Chris Powell – hey, we knew him when! …

When we first met Chris Powell, the coach and trainer at the heart of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition, he was naked except for a heart-shaped box of chocolates and some rose petals.

Years ago, we were shooting the Valentine’s cover of Get Out, the weekly entertainment section for the East Valley Tribune, and Chris agreed to be our model. I remember buying the rose petals from a flower shop and handing off the props to our photographer — those were the early glory days with Ralph Freso! — and unlike later shoots, I didn’t stick around to play art director. (Which, years later, I still kick myself over. Stupid, stupid, stupid!)

Chris didn’t actually go the full monty for the shoot, but thanks to strategic placement of that heart (and a bit of Photoshop), it sure looked that way in the final pics.* And although we’d come up with the plan, we were also worried about how such a risqué shot would be received in what was, essentially, a community newspaper. For an earlier issue about the Phoenix modeling industry, we did a cover in homage to the For Your Eyes Only poster; instead of a gun-toting James Bond we had a photographer. The woman standing in front of him was wearing a skirt that was just above the knee and couldn’t even be considered a mini, but from the hue and cry — so much leg visible right up front of the photo! — you’d have thought we tucked a string thong between her butt cheeks. So how was a shot of a ripped naked guy going to go over? We must have had a safer Plan B in place, just in case, but we didn’t use it.

* One of the saddest parts about the Tribune changing ownership, before its downsizing, is the loss of its online archive: When everything was converting to digital, the newspaper jettisoned literal tons of clippings under the reassurances that the new digital library would live forever! And for awhile, it seemed true — you could pull up PDFs of any issue since early in my tenure. But when the Tribune sold again, the former parent company stopped hosting the files, which have either been stockaded on old equipment somewhere or, more likely, deleted so the now-bankrupt Freedom Communications could sell the equipment.

The next time our paths crossed was 2002, when Cosmopolitan magazine named Chris Arizona’s “Hunkiest Bachelor.” You can read the New Times story — still online!here. (I’m not bitter, I swear.) Sure, that article talks about panties, but I am about 95% sure that our Tribune discussion included a piece about how one of Chris’ goals was to work with the extremely overweight. (I remember this because I was like: “God dammit. He’s nice, too. I want to hate him, but I can’t.”)

And now he’s doing exactly that — and doing it spectacularly, if the episode of Extreme Makeover that I watched last night is any indicator: Jacqui went from 355 pounds to 148 in a year, just by working her ass off. No surgery, except to remove excess skin.** That’s incredible and inspiring, which is exactly what he had hoped to achieve. And speaking for Team Get Out, we think it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.

** ABC must have thrown in some veneers for the final reveal, since her teeth became flawless along the way. At least I hope the network sprang for them, since Jacqui’s husband was working two jobs to support her for much of the year.

WHAT SAM WORE: 6-11-12
The shirt: Long-sleeved cotton button-down by Ben Sherman,
from Nordstrom Rack in Scottsdale.
The pants: Jeans by 7 for All Mankind, from Nordstrom in Chandler.
The shoes: Jack Purcell sneakers by John Varvatos for Converse,
from Nordstrom Rack.

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