The glory that lies in losing


November 08, 2006|By LAURA VOZZELLA

On this morning after Election Day, who wants to wake up a loser? Amy Hildreth, for one.

The Baltimorean is a contestant on The Biggest Loser, the NBC reality show that invites couch potatoes to sit back and watch other people diet and exercise. Hildreth, who stands 5-foot-10, started out at 260 pounds and lost a whopping 41 in five weeks.

She was voted off the fitness farm in a recent episode. But that doesn't mean she's out of the running. On Dec. 13, all of the contestants will be brought back for a final weigh-in. So Hildreth is still at it, exercising four hours a day and limiting herself to about 1,200 calories. That works out to about one Big Mac and a large fries for the whole day.

Not that she'd blow her calorie allowance at the Golden Arches. Since she's working out so much, Hildreth eats every three hours. So she's sticking to stuff like egg whites, oatmeal, chicken, fish, broccoli and brown rice.

Hildreth, 27, showed up for an area casting call in January, thinking that might give her the nudge she needed to change her poor diet and sedentary lifestyle. She'd been heavy since childhood - and self-confident to a fault.

"I was always very confident with myself no matter what size I was," she said, recalling how she'd tell herself, "`I'm going to love myself even if I'm a size 22.'"

And that was precisely her size in April when, having been picked for the show, she took a leave of absence from her sales and marketing job at Black & Decker and headed for boot camp at a ranch outside Los Angeles.

"The first day was the worst day of my life," she said, recalling six hours of running, push-ups and weights. "I threw up."

Despite the rough start, she proved to be a promising loser. So promising, she said, that in one of those delicious reality show twists, her teammates turned on her and gave her the boot. (That took place in June, but Hildreth wasn't allowed to talk to the press until that episode aired in October.)

Back home, Hildreth has been working with a personal trainer at a Baltimore gym that she's not allowed to name because it's not part of the fitness chain sponsoring the show. Shianne Lombard, director of personal training at The Gym That Cannot Be Named, said she has Hildreth lifting weights, running, spinning, kayaking, even doing triathlons and trapeze.

Since June, Hildreth has managed to lose an additional 47 pounds. She hopes to meet her goal - losing a total of 100 pounds - by December. Already, she's down to a size 10.

Paging Mr. Giacometti

Imagine strolling through a museum, coming face-to-face with some mind-boggling piece of modern art and, instead of just scratching your head and moving on, you whip out your cell phone, call the artist and ask, "What gives?"

Sounds like the height of cell-phone chutzpah, since everybody knows you're not supposed to gab in galleries. But the Baltimore Museum of Art is inviting patrons to more or less do just that.

The BMA has just launched a free "cell phone audio tour" for its sculpture garden. It's like a conventional museum audio tour, but patrons dial a number on their cell phones and listen to recorded descriptions of nine different sculptures in the outdoor garden.

That does away with the need to rent headsets (and eliminates the cootie-factor that comes with communal headgear). But here's the really fun part: In the case of one sculpture, Mark di Suvero's Sister Lu, the artist himself does the talking.

Among other things, di Suvero says the sculpture, which looks a bit like a giant steel see-saw, was intended to be an "ideaogram of the spirit."

That clears that up.

Di Suvero is the only sculptor who speaks on the recording. BMA Director Doreen Bolger gives the art-historical spiel on the rest. Auguste Rodin and the others aren't taking any calls.

Some out-of-towner writes a book

There's a new book out, The Absolutely Worst Places to Live in America. And you can guess, since I'm writing about it, which city made the list.

In the eyes of self-appointed homeland livability expert Dave Gilmartin, Baltimore "is a realm of burned-out ghettos and diminished expectations, where entire neighborhoods are better left avoided and wolfing down a pile of blue crabs passes for high culture."

The only compliment is a back-handed one: "Baltimore is the go-to city for television producers interested in capturing the very essence of urban strife."

He even makes fun of the city for celebrating Edgar Allan Poe as "something of a favorite son, remembered both by the city's Baltimore Ravens football team and its endemic substance abuse issues." (He misspells the middle name as "Allen." But hey, he's from outta town.)

Baltimore is just one of 50 cities and towns ridiculed in this charmer, which also takes a swipe at Dundalk in its "Dishonorable Mention Appendix."

"This offshoot town of Baltimore City is a White Trash Ghetto at its most terrifying," it says. "Shirtless four-year-old children stomp down the sidewalks with the authority of a hardened criminal."

I had no luck reaching Gilmartin through his publisher, St. Martin's Press. (Probably afraid he could catch something over the phone.)

I also wanted to get Martin O'Malley to weigh in, figuring he'd have some choice words for the book. But the mayor of Charm City was busy yesterday.

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