Back in 2005, while visiting my best friend in Morro Bay, we decided to dine at a local restaurant, Windows on the Water. The maître d’, a friend of ours, quietly announced that a local celebrity and his wife had just been seated: Jack and Elaine LaLanne.
“Jack LaLanne!” I blurted. Wow, I remember being bored to death on Saturday mornings, waking long before the good cartoons came on, watching LaLanne do his towel exercises. It was painful and irritating, sitting impatiently until the good stuff (Bugs Bunny, the Road Runner and the like) came on.
As irritated as I was as a 5-year-old boy, LaLanne did make a lasting impression and I had thought of him occasionally as I worked out, weightlifting in high school, swimming in college and running as a young man. You had to respect LaLanne, he earned it.
At one point in the evening, our maître d’ friend returned to the table and said, “follow me.”
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“Where to?” I asked as I rose.
“To meet Jack,” he said.
Suddenly I was giddy and shamed at the same time; I didn’t want to interrupt the guy’s dinner. Tacky, very tacky. All the same, I followed.
Composed, I put my hand out as I was introduced to LaLanne and his stunning wife, Elaine. I told LaLanne how I appreciated his messages and influence and I agreed with his premise that exercise is good. LaLanne asked some questions about my workouts and then began a lecture — one he had likely given many times in his life.
He spoke of his discovery of healthy eating and exercise and his life’s history. He then continued to council me on my workouts: “You have to exercise hard, make those muscles hurt, in order to gain the benefit,” he said and repeated this many times during our short conversation.
In the corner of the restaurant, walled by glass, I sensed the spectacle that I was becoming. If nothing else, I was blocking the incredible view for half of the people in this place. Trying to wrap up, I attempted to excuse myself, yet he would have nothing of it. He wasn’t done lecturing.
On and on, LaLanne continued. He was magnificent and convincing and had the physical presence to prove it. At 91, he had absolutely no body fat, worked out three hours a day and clearly had more energy that anyone in that room, in that town, probably in the state of California.
After about 15 minutes, at the right moment, I graciously excused myself, shook hands and returned to my table. I had no appetite, except for working out, I suppose, but sat comfortably with my friends.
Dinner came, the singer sang, and I sat there, tuning in and out, reflecting on the wisdom shared. I was absorbed as I had ever been, completely taken and unaware when a woman stepped up to the band.
She took the mike and whispered something to the guitarist. He took up the beat and she, preparing to sing, looked up. Spotting me, right there below her, her eyes instantly gave in to recognition and my response was equal. Wow, I thought, tall and slender with her signature red-tint hair, that’s Elaine LaLanne again.
Her eyes were on mine and she began to flirt, finally waving me to her side. I stood and joined her. And then she began to sing her song and sang it for me, to me.
I stood there, a spectacle again, and gazing upon the room, caught LaLanne’s eye. He smiled and winked in approval.
Gene Pedrotti lives in Crockett, Calif.