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Blessed Are the Fit

By Art Buchwald
Tuesday, April 12, 2005; Page C04

Jane Fonda just wrote a book. This is my connection with her.

When the Jane Fonda Workout was at its height, women all over America were doing the exercises.

My late wife, Ann, held a class on the lawn in the back of our house on Martha's Vineyard. All her friends gathered every morning and followed Jane's audiotape with sweat and tears.

The rules were, no coffee or gossip until the exercises were finished.

Husbands were not permitted to participate. It was a girl thing.

One day I saw a four-foot-high statue of a dancing lady in a gallery on the island. I bought it and took it home. I put it in the garden and named it "Our Lady of Fonda."

It was a hit with the wives, but everyone asked about the story behind the sculpture.

It needed a story, so I made one up. I said Our Lady of Fonda is a shrine, and she heals shoulder pain, sore leg muscles and back problems caused by the Jane Fonda Workout.

I said people could come to the shrine in wheelchairs and on crutches, and pray to Our Lady that they would get better.

As with most made-up tales, people believed it. Some of the ladies brought flowers to put at her feet. Others decorated the statue with photographs of Jane.

My wife added to the story by warning the class that Jane was there in spirit and knew if they were cheating.

One of the members of the class was Eppie Lederer (Ann Landers), who was our houseguest. She had one of the most successful columns in the country. Eppie wrote about Our Lady of Fonda in 1,000 newspapers. Lo and behold, readers from all over wrote asking where the shrine was and how to get there.

To make it even more mysterious we lit candles around her at night.

I finally wrote Jane a letter telling her about the shrine.

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