Fat Like Me

A pigs-eye view of the Happiest Place on Earth

Photos by Mark StoufferJohn B. Good, Fullerton bartender and aspiring magician, strolls through Disneyland's Tomorrowland with gluttonous, gooey smears on his white shirt, remnants of the grease he's wiped from the two turkey legs he's taking turns devouring. Wet stains spread like tiny oil spills under his arms; globules of sweat glisten on his neck, cheeks and upper lip.

Check that: he's not strolling. He's working. Hard. Churning his massive legs through the sea of strollers and the ass-to-crotch crowd marveling at Disneyland's fireworks spectacular. He's a Fat Bastard doing his best to emulate Moses desperately trying to part a Red Sea of bedazzled humanity.

Good is grotesque, a fat fuck with a monster truck spare tire flabbily jiggling from his torso, breasts like a pair of Thanksgiving turkeys and an ass that looks like 25 pounds of oatmeal crammed into a 10-pound polyester sack. He's one of those disgusting, heaving, wheezing, moaning, crimson-cheeked wrecks of humanity that, every time you see them, force two questions: How the fuck can someone do this to themselves? And how the fuck can I prevent it from ever happening to me?

And it's all a put-on. Good is wearing a fat suit, courtesy of Astrid's Costume Attic in Buena Park, and his fleshiness is illusion, courtesy of Anaheim makeup artist Heide Nichols.

Why is he sweating his ass off at Disneyland? Well, he's being paid, by this very newspaper, to experience firsthand what it's like to be a morbidly obese person at the Happiest Place on Earth, Disneyland, a cultural symbol of America as iconic as they come.

Call it a pig's-eye view of Disneyland. And you can argue that it's a cheap, lame attempt to make fun of fat people by dressing someone in a suit of foam, rubber and Dacron and unleashing them on Disneyland, a perfectly apropos symbol of American consumerism and over-the-top indulgence. And you're right. In Orange County, there is no target so easy to denigrate, satirize and goof on as Disneyland. And in the United States of America, circa 2005, there's no target so easy to denigrate, satirize and goof on as fat people.

But consider this: most Americans are overweight—slightly more if they read The Orange County Register (just kidding; sort of)—according to the Centers for Disease Control. Thirty-one percent of the country is obese, and other studies suggest 3 percent are morbidly obese—so fat it's likely to kill them.

America is getting fatter, and America loves Disneyland.

A KILLER DIET

Disneyland opened to invited guests on July 17, 1955. It featured 19 attractions. A family of four could walk in for less than a five-dollar bill. There were five themed lands, 900 employees and 25 places to buy food or drink.

In the 50 years since, 12 people have been killed at Disneyland. Senior citizens have had their pelvises fractured, teenagers have had their legs crushed, children have had toes amputated, seven American presidents have visited, there are three times as many attractions and thousands more employees, the price of admission has increased 40-fold and there are eight themed lands.

One thing has stayed eerily consistent: the grub. Although the original park has expanded greatly, there are still only six more places to eat. And the food offered then is still, by and large, the food offered now: hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, candy, ice cream, fried chicken, cookies, sugar-saturated soft drinks, potato chips.

Clearly, Walt Disney knew that the easiest and quickest way to a guest's heart was to offer it the kind of food that, over time, would make it explode.

ON BEING FAT

Good and his two-person entourage roll into Disneyland's immense parking structure—the second-largest in the world—around 6 p.m. on a Saturday, seeking to avoid the worst heat of the day. Astrid, a longtime costumer who has created fat suits and other regalia for the biggest of A-list celebrities, has warned us that if we're not used to lugging around 40 extra pounds of fatty tissue, the heat'll be murder. It's hot, explains Astrid, no ballet dancer herself. And the suit is heavy, difficult to maneuver.

Good is a 24-year-old bartender at the Back Alley Bar and Grill in Fullerton. He may be sporting a few extra Jaeger bombs around his midsection, but he's in no way fat. He had to learn to be fat. In her stuffed-to-the-rafters Buena Park costume shop, Astrid provided Good a primer on being fat. Walk with your toes pointed out; fat people are in a constant battle to balance themselves, she said. Raise your legs slower and don't bolt out of chairs—gravity's a bitch.

"Don't make eye contact with anyone," she said. "It's not that we're ashamed of who we are. We just don't care about your opinion of what we are." And don't dress like an idiot, in blue overalls and a straw hat. "Fat people are people. They want to be like everyone else. They wear the same clothes. They're just a lot bigger."

Our first encounter with a Disney employee is a young parking attendant who takes our money. I tell the kid that we have someone who is a bit overweight in the car. "Is there any way we can park closer?" I ask.

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