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Hey, she's 'Perfect'
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 17, 2002
The mission: To uncover, in one day, how Jamie Lee Curtis' decision to pose in her underwear on the pages of More magazine -- without makeup or special lighting, with love handles in plain view -- has affected the lives of ordinary women (and others) in the Tampa Bay area.
Time: 10:30 a.m. Place: Sunshine Bowl, Pinellas Park.
The ratio of men to women (about 27-1) appears prohibitive. Also prohibitive is the manager's request that the reporter leave immediately, as people in the bowling alley are, for the most part, there to bowl and are not interested in being bothered about Jamie Lee Curtis, even nearly au naturel.
Time: 10:45. Place: Pinellas ParkSide mall, Pinellas Park.
Julie Barriger, a 33-year-old cosmetologist, and Mick Ferrari, her boss, who gives his age as "slightly younger than Jamie Lee and you won't see my picture up there," are idly passing the time at "Mick for Hair," right across from the ice-skating rink. Shiny red, silver and blue American flag decorations hang from the ceiling. "Mick for Hair" is celebrating "20 years of keeping Tampa Bay beautiful." There are no customers.
"I say she's got a lot of nerve," says Ferrari.
"I say kudos to her, because there's a lot to say about foundation garments," says Barriger. "If anything, it might be a plus for us because people can see what a team of beauty professionals can do."
"That's why beauty issues are best left in the hands of professionals," repeats Ferrari.
Time: 11:30. Place: Sunstate Academy of Hair Design, Clearwater.
"I love her," announces Pat Kapfhammer, the 61-year-old admissions director. "I think she's the most marvelous positive person. What's neat about her -- she's not ashamed of herself in any way."
She continues with a glowing discourse about Curtis for a few moments, bringing over Becky D'Amico, a 33-year-old student barber, to back her up.
"She still looks great, and it's good to see she doesn't have the perfect body," says D'Amico. "Good haircut, too."
"You want a man's point of view?" Kapfhammer asks and without pausing yells, "Thomas!"
Thomas Chiffriller, 36, also a student barber, comes over wearing a regulation black robe and carrying a broom. He hears the question and asks warily, "You want to know if, as a man, I like it?"
"I applaud it," he says. "I think it's neat. I wish more women were happy with their appearance."
But what about he and D'Amico studying for careers that center on changing the way people look?
"We're just dealing with one aspect of overall beauty," says Chiffriller. "We're just doing hair."
Time: 1:15 p.m. Place: Clearwater Beach, Clearwater.
Beth Prast, 52, and Robin Henry, 42, are sitting in beach chairs, Prast in a black bikini, Henry in a black one-piece swimsuit. The two Kentuckians are spending the last day of their vacation sipping bottled water and toasting themselves to a dark brown.
"I think it was really brave of her to do it," Prast says, carefully studying the photo. "I never would've expected her body to look like that."
"People tell me all the time that I look like this woman," she adds. "Perfect strangers come up and say it."
Maybe the shape of her face? the reporter suggests. Prast puts the magazine up next to her cheek.
"I just don't see it," says Prast.
Well, maybe it's the eyes? Prast removes her sunglasses to reveal heavily mascaraed lashes.
"They're blue, sometimes," she says. No one comments.
"If I had her body of 10 or 15 years ago, I would have been naked all the time," Prast says of Curtis.
Will other celebrities do what Curtis has done?
"No," says Henry, "she's always been a rebel."
Will this affect the way women feel about their bodies?
"No," says Henry.
"We all would like to have the perfect body, you know?" says Prast.
"Oh yeah," says Henry, lighting a cigarette. "But then reality sets in."
"I can sit here on this beach and find tons and tons of people that look worse than me in a swimsuit," says Prast. "But then I can see tons and tons that look really good in a swimsuit, and that offsets the bad ones."
Several yards down the beach, Sue Pfeiffer 48, of Tampa, is relaxing in a flowered black bikini. "She looks worse than I do," Pfeiffer exclaims. "She makes me feel better for myself when I see what she looks like without clothes. You got to give her credit."
Next to Pfeiffer, a young woman with pierced tongue and belly button studs offers no comment except, "She looks chunky."
Time: 5:15. Place: Shapes Total Fitness, St. Petersburg.
Inside the fitness center, the sound of whirring fans mixes with the rasp of treadmills and the pumping music of a step-aerobics class.
"She probably doesn't exercise," diagnoses Denise Gabriel, 49, the club's general manager, as she studies Curtis' figure. "The reality is, if you don't exercise, you risk getting a lot of body fat as you head toward menopause."
Gabriel works out regularly. But after seeing what a little black dress has done to transform Curtis' body, Gabriel vows to purchase one as well. Not all patrons share Gabriel's view, however. When her opinion is solicited at the entrance to the gym, Gwen Kaldenberg, a 44-year-old director of a dementia unit in St. Petersburg, gives a thumbs up to Curtis' decision.
"Good," she says. Should Curtis start working out, as Gabriel has suggested?
"No, not at all. She's got kids and everything. She needs to be comfortable with her body."
Still, Kaldenberg does admit some surprise at the photo.
"I remember seeing her in True Lies," she says. "I thought she had a great body."
Time: 6:45. Place: AMC 6 concession stand, Tyrone Square Mall, St. Petersburg.
Reporter approaches movie theater professionals, accidentally knocking over a pile of plastic lids in the process.
"Don't worry about it," Amber Cole says in a reassuring voice tinged with only the slightest hint of amusement.
For three months, Cole, 18, has been working part time selling overpriced popcorn. She has not seen the picture of Curtis before.
"I think she's gotten chunkier," Cole observes. Cole speculates that the moviegoing public might not approve of the change. She considers the photo to be a positive step, "instead of looking fake and all skinny like Britney Spears."
Cole calls over co-worker Dominic Sinibaldi, 19, for a second opinion. Sinibaldi has seen Austin Powers nine times and XXX eight times, all screenings free since he began working at the concession stand six months and nine days earlier. Sinibaldi thinks Curtis has generally done a good job, although he cannot remember a specific movie in which she has acted. He searches his mind for a second before remembering that he has seen her in several commercials for a cell phone service.
"It makes sense, because that's who she is," he comments about the photo, "and it helps people realize that these are really real people. Then again, when they get arrested on drug charges, they get off because they can afford to hire million-dollar lawyers."
He pauses, then ventures another opinion.
"I think a lot of people read too deeply into the movies."
Time: 8:45. Place: Denny's restaurant on Dale Mabry, Tampa.
The couple in the booth behind the reporter are discussing calories with their waitress, Shantel Bowen, 38. The man explains to Bowen that he is on a diet and wants oatmeal for dinner.
"With fixin's?" Bowen asks.
"Oh, all right, sure," he says.
Meanwhile, Lacie Fountain, 26, is serving large plates of pancakes, hash browns, eggs, toast and chicken-fried steak to the reporter's table. Fountain appears blissfully unaware that she is about to be assaulted with a question about a clothingless Curtis.
"Well, see, I never thought of her as being particularly sexy in the first place, so I don't consider it a big deal," says Fountain, a Detroit native who has been a Denny's employee for the past week. She contemplates the magazine some more, shaking her head.
Bowen springs over from the dieters table and peeks eagerly over Fountain's shoulder. Bowen is wearing a white T-shirt adorned with a large American flag. Underneath the flag, the words "Try to Burn this One" are silk-screened in large type. On the back: "Impeach the Supreme Court, Our Flag is to be Honored, not Burned."
"I want to see!" Bowen says.
Fountain passes her the magazine.
"Wow!" says Bowen, "I see her as being very thin. That's a shock to me."
She considers the page a bit more.
"Well," she says, "they say the camera adds 10 pounds."
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