Celebrity jogging: LA's latest fitness craze combines Hollywood's twin obsessions

We nearly didn't notice Larry King, as he wandered down Beverly Drive clutching a cup of coffee. He looked old and thin, and somehow more vulnerable than the pugnacious chat-show host who invades America's living rooms at midnight.

Cheryl Anker was convinced, though. To her expert eye, that hunched figure on the far pavement was definitely The King, even if he had swapped his trademark tie-and-braces for a jeans- and-denim-shirt combo. She pulled out a digital camera and started "papping". Clickety-click.

"I know it's Larry because he always eats breakfast at Nate'*Al's diner, which is up the road," she explained. "His home's here in Beverly Hills, and he works at CNN in Hollywood. It's the weekend, so he doesn't do a show tonight. He's just taking a walk."

We resisted the temptation to dash across the street and grab a close-up. It was probably the right call. Firstly, the cop down the road could have ticketed us for jaywalking; secondly, Cheryl's class was due to begin at 11am, so she couldn't mess around. Time waits for no man, not even a TV star, in the frenetic world of celebrity jogging.

Yes: celebrity jogging. That's the name of the latest fitness craze to sweep Los Angeles. It's a sport, or rather a hobby, that revolves around a simple format. You dress up in Spandex and grab a camera. Then you lollop around an exclusive shopping district hoping to spot someone famous. If you do, you take a photo. If you don't, you continue on your way, consoling yourself with the thought of burning off those nasty calories.

To the uninitiated, celebrity jogging combines two of the most distasteful aspects of American society. It panders to a vain obsession with trying to keep fit, and encourages a prurient desire to invade the day-to-day life of minor celebrities. To aficionados, however, it's a strangely compelling pursuit. Celebrity joggers collect albums full of snaps like philatelists collect stamps or autograph hunters gather signatures. They learn and refine preferred running routes, and become experts on the shopping habits of the rich and famous. With luck, they also become fitter in the process.

Cheryl Anker is one of the sport's pioneers. Today, she makes a living by introducing paying students to the art of spotting famous people in and around LA. The beginners fishpond in which she conducts her classes is the streets close to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. The area is, of course, America's luxury capital, containing a flagship outlet of every global fashion brand, distilled into a couple of square miles, and resembling a cross between Bond Street and Disneyland. But it is probably most famous as the venue of that extravagant shopping trip by Julia Roberts (using Richard Gere's credit card) in Pretty Woman.

To Anker, it's a district laden with possibility due to its swish stores' typical patrons. Aweek or two ago, she bumped into the comedian George Lopez and his wife outside The Ivy (sister to the London restaurant). They'd just had a birthday lunch. She stopped jogging, chatted, and secured a series of knockout pics. Her greatest ever "spot", however, was Sidney Poitier. "I saw him through the window of Office Depot," she recalls. "He was doing some photocopying. So I ran in to get a proper look. The sales assistant told me he came there all the time, and let me ask if he would pose for me. Normally, I respect people's privacy when they're in a shop. But this was Sidney Poitier, a hero of mine, a legend. And he was happy to be in a picture.

This touches on one of the "ground rules" of celebrity jogging, revealed during Anker's briefing session to the 12 or so mostly middle-aged women who have signed up to her $60 class: if you are inside a store, or on any other form of private property, taking pictures is forbidden. Security guards are liable to descend and "wipe" your camera equipment.

We will jog (or, for the larger participants, power-walk) for roughly four miles, she says. From time to time – particularly if we see someone famous – we will stop. We'll all wear matching lurid yellow T-shirts made from a special material that won't show up sweat patches in the 105F midday heat. Our itinerary passes through Louis Vuitton, Van Cleef & Arpels, and the Four Seasons Hotel, where staff look on, baffled. In Chanel, the party is delayed after one member gets stuck in the restrooms.

Outside The Ivy, on Robertson, meanwhile, we are further delayed by half a dozen real paparazzi hanging around the valet-parking booth. They won't reveal whom they're waiting for. Apparently, this is standard procedure: paps hate "amateurs" for undermining their lucrative market. The presence of just six of them suggests, however, that they're following a very minor star, possibly from the world of reality television.

It's a funny old world, where people pay money to gawp at the rich and famous like animals in a zoo. But it does underlines America's curious relationship with stardom – one that occasionally erupts, such as when surfers on a Malibu beach attacked photographers for stalking Matthew McConaughey in his swimming trunks.

The irony, of course, is that while Americans are often appalled by their feral paparazzi, plenty of them also carry People magazine in their handbag. They don't seem to register a connection, either: look at the OK-reading onlookers in the Malibu "pap rage" videos posted online.

And while LA venerates its celebrities, it isn't always as obsessed by them as you'd think. The celebrity-jogging community, for example, is worryingly thin on fame junkies. Instead, most are regular people like housewife Bonnie Keilband, who says: "I wouldn't recognise a celebrity if I tripped over one," but fancied a change from another Saturday walking her dog.

Anker's tour finishes outside the Sprinkles cupcake store on Santa Monica Boulevard, where she buys her weary, sweaty students a big cake, and hands them a "recovery pack" of fruit, water and energy bars. The morning, we realise, has successfully reflected what LA life is all about: trying to keep fit, scoffing junk food, and having a brief encounter with a passing celebrity.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Appointment Maker - OTE £20,000

    £14000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An office based Appointment Mak...

    Recruitment Genius: Healthcare Assistant

    £7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This provider of care services is looking for...

    Recruitment Genius: Lettings Administrator

    £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Purpose of Role: To co-ordinate maintena...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager - Commercial Training

    £30000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The business development manage...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent