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Celebrity Zoo: Celebrity Fit Club,
Season 3

Sad fat celebrities

Starring: Tempestt Bledsoe, Jeff Conaway, Countess Vaughn, Bruce Vilanch, Kelly LeBrock, Young M.C., Chastity Bono, and Bizarre

Week One: Off to a Waddling Start (1/1/03)
Week Two: Grease Burns (1/8/06)
Week Three: Volkslauf: It isn’t a German Beer (1/15/06)
Week Four: Bellies Round Like Zorbs (1/22/06)
Week Five: Surf's Up, and so is Countess' weight (1/29/06)
Week Six: You Never Forget How to Ride a Tricycle (2/12/06)
Week Seven: Grease Stains (2/19/06)

WeeK One

2006 has brought us a third season of Celebrity Fit Club (CFC), a show I surmised wouldn’t last one full season due to my misguided theory that fans wouldn’t want to see fat celebrities humiliated. Boy, was I wrong. Basically, the show works like this: celebs kvetch about their lack of willpower with a potpourri of rationalizations and childish acting out. Eight celebs are placed on two teams and each team is given lackluster incentives to lose 5-7 lbs per week.

I can’t believe CFC has lasted this long. It must be VH1’s placement of the premiere on New Years Day to compliment our new year’s weight-loss resolutions; or maybe it’s our weight-obsessed culture colliding with our reality-addicted natures. I can’t quite figure it out because the show was never really all that riveting. Although I did waste the better part of a Sunday watching reruns of Season 2 - Jani Lane’s downward addiction spiral and Willie Aames meltdown (who then received teammate counseling from a comparatively rational Gary Busey, of all people).

This season seems to have upped the ante with a mostly inebriated Jeff Conaway (Bobby Wheeler on Taxi; Kenickie in Grease; Zack on Babylon 5). This begs the question, is weight loss really the primary problem of a substance abuser? This season’s cast also includes: Tempestt Bledsoe (Vanessa on The Cosby Show), Countess Vaughn (Kim Parker on Moesha, and The Parkers), Bruce Vilanch (square of the Hollywood Squares), Kelly LeBrock (fantasy woman in Weird Science), Young M.C. (rapper of “Bust a Move”), Chastity Bono (famous gay-rights activist and daughter of Sonny & Cher), and Bizarre (rapper in D12, Eminem’s posse).

Coolia’s Rankings for 1/1/06:

1. Bruce Vilanch - funny but hard to look at.
2. Young M.C. - good attitude.
3. Bizarre - has a real dilemma because he's only famous for his stomach.
4. Chas - seems to have a good attitude but needs to speak up more.
5. Tempestt Bledsoe - doesn’t really need to be there, but not annoying.
6. Countess Vaughn - barely there.
7. Kelly LeBrock - if it's true she gained weight to be on the show, then I’m deeply disturbed.
8. Jeff Conaway – a trainwreck.

Nerdia’s Rankings for 1/1/06:

1. Chastity – She will always be number one on this show - she’s the daughter of a legend and yet her own person – albeit her own fat person. Is well-spoken and a real go-getter. Even if that’s going to get doughnuts.
2. Kelly LeBrock – Kelly rocks for getting fat to flip off boys.
3. Countess Vaughn – pretty even when fat. Was second banana to Moesha and I’m always fond of second bananas (see Harvey Korman).
4. Young M.C. – Where is the fat? (sung to the tune of "Where is the Love?") He’s muscular and sensible seeming.
5. Tempestt Bledsoe – Why does that extra T serve? It’s two decades later and I still don’t know. Vanessa was an annoying character on The Cosby Show but Tempessstttt has grown into an unannoying, pretty (and again, where is the fat?) gal.
6. Bizarre – Stupid name, stupid shower caps, stupid attachment to his fat.
7. Bruce Vilanch – Why is he there? He’s heart isn’t in it – his fat must have eaten his heart.
8. Jeff Conaway – Cliché of a trainwreck.

Coolia’s Comments
It never ceases to amaze me the way celebs will humiliate themselves for free stuff. Yes, they're getting some TV exposure to warm up their frozen careers, but mainly I think they sign up for this show to get free personal training sessions and diet food.
If there's one thing I've learned from working for fat cats, it's that they don't like to pay for anything even though they can afford it. So I bet VH1 has a bushel-load of rotund D-list celebs on a waiting list to break out their bikinis and get on this show. They have a good assortment this time around, all different body types from the super-sized Bizarre to the semi-thick Countess. I've only watched a few episodes of this show in the past, so I am not sure what to expect from the coming weeks. Initially, I was amused by Bruce Vilanch, although he always annoyed me on Hollywood Squares. He's very hard to look at - with his unflattering tucked-in t-shirts, strange neck/chin/bulging fat face, mop hair, and pasty white belly. But he cracked me up at two points in particular: when the celebs had to stand in rows and he found himself next to Chastity, he said "we're the gay row." I also laughed when he walked when he was supposed to sprint and only mustered 1 foot on his long jump because he didn't try. I wonder if the drill sergeant will be able to break him of his fitness mockery. When the panel rattled off his health problems, he didn't flinch. Besides Bruce, I'm mostly interested in Bizarre. He has an interesting conundrum - he's only famous for being fat, as evidenced by his heavily-tattooed Buddha-belly. If he loses the weight, will his career be over? His doctor pointed out that his career will be over if he doesn't lose the weight because he'll be dead, but the doctor must not be familiar with Tupac and Biggie who continue to release albums years after their death. I like Chastity and her bold bikini-wearing, although she didn't show much personality on this episode. She did have a good line when Bruce mentioned he'd always been fat and Chastity said "so you've never seen your penis?" I guess being team leader will force her to interact more. Countess, Tempest and Young M.C. were just there - not too fat and not too interesting. I'm not going to spend much time on Jeff Conaway because he's just the typical "trainwreck" that gets booked for these shows, and I'm afraid the trainwreck is getting boring. It looks like he'll be leaving the show next week, which is fine with me. He looks bad and slurs his speech and seems to be on so many medications that I can only surmise that he must have Elvis' doctor. Before the show came on, I heard rumors that Kelly LeBrock gained weight to go on the show and if that's true that really disturbs me because there must be a lot of truly fat stars who could have benefited from her slot. What does she think this is - Raging Bull?

Question to Nerdia: Would Chastity slip to #2 if she had a Jeff-like meltdown?

Nerdia’s Comments
Probably not. I would just say she’s earned a meltdown. And I would say this with complete disregard to the fact that I don’t know Chastity or what she deserves. I must say the show is off to a sluggish start. I feel two contradictory feelings about this show and the reality genre as it exists today: I’m tired of fabricated put-on drama and yet the dramalessness of this first show feels numb and flat. I realize I don’t know what I want.

I do know I want to like it. In fact, I have a minor vested interest, as a Cher Scholar, in Chastity Bono’s progress. Over the years I have come to like Chastity (or Chas as her peeps call her). To be frank, I did not dig her as a tot babbling about life with her parents at the end of The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. As a tot-S&C fan myself, I was mostly jealous of her spot as the adored-child of the bugle-beaded duo. And I felt a sense of pure outrage when I learned Chastity was not only born the same year I was, but a few months ahead of me. It simply couldn’t be! Chastity as a TV character should be perpetually Shirley-Temple-like and never age or in any case certainly not be older than moi, the stalwart 7 year-old S&C fan.

Then we all watched her grow up in People Magazine spreads and in clips from Barbara Walters specials. She went tomboy somewhere in there, the kind of tomboy who most probably had the urge to prowl the schoolyard and beat up Cher fans. That wasn’t a good development.

Then she came out. And surprisingly not in a smug, entitled-child-of-celebrity way. In her book, Family Outing, and on talk shows, she came across as smart, well-spoken, and unassuming. She appeared dikey sometimes (showing her pocket knife collection on Howie Mandel’s talk show), but other times domestic, with a recipe in her mother’s chef’s cookbook Cooking with Cher, and then other times downright girlie, like when she expressed schoolgirlish glee at being paired on a CFC team with Countess Vaughn.

One Cher fan friend of mine recently raised the issue that Chas might be using her already reality-show life as daughter of S&C and exploiting it for money with books and appearances. She’s signed for a home-improvement reality show as well. If this happens to be true, it’s exploitation quid pro quo in my book. I’m sure her parents didn’t lug her out on stage every week for her own good.

So far, I’m also inclined to like Kelly LeBrock. Her being-skinny-aint-the-holy-grail testimony sounded sincere. Moreso than when Tyra Banks whines about it. She’s not coming across as a smug “don’t hate me because I’m beautiful” ice queen. And yet doesn’t seem to be bonding with her teammates, either.

The show’s host, Ant, was absolutely insufferable on But Can They Sing, with his various unoriginal and unfunny gay puns. Maybe he’s been made to “tone down the gay” on this show to make room for the unfunny, canned jokes of Bruce Vilanch. Rumor has it Vilanch wrote the monologues for Cher’s farewell tour. If you’ve seen Cher’s last tour, and I did far too many times, you’ll know the term monologue is a stretch. The humor was packaged more in quip form, one-offs at best. Not even full one-liners. “Ladies and gentleman and flamboyant gentleman” – is that the work of Vilanch? On this show, Vilanch plays up his act of "not trying" maybe in an attempt to avoid looking stupid or incompetent. Or maybe simply just to get a laugh. Either way, it just feels lazy to me.

It’s also hard to drum up much love for Jeff Conaway. I’m beginning to recall Marilu Henner’s memoir about her experiences working with him on the stage version
of Grease (way before the movie and the TV show Taxi). He sure seems like a self-absorbed dramaniac with gallons of excuses for his plights. This is a tired trainwreck I can’t easily tune out.

Vanessa Bledsoe was never my favorite Cosby Show character. But Tempestt has blossomed; she doesn’t seem fat enough to be on the show. The same can be said of Countess from Moesha and The Parkers. Due to the ghettoization of black TV shows on UPN, these are shows I’ve never seen. But clips show a wise-cracking chunky Countess that I would most likely find likable. However, she’s already gone through a serious makeover and I cannot understand why she made the fat cut on this show (weighing only 130 pounds) when Kelly LeBrock was rumored to have force-fed herself to qualify. Both Countess and Tempesssstt look fine to me. I worry that the Countess may never be satisfied with her weight no matter how much she loses and we might well have a tragic story of anorexia or bulimia on our hands. And I thought only mousy white women, like Karen Carpenter and Tracey Gold developed this problem. Young M.C. likewise seems big but not fat. Of the two rappers, he seems more level-headed and dedicated to self-improvement. I fear Bizarre and Vilanch with their not-taking-their-health-issues-seriously will get old and frustrating fast. Their humorous denials are just as flaccid as Jeff’s pathetic rationalizations in their own way. And I doubt Vilanch’s body of humor writing can surmount the inevitable fat-death jokes that will ensue when he’s discovered like a beached whale in some Vegas hotel (Ref. John Candy, Chris Farley, Elvis)…

Read more Celebrity Zoo reviews

How do you feel about the celebrity fat epidemic? Please refrain from dropping any Jeff Conaway sympathy in our forum. Many thanks.


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