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Body Worry : Hunkdom's Final Test: A Swoon Walk

Body Worry, 40th in a series.

June 19, 1987|REMAR SUTTON

MIAMI — My nationwide tour is about to end, and with it the first year in my search for health and hunkdom.

My shape has certainly changed during that time, don't you think? My health has changed even more dramatically.

For the sake of my health and my looks, I plan to keep working on myself. Health, I have learned, isn't a quick fix or a bad diet. It really does have to become a way of living.

That's what my articles from now on will be about:

--How we can make health part of our daily consciousness.

--How we can avoid rip-offs and quacks.

--How we can get the people around us to become conscious of their own health needs.

That sounds very serious, nearly boring. But health can bring some very exciting, even nerve-racking, moments--like my last swoon walk just before leaving on my book tour.

The "Today" show was there to film it. Pad in hand, Anastasia Toufexis, health and fitness editor of Time magazine, was there to witness it.

Swoon walks, as you may remember, haven't exactly been too successful for me before.

The idea is simple: I stroll down the beach and count the admiring glances from ladies of any age. I haven't had to count much beyond one. And that was my mother.

I was, therefore, a little more nervous than usual at the thought of failing in front of national television and Time.

Under normal circumstances, swoon walks are as much mental fantasy--how we want to perceive ourselves--as they are reality. Even during my first swoon walks, when little children kicked sand in my direction, I could at least pretend.

In later walks, especially when the press was around, I simply cheated. I sent emissaries to the beach to pass the magic word: Swoon and you'll be on national TV.

At first, I thought a little cheating would work for my final walk, too. My friends had gathered up about 40 of the youngest, most beautiful girls imaginable, reminded them of the camera, and whipped them into a frenzy of anticipation.

The girls were even given "before" pictures to provide them with the proper perspective on my body. (For very significant events, I try to think of everything.)

And on camera, there's no question every single girl swooned as I strolled down the gauntlet in a new, fire-red mini-bikini. No man could dream of a better reaction, and no director could feel better about his production. For a minute I had trouble remembering if life imitates art or art imitates life. Frankly, I didn't care.

Anastasia, however, was concerned with the reality of my final moment of glory. After the cameras were off, and as the girls began to drift back to their boyfriends--all young enough to be my children--she began to ask them unsettling questions.

"What do you really think of that body?" she asked eight or nine of the girls. "How old do you think Remar is?" she asked others. "How does his body compare with your dad's?"

Anastasia was behind me when she asked the first group of girls these questions, and for an instant my insides quaked. I could not turn around. As Anastasia asked the questions, the girls began to giggle and then laugh.

Right then, I knew how that famous emperor without any clothes must have felt when truth finally arrived in the form of a young kid's innocent words. But then the girls began to talk. "Wow, I wish my dad looked like that," a couple of them said. And how old is your dad, Anastasia asked. One girl said 38, the other 42. I, of course, am now 46.

"And how old do you think Remar is?" Anastasia asked. For an instant, I wanted to pull her off the beach quickly while I was ahead, but stopped myself when the first girl said, "Oh, I'd guess around 34 or 35."

I blinked, then turned to the prettiest girl. Good looks and health run in families, and I didn't think there could be a chance her dad would be a dud.

"Tell me the truth," I said. "Do you really think I look better than your father?"

As I spoke, there were probably a dozen women standing around me in a circle. Behind the young ones were four or five ladies in their 40s, and behind them a few ladies in their 60s.

As the beautiful young girl picked my body over her father's, all of the women chimed in approvingly, and I swept my eyes to each of them, fixing their faces and their admiring glances in my mind. That was a life-changing moment.

I didn't want to leave the beach after that. For about an hour, I roamed it casually, comfortably and, quite honestly, with a good bit of pride. I know, of course, that I'm no real hunk, but at least I do feel I'm looking a lot better than most men my age.

And then I came back to my house, pulled out a letter with a picture attached to its top-left corner, and dialed the number at the bottom of the page.

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