EXCERPT: 'My Footprint,' by Jeff Garlin

Richard grabbed the phone away from me. "Mrs. Garlin, don't you worry about him. The next time you see him, you won't recognize him."

After making arrangements to meet at Richard's studio, he gave me a big hug and went on his way. He practically floated out of the room. What have I done? Really, that's what I was screaming in my head. At least, I figured, I could count on my wife to talk me out of it.

A few days later my wife, Marla, and I arrived at Richard's studio in Beverly Hills. She made me come. And she's not there to exercise. Only to watch my humiliation. I was not prepared for what was about to happen to me. No one could be. Unless you owned Deal-A -Meal and were already dancing away at home to Sweatin' to the Oldies. Richard greeted me warmly and announced my arrival to the thirty or so women of various shapes and sizes in the class. We stretched and warmed up to music that probably came from the Fame soundtrack.

Jeff Garlin: 'My Footprint'

And before I even knew what was happening, I was jumping around and doing aerobics with Richard and all these women to the song "It's Raining Men." But it didn't stop there. Later, as we bounced along to Diana Ross's "I'm Coming Out," Richard had everyone form a big circle around him. Then he pointed at me to join him in the center. Doing aerobics with Richard Simmons while surrounded by a circle of thirty heavy women in tights -- you tell me what word to use to describe this experience.

In addition to attending his classes, I would receive messages on my answering machine that typically went like this: "Happy Monday! It's a beautiful day to exercise! See you soon." I have to admit these messages brought my wife and me great joy. I wish he still called. At one point, a couple of months after I met him, I found myself alone at Richard's house. He introduced me to his dalmatians and showed me his doll collection. (At this point I probably should have run. Run or just decided to be gay. Is there a better time to come out than when you're being shown Richard Simmons's doll collection?)

As I was driving home, I was listening to sports radio. I listen to sports radio all the time, but I'm sure subconsciously I turned it on in an effort to instantly regain my masculinity. Anyhow, the reason I remember listening to sports radio was that they announced that Northwestern had upset Notre Dame in football. I had planned to watch it on TV that day. But, no, I didn't watch it. Instead, I enjoyed the magic of Richard S immons's doll collection. I thought, I can never tell anyone about this. Until now.

God bless Richard Simmons. He's helped so many people. He tried to help me. I stopped going to his classes after a couple of months. But how would things have been if I'd gotten healthy for good with Richard Simmons? Just imagine the two of us on the talk shows, with him showing me off like Frankenstein's monster.


Today, as a result of the ADD skill set, I'm at the car wash and I've got to be at my son's school for an event in twenty minutes. I don't know why I choose to wash my car minutes before I have to be somewhere. But it's happened before, as if it's some weird habit. I'm supposed to be at an appointment somewhere ASAP, and all of a sudden I'm turning in to a car wash. I should be grateful; at least it's not an In-N-Out Burger.

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