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AEROBICS: THE WORLD'S OLDEST PROFESSION

The fitness world is trapped in the '80s, dropping dollars like Stairmaster sweat on the same old corporate gyms and their
anti-cellulite jihad.

           Hello?! We think it's time to bring fitness into the '90s--decentralized, community-based, and with a broadly defined wellness mission: the neighborhood health club. Cynics contend that the windowless storefronts and we-never-close hours at neighborhood health clubs conceal trainers who service highly specific male muscles in violation of civic law. But we are convinced that that's an unfair characterization. By visiting a handful of venues and inquiring about gym equipment, instructor certification, and other topics of general interest, City Pages set out to give Minneapolis's maligned Health Clubs a clean bill of health.

           Utopia Health Club

           244 First Ave. S.,

           A sign on the vestibule wall puts the smutty rumors to rest. "It is absolutely prohibited to either offer or exchange any sexual activities in the facility." Our faith and resolve are fortified. Behind a Plexiglas window, an instructor dressed in a carnation negligee and waist-length turquoise robe answers questions in heavily accented English. Utopia, she explains, offers a half-hour "body shampoo and massage" for $60. There are no monthly memberships, and the prospective member may not tour the facilities before paying. This is no way to win new clients. She confirms that the club has fitness equipment, but when pressed about technical specifications--are there free weights? Nautilus? Universal?--she makes vague swimming gestures in the air. Finally the instructor, joined at the window by another slightly built Asian trainer (same robe and negligee, different colors), concedes that most of the equipment is housed for use several blocks away--"at Dayton's." "You go away now," she says, and we do. Curiously, when contacted, no one at Dayton's would confirm any relationship with the Downtown Utopia Health Club.

Utopia East Health Club
622 E. Lake Street

           Obscured from the street by a barbed wire fence, The Utopia East offers convenient rear parking and a low-profile back door entrance. This branch, we note, has exercise equipment on premises. A stripped-down bench (without any weights, dumbbells, or bars) sits on one side of the room; on the other rests an exercise bike without any visible seat. Both seem to be employed as makeshift clothing racks; we find them strewn with negligees. The upkeep of the unseen locker room is thus called into question. As at the downtown Utopia branch, massages and body rubs are offered ($60), and requests to tour the facilities politely declined. For no discernible reason, the room smells like shrimp-flavored ramen. While there is obviously equipment on-site, one of the physically unassuming Asian trainers directs me to the YMCA at Ninth and LaSalle. Despite inquiries at that facility, Utopia East Health Club's relationship with the YMCA remains opaque.

           East Lake Health Club

           3533 E. Lake Street

           "We offer a sauna, a shower, and a rubdown for $45," Sadie explains from behind a Plexiglas window at the East Lake. A competitive price. So how does the equipment measure up? What about a monthly rate? "Um... we have other ladies working, would you like to meet them too?" Why not--a good rapport with a trainer can make all the difference. We meet the other ladies; they strut past the window in bikinis, like models at the end of the runway: "Hi I'm Kathy, how are you." "Hi, I'm Penny, would you like to come in and try a session?" Their own phenotypic fitness is unremarkable. In the corner of the room is a 35-inch television-- possibly used to show videos for aerobics. There is no exercise equipment on-site and no advertised relationship with either Dayton's or the YMCA. One of the club's neighbors, R.O. "Dick" Johnson, president of Local 7200 of the Communication Workers of America, notes that the Health Club has been in the community for nearly 15 years. "It seems more active this year than it has been in the past. I don't know what they're offering now." Perhaps those aerobics videos?

           Riverside Health Club

           2945 44th Ave.

           "We don't have any exercise equipment. I can't let you inside unless you're going to pay." Kim, the trainer who answers the door at the Riverside Health Club is apparently in the middle of her own fitness regimen; she is in no mood to answer the queries of a prospective member. Located in a residential neighborhood directly behind a Dairy Queen, the lobby of the Riverside is decorated with a plastic ficus tree and a silver-and-black deco mirror. It matches Kim's shiny negligee and robe. As anyone will tell you, nonrestrictive clothing is essential during a vigorous workout. What about monthly rates and introductory discounts? "I don't have to answer you," Kim says, conversant in how to exercise her Fifth Amendment rights if nothing else. Though the slight fitness experts, hefty rates, absent equipment and restrictive admissions may be discouraging, the endurance of these businesses suggests that a loyal core clientele have been satisfied. This is known: Day or night, one need never have cause to "work out" alone. *

           Chief Sauro. Has a nice ring, doesn't it? So far he's only a lieutenant--and that only in name, since he's been put on administrative leave--but Minneapolis's costly cowboy cop, MIKE SAURO, hopes the good people of Beloit, WI will call him chief. Saying he's "reached a ceiling in Minnesota" (meaning, perhaps, the cool $2 million he's racked up in lawsuit settlements and legal fees), Sauro applied for the top job in Beloit. Sauro has a well-earned reputation as a thumper: He's been the subject of a half-dozen lawsuits and some 30 complaints during his tenure with the MPD. Through it all, Sauro's defense is that he's just a good soldier on the front lines of the war against crime. He's a dedicated cop, the story goes, the first one at the action; police work is his calling. We dug into the back files, however, and discovered his vocation was, well, a "lifestyle" choice. Here's a transcript of Lt. Sauro discussing his career choice with his lawyer at a recent arbitration meeting:

           Q.Okay...why did you want to be a police officer?

           A.Well, I--the process--when I was about a sophomore in college, I felt that it was time to start to kind of look at what I wanted to do for my career so that I could point my studies in that direction, and went to a guidance counselor.

           I guess they gave me a big book with all these occupations in it and I started looking through it and came upon police officer and I kind of, you know, decided that's where I wanted to be. I looked at the things police officers did and the type of job they had.

           I liked the things--that it was kind of a self-initiated job. You basically did what you wanted to do with not a lot of close supervision. You kind of took credit for your successes and also credit for your failures. I liked that. I liked the aspect of civil service because you were promoted on your abilities and it didn't have a lot to do with politics, political things. I mean, you basically took tests and if you scored higher than somebody else, you got the grade, you got the promotion. I liked the ability. The salary wasn't great, but it was pretty stable. Usually cops when they get hired, you know, it's a 20-year till retirement career. And like I said, even though it's not great pay, it's enough to support a family, that type of thing. So all those things. And I like the ability not to have to work straight Monday through Friday. I kind of before that had worked, you know, nighttime jobs and stuff and I was kind of a nighttime person, so it just fit my--what I wanted to do, my lifestyle.

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