating wealth in New York, New York. The !"hero' Sherman McCoy, is a renowned author "so I wouldn't have to think" who lives in a 12-room Park Avenue duplex. Like many who frequent 12-room Park Avenue duplexes, McCoy lives in dire fear of taking a wrong turn and ending up in the Bronx which, of course, is exactly what happens. Just what did Monsieur East Side know about the Bronx? "It was kind of like the Arctic," Wolfe muses. "It was north of here - T r !' A ' V V y X 9 . 1 ) ( r:A J) r ) :. Yi. 'A l . . ' : J FWabunjh Preea photo by .lohn HeRar King of the contemporary version of polka: Andy Lo Russo steps lively with Deborah Bean in a hop-to-it approach to aerobics. California dinner-theater productions and, in the early 1980s, a walk-on aotor for TV's "All My Children." When he and Hirsch eventually ended their marriage and abandoned the "Shaping Up America" concept, Lo Russo clung to one segment of the show on PolkAerobics. "When I had taught fitness classes, I noticed that many people who started quickly lost their motivation," says Lo Russo, who conducts PolkAerobics through adult education extension services. "I figured that if people exercised with a partner it would motivate them, and the polka it's very motivating music. It's exciting and up and positive." Lo Russo does all the teaching, with Nena Spencer, a local writer and artist whom he met through TM, acting as silent partner. He maintains a euphoric, bouncy and boyish manner throughout, Once the class has done the "polka lunge" several times around the room, they go into several other dancelike hops while holding onto one another. The lyrics at this point throb poetically: Now we've got the feel of it And dancing so well . . ., and you couldn't go there." But go he did, taking great pride in being one of the few reporters in the Bronx. Not that he ran around in his white suit or anything "I did wear a suit" but he spent six weeks learning the territory at the Bronx County Courthouse and area precincts with criminal lawyers, The new kid on the block was monopolizing the turf until that fateful day when Bernhard Goetz decided to publicize the New York subway system. "Suddenly, the place is crawling with pressl People can't sleep in the projects because these camera crews are knocking on their doors asking for a reaction to the Goetz case!" That wasn't the nascent novelist's only collision with reality. "A character I introduce early in the book I swear this was outlined in the spring of '84 is on the subway. He's surrounded by four young men. They put their hands in their pockets, but they don't produce a weapon. In my version, they say, 'Give me a quarter." Then, 'How about $5?' Then, 'How about $20?' Then, 'How about all you've got?' Unlike Bernhard Goetz, my man does not pull out a revolver and shoot somebody; he caves in and gives them all his money. And he feels so mortified, he becomes this trembling wretch! "Well, before I can get that written, what happens but the Goetz case? Now, how can I offer this incident as the explanation for his character's behavior? They'd say, 'The poor guy, he has no imagination, he just reads the newspaper!' " Wolfe calls the book, tentatively set for publication next spring, "not possible to characterize politically." He has often been accused of being a neo-conservative, to which he replies: "Liberalism is the etiquette of the intellectual classes. To be called 'conservative' is to be considered rude." In his heart of hearts, Wolfe remains, first and foremost, a reporter. Nonfiction is the hardest thing you can do, he says, because of the reporting, which has s.'got to Never knew that exercising , Could be so swell. Each session lasts 45 minutes and does not include any of the ' strenuous calesthenics found in most dance exercise classes. Surely the most tiring aspect, even for a polka fancier from way back, is the way the three-minute PolkAerobics theme song repeats and repeats throughout. Lo Russo sells the song on an audio tape and is preparing to market an exercise videotape of ; his class through Total Communi-catons Systems of Pittsburgh. Several garments now bear the PolkAerobics trademark, and Lo Russo, who now keeps body and soul together by giving therapeutic massages, is hoping soon to go big time and begin franchising the concept and certifying official PolkAerobics teachers. Already word has trickled back to him that somewhere in eastern Pennsylvania, groups of people have started having aerobic exercise classes with plain old polka music that is not original with copywritten lyrics. Hah! "That," says Lo Russo pointedly yet agreeably, "is polka aerobics. 1 But it's not PolkAerobics." And therein lies all the difference in the world. prose fire be right. No matter what they say about the New Journalism, it's got to be right." Raised in Richmond, where his father was the editor of the Southern Planter journal, he grew up, "like most people," wanting to be a writer. He studied English literature at Washington & Lee, got a doctorate in American studies at Yale in 1957, then worked for the Springfield Mass. Union, the only one of 53 papers that offered him a job Springfield figures in the novel as the hometown of Sherman McCoy. In 1959, he joined the staff of the Washington Post, where, according to one Post writer, "his career took a stunning plunge from Latin American correspondent to covering sewer hearings in Virginia.". He arrived in New York in 1962 and settled into a $125-a-month efficiency in Greenwich Village "with exposed kitchens and views of air-conditioning duct moss that hung down like an effluvium." Writing for the New York Herald Tribune's Sunday magazine, considered the birthplace of New Journalism, he soon became a Famous Writer and moved to the East Side, near his current place-shared with magazine-designer wife Sheila and daughter Alexandra, who's nearly 5. These days, Wolfe is so much the East Sider that he can barely stroll down Park Avenue without running into other Famous Writers or people who bound up to him, eyes dilating, and say, "I met you at the Whitneys'!" Be assured that Wolfe has pluto-graphic ambitions of his own far beyond anything described in "The Bonfire of the Vanities." A plaster frieze of Third Avenue, it will be, to hang magnificently from his own living-room ceiling, plaster arms and heads sticking out in high relief. It will depict the roller-skaters "who put on such a great show in the spring" and people waiting in Third Avenue bus lines. Not to mention "the women with the seams of their jeans smartly clinging to their declivities." , Knlghl-Rkjdef Newspapers Some reader to aid organ By Abigail Van Buren Pear Abby: The letter you published recently from a healthy man asking why he must die before donating one of his kidneys brings to mind my own recent experience. I am a relatively healthy middle-aged man who recently went through two emergency major surgical procedures. My organs, I assume, are in fine condition, and I would have been willing and happy to sign an organ donor certificate. Although my life was in imminent danger, neither my surgeon, my family physician, nor anyone at the hospital made such a suggestion. During my recuperation, I saw a group of people on a television talk show who were anxiously awaiting kidney donors so their lives could be saved. Why can't the medical community be more cooperative to those organizations handling organ transplants so that in situations such as mine, the opportunity to gain healthy organs is not lost? Anonymous Attorney Dear Anonymous: Good question. But it would seem inappropriate, and downright ghoulish, to suggest to one whose life is in imminent danger to sign an organ donor card. ; Although millions of people carry donor cards indicating that Immediately after their death their usable organs may be harvested to help the living, the majority do not. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to remind others to become organ donors. There is absolutely no cost to the donor or the recipient of any organs donated after death. This little essay, written by Robert N. Test, brought a windfall of new donors each time it was printed. Let's hope history will repeat Itself: "At a certain moment a doctor will determine that my brain has . ceased to function and that, for all intents and purposes, my life has ' stopped. "When that happens, do not attempt to instill artificial life into my body by the use of a machine. And don't call this my 'deathbed.' Call it my 'bed of life,' and let my body be taken from it to help others lead fuller lives. "Give my sight to a man who has never seen a sunrise, a baby's Dietary fiber: By G. Timothy Johnson, M.D. ear readers: In light of the increasing interest in diet and cancer as a result of President Reagan's recent operation, I call your attention to a superb article on fiber in the July, 1985, issue of the Tufts University Diet and Nutrition Letter. It is the most succinct and sensible article on this subject that I've seen in a long time. It carefully reviews the various kinds of fibers and examines their role in diseases ranging from gastrointestinal problems to diabetes. The report says theories that fiber intake reduces colon cancer are still speculative -"So speculative, in fact, that in 1982 the National Research Council chose not to make a specific recommendation about fiber in its important report on diet and cancer. With the current state of knowledge, it cannot be said with any degree of certainty that eating more fiber will keep colon cancer at bay. "People who have high-fiber diets typically consume less fat, which may be more closely related to the prevention of colon cancer. Moreover, it is conceivable that people on high fiber diets eat more vegetables that may contain cancer-preventing substances." The article points out that too much fiber may pose some potential problems in reducing the absorption of certain minerals, such as zinc, and may even cause intestinal blockage if large amounts of fiber are consumed without ade- CHCAILANID IDDIKIECTDIKY c H Tcmite at 9PM M n Tom'w al 8PM H Wed at 2 & 8PM 1 CATS I H Limited Engagement fl HMon-Sat Eves 8PM; Sat Mats 2PM: $42.50, (35, V MS25. Wed Mats 2PM: (35, (30, (17.50. H Tickets at Bok Office & Tlcketron Outlets H H Telecharge & Group Sales: 1 BOO 233 3123 D B StudentSenior Citizen rush prior to our curtain H H For Info, call (312 ) 977-1700. H H Shubert Theatre, 22 W. Monroe, Chicago, II. B suggestions donations - . J Dear face or love in the eyes of a woman. "Give my heart to a person whose own heart has caused nothing but endless days of pain. "Give my blood to the teenager who has been pulled from the wreckage of his car, so that he might live to see his grandchildren play. "Give my kidneys , to one who depends on a machine to exist from week to week. "Take my bones, every muscle, every fiber and nerve in my body and find a way to make a crippled child walk. "Explore every corner of my brain. Take my cells, if necessary, and let them grow so that someday a speechless boy will shout at the crack of a bat and a deaf girl will hear the sound of rain against her windows. "Burn what is left of me and scatter the ashes to the winds to -help the flowers grow. "If you must bury something, let it be my faults, my weaknesses, and all prejudice against my fellow man. "Give my soul to God. "If by chance you wish to re-, member me, do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs you. If you do all I have asked, I will live forever." Donor cards are available by writing to: The Living Bank, P.O. Box 6725, Houston, Tex., 77265. In- elude a legal size, stamped 39 cents, self-addressed envelope. I ' have carried such a card for 15 years and feel there is nothing I can leave after my death that will ; be of greater value. This is strictly a nonprofit organ-: ization, operating on a "shoestring" as a public service, so please be a sport and send a dollar or two along with your request. It's ' tax-deductible. Problems? Write to Abby. For a personal, unpublished reply, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Abby, P.O. Box 38923, Hollywood, Calif. 90038. All correspon-dence is confidential. Plus and minus How to keep well quate amounts of liquid. "It shouldn't hurt most healthy people to consume a tablespoon or two of raw bran a day to maintain regularity," the article concludes. "But if you increase fiber intake , by eating more high-fiber foods, you also get the added benefit of the vitamins and minerals they contain. Either way, be certain to drink plenty of fluids and consume a variety of other foods at the same time." Dear Dr. Johnson: What is the difference between canker sores and cold sores? Canker sores occur on the loose lining of the inner parts of the mouth, such as the inner surface of the cheek. Their cause is unknown. Cold sores, on the other hand, are known to be caused by herpes virus and usually are confined to the lips or the lining of the mouth that is attached to firm surfaces, such as the gums. Obviously, one important difference between the two is the fact that cold sores can be communicable, whereas canker sores are not. Sixteen million Americans have gallbladder disease. Dr. Johnson's booklet on this ailment explains causes and treatment in common-sense terms. For a copy, send J2.25 to Gallbladder, P.O. Box 533, Palmyra, NJ. 08065. Make checks payable to Newspaperbooks. I I s Definite!, A Must Sec". Leonard, WGN SHEAR MADNESS M, W, Tit, F at 8; Sat 6:30 , 0:30: Sun 3 8, 7:30 Todav Labor Day Special All Tlx W2 Print Bos-Office 786 9120 (Maior Credit Cards) Tlcketron Mayfalr ThpatreBlackstone Hotel636 S. Michigan I ALL ABOARD AMTRAK GIVEAWAY! Every Wednesday In September PUMP BOYS AND DINETTES "Bursting with good tlmesl" Christiansen, Tribune "You'll have the time of your life I Perfect summer. enienainmvnir Leonard, WGN Tues-Thurs 8pm: (18.50) Frl 8pm: (21.50; Sat 6:30 t, 9:30pm: (21.50) Sun 3 & 7pm: $18.50 APOLLO THEATER CENTER 2540 N. Lincoln Ave V35-6I00-

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