2002, 99 cents (in the original shrink wrapper!)
The American Way Thrift Store, Burbank

First impression: Who is this Denise Austin person? She looks like a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. She has mastered the art of holding a difficult pose while making perfect eyes-and-smile with the camera lens and never mussing
her blowout.

Second impression: Denise Austin, so the opening montage informs me, is America’s foremost fitness expert. So that answers that question. It’s also immediately apparent that she is kind of insane. I absolutely love her.

Denise Austin’s dusky, hoarse voice is peppered with folksyness: “Let’s try that a-gin!” She also never stops talking. Ever. Maybe this is why she sounds like she is losing her voice. Occasionally she looks right into the camera and her eyes open a little too wide with that crazy look, and I know that she is here to keep me entertained as well as strengthen, lengthen, and tone my entire body.

I wonder who Denise Austin’s target audience is. Her frequent use of phrases like, “you’re doing this for you,” brought to mind a woman in her 50’s, forever put upon, who has time for herself now that those kids are out of the house and darn it, isn’t going to feel guilty one bit!

The sparseness of the set, decorated with leftover sails from a marina’s going out of business sale, is emphasized by her lack of backup helper friends. I wonder if she is lonely. Maybe when she says “you’re doing this for you,” she’s really talking to herself.

There was a moment during the cool down where I think she just forgot what comes next, because she suddenly blurted out, “And now, a little Tai Chi!” and swished her arms back and forth like an ensemble dancer in a community theatre production of Pippin. It doesn’t look like Tai Chi to me. Then she does it a-gin. So maybe it was part of the routine after all, and I’m a cold and cruel woman for laughing out loud every time. Oh, Denise Austin, I adore you. Don’t ever change.

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