Friday, September 30, 2011


Kids, this is why cocaine is a dangerous, nasty drug. Don't do it.

You think it's allllll good when it's 1977 and you're the queen of the Milwaukee disco scene, gettin down every weekend with the glittery people 'til the wee hours and having AMAZING conversations with your new best friends as the sun comes up, and you all just GET EACH OTHER so much and it's magical and you're destined for greatness, you just gotta be.

But then suddenly it's 1982 and you're wearing white stirrup tights and hell-bent on showing the world just what kind of CA-RAAAAZY AWESOME PARTY STARTER you really are! It's not over for you yet. Hell to the no, it's not over yet. YOU'LL SHOW EVERYONE!!!!

See if you can make it all the way through that clip. It took me a couple tries.

Also, I've replayed it half a dozen times, and I swear she says, "Move that Jew little boogie body!" at 1:49. Am I wrong on this?

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sweatin' out Satan

So I was watching the televangelist channel last night, learning about a special offer to pay my bills supernaturally with the power of God -- gotta love Robert Tilton: the man's been sued for fraud, investigated by the government and exposed on the national news, yet he just keeps on scammin' -- and I saw this:

Made me wonder what other religious workouts are out there...

"Mormon Muscle Burn"?

(Btw, that image was taken from the very real website You won't be saying hasa diga eebowai after feasting your eyes on these hunks!)

"Klezmer Cardio Party"?

"Buddha Belly Blast"?

How about "Pontius Pilates"? No good? Don't think Christians would go for that? Probably not.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Some Monday weirdness + happy birthday, Jack LaLanne

I was going to play it straight today with a plain ol' video and some "fresh start Monday!" jibber-jabber, but I was also going to stop my drinking for the weekend after the (AMAZING) Saints-Texans game yesterday. Instead, I found myself talking to some new friends over Manhattans at a swanky hotel bar with Little Richard in the house (he was hangin' -- no big deal), and I learned about this little oddity, "Color Me Beautiful." So here we are.

C'est bizarre, non?

Workout video parodies are pretty old hat, yes, but mix it with an art-school director (Christian Simmons for Savannah College of Art and Design) and some aggressive, symbolically dubious blasts of paint, and you get "Color Me Beautiful."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Jack LaLanne, Mother's Little Helper

I just followed along with the first episode of "The Jack LaLanne Show" from 1959, (which you can watch on YouTube or at, and though I'm not sweating, I'm smiling. I'm also thinking about high-fructose corn syrup.

I'll explain that later. First, the good stuff:

LaLanne, founder of Trimnastics and the "Godfather of Fitness," was an impeccably-torsoed he-man everyman who invited himself into American living rooms and basically invented workout videos. For this, World of Sass owes him a great deal.

A bodybuilder and nutritionist at a time when "feeling the burn" meant "social disease," LaLanne was aware he was pushing a new concept. So he structured his half-hour TV broadcast with "Trimnastic" exercises the average housewife could do in her living room -- or while sitting down with a cigarette and a cocktail in hand -- interspersed with 1- to 2-minute-long morsels of wisdom, encouragement and self-promotion.

He was smart, this Jack LaLanne. (I'd like to start calling him Trimnasty, because was just that balling.)  Trimnasty often starts out episodes by addressing the children inevitably left in front of the television set, asking the boys and girls to go get their mothers and "tell her that Jack LaLanne is waiting!" Sometimes, as a reward for doing his bidding, he shows them how he can "blow up" his muscle.

This guy is chock full o' plainspoken corniness like that. He wears a silhouette-hugging, waist-cinched jumpsuit and black ballet slippers. As he goes into an exercise, you know it's time to follow along by the jolly live organ accompaniment playing "Daisy Bell" or "That's Amore." When LaLanne tells the audience to take a deep breath, the organ gives a big wheeze to join in the exhale.

Seeing as at-home fitness as we know it was still in its infancy in the '50s, it makes sense that the program comes across to a modern audience almost as a kids' show. However, though the calorie-burning aspect of LaLanne's routines are mild by today's standards, they're full of classic moves you just can't argue with, many of them taken from ballet and basic calisthenics. Stationary leg and knee raises, relévés, hamstring curls and pedal kicks haven't gone anywhere; it's just the intensity and the soundtrack that's changed.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Meh days, brisk walks and Crunch "CardioSculpt"

VIDEO: "CardioSculpt," from the Crunch series, available on Netflix instant streaming
STYLE: Circuit training-style combo of light aerobics and quality dumbbell exercises
INTENSITY: For beginners, moderate to intense. For intermediate and up, light to moderate.
STRUCTURE: Just over 30 minutes total; brisk 4-minute warm-up; 20 minutes alternating aerobic and weights exercises; 4 minutes floor exercises; 3-minute cool-down.
GIST: A pretty solid 30-minute workout that gets your heart rate up, but focuses more on an all-over tone than serious cardio work. Interesting variations on classic exercises make the workout challenging and semi-fresh even for more advanced folks. The cardio exercises are so-so, and the look and feel is definitely same-old, same-old.

Some days are going to be sloggy. Meh. Comme ci, comme ca. The usual. Not every day can be brazzle-dazzle, dancing on a lighthouse with Helen Reddy and wearing amazing sailor pants. But a meh day is better than a terrible, awful, no-good day, right? And looking back, you realize it wasn't that meh at all, because it was just another day of wins and losses, ups and downs -- another day of being alive.

Sometimes, circumstances -- misplaced your fave videos, tired of your workout routine and needing something new in a pinch, just generally feeling pissy, etc. -- require us to do the more "meh" workout, because it's better than no workout. More important, it can save us from slipping into "Whatever, I'm getting cheese fries" regression. Or worse, (unless you're the Fat Boys).

Monday, September 19, 2011

Welcome to Clubland + Criteria for Successful Sass

Friends, I want to tell you about a magical place called Clubland.

I've been racking my brain trying to encapsulate as thrilling and fantastical a place as Clubland, because it can't be contained in a single video or review. Its goodness shines across the sassosphere. It lights up my life. It is my special funtime workout sweet spot happy place, the single best thing to happen in my fitness career thus far. Okay?

Clubland is the (my) collective term for two UK workout video series, both put out by house music labels catering to the raving, clurrbing, foam partying young people of Europe. They are: Ministry of Sound (the biggest and oldest) and the namesake Clubland. The fitness videos -- only available for sale in the UK, which is a damn shame -- are a perfect synthesis of rigorous dance-based aerobics, fly-girl/boy choreography and strength training. They are Cher/Di and you are Tai. They want to dress you up and be your slightly superior but ultimately got-your-back friends. They hit all my marks for a successful workout video. Here's why:

1. They're long enough (70-90 minutes) and challenging enough to count as real, fuck-yeah sweat-fests, which is where so many "20-Minute Hot Bodz!" workouts come up short. According to American College of Sports Medicine/American Heart Association guidelines, 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 times a week is only enough to maintain one's weight. To lose weight the right way, you're looking at 50-90 minutes of mostly-cardio exercise 5 days a week, plus regular strength training. Ouch. But take heart! Read on...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Totally Mel B: From Scary to Sporty

Look at Mel B! Totally hot, totally charming, totally working it in this video, "Totally Fit: Mel B." Totally check out this preview:

Former Spice Girl toning and moaning in the sun? I'm interested! The workout breakdown (warm-up, 25 minutes cardio, 40 minutes targeted toning, cool-down) looks good and the moves seem interesting enough, although Mel seems to be doing an awful lot of counting. When will instructors of the world learn? No grown-up likes being treated as if they can't count to 8, so don't count every rep every time! Unless it's a turbo-mega-overdrive thing or a Billy Blanks minion-survival thing, which this clearly isn't. Just get some better background music and come in with the count when we're at the halfway and/or almost-there point. K?

Speaking of better music: I guess Mel B doesn't own the rights to the Spice Girls catalog? Because if she does and she didn't use this workout video as an opportunity to release new Euro-house remixes of Spice Girls songs, then the world really is an unfair place.

Aside from the counting, this video seems promising. She's got sass, a brassy and encouraging bedside manner, and -- it must be said -- some marvelous tits that she and the camera lo-hoooove to show off as they sparkle in the sun. Ain't nothin wrong with some good old-fashioned boobular distraction, right?

Wrong, if you're this lady [on]:
I did like the workouts, but after doing it a few times I started realizing that a lot of the camera angles are focused on her chest, stomach, and between legs (I'm trying to put it nicely). I quickly began to feel uncomfortable putting this video on in front of my children because it's clear this is also meant to be used for adult "entertainment". I ended up throwing it in the trash.
 C'mon, lady, Mel was just givin' you everything! All the joy it brings. Yes she swears.

This one's going on my short list!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Streaming Sass & "The Situation Workout"

I learned a few important things today.

1. Netflix has a modest but decent library of fitness videos available on instant streaming. This is marvelous news! They're culled mostly from the Crunch, 10 Minute Solutions and Dance Off the Inches series, with a few randos thrown in. Which leads me to...

2. Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino of "Jersey Shore" shadenfame has a workout video. Of course he does. It promises to give you "the recipe for your own Situation" and features two vaguely guidette-ish chicks, along with Mike's meathead bestie from the block, dubbed The Unit. (Why "The Unit"? Says he: "You don't choose the nickname; the nickname choose you.") As for the chicks' nicknames, they get to share the generic, maddening "sweetheart," along with douchey molestations from "the man, the myth, the legend" himself.

The Unit, at your service.

The only workout that includes special instruction in sexual harassment!

3. Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino has a fairly decent workout video. I would never do it for real because of reasons already stated and further elaborated below, but in terms of the actual workout, I can't find too much to hate on. It consists of five 10-minute circuit-training segments, each of them a combination of dumbbell exercises and "active rest" aerobics. The whole workout, about an hour long, amounts to P90X: "Jersey Shore" Edition.

For some, that's not only tolerable; it's a selling point. For me, not even an ironic fan of that Music Television programme, I'd rather suffer the private humiliation of the entire "Dance the Chakras Yoga Workout" than listen to Signore Situation opine on himself, his haters and women, (but mostly himself).

Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday Fit-Fart: You're not tripping. Those really are poodle people.

Ah, if only this were real. It's a parody of Susan Powter's original workout video, made by Nagi Noda for Panasonic for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. Why? Why ask why? Real or fake, the world is weirder with it around.  

I tried to find a clip of the Powter workout, but she has either a busy legal team or a dearth of tech-savvy fans. I did, however, come upon this:

That's pretty much how I felt the first time I tried Billy Blanks' Tae Bo Advanced. 

Speaking of Susan Powter, I never thought I'd have a use for this other than my own awed amusement, but I found her cookbook, "C'mon America, LET'S EAT!" in my parents' attic a while ago and oh my lord is it CRAY. Here's the start of the introduction, verbatim:

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"I'm not too good with this one."

VIDEO: "The Jordan Workout," (2 Entertain Video, 2005). Note: This video is only available for purchase in the UK, but the entire thing is on YouTube in six segments. See the video embedded below to get started.)
STYLE: Light cardio kickboxing and standing/floor exercises
STRUCTURE: Warmup; 15-minute cardio kickboxing segment; 15-minute standing exercise segment; 15-minute floor exercise segment; cool-down
GIST: This isn't a fully realized workout, so don't do it except for a laugh, (total fitness beginners who are also fans of Katie Price excluded).

I was going to cover "The Jordan Workout" as a fun little trifle, then got sucked into hostess/workout slacker Katie Price's whole orbit, then did the entire workout and took notes in order to review it for real, then realized how crappy the workout is and am now writing about it a fun little trifle, but for real. This is the Holly Golightly of workout videos: She's phony; she's real; she's a real phony.

Let me explain. Have you never heard of Katie Price? No? Then you probably don't live in the UK. If you did, you'd know all about this girl's start as a topless model, time as a reality star and political candidate, series of best-selling novels and autobiographies, string of relationships with soccer stars, impregnation by some soccer star, marriage to musician Peter Andre, divorce from Peter Andre, series of children's books called "My Perfect Ponies," marriage to some other dude, divorce from some other dude, and all-around tabloid chumness. (I don't live in the UK. I got all of the above from Wikipedia and my Scottish roommate.)

So why's it called "The Jordan Workout"? Well, Ms. Price went by the single-name Jordan during her early glamour girl days, and still keeps the name around in a Sasha Fierce kind of way. (Both Katie and Jordan, however, seem pretty lame compared to her given name: Katrina Amy Alexandria Alexis Infield. Dayum, that's like an entire litter of Bratz dolls.)

So, the workout: Katie is the first to admit that she's just there for decoration and moral support -- not, like, peppy encouragement, but rather cheerfully whiny empathy. As Katie explains, in her blasé I-just-popped-a-Xanny delivery, she'd "never ever exercised or dieted in her whole life." But after giving birth and getting ready to get married -- "the two major events in a girl's life" -- she called in the big guns to help her "get back in my G-string in record time."

Enter Richard, who seems game and as surprised as anyone to be doing the heavy lifting for Katie in her Barbie Dream House workout world. (The set, a compact cesspool of pink, goes over the top -- I'm looking at you, high heel chair -- yet makes perfect sense.) Richard introduces himself as "the best fitness trainer in the world, apparently." 

Richard is the kind but tough instructor; Katie is the charmingly bratty pupil, a proxy for her target audience at home. Together, they have a disarming screwball chemistry that makes the decent parts of the workout better. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Diaper dancing or Kundalini cardio? You decide.

Here, for your consideration, is "Dance the Chakras Yoga Workout." It's presented by the yogini duo Ana Brett and Ravi Singh, who seem to have quite a following, if reviews and YouTube comments are any indication. (Full disclosure: I have not done this entire video, only marveled at and done the moves in a couple trailers.) 

I learned of this video's existence back when I was in full Hemalayaa thrall, so I was open to a certain amount of metaphysical mysticism if it complemented and didn't distract from a good workout. I have eagerly followed instructions to "paint the world with love!" while doing a side hamstring stretch. I've visualized negative energy escaping from my pores in a yoga class. (I imagined it looked like this.)

Anyway. I think dancing the chakras is simply beyond my new age threshold. Examine the evidence: 

First off, girlfriend's wearing a diaper. Or boy shorts that strongly resemble a diaper. Combined with the tank top, stringy hair and chicken legs, Ana cuts the figure of a 6-year-old on Saturday morning on a Go-Gurt bender.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hemalayaa: selling you sass, self-esteem and sex

VIDEO: "Hemalayaa: Bollywood Booty" (Gaiam, 2008)
STYLE: Dance-based cardio and toning
INTENSITY: Mild to intermediate; low-impact
STRUCTURE: Three 5- to 12-minute mini-workouts, plus brief warmup and cool-down 
GIST: Best done with a girlfriend(s) and/or a sense of humor. It's fun, silly, sexy and full of harmless new agey self-affirmation. Resistance is futile. 

Hemalayaa. Hemalayaa is the cool older girl you were friends with for a hot minute over the summer who taught you how to flirt and French kiss, combined with your corny sleep-away camp counselor.

The Amazon-described "fitness czarina and yogini" works these two vibes -- sultry and silly -- to great effect in her series of Bollywood videos, and "Bollywood Booty" covers the widest part of that spectrum. It follows the same format as the others: a short warmup, the beginning of which has us touch the ground "to receive Mother Earth's blessing"; four mini-workout segments ranging from 5 to 12 minutes; and a short cool-down.

If you didn't check your ego upon receiving Mother Earth's blessing, you'll have to once Hemalayaa starts bringing out the "Butt Monster." She dedicates the entire first segment (the shortest, at 5.5 minutes) to these so-called moves -- a series of pliés, toe taps, leg lifts and leg curls, which she calls "butt kicks." The Butt Monster moves are monstrous only in the Muppets sense: they're mildly challenging, and perfect for a beginner, but they won't have you screaming for mercy. Which is fine! This is a video that both fitness beginners and sweat junkies can enjoy. Do it with a girlfriend, or your mom.

The second workout segment (8 minutes) gets into cardio, which remains light throughout the video but is fun enough to stave off boredom. Hip shakes, lunges, "Indian vogue arms," hops and pliés get the heart rate going, but it's the third segment (12 minutes) where more advanced participants may finally start to sweat. Hemalayaa draws from belly dance strongly for this bit, which starts off with a figure-eight hip swivel that she calls the Swan. If you've never worked on hip isolations or rolls, this will be a little frustrating, but it's a good place to start. If you have a dance background, especially belly dance, this will be like workout comfort food, nourishing and warm in the tummy. Hemalayaa adds variations on the Swan with arms, and then introduces piece de resistance of the video, the Elk -- so named because it mimics the mating ritual of that animal. Yes. Having seen a Siberian elk mating ritual in the "Planet Earth" series, I'm pretty much an expert in this area, and I must say the move is passably accurate. Try it on your boyfriend or even random people; their genitals just might become engorged. This is what Hemalayaa wants!

Friday, September 2, 2011

You are now entering a World of Sass


Welcome to World of Sass, a blog that surveys the richly varied realm of at-home fitness videos.

My name's Molly. As an ardent consumer and beneficiary of exercise videos for most of my adult life, I've traversed their lycra-lush landscapes many times over in my search for well-made, entertaining workouts. I've seen sparkling, spangled peaks, gentle plains and frightening wastelands -- and I want to chart them all.

Whether they're inspiring, amusing, effective, bizarre, vintage, exhilarating, erotic, maddening, boring or plain god-awful, they'll have a spot on the World of Sass map. Legit videos (fully realized workout, passable production values) I'll review and/or summarize in detail, with accompanying video links; all others will inspire pithy remarks, poems, extended metaphors, etc.

Let the journey through the sassosphere begin!