Slimming Down With the Stars

We know Angelenos are always hungry for slimming techniques, so we'd like to introduce you to one you may have missed--the Meeting-a-Fabulous-Celebrity diet.

Here's how it works: Meet a fabulous celebrity, then lose weight! Obviously, this doesn't work with just any fabulous celebrity. We wouldn't recommend a shopping spree after a brush with Rosie O'Donnell. Actually, only two celebrities we've encountered have had that slenderizing je ne sais quoi.

The first was Fabio, who whacked a chunky 104 pounds off an Atlanta woman simply by meeting her. "The man freaked me out so bad that in the first two weeks after I met him, I lost 30 pounds," a woman who edited his newsletter, the Gentle Conquerer, told us during the conquerer's reducing heyday awhile back.

The second was Marilu Henner, who freaked us out so bad that we found ourselves at the gym at 6:30 a.m. with all the other early-morning gym freaks--twice in one week. Fortunately, we quickly recovered.

Henner's secret? At the ripe age of 46, she looks absolutely fabulous. Which strikes us, at the moment, as a total waste. The 119-pounder has just dashed into the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel on those traumatizing racehorse legs of hers. She has come from a grunting-and-screaming session for "Batman: The Animated Series" at the Warner Bros. Studios, where she's the voice of the much-married socialite Veronica Vreeland, a social X-ray so trim she's two-dimensional.

Of course, measurements like that would be any girl's dream, but we still couldn't help asking: You put all this effort into looking fabulous and you're a cartoon?

Hey, whatever puts frozen soybeans boiled in salted water for five minutes on the table.

Indeed, it is Henner's long-standing loyalty to the humble soybean that has helped make her a publishing phenomenon. Out of the thundering hordes of diet and lifestyle books, "Marilu Henner's Total Health Makeover" (ReganBooks) has speedwalked to a 20th printing after training for months on bestseller lists across the country.

We think it's the public's right to know why Henner is the health guru of the moment. So while the former and future "Taxi" star holds forth over a refreshing glass of tomato juice and a side order of Evian, we jump-start our brain with some high-octane coffee. (We later learn that Henner's idea of a wake-up aid is a 20-minute run on a treadmill. Oh, yes. At 4 a.m.)

Henner, the wife of TV director Rob Lieberman and mother of two small boys, has been a health buff ever since health buffs were called health freaks. It saved her from a youth of yo-yoing from babe to Kool-Aid pitcher look-alike.

"This program helps you look like the animal you're meant to be. It helps you be your B.E.S.T.--balance, energy, stamina, toxin-free.

"I've got stories from 'Taxi' from 15 years ago, where I'd be walking into a prop room and Tony Danza would be just about to take a bite out of a cheese sandwich and he'd say to me, 'I know this is mucus-forming, but I want it anyway.' "

Actually, the night before, the "Taxi" crew had graduated from mucus to hangovers. Henner partied with her pals at an informal wrap on the set of the upcoming Milos Forman film about the late comedian and "Taxi" star Andy Kaufman (a close friend whom Henner counseled on nutrition the year before he died of lung cancer).

And yes, Henner had helped herself to a nip or two of vodka. Under the circumstances, you can forgive her for sleeping in this morning. Until 6 a.m., that is.

"They were drinking martinis and I said, 'I'm not a martini drinker but I'll have a little on the rocks.' But I knew I was having starches last night, so it was OK because vodka is from potatoes. That was better than Champagne."

If that doesn't make sense to you, read the book. What do you think this is, the Health section?

In addition to drinking vodka on starch night, we also recommend working up a sweat by starring in a Bob Fosse revival on Broadway, such as "Chicago." Those pressed for time might want to consult the book for other suggestions, however.

And as any red-blooded Angeleno knows, the ultimate time-saver in time-stopping is the knife. Not that we're suggesting that Henner doesn't come by her fabulousness honestly.

Plastic surgery is "not something that I've done," she says. "I'm so not into pain. Maybe if they have an organic, macrobiotic way of putting you out . . ."


Artist in Motion: Los Angeles may be the capital of eternal youth and its frightening facsimiles, but the town could learn a thing or two about life extension from Robert Rauschenberg.

Yes, that Robert Rauschenberg.

The 72-year-old art titan was chatty, charming and radiant at the recent opening of "L.A. Uncovered," his new series of photo collage prints, at Gemini G.E.L., a print publisher and artists' workshop in West Hollywood.

More to the point, Rauschenberg has been confidently filling up his dance card until the millennium. Any plans God may have to recall him before that will have to be put on hold--the artist has connections. He's collaborating on a new cathedral in Foggia, Italy, with architect Renzo Piano. The installation is Rauschenberg's first ecumenical commission in more than 50 years.

"I've promised a lot," he said. "I have a very interesting assignment that has specifications that would tax anybody. It's 150 feet wide, 45 feet tall, has to be read on both sides equally and done in 6-foot increments. And it's for healing, but it's about the end of the world.

"I can't go anywhere before I finish that because that's for the church. Or I know where I'll go if I screw that one up."

No, not L.A. He's already done that. Rauschenberg and his companion, photographer Darryl Pottorf, mined the city last winter for photo ops that resulted in four collaborative works, "Quattro Mani," as well as "L.A. Uncovered."

Their tour guides were experts on the city--two former LAPD officers. Rauschenberg loved cruising with the ex-fuzz.

"It gives you the freedom that lets you stare longer at things you're not supposed to look at," he said. "I always feel when I'm photographing--because I don't do it formally--that I'm sort of stealing, even if it's right off the street."

Hmmmmm. Could that be some kind of spiritual conundrum? Or might it have something to do with the fact that Rauschenberg likes to poke his camera at people's windows and start snapping?

Says Pottorf: "He has no sense of fear."


Model Behavior: If soybeans and pacts with God aren't your cup of green tea, might we suggest the regime of Glamour magazine's August cover chick, Sarah O'Hare?

"I really always have been a hot dog, hamburger girl," she says blondly. "Never really had to watch my weight."

We are contemplating assault on the low seas as we cruise the Marina del Rey basin on the Wonder Yacht. Our mission is to get to the bottom of Wonderbra's highly choreographed and blow-dried launch of its new Riviera collection. Soon six girls in bras and sarongs will dock behind the Ritz-Carlton to cavort with faux Frenchmen before a platoon of icky paparazzi.

But first, as O'Hare wipes ship grease off her nautical whites at the ship's dining-room table, we are grilling her.

Exactly what makes you think you're qualified to be a spokesmodel? Did you go to spokesmodel school?

"I've been doing media training," she says to her pants. "We learn to battle the journalists. Wonderbra can be a bit controversial because it's a lingerie brand, and feminist women feel like maybe it's a little derogatory to women."

What? Having breasts? Or making them pert?

"Something like that. At Wonderbra, what we say is, being comfortable in your own skin and being confident is really what Wonderbra is about. So media training is really about battling tough questions you might be asked."

What's the toughest question that's been thrown at you?

"You think I'm going to give you that?"

Drat. Foiled again.

"OK. If somebody asks you something you don't want to answer, everyone knows you just turn the answer around into how you want to answer it."

And then you run for president.

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