And then there is Jared Fogle. He's the once-morbidly-bese, now- thin-and-ultra-chipper spokesman for Subway Sandwiches' low-fat menu. He claims to have lost 245 pounds -- over half his body weight -- by walking and eating nothing but a steady diet of Subway sandwiches and baked potato chips. It sounds like just another marketing ploy cooked up around a conference table by smartly appointed advertising types in black outfits and chunky designer eyewear. But no. Before he started munching chicken and veggie-sandwiches Fogle really did weigh nearly half a metric ton. Now he's long and gangly. Thanks to a combination of fortitude and good fortune Fogle is the rarest of TV spokespersons: He's the real-meal deal.
Fogle stopped in Memphis recently during a promo tour for Subway.
Flyer: Did you set out on this diet hoping to become the TV spokesperson for Subway?
Jared Fogle: Halfway through the diet, around the fall of 1998, my mom wrote a letter to Subway. Never got a response. Maybe the letter got lost in the mail, I don't know, but it never got a response. I didn't think Subway was going to care anyway and that just reinforced it for me. But that was okay because I was doing this for me.
You stress the importance of walking as part of your weight- loss program. How far away did you live from Subway?
I actually shared a wall with them. They were right next door. Obviously I was eating a lot of Subway as it was, just not the low-fat. I was eating the steak-and-cheese and the meatball and stuff like that.
So you didn't get the exercise actually walking to Subway?
Good thing they didn't put in a Pizza Hut or something.
So how did you eventually hook up with Subway?
A friend of mine who wrote for [the Indiana University] newspaper wrote a story about me. He hadn't seen me for eight or nine months, so I was close to the end of the diet, and he didn't recognize me. This happened all the time -- people I knew wouldn't recognize me because it was such a dramatic weight loss. Anyway he thought it was the neatest thing and wanted to write a story about it. That got everything snowballing. They are a big enough paper that the story went out over the AP wire and got picked up all around the country: Portland, Oregon, San Diego, Boston. Shortly after that I got a call from Subway's national advertising agency.
Do you still eat only at Subway?
I don't. I mean I eat at Subway a couple of times a week, but I've had the weight off for two years now. When I'm going to have fast food I eat there, because I don't like the grease or the heaviness of your typical fast food. But I eat what I want now; I just don't eat the quantities.
Now for a math question. Let's say I want to lose 50 pounds by walking to and eating at Subway three times a day. I live five miles from Subway, but only work five blocks from Subway. How long before I lose the 50 pounds?
That's the frustrating part. I don't say to go out and do exactly what I did. For some people it might not take any time at all; but for some people it could cause more problems than it helps. You need to talk to a doctor first because your body could react badly to it.
"I want to be a showgirl," my friend whispers in the dark.
The seven women take the stage in a whirl of plumage, feather fans swishing furiously for the Isle of Capri Casino's Las Vegas Nights show, a sampler platter of Vegas standards: magicians, comedians, singers, and stuntmen. They salsa to a Ricki Martin cover, tap like Lord of the Dance, perform the can-can.
I want to be up there, too.
Other women can get away with wearing bikinis (to the beach), gloves (black-tie functions), and fake eyelashes (um, around the house). But who else gets to wear tiaras or crowns on a daily basis, much less two-foot-tall trees of glitter and glitz on their heads? No one.
"Our lives are not like the movies," one of the showgirls tells me after the show.
"No Gs," a few of them say, almost in unison, referring to the Mississippi state law that forbids them from wearing a G-string on stage. They are seated around a table in the theater, still wearing their costumes from the finale, red bikini tops with silver studs and red trunks, talking about what a showgirl's life is really like.
They work two shows a day, six days a week. They're sore after every show; they're always injured. They go to Wal-Mart after the show because their adrenaline is still pumping, and nothing else is open. Most shows run a couple of months -- if that -- so they almost literally live out of their suitcases.
"We all love dance," says Chali Jennings, one of the featured dancers in the show. "You wouldn't make it if you didn't love it."
As they speak, pieces of their costumes are taken off and discarded in a pile of finery in the middle of the table: red satin gloves, throat pieces adorned with beading, headdresses the size of small European countries. Even without the entire costumes, they have a uniform beauty: long, fake eyelashes, hair pulled back with wig caps, and rosy red cheeks.
"Everyday, we're not glamorous," they say. On their days off, they don't wear makeup. They work out. They eat chocolate.
"There's a minute when I feel glamorous," one of them says. "When we get in the costumes, we are."
And as much as it sounds like showgirling is hard work, I want to be glamorous, too. They show me and my friend how to turn the headdress upside down, hold the brim with both hands, lean our heads into the headdress, and scoop.
When I scoop, something is not quite right. An elastic strap is supposed to hang down from either side of the headdress and clasp underneath the chin to hold it in place. But somehow I've managed to get the whole thing on sideways. I take it off and try again. Again the elastic hangs down between my eyes like a limp noodle.
One of the dancers tucks the offending elastic into the band of the headdress and I totter a few steps in my sneakers. The few pounds of headdress wobble to and fro without the strap, keeping me off balance. The flash of my friend's camera is not helping.
|Balancing act: Kristi Rankin, left, and feathered friend.|
"Try it in three-inch heels," Kristi Rankin, whose headdress I'm wearing, retorts.
Partly, they say, you just get used to it. But of course, there're also years and years of dance training. All of the women, ages 19 to 26, have been dancing since before kindergarten. Which is a good thing, because they don't get sick days.
"So if you have cramps you still have to dance?" my friend asks.
They giggle and Jennings says, "If you have a broken leg, you still have to dance."
"The show must go on," someone else adds.
When we get our photos back, well, my friend and I look like goobers. Goobers in big feather hats. Perhaps without the fake eyelashes and high heels, it just doesn't work.
And then it hits me. The showgirls were the real magicians of the show. They were out there killing themselves and we didn't see anything but the sparkle.