Mrs. Pringlebury Goes to Paris

For a long time I couldn’t go outside.

I could look out the window, I could watch TV, I could ring Hamish the Doorman on the intercom and have him bring up the mail. But I couldn’t go outside.

I tried a few times, but couldn’t get past the lobby. Then the day came when I couldn’t even get down to the lobby. I hardly ever saw another human being up close, except the delivery boys from Gristede’s and 88th St. Liquors and Hamish the Doorman. And my daughter and son when they visited, which was seldom. And then you have the Cornflake Dame, who stole my photograph and put it on a cereal box.

And of course the Mayor. The Mayor knew it was very lonely being a celebrity. He’d come by for some drinks and laughs. His wife didn’t understand him.

You probably know all this already if you’ve read my previous memoir, She’ll Be Riding Six White Horses When She Comes When She Comes. When I was writing that (actually someone else wrote it, I just talked into one of those tape-recorders) I had pretty much given up wondering why I couldn’t go outside. I just figured it was the way life was. My life, anyway.

When it finally ended, four or five years later, I tried to put some plausible explanations together. Maybe it all started because I looked awful. A few years before I’d gained thirty pounds, and didn’t realize it till I saw some pictures of myself from Block Island. I looked like Kate Smith. I stopped doing my hair and nails. I think it’s so pathetic when you see these fat ladies having lunch at Schrafft’s and they’ve got perfect hair and makeup and nails, but they’re still, you know, fat. Nice clothes, but they’re fat-lady clothes. I mean, why bother? I know I wouldn’t.

So I was either going to go on a diet, or else buy some muu-muus. This must have been about 1962.

I made up my own diet. I switched from wine to vodka, and ate a lot of fish and watercress. I also got up and walked around the Reservoir every morning at 6 am, before anyone could see me. This went on for two months, and I lost two pounds. Then I tried those little cans of Metrecal, which looked tasty but wasn’t.

Then I ate a lot of Choos. Choos were those chewy candies you always saw advertised in the Sunday supplements. They always had full-page ads in the back of the Herald-Tribune magazine. You remember them, probably. The ads were supposed to look real articles–you know, first person stories (“as told to Ruth E. McCarran”). But they were just advertisements in which fat ladies told how they lost 100 pounds by chewing Choos weight-loss candy.

Choos  were basically little foil-wrapped caramels with benzedrine inside. You were supposed to chew three or four or maybe five Choos per diem. Thing was, though, after a couple of weeks you started wanting ten or twelve Choos a day. Even twenty. You’d read about people chewing forty Choos a day and ending up as psychotics in emergency rooms. That is why they took them off the market.

I lost thirty-five pounds and went slightly nutso. I would go to Gristede’s and demand items they didn’t have in stock, such as horsemeat carpaccio (which I had read was very nutritious). Then I would demand to see the manager and hector him, shaking my finger.

“As soon as we can get some, Mrs. Pringlebury,” the manager would say.

“Or I’m taking my business to Sloan’s!” I’d declare.

One day my supply of Choos ran out and I couldn’t get any more. I immediately gained fifteen pounds back by eating nothing but Sara Lee crumbcake. I started to drink Johnny Black all the time, which is supposed to be better for you than vodka, I don’t know why.

I remember watching the Joe Pyne Show late one night, and they had on this Jewish doctor who raved about how all the diet pills were filled with amphetamine, the same stuff you could get for ten dollars in chewable Choos. This was an old rerun, but it was obvious