Celebrity Workout VHS
“Once upon a time (specifically, the late eighties to the mid-nineties), there was one gig available to any person with even the smallest modicum of fame: releasing a workout video. You didn’t need to have any particular background in exercise; all you needed was a really loud spandex outfit (or, if a senior citizen, a roomy sweat suit), a camera crew, and a very cheap set, and you had yourself a VHS release.
This was a glorious era that reveled in the complete and total absence of irony, a notion readily apparent in the collection of these vintage tapes we found on the YouTube channel of Aaron Valdez. Valdez tells us he amassed his collection through “eBay but also at garage sales, thrift stores, and from friends, and after about a year, I had over a hundred.”
I hate chunk food. I only like to get vegetable.
From my Hard Stars collection, the largest… well, the only collection of celebrity workout VHS, I present one of the finest celebrity workout videos ever made. I give you Sid Caesar’s Shape Up!
The video begins with an uncomfortably long comedic introduction, a true gem for bad video connoisseurs. I’ve reduced the first twenty minutes down to a watchable two minutes, something the editor should have done thirty years ago. The editing at the beginning, or lack thereof, is the first indication that no thought whatsoever was put into this video. If Sid had decided to stage a monkey knife fight in the middle of the workout it would have made it to tape. Skip to the 2:20 mark to get to the workout.
The first thing you will notice is that the entire workout was shot in a hotel room. Sid paces like a caged animal from room to room while his psychotic voiceover repeats “Make friends with yourself, you’re the boss of you!” Like the video, I assume the voiceover was recorded in one take. We’re introduced to a couple of young ladies in lingerie to serve as your inspiration to get in shape and Sid’s inspiration to show up the day of the shoot.
In what has to be the strangest equipment recommendations of any workout video ever, Sid opens a bag and tell us that all we need are a couple of sponges and a bar. Try getting that bag through airport security without any questions.
We follow Sid as he slowly sheds his clothes during the course of his Cape Fear-like prison workout. He does dips and curls using chairs, push-ups against walls and dressers, abdominal work on pillows, and pull-ups with his trusty bar. His form on these exercises is terrible and their effectiveness questionable, by the end of the tape he’s down to performing pelvic thrusts against a doorjam in his blue bikini briefs and tube socks because he thinks it may be good for the prostate. It’s anyone’s guess how he got into such great shape doing this routine over the years.
Take all these weirdly wonderful things and add to it the palpable tension that housekeeping will walk in at any moment while Sid is “being a friend to himself” makes Sid Caesar’s Shape Up! one of the best celebrity workout videos ever put to tape.