Tanness, Anyone? Oscars and the Bronze Beauties


                                  by WALTER BRASCH


It’s the end of February, and one of my friends is still sporting a summer tan. I know it’s phony—and she knows I know it’s phony—but I have long ago stopped teasing her about it. In her never-ending quest to appear to be beautiful and healthy, she has slathered skin tanning lotion into every pore of her body, laid out on roofs and beaches to catch whatever ray was passing by, and goes to a tanning salon once a week. I’m not sure she’s ever stepped into the surf.

For decades, I have endured the scorn of these fake-skin friends, their skin tanned to the color and consistency of obsidian, as they sweat their lives away. Nevertheless, I have always been content to know I don’t need to cremate myself on a rooftop to be healthy.

Once, women desperately wanted to look pale. Ashen was to be admired. Pallid was wonderful! The lighter the skin, the healthier they believed they were, even if it meant hiding in a basement and fighting any attempt by Vitamin D to force its way into their lives. These women would read Macbeth and admire the ghost.  Any darkness of the skin reflected that they weren’t women of leisure, but (horrors!) working women—the kind who go out of doors and have to (shudder!) do things.


Then, in the 1920s fashion designer Coco Chanel became bronze, and the Western world decided that suntanned bodies identified women of leisure and privilege. When they couldn’t find enough sun to char their skin and fry their brains, they bought sunlamps, reflectors, and gallons of sprays, gels, powders, and amino acids, guaranteed to make their friends believe they had just returned from a decade in Bermuda—or Nigeria.

In the late 1970s tanning salons became popular in the United States. In the semi-privacy of a casket, people could pay a few bucks for a few minutes of UVA rays, slather on even more lotion, and look even healthier! Have you ever seen what a couple of hours a day in the sun can do to an unprotected body over a few years? If you don’t have to chase knife-wielding scouts from the Tandy Leather Factory from trying to skin you, then you have a chance to live until a ripe old age of at least 50. And if Tandy doesn’t get you, there’s a pile of melanoma waiting. Ever see what cancer of the eye or ear looks like? Ever see a jellyfish on a rotting log?

 Cancer scare? There’s still sunblock. Just pick a number. Any low number. You’ll “protect” yourself and darken up just like that Bain de Soleil model—and look just as good. After all, would advertising agencies lie?


While many people desperately want to have dark skin, they aren’t willing to appear to be “ethnic.” So, just in case someone could confuse them with being Black, Hispanic, Jewish, or any other genetically dark-skinned type, they dye their hair screaming saffron blonde. Just as they believe that the advertising agencies wouldn’t deceive them, they believe blondes have more fun. If that great American philosopher Lady Clairol said it, it must be so. And, of course, there are about 65,000 solutions on the market just designed to make you have fun while you lose every follicle in your genetic pattern.

Because of genetics—and wise use of suntan lotion—I can spend hours splashing in the ocean and not have to endure boiling red skin, peeling off in painful layers, and spend half my week visiting expensive suntan parlors and dermatologists.

Sunday, at the annual Academy Awards show hundreds of women will have spray-tanned and baked themselves into looking like brownies. They will have hair styles and colors as natural as what passes as reality on the “Jersey Shore.” Having already gone on extreme diets to look more photogenic, they will stuff what’s left of themselves into designer dresses and designer shoes, and decorate themselves with jewelry that could finance a revolution in a small Asian country. Every woman nominated for an Oscar is talented, but they exist in an industry forged by hype and image.

The day after the awards ceremony, TV shows, both entertainment and news, will feature the stars; newspapers and magazines will open full pages to show tanned women in their $10,000 dresses.

Throughout America, giggly and awe-struck pre-teen girls, their lives fixated upon Disneyesque princesses, will be absorbed by what the mass media show as rich and successful. And they will want to look just like the stars, fake tans and everything else.

[In a 40-year journalism career, Walter Brasch has covered everything from the presidency to awards shows in California. His current book is Before the First Snow, an autobiographical novel set in the counter-culture.]




Why I Support Health Care Reform

Cross-posted at Blue Indiana.

In 1999, my best friend and sometimes roommate, Annette, was diagnosed with malignant melanoma.  Annette was in her mid to late 20's.  At that time in her life, Annette was a social worker and was employed by a domestic violence shelter.  As part of her benefits package, she had health insurance.  Annette was able to receive treatment for her cancer, fought hard and was able to defeat the melanoma.  She was declared to be in remission.

Later, Annette decided she wanted to change careers.  Domestic violence work, and social work in general, is very emotionally difficult and there is a high "burn out" rate in the field.  Besides fighting her own cancer, Annette had spent years being a "front-line liberation worker", as she called herself, and she was ready to move on to other things.

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Breaking - Sad but very relavent news on McCain's health.

Over the past day Colin Powell and many newspaper editorial boards have cited Sarah Palin's complete unreadiness to be president as a key factor in deciding to endorse Obama.  News out today from the New York Times makes me worry about the prospect of her actually becoming the most powerful person on the planet.   http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/20/us/pol itics/20health.html?pagewanted=1&_r= 1&hp,

Here, quoted from the above Times article, is the most important news of the campaign since McCain named Palin as his VP pick:

However, the reporters' summary cited a report dated Aug. 9, 2000, from two pathologists at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington who examined a biopsy of the melanoma taken from Mr. McCain's left temple a few days earlier.

The Armed Forces pathologists suggested that the left-temple melanoma had spread from another melanoma, known as a metastasis or satellite lesion. "The vertical orientation of this lesion," the report said, "with only focal epidermal involvement above it is highly suggestive of a metastasis of malignant melanoma and may represent a satellite metastasis of S00-9572-A," which is the "skin, left temple, lateral" biopsy.

I am a physician, and metastatic melanoma is one of the worst diagnoses in medicine.  It has a five year survival rate of 7% to 19% and the cancer can recur at any time after years of remission.  On a human level this is sad news.  We on the left tend not to rejoice in the suffering of those on the other side of the political spectrum or play politics with such issues.  But the specter of Sarah Palin waiting in the wings makes this an unavoidable and hugely important issue.  

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Can John McCain Make It . . . Again?


Cross-posted at the Truth About McCain blog.

John Sydney McCain III (hereinafter "JiSM"), Yahoo News reports, has had skin McCancer three times, (hey, talking about JiSM makes me tasteless) and gets check-ups in Nevada every three months to make sure the cancer hasn't come back.  In fact, he was in Nevada today to have a

small patch of skin removed from his face and biopsied as part of a regular checkup with his dermatologist.  ( . . . )  The fair-skinned Arizona senator, who suffered severe sun damage from his 5 1/2 years in Vietnamese prison camps, gets an in-depth skin cancer check every few months because of a medical history of dangerous melanomas." Yahoo News

The New York Times said Sunday,

"Along with his signature bright white hair, the most striking aspects of Senator John McCain's physical appearance are his puffy left cheek and the scar that runs down the back of his neck. New York Times

We all are aware of the normal actuarial risks of being seventy-two years old now, and seventy-six years old when and if his first term expired before he did.  However, if elected JiSM would treat the public to a "does he have cancer or doesn't he" check-up every three months.  In fact, he'll be getting another check-up like this around November 28.

Everyone's days are numbered, but John McCain's days are more numbered than most everyone else's.  Shouldn't we know what his November 28th 2008 check-up will say before we risk electing him president on November 4?  

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