Fitness follies

This is a headache.

Painfully, the media pass covering my bleeding heart reads "Not Your Average Field Trip," with a chicken-scratch picture of a wobbly yellow bus beneath, which can only mean that once again I'm about to encounter the unbridled screams of kids set free. But that's not what's aching my brow. On this occasion, the screams are to be tempered with some philanthropic edge, in an event sponsored by HealthSouth and titled "Go For It!" Apparently it's some amped-up pep rally for my evil stepsisters, Health and Fitness.

I am out of my element.

At the security desk near the loading dock of the T.D. Waterhouse Centre, JC Chasez appears to be, too. His attempt to remain incognito -- he is not a featured performer here -- is nearly foiled by his big gay fedora and patchwork bell bottoms, but a five-man entourage of black shirts mutes his flamboyance just enough for him to completely ignore me. Lucky him.

Tellingly, "Bye Bye Bye" is howling through the PA as I enter the packed arena, and the bussed-in masses of middle schoolers are all singing along as if JC is really here. I chuckle at the thought that he really is.

Sometimes it's fun to be in the know.

"I don't know why they say they're from Orlando," gays the only other journalist here, in regards to featured girl group 3rd Faze. "They're really from Boston."

Sometimes it's more fun not to be in the know.

Anyway, immediately to my left are foam likenesses of food groups -- rounds of cheese that say "oil" on them, and giant radishes and cucumbers, too ... the sort of props you would expect from a blown-up version of your Life Manage-ment Skills class. Me, I'm sweating at the thought of health at all, as if these puffy relics are all scattered around just to make me feel guilty. Sort of like this whole event. These delusions fuel me.

Which of the following is your main source of fuel? beams the screen overhead.

1. Protein

2. Carbohydrates

3. Sugars

4. Vodka, I mouth, hoping that maybe I'll meet somebody cute and mean in detention. And so on.

Onstage, a bizarre roster of sports personalities, including Heisman Bulldog Herschel Walker and the wonderfully named Fitness Twins, are pumping up the short attention spans with lessons on steroids and white powder. Intermittently, a boyband -- Dream Street they're called -- and the ladies of 3rd Faze coo their own brand of white powder (um, saccharine) to balance the weighty fare.

I'm set to interview 3rd Faze in the aftermath of the fitness follies, and am growing slightly impatient. This will only be worth it if JC is with them. Wait, why is JC even here?

"I think he's 'really close' with one of the 3rd Faze girls," chimes know-it-all.

Better not be.

Fresh from girlband finishing school, the pretty threesome meets me backstage in one of the media rooms for some informal girl talk.

"Do you think this is a valid way to get your music across?" I quiz.

"Definitely!" diplomats Jessica Simpsonlike Sara Marie. "We're so blessed to be put on this tour. No new groups get this kind of exposure."

"And have their little fire and da da da da," pyrotechnics the extremely blond Minia, with a requisite giggle.

"Describe 3rd Faze to me. What's your angle?"

"The biggest angle is that we each sing lead, and there's not a lot of girl groups out there that every single girl in the group has a lead. That sets us apart. With the right type of angle ... " She then starts to get lost. Geometry is a bitch.

"Plus, we're just cool," saves ultra-cool Halie, who earlier in the performance had sported a Bon Jovi acid-wash miniskirt. I love her.

"Let's talk about hot guys! Who do you think is hot, bearing in mind that JC is somewhere in the building?"

"JC is definitely hot. We all say JC," again diplomats Sara Marie.

"I think all guys are cute," simps Minia. I'm sure she does.

"The guys I'm attracted to are usually tall, dark and very hot," smarts Halie, with a clarity stare.

I love my job.

"Why 3rd Faze? What do you think that represents?"

"It's three phases (fazes?) in life: past, present and future," begins Minia. "There's a famous quote in Norman Vincent Peale that says 'yesterday's history, tomorrow's a mystery, today's a gift -- that's why we call it the present.' "

I'm choking.

"We use that phrase to apply significance to our name, Heimlichs Halie. "Because our name was given to us. We came up with a concept of what it meant to us."

And what that means to me is that this interview is over. The girls each take pains to kiss me goodbye and wish me well, which is nice. Except I still have a headache.


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