|A Fireside Chat about the Fountain of Youth
Succumbing to a sudden episode of the midnight munchies, half a dozen friends stood around a roaring fire striving to roast wienies on the prongs of a long garden rake. The tool was delivered to the scene by a quick-thinking campground neighbor who realized that our efforts to stick traditional skewers into the high-flying flames had succeeded only in blistering a few fingers and searing off countless arm hairs.
"This is a good reminder of why I don't want to wind up in hell," Russell said as he backed away from the blaze.
"With your track record, you'd better get used to the heat," remarked his partner, Hal.
"Well, Russ might not have to head south quite as soon as you think," I suggested. "Did any of you see the report on Prime Time Live last night about the new Fountain of Youth pill?"
"I was going to watch it, but I fell asleep on the sofa," Hal admitted.
"Aha! Then this little yellow tablet might be just what you need!" I enthused in a huckster-like tone of voice.
The latest in the long list of formulas to hold out hope for reversing the human aging process since Juan Ponce de Leon stumbled onto Florida instead of the Fountain of Youth is called Protandim. Its proponents believe that, if taken on a daily basis, it may well extend one's life expectancy by 20 percent or longer. According to the ABC News story, which gave it a promising review, the pill combats oxidative stress, attacking the nasty aging-related chemicals known as "free radicals." (I used to think of myself as one of them in the 1960s, but now I'm told they're the enemy.)
Following the televised news report, I immediately popped up the manufacturer's website, where I discovered that a one-month supply of the formula would set me back fifty bucks. Hmm. That would total about $600 a yearor $1,200 if I decide to invite John along with me into the middle of the 21st century.
It seems like a high price to pay for a concoction of mostly commonplace itemsgreen tea and the Indian spice turmeric, along with lesser known ingredients that have been used in traditional Asian medicine for centuries. I didn't immediately place an order, but I remained high enough on the pill (though not like some of the pills I swallowed when I was a free radical) to ask my barbecuing friends, who ranged in age from 50 to 64, whether they'd be interested in giving it a try.
Their reactions surprised me.
"If we all start surviving into our 90s, Social Security definitely will go down the tube," said 59-year-old Hal.
"Dubya's going to save us," I mumbled.
"I can't afford to live that long," said 64-year-old Bruce. "And I sure don't want to be 85 years old greeting Wal-Mart customers with a fake smile."
"You're already a bitter old queen!" I exclaimed.
Russ proclaimed that the only way he'd care to live to 100 is if he "not only could feel like 30 but look like it."
"You're already 20 years too late for that," I reminded him.
While Protandim's manufacturer cites increasing evidence that it reduces free radicals to the level of a newborn infant, keeping us healthier inside, the company makes no claim that its pill can turn back the clock on such surface physical decay as wrinkling, discoloration or balding. We'd still likely have to pay the nip-tuckers, hair colorists and Botox peddlers for the illusion of that type of rejuvenation. At least, until the introduction of "new, improved Super Protandim," featuring extra components to erase liver spots, un-furrow brows and turn the remnants of a receding hairline into beach-boy blond spikes. You never know; at the pace scientific knowledge is progressing, the next big breakthrough could be just around the corner despite the reluctance of the American president to support medical marvels already available to improve the quality of our lives.
And, despite my friends' initial reluctance to give Protandim a whirl, I suspect that all it will take to catch on in the gay community is a good marketing campaign aimed in our direction, rather like the one Tylenol PM has launched in recent months. If you read Out or The Advocate, you may have noticed the specially produced advertisements. One shows two men in bed; a tagline beneath the bare chest of the first reads, "His backache is keeping him up." The line beneath the second chest says, "His boyfriend's backache is keeping him up." Another version depicts a smiling young man sitting in bed. The headline reads, "For a great morning after." That is followed by the teasingly catchy slogan: "Not playing is not an option." The ad includes artist Keith Haring's logo for Heritage of Pride, the organizer of New York City's Pride festivities. Tylenol PM even took out a supporting sponsorship of this year's parade.
According to a report on Gay.com, the Tylenol PM campaign marks the first time a non-prescription drug has specifically targeted the gay market. It's not likely to be the last. The merit of appealing directly to our community is being realized by corporations across the globe. Now there is even an awards ceremony honoring the best of their efforts. (We can never get or give enough awards, now can we?)
The first-ever Commercial Closet Images in Advertising Awards, sponsored by a nonprofit group that aims to improve public opinion of the gay community through advertising, took place in New York earlier this month, co-hosted by Queer Eye for the Straight Guy co-hosts Thom Filicia and Kyan Douglas, with an appearance by comedian Kate Clinton.
Among the advertisers honored were Kenneth Cole and Wyndham Hotels. The top honor went to the creators of last year's controversial United Church of Christ commercial, which was banned by the three biggest networks but aired on Fox and several popular cable channels. The ad portrayed bouncers blocking a male couple from entering a church, along with a man in a wheelchair, a young black woman and a young Hispanic man. The tagline: "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we." If my friend Russ had seen that award-winning spot, he might be a little less worried about burning in hell and more about burning the hot dogs. They turned out to be quite tasty, by the way, and crunchy. That may be because, come the light of morning, we discovered that our neighbor had not bothered to remove the grimy soil from his rake before offering it for cookout duty. Oh, well, in the final analysis, it's all just a matter of ashesand my first order of Protandim should be arriving any minute now.
Bill Sievert, who is completing a comic mystery novel about the disappearance of the resident diva of a gay and lesbian campground, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 7 June 17, 2005