The crowd was physically fit and star-studded when celebrities, sports figures and fitness fans gathered at the Irvine Hilton on Thursday night for the National Fitness Foundation's First West Coast Awards Banquet. Honorees included Rams owner Georgia Frontiere, Olympic gold medalist Edwin Moses, Orange County Supervisor Thomas F. Riley, Carl's Jr. founder Carl Karcher and former Los Angeles Times sportswriter Paul Zimmerman.
At $500 a head, with nearly 600 attending, the black-tie event raised almost $300,000 for the U.S. Fitness Academy, which is scheduled to be built in Orange County by 1988. Event chairman Bill Harris said the academy will offer fitness programs for the nation's teachers, who will in turn educate America's youth and elderly.
After arriving, major donors headed for the cocktail reception, where they munched on canapes with foundation chairman George Allen, emcee Art Linkletter and such athletes as Mark Spitz, Kathy Johnson, Jack Youngblood, Tracy Austin, Peter Vidmar and Archie Moore. (Allen, a former Rams and Redskins coach, also serves as chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness.)
Princess Zsa Zsa von Anhalt arrived with donor Dick Cremer of Bally Fitness Products in Irvine, with whom she had once worked at Montgomery Ward. "He made me so much money that I bought my house in Bel-Air from it," said the princess, better known as Zsa Zsa Gabor. She was resplendent with heart-shaped rubies at her throat and a dazzling 28-carat diamond ring.
"Body by Jake," said Harriet Harris, by way of greeting body-building expert Jake Steinfeld, who frowned upon the pre-dinner aerobics demonstration ("Aerobics dancing is out") but supported the fitness academy's programs for America's youth wholeheartedly. "You don't want a generation of Michelin men. A lean horse for a long race, that's what you want," Steinfeld said.
It was an evening to celebrate, said Harris' husband, Bill. "We just got approval last month from the California Coastal Commission to build the academy in Aliso Viejo," he said. "We'll be teaching teachers to go back to 100 different schools and teach fitness. We'll teach parks directors, Boy Scout leaders and Girl Scout leaders who will go back home and set up programs."
"This has nothing to do with the Olympics. It's for everyday Americans," Allen said. "We're the only country I've visited that doesn't have (a fitness center). Russia has had one in Leningrad since 1920."
Glyn Lunney, president of Rockwell International's satellite systems division, recalled meeting Allen on a westbound plane. "I told him I have a very talented wife, a retired judge. She's just going shopping and going to museums and she's really bored out here." Allen soon recruited both Lunney and his wife, Marilyn, to the cause.
Jerry and Bobbi Dauderman said they first thought about bringing fitness to the American public 10 years ago when they opened the first of 18 Nautilus Aerobics Plus Clubs. "I was a businessman who needed to get into better shape," Jerry Dauderman said.
His wife made sure that women wouldn't be ignored. "At the time, I felt that women were being cheated," Bobbi Dauderman said. "The best equipment was usually on the men's side. We have now turned it around. We have brought men into the aerobics programs."
The dinner program included a parade of the 45 athletes present, who marched past the podium, stepped into the spotlight for applause and then joined dinner guests. In red, white and blue sequined hats, the group Kids Are Music sang the national anthem while members of the U.S. Marine Corps presented the American flag.
Linkletter presented awards to the honorees, with Frontiere accepting hers with a rhyme that was supposed to spell fitness: "Fight inflationary tummies--don't eat salami on Sundays."
Judging from Frontiere's appearance in her cut velvet ensemble, she must take her own advice.