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fan, meeting his idol in person

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

The voice on the video

For this fan, meeting his idol in person was an

emotional workout.



Squeals erupted on the big, yellow school bus as it passed by the

open door.

It was a fleeting glimpse. But it was enough.

There was no mistaking that fluffy hair and those short black-and-

white striped shorts and glittery black tank top.

" It's him, , look, " Reyna told her 13-year-old son, a

special education student at Middle School in Westminster.

" It's ! You've been waiting for this. Look! "

bounded onto the bus loaded with 's class, teaching

aides and his teacher Findlay.

" Hellooooo, " called out as he walked through the

bus. " Welcome! Welcome! Welcome! "

That silky voice was not alien to . He was familiar with its

power to motivate and the way it seemed to tell him everything was

going to be just fine.

But today, didn't want to hear it. He sank in his seat.

It was too much. It was too weird. And it was too, well, too real.

There was something about that attracted to the

television screen even when he was a little boy. For years, his

mother had exercised to " Sweatin' to the Oldies, " one of the fitness

guru's best-selling videos.

And as Reyna exercised, would jump and dance with her.

' voice brought a smile to his face and a spring to his step.

So it was only natural that he was jubilant when his teacher started

the school day every morning with a video.

She's used the videos in her special education classes for more than

a decade.

" It gets them going, " Findlay said.

Nguyen did a little side-to-side movement on his wheelchair.

Janet Almanzar gently waved her arms to the beat.

Five years ago, Findlay sent a video of her class exercise to

. But by the time watched it and got back to Findlay,

that class had moved on.

But about three months ago, Findlay sent a letter signed by her

class telling how much they enjoy dancing to his videos.

That letter got them an invitation to ' Beverly Hills studio

to exercise with him.

" Everyone was excited about this trip, " Findlay said, as the school

bus left. " But with , it's something else. "

is 13. But inside, he's a little boy, his mother said, with

the mental capacity of a kindergartner.

He was more than just thrilled at the thought of meeting his hero.

It made him fidget. It made him stamp his feet and clap his hands.

It gave him the giggles. And sometimes he just stopped and stared

into space.

On the bus, he waved to passing truck drivers. They waved back.

As the bus turned onto Melrose Avenue, passed a video around.

" Sweatin' to the Oldies – 2. "

's dark eyes danced as he held the video in his hand and

looked at ' image on the cover.

Soon, he'd meet him. Maybe he'd shake his hand or even get a hug

from him.

Very soon.

When you're a kid, meeting your hero face to face can be a strange


It's not that you don't want it to happen. In fact, you anticipate

it. You wait for it. You dream about it. And yet, when the person

you're so used to seeing on a television screen appears before you,

you do what comes naturally.

You freak out and use your mother as a human shield.

All could think of days before he got on the bus was meeting

and turning into his best buddy. But now, he stood

motionless on the sidewalk clinging to his mom's T-shirt – frozen,

wide-eyed and spooked.

" C'mon , " coaxed the boy. " Give me a hug. "

shook his head.

" No, no, no, no, no! " he yelled frantically, his eyes shut and his

palms covering his ears.

When looked a little concerned, instructional aide Pat

reassured him: " He'll be all right. He will. "

Inside the studio, music blared as sneakers pounded the hardwood


stood way in the back tapping his toes. mingled his

regular class with his guests. On the gym's walls were pieces of

artwork the students had sent to before their arrival.

's was in the back.

" Hey, I made this, " he told his mom, pointing to his picture, the

one of with the big, puffy hair. " I made it for . "

His mom nodded and gently pushed him forward.

" Go , " she said softly. " Look, it's . It's

him. "

moved on to the floor. For every four steps he took, he

moved two steps back.

But then, everyone else was dancing away to the soul medley that was

playing. moved to the front and turned up the volume.

" There ain't no mountain high enough

Ain't no valley low enough

Ain't no river wide enough

To keep me from getting to you. "

slowly moved his hands up and down. He kept moving toward

as he watched his friends get into it. Bui was

jumping his heart out. Guillen couldn't stop doing push-ups.

giggled as she did jumping jacks.

" Listen, baby

Ain't no mountain high

Ain't no valley low

Ain't no river wide enough, baby. "

's feet slowly moved to the music. He stepped side to side.

He lifted his knees. He stretched his arms up and then sideways. He

was now listening to every word that said.

" C'mon , " called out to him. " Dance with me. "

took the center with as others formed a circle. He

laughed, moving now to a disco beat.

Suddenly, looked at his own T-shirt. He looked at '

picture on it.

He gasped.

" ! " he exclaimed, as he clutched the shirt with one

hand, and pointed to ' picture.

" That's right, , " yelled over the music.

The boy stopped for just a moment and looked at his mom.

Then he pumped his fists in the air and his feet pounded the floor.

was dancing with .

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