Despite some evidence to the contrary, the distaff Stern insists that researching dozens of retro-recipes in the line of duty has not taken its toll on her figure.

"Did I look like Kate Moss before we started writing these books?" asks the woman who looks less like Kate Moss than Kate Smith. "No, I've always been the classic yo-yo dieter--but the thin phases were always abnormal." Jane addressed this weighty issue in a recent issue of Allure, an article she says resulted in the most mail she's ever received on a single magazine piece, virtually all of it supportive. "The thrust of the story was, 'Hey, this is what I look like, kids, so you better get used to it because I'm not going to starve myself until I feel like I'm about to pass out,'" she explains. "Richard Simmons and Susan Powter and all these lunatics on TV make millions convincing people that they look like crap if they have any meat on their bones. I personally have never thought that I was an incredible eyesore or hideously ugly even though I don't wear a size 6. There are a lot of people in the world like me who are really tired of being shoehorned into this image that they can't possibly maintain." Pause. "And it's not like I'm unhealthy. When we're home, Michael and I ride horses all the time; I chop down trees. I could probably snap Susan Powter's head in a wrestling match. In fact, I'd love to."

Unburdened by middle-class rules of good taste, young vulgarians positively dripped with splendiferous cheapness. If you want a quick mental picture, think of Priscilla Presley in 1963.--Sixties People

After 20 years of staring into America's rear-view mirror, the country's leading chroniclers of blasts from the past don't see much future in what currently passes for pop culture.

Which is not to say that the couple want to spend the rest of their lives in the Way Back Machine. "Just the other day, we were discussing how the world is a better place now because of X, Y and Z," says Michael. "There are better potato chips today and there's better ice cream. Plus, you can get club soda all over the country now, which you couldn't always get before."

"TV reception is better, too, except now most of the programming is hideous beyond belief," adds Jane. "Cable TV? Well, it's a good idea, but there's still never anything on you'd want to watch. VCRs are good, and so are answering machines. And you can get better clothes now if you're fat. Before you used to have to wear polyester all the time and look like something out of a John Waters movie.

"It's not like we're trying to stay perpetually young and hip," insists Jane. "Instead, it's probably the opposite--I think Michael and I have grown to be farty old curmudgeons." Reeling off a list of trendy things that drive her up the wall, Jane mentions the grunge look, rampant political correctness, Beavis and Butt-head, the words "toon" and "zine" and the career path of actor Johnny Depp. "Did you see him in Edward Scissorhands or Benny & Joon?" she asks. "He's practically in the same league as a mime these days! I hate all this culty stuff."
Laughing, Jane recalls a telling run-in with the editors of Monk, an alternative travel magazine published by two gay men who travel the country in a 26-foot motor home. "These guys are big fans of ours and since we were going to be in Seattle the same time they were, they wanted to interview us for their big Seattle issue," Jane recalls. "When we got done talking to them, they got very excited and said, 'You're never going to guess who we got for the cover!' I said, 'I give up--who?' They said, 'Nirvana!'

"I said, 'Who?' So much for our with-it-ness factor.

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