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BODY WATCH : Wanna Get Fit? Try Getting Lucky : Lucky Vanous, the Hunk From the Diet Coke Ads, Is Turning His Talents (and His Pecs) to a Workout Video

October 18, 1994|KATHLEEN DOHENY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Everyone and her brother, it seems, have a great idea for an exercise video.

And invitations to view production tapings are as common as broken treadmills at cheap health clubs.

But when another invite arrived asking us to sit in on the taping of a new fitness video starring Lucky Vanous, well, suddenly, it seemed a good idea to alert fitness-minded readers to what's due on the video market come January.

If you don't know the name, you probably know the pecs. Vanous is better known as that hunk construction worker who bares his chest in the Diet Coke commercial while female office workers drool and ogle from overhead.

So we sped down to A & M Studios on LaBrea, a watch-your-hubcaps kind of neighborhood, and settled in.

There was Lucky, all 6 feet, 2 inches of him, tanned and sweating in a black tank top and black shorts, working out under mercilessly hot lights with a woman in a black leotard and tights. (Didn't catch her name--kidding! She's Kacy Duke, a well-known fitness expert who shares the stage with The Luckster, but more about her later.)

As the production people fussed with mikes and sound levels and coaxed retake after retake, marketing types sat behind the monitors and whispered pitches.

"The video will run 45 minutes," said Laura Sullivan of CBS/Fox Video, which is producing the project. The tape includes a five-minute warm-up, 30 minutes of cardiovascular work and strength-training, and a 10-minute cool-down. Instructions are geared to three fitness levels: basic, energy and power.

"The choreography is simple," Sullivan said.

As in . . . even guys could follow it?

"Yes, it's definitely a unisex workout," Sullivan said.

Sure, but has there been any market research, Laura, on which gender might be more likely to snatch this $14.98 tape off the shelf?

"Women," she said with a laugh, further categorizing them as "fitness enthusiasts" and "others who want to look at Lucky."

There are, of course, legions out there--all ages, shapes and fitness levels--who want to look at Lucky. On TV, on the street, wherever he appears. (Never mind that the New York City resident is happily married to model Kristen Noel Vanous.)

Since the Coke commercial began airing in January on network and cable TV, Vanous has become a household chest.

He's still amazed, he said during a lunch-break interview, at the reaction to one commercial, especially since he's hawked at least a dozen other products--"American Airlines, baby shampoo, beer."

For years, the 33-year-old Nebraska native has also worked as a print model for major men's fashion magazines. His discovery by a New York modeling agent happened when Lucky was vacationing there with a friend.

In person, he's the opposite of a macho, rough-around-the-edges construction worker. He makes a point of opening doors for women. When a makeup person offers to freshen him up for a TV taping, he's more concerned about her missing lunch.

So, why the video?

For months, Vanous said, friends and business associates had suggested it would be a good project now, given the familiarity bred by the Coke commercial. "But I have zero experience in video," Vanous said.

And although he's exercised regularly since 18--running and weights are his usual regimen to maintain his weight at 190--he was uncomfortable touting himself as the fitness guru du jour.

"I didn't want to have a trainer train me and then do the video," he said. "I didn't want to come across as the expert. I wanted to be honest." He'd known Duke for years and it seemed a natural collaboration.

While no one knows for sure what will end up on the finished product--titled "Lucky Vanous: The Ultimate Fat-Burning Workout"--here's what the monitors showed during an hour of taping last month.

* Close-ups of Lucky's biceps and triceps as he lifted hand weights.

* Close-ups of Lucky's calves as he ran in place, demonstrating the cardiovascular part of the workout.

* Close-ups of Lucky's tanned face, hazel eyes and short brown hair as he talked about the right way to use hand weights.

So how much pec exposure can you expect for your 15 bucks?

In the weight-training and cardio segments, taped in Los Angeles, Lucky kept on his tank top. And because he's not into nudity-for-the-sake-of--he's said to have declined newspaper photographers' requests to shed his shirt--he will only toss his tank top for the stomach exercises.

Are there plans for a sequel? Doesn't look that way.

"I'm hoping this will buy me peace and quiet," said Vanous, whose next goal is to resume acting lessons.

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