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Marc Lallanilla, Writer and Editor

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Flowers& Magazine

 

November 2002

 

Wilton Hardy

 

Meet a florist who knows his chickens.

 

Plucking chickens seems an odd way to enter the professional world. But when Wilton Hardy was 13 years old, that's how his career began, killing and cleaning chickens for a small store near his family's home in south Florida. "Some grocers sold chicken 'on the hoof' back then," says Wilton, "and it was my job to kill the chickens. The actual plucking was done by a machine with rubber fingers that strips the feathers off the chicken. But I knew there had to be a better way to earn money."

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The road from the chicken coop led to a floral shop belonging to family friends. From Mrs. Higbee, "a little old lady who loved flowers" and her husband who grew plants, Wilton learned the basics of flower and plant care and the running of a flower shop. Some years later, Wilton began working at Nowlin Flower Shop in West Palm Beach. That was 45 years ago -- Wilton now owns the shop, where he works with his wife Margaret and his daughter Sharon.

 

Wilton has seen many changes to the industry over the years. "I started in the floral industry B.S. and B.O. -- Before Styrofoam and Before Oasis. What was popular with consumers back then were casual, garden-style arrangements of flowers in glass vases. Later, there was there was a period when a lot of floral arrangements featured a highly designed, 'tortured' look. That can be great when it's done well, and there will always be a place for it. But consumers are once again asking for the casual, 'I did it myself' look, made popular recently by Martha Stewart. It's just history repeating itself."

 

Maintaining a consumer focus is an important part of what Wilton imparts at his educational seminars. "Consumers can buy flowers at a 7-11 or a Home Depot. We sometimes have to forget that we're selling flowers -- what we're really selling to consumers is service."

 

Wilton also favors seminars where he teaches sympathy design, in which he has a unique background. "Funerals have always been an interesting part of what we do. Recently we've been asked to create funeral designs like a red pickup truck, boats, a greyhound dog, a fishing pole, even a six-foot champagne glass with little plastic bubbles saying 'WE LOVE YOU FATTY.'"

 

Despite all these changes, some things remain the same, like the machine Wilton sees on a regular basis -- a foliage stripper that removes leaves and thorns from flower stems. "It's basically the same machine I used years ago to pluck the feathers off chickens," he says. It's just history repeating itself, Wilton.

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Lynne Luciano, Author

December 3, 2001

By Marc Lallanilla

Beauty may be skin deep, but it isn't cheap; men in the U.S. spend an estimated $3.5 billion each year on anti-aging creams, skin toners, and hair tonics. And the market is growing 11% annually, twice the rate for women. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, over 107,000 men underwent some form of cosmetic operation in 1999, including almost 30,000 liposuctions, a 500% increase over the 1992 figure.

Lynne Luciano, professor of history at California State University at Dominguez Hills and author of the recent book Looking Good: Male Body Image in Modern America (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), exposes many of the excesses associated with the quest for physical perfection. She estimates the market for steroids in the early 1990's was about $1.4 million, including black-market sales. Use is probably much higher now; researchers warn that because steroid use is illegal and users form a tightly-knit community, estimates of use are probably low. Luciano cites one bodybuilder who spent approximately $30,000 each year on supplements and steroids.

Many people assume eating disorders like anorexia (excessive dieting) and bulimia (bingeing and vomiting) are women's disorders. However, as Luciano points out, the first diagnosed case of anorexia involved a 16-year-old male in 1694. At some eating disorder treatment centers, the patient ratio of men to women is now about 50:50. Other researchers have found that about 3.3% of North American men suffer from eating disorders, or roughly 2 to 3 million men.

Many problems with body image disorder have been attributed to the changing social roles of men and women. In a recent interview, Luciano described how the baby boomer economy and social movements like women's liberation changed society. "Products were marketed to a new youth demographic. Being single became 'cool,' and marriage was not as important. More people found themselves dating, and at an older age, so looks became very important. And women scrutinized men's looks as closely as men scrutinized theirs. So men adopted strategies that worked for them, often the same strategies women had been using."

In some ways, the social movements of the 1960's and 70's failed, says Luciano. "Feminists were not successful at stopping the objectification of women; in many ways, it's become worse. The pressure is still there and the physical ideal is even more unattainable. Men, too, have fallen into this camp. Look at the cover of any men's fitness magazine. You'll see a well-built model stripped to the waist. And he won't have any hair, because a hairless physique is associated with youth."

What makes beauty such an ugly affair? Almost all researchers (and the individuals interviewed for this article) point to a childhood plagued by physical shortcomings: children who were too fat, too skinny or had other physical problems and were the targets of abuse or bullying.

Feeding into any insecurities one might have are the aggressive, manipulative and increasingly sexual images coming from advertising, magazines, television and movies. "Advertisements," says Luciano, "don't just sell us a product. They tap into our self-esteem. Advertising creates self-doubt by creating a need. It sells us a dream, a desire. After all, people don't wake up in the morning and decide they need a fur coat."

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Image courtesy NBC

The Life and Limbs of John Lehr
 
This hot young actor from NBC's Jesse breaks a leg. And a finger. And a knee...

August 24, 1999

By Marc Lallanilla

Broken bones and severed limbs seem to be the common thread running through actor John Lehr's professional life. While other actors describe the road to fame in terms of awards given or plum parts won, 33-year old Lehr, who played Christina Applegate's brother on the NBC sitcom Jesse, recounts how he severed his right pinkie while struggling as an actor in Chicago. "I was working as a cook at the Waffle House in Evanston, Illinois," he says. "The sewed the finger back on, but I still have no feeling in it."

What motivated Lehr during those lean years was his passion for the craft of acting. The same enthusiasm has helped him bounce back from his most recent career setback; he and several cast members of Jesse were dropped from the show's fall line-up. But Lehr learned early an important rule of acting: "Keep your ego in check. Some actors are always trying to get to the place that will help them get to where they want to be, instead of keeping their perspective focused on their art," he says. "Forget the perks and the placement - just practice your craft."

While performing at Chicago's renowned Second City theater, Lehr supplemented his meager acting income by teaching grade school. His first assignment was to replace a teacher who had both kneecaps broken by an irate student. Later, Lehr accidentally slammed a door on an 8-year-old student, breaking several bones in her hand. When his stint at Second City proved somewhat disappointing, Lehr heeded the call to Los Angeles. He found work in director Noah Baumbach's films Mr. Jealousy and Highball, and he continued teaching. His requested venue? South Central.

When he's not dealing with injuries, Lehr enjoys the work and the lifestyle Los Angeles offers. "Broadway is overrated; the real theater is in Chicago. But the weather there is miserable!" Taking advantage of LA's not-too-miserable weather, Lehr spends as much time as possible enjoying outdoor activities with his 30-year-old girlfriend, Jennifer. In addition to writing, he continues to work with director Baumbach, so his optimism appears to be well founded.

Just don't tell him to break a leg.

Please see the "Contact" page for more information, or send an email using the link below:

marclallanilla@hotmail.com