I’m almost sure few of you will remember Susan Powter’s infomercials of a dozen or more years ago, but I found them hard to forget, in spite of the fact that I was never quite sure what she was pitching. For the rest of you, picture this: You can’t sleep. You get up to turn on the TV. You have to get up to turn on the TV because it’s so old there’s no remote. Your choices, at this hour, are limited. You land on an extremely fit woman with a spiky white blond haircut, pacing back and forth across a stage saying “I know three things! You gotta eat, you gotta move, and you gotta breathe!” It may be an exercise video, but it seems more like some weird exercise/self-help hybrid. The voice is an important part of it – her diction is extremely crisp, and her voice is husky, inasmuch as it’s possible to affect a husky voice when you probably don’t actually have one. You have the sense that many hours were spent developing the “look” and the “sound,” and choosing just exactly the right midriff-exposing top, and frankly, if I had her body I might expose my midriff on late night TV as well. Okay, no I wouldn’t. But anyway, so this woman repeats this mantra many times and you begin to consider that possibly a rerun of Hogan’s Heroes would be a better choice, but you cannot look away, and you can’t even use the lack of remote as an excuse. Susan is your new best friend. You find her riveting. You have no desire to be her, you are not even going to be hypnotized into buying whatever she’s selling (a video if you recall correctly), but there’s something mesmerizing about her... you wonder if she’d maybe be your exotic new best friend.
Then she went away.
The other day she came back on one of the morning shows. She’s got the same eat/breathe/ move shtick, more or less, she’s updated her look a bit, added some pinkish blond dreadlocks and a bunch of tattoos, but the midriff is still on view, except now she’s almost fifty. She’s got a few years on you, but her midriff would whup your midriff’s ass in a fight real fast. That night you dream that she’s your personal trainer. You are grateful. She would for sure frighten you into shape at the very least. You wake up and Susan is gone, but not really.
I remember now what it was about those infomercials that struck me all those years ago. I was just beginning to get my shit into a together-type styling, with the support of many friends and a good therapist, and I remember thinking, god, this is probably what people do who don’t have what I have. And while a part of me wants to say, hey, whatever works, another part of me was grateful that I got my help from actual people in the world, and that I didn’t have to work through my issues via infomercial.