How to Really Get an Editor’s Attention

220px-Austin-DBy Jack Limpert

Denise Austin has sold 24 million exercise videos and DVDs, and yesterday the Washington Post’s Style section had a nice story about how she’s downsizing her life—Denise and husband Jeff are selling their suburban home and lots of their possessions, including exercise equipment, as they move to a riverfront condo in nearby Alexandria, Virginia.

Back in 1983, Denise, once a gymnast at the University of Arizona, had married Jeff Austin, a professional tennis player, and settled in Washington, where Denise began teaching fitness and producing exercise videos.

The next year she dropped by the offices of The Washingtonian to try to interest us in writing about her. She had talked with one editor, who brought her by my office to say hello.

She would have been about 27, an attractive, fit-looking blonde with a great smile. She sat down in a chair next to my desk and said, “Feel my thigh.”

I was in my late 40s, married, with two daughters. She then explained why she was in the office.

“Come on, feel it. See what kind of shape I’m in.”

Okay, it’s rock hard.

I then took her over to the art director, also a male, and she told him, “Punch me in the stomach.” He also couldn’t believe it.

She won everyone over—a wholesome look, a great personality, and we did write about her. It didn’t hurt that her husband Jeff  was the brother of tennis player Tracy Austin, who had become famous by winning the U.S. Open in 1979 and 1981.

A PR stunt? Sure, but it was memorable and fun and ended well. Denise became a member of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, she and Jeff have two daughters in college, and the world is a fitter place because of her.


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