Wednesday, February 3, 2010

No Holds Barred: Aging famously

by Blair Sabol

I am fascinated by Jane Fonda. Not the "Hanoi Jane" or the "Barbarella Jane" or even the "Vagina Jane" (she and Vagina Monologues author Eve Ensler have teamed up to help women of the Congo and the world unite). I am hooked on the "Blog Jane" ( It is staggering to read of her tons of tweets, daily diary entries, emails and scrolling photos of her friends and dogs.

Her blog is full of her accounts with her romantically active boyfriend (record producer Richard Perry), trips to Paris for cosmetic commericals, runs from her home in Santa Fe to her home in Atlanta to her home in Los Angles all the while discussing her many political involvements, Planned Parenthood and other charities.

No one works harder at being relevant than Jane Fonda. No doubt with a holster of Blackberries she stays "on message" loud and clear. She's even writing a book on aging. She feels if she can be sexually active after 70 ... why not YOU!!!! (By the way ... one of THE books on aging is Ram Dass's Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing and Dying ("dying" being the operative word here). She is also doing two exercise videos for us "older boomers" who obviously can't get it up let alone still stand up.

If Jane can still leg lift why not YOU!!! She even asked her loyal blog readers for advice on what she should wear in these "sweating with us oldies" DVDs. Some encouraged her to stay true to her "original self and don her famous stripped leotards, tights and legwarmers. Others advised her to try something "looser and baggier like 'scrubs.'

What is amazing is that Jane started us all huffing and puffing 30 years ago and dragged us step kicking into her million dollar exercise empire. But times have changed .... drastically. Now even dear Jane has had a few joints replaced while the rest of us are on massive doses of Advil and regularly go to pain clinics. Jane IS inspiring but frankly exhausting. Thirty years ago I took a class led by her in her notorious Beverly Hills exercise studio and even back then she left me in the dust and in a heap on the floor. Now when I read her blog of strident do-gooding and perpetual motion all I want to do is stay in bed. In the 80s her mantra was "no pain no gain." But now all I hear is "no pain can't complain."

As a result of years of overexercising I realised I just need to keep and preserve whatever I have left. Body parts don't come with a lifetime guarantee. And lately the only thing I'm sweating about is having to stand vertically every day and the ability to pay my medical and health insurance bills.

Last week the Wall Street Journal reported that health clubs / private gym attendance and memberships are way down. People are fed up with that regime. They prefer to "mall walk" or cruise their local farmers markets and do softer more forgiving exercising like yoga and pilates. The europeans were never into our gym mania.They are born neighborhood walkers and hikers. Fewer people are really "working out" like they used to anymore. For what? They just want to stay alive with some degree of dignity.

Then again there is Anderson Cooper. Nightly and currently he is showing off his gym-ratted body in Haiti on CNN. No doubt the gym is perfect for his scene and his age group. There he stands defiantly in one of his black torso tight T shirts with his hands on his hips, his pecs in full flex giving us the Haitian death count. My question is what hotel is he currently doing his morning stomach crunches and where is he getting his water to shave down? Many viewers have wondered if he can get there with CNN hair and makeup and generators what kind of "on location" disaster disconnect does that project? At least Dr. Sanjay Gupta seems authentically haggard and bearded while actually helping the medical teams. And he is wearing a loose sweat stained work shirt.

Nowadays celebrity self improvement looks and feels odd. Enter Cher: At least she is not trying to inspire or enhance anyone but herself. We love Cher at 63 for "having it all" and having it all "done." Although I yearn for the original Cherokee Cher with Sonny. Currently her face resembles something from her own great movie Mask. Cher has become Vegas. And I applaud her for that. However sadly I have lost track of what she ever really looked like. Reportedly she is spending $5,000 a week on facials (all for her upcoming movie "Burlesque") which involves LED light treatments, micro currents and oxygen infusions. Not to mention $2,500 for her basic daily makeup, $25,000 for yoga, pilates and private trainers, and a "juicer" nutritionist. Then there's $10,000 for the standard hairdresser, $15,000 for the wigmaker. But my favorite part of her support system is her "wellness crew." That includes homeopath, naturopath, body worker and spiritual advisors. Thank God Michael Jackson died cause aging is a bitch. But Cher gets my vote.
Enter Cher.
And speaking of vote. I used to think Hilary Clinton had THE best hair and makeup (not to mention pantsuited wardrobe) during her presidential run. Daily she was spackled and sprayed to a high gloss. A Game Change "insider" told me that it probably cost her close to a million dollars to maintain that 24/7 campaign image.

Imagine having to dye her hair at 4am in some Iowa motel room so she could do all those 6am hand shakes and baby hugs. Visual upkeep is a full time job and takes relentless stamina. For that alone (NOT her platform) she gets all my admiration.

Sadly, nowadays her hair and makeup staff must have disintegrated. Her eye bags are extreme and her grey roots are prominently displayed. Where have all her great necklaces and matching button earrings gone? What's happened to those terrific pashminas and pantsuits? Talk about "pants on the ground." Even her incredible smile has faded. I say bring back the "Campaign Hilary" look. Dont worry ... I get the feeling it's coming soon.
Hillary then (above) and now (inset).
Obviously we as a culture believe in the Billy Crystal creed of "it's better to look 'mahvelous' than to feel 'mahvelous.'" So we dumped out of working out and headed for the quick fix of nip and tuck. Plastic surgery has replaced anorexia as the new hot obsession, even in a recession. It actually has its own psychiatric label: "body dismorphia." And since our collective is so fearful of aging and dying we have women "cougars" (40-year-olds) and "wolverines" ( 60-year-olds) and "werewolves" (over 70) going ape over their fish lip injections, eyebrow lifts, clitoris reconstructions, and yes, the perennial massive boob lifts. Porno rules for many aging makeovers. And men are continually stocking up on supplies of Cialis and Viagra even though there is a whisper of heart failure and prostate cancer due to these 38-hour long induced erections.

So where does this all leave us besides lonelier, permanently disfigured, hooked on pain meds, and a lifetime of priapism? This is where I must turn to dear Jane Fonda. Perhaps she can save us or at least send in the clowns. Then again maybe "they're already here."

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