Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Why Hollywood never beckoned

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For those of you who have never met me I thought I should describe myself. I’m tall and handsome, but not dark. My body is not too dissimilar to Joseph Parker’s and from time to time people mistake me for either Robert Redford or George Clooney. It’s about then that I wake up. The only film star comparisons ever made are either with Jimmy “Schnozz” Durante or Marty Feldman - and they’re both dead!

As for Joseph Parker’s body - well mine would be best described as portly.

But it wasn’t always that way. I was a skinny kid, long of limb but short of body. This peculiarity was accentuated in those days when we would tie the belt that held up our trousers around our waist instead of the hips as we do today. My schoolyard nickname was “daddy longlegs,” cleverly appropriate when you consider my surname. I had big ears that stuck out at right angles which also earned me the nomenclature of “Wingnut.”

The school playground can be so cruel.

Apparently keen to continue my ongoing self-consciousness my parents would remind me that apart from a big nose I also had a droopy eyelid and a weak chin. Nothing much you could do with the chin, but they did offer me surgery for the ears to be pinned back and the eyelid to be lifted. Being a coward for the chloroform mask I declined both offers.

I understood their magnanimity. They would have been worried sick that no member of the opposite sex would be attracted to me and I would spend the rest of their lives living at home.

Amazingly over time the ears flattened out and the eyelid stopped drooping, probably after looking through a myriad of keyholes, but the rest of the asymmetries remained. The chin doubled, and then tripled. Someone, perhaps a past member of the Lansdowne schoolyard, unkindly suggested I had more chins than the Beijing telephone book.

Weak chins can be disguised by growing a beard. I tried this once, but beards tend to attract food items that have inadvertently missed the mouth cavity at feed time. They also constantly itch. While I had the beard people told me I looked like entertainer Ray Woolf and although this was the best comparison I’d had, it wasn’t enough of an incentive to keep it.

A few years ago I stood for the mayoralty. Instead of taking Helen Clark’s lead and opting for an airbrushed photograph for promotional purposes I decided to approach brilliant Dunedin caricature artist Murray Webb to do a head and shoulder image. I sent a front-on and profile photo and he rang me and said would I mind if he used the profile. I reluctantly agreed, but was delighted with the end result. Despite being instantly recognisable, Webb had done something no plastic surgeon could have contemplated; he had given me a chin.

My campaign committee weren’t convinced. I should have taken myself more seriously they reckoned. The electorate agreed; I lost the contest.

To preserve the body beautiful of late I have taken up pilates. “Bodymind Pilates” the company calls itself and encourages our class of aging men to turn up weekly and go through excruciating pain to uphold our posture. It’s an appropriate name. While the body winces the mind says come back next week, it can only get better. But it never does.

“You’re looking good” our attractive instructor repeatedly tells us. It’s a corporate exultation meant for all of us, but she’s lying. With perhaps one or two exceptions, most look awful.

We are given vinyl mats, plastic balls and a rubber band made out of balloon-like material and we use these to twist and turn in contortions people of our age should never be subjected to.

Amongst our group are a retired doctor and a retired lawyer, handy if we are about to have a cardiac arrest and need to make sure our wills are current. However there is no guarantee that either of them could get to us from the other side of the studio in time if we needed them to.

We’re doing our best, but Joseph Parker could knock us all out with one blow.

“The word ‘aerobics’ came about when the gym instructors all got together and said “If we’re going to charge ten dollars an hour, we can’t call it ‘jumping up and down.’” - Rita Rudner


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