Chubby Chasing

The Hey-that-low-fat-snack-ain’t-so-low-fat! story is one of those gotcha perennials. Seinfeld celebrated these cautionary tales years ago in the famous frozen-yogurt episode. But what if the accused purveyor of a bogus low-fat treat turned out to be … one of New York City’s toniest health clubs?

According to an independent analysis performed at Associated Analytical Laboratories, a “low-fat” blueberry muffin recently purchased at the City Chow Café inside the Equinox Fitness Club on Lexington Avenue and 63rd Street contained 32 grams of fat–about half the recommended daily allowance. All in all, it weighed in at a startling 21 percent pure fat. It also contained 620 calories–nearly twice as many as one of McDonald’s Sausage McMuffins. You’d have to work out an extra 45 minutes just to make up the difference between the allegedly low-fat blueberry muffin and the Sausage McMuffin.

The allegedly low-fat blueberry muffin also contained as much cholesterol as one and a half tablespoons of butter–40 grams–and about a fourth of the recommended daily allowance of sodium.

” My God ,” said Dan Goldstein, a 30-year-old financial analyst who was breakfasting at Equinox when a reporter confronted him with the lab results. “I sometimes call my wife ‘Muffin .’ Now it’s like, am I calling her fat ? But if I suddenly change to ‘honey’ or something, is she going to think I’m having an affair ? Jeez. What a dilemma!”

“I guess I should actually hit the gym one of these days,” said Kylie Thomas, 33, who was eating a muffin at a table nearby. “I’m not a member of Equinox. I just come because they have these low-fat muffins. They’re soo-oo good. I mean, I guess they’re good because they’re not really low-fat. I wish you had to pay to join the café and the gym was free! I’d be soo-oo thin.”

Judi Taylor, a spokeswoman for Equi-nox, tried to blame the test results on a labeling mix-up. “One of the regular muffins must have somehow ended up behind the low-fat sign,” she said. (The lab test analyzed six “low fat” muffins.)

At first, The Observer was told by the store manager that Equinox’s muffins came from a company called Gourmet Croissant. Dino Atlas, a spokesman for Gourmet Croissant, said The Observer ‘s data did indeed match the “low-fat” muffin his company makes. He said the company’s regular muffin has 48 grams of fat. “So compared to our regular muffin, 32 grams is low-fat,” he said. Mr. Atlas helpfully suggested that if you ate less of the low-fat muffin–say half–you’d ingest half as much fat.

But later, Ms. Taylor referred The Observer to Todd Millman, the man who owns the City Chow Café inside Equinox, and 21 others like it throughout the city. That’s when the real fun began. Mr. Millman said that City Chow Café actually gets its low-fat muffins from a company called Exquisities, not Gourmet Croissant. But a spokesman for Exquisities told The Observer that the company does not sell low-fat muffins to City Chow, though they do sell them regular muffins, and he added that he wished Mr. Millman would stop telling people he got his low-fat muffins from Exquisities.

Mr. Millman tried to put the muffin mystery to rest by saying, “We don’t sell low-fat blueberry muffins.” Burp !

–Ian Blecher

Lil’ Debbie

When Susan Schwartz called the adult-film distributor VCX Products last November to ask about acquiring the theatrical rights to the 1978 porn classic Debbie Does Dallas , she found herself being chastised by the company’s sales manager.

“No nice Jewish girls can be in this,” the sales manager told Ms. Schwartz, the producer and star of a Debbie stage version that bows at the Lower East Side’s Kraine Theater on Aug. 10, as part of the New York International Fringe Festival. “I’ve got two nice Jewish girls at home. You think I’d let them be in something like this? No way!”

Ms. Schwartz promised a kinder, gentler Debbie , a theatrical retelling in step with porn’s recent transformation from the creepy fringe into almost family fun. On the eve of its off-off-Broadway debut, she claimed to have delivered on that pledge.

“We’ll be masking things, not showing everything,” Ms. Schwartz said the other day at a deli near the old Playboy Building at 747 Third Avenue in midtown. For example, she said, a masturbation scene in the production–which, like the film, chronicles the tale of a young cheerleader wannabe who turns to flagrante frolicking to make some extra cash–will cloak the cast member’s private part. Likewise, a threesome will be performed on a couch facing upstage.

“They’re not going to get what they think they’re going to get,” Ms. Schwartz said, “but they’re going to get something in its place.”

Besides, Ms. Schwartz and her cast members believe that the secret of Debbie ‘s enduring appeal is not its nudity but its naïveté, which contrasts mightily with the wham-bam adult films of the current age. “There’s such a tongue-in-cheek-wholesomeness aspect to it that I don’t think you find in other movies,” said Mark Voss, who will play Mr. Greenfeld, a sporting-goods store owner and Debbie’s eventual sex partner. “You know, they keep saying, ‘ But we’re good girls !’ That’s just such a great convention compared to other porn flicks.”

Ms. Schwartz hopes the novelty factor and a healthy dose of curiosity will convince audiences to see her creation. “Everyone has heard of Debbie, ” she said. “They may not have allowed themselves to rent the movie, because they think it’s naughty, but I think people feel–correctly–that because it’s onstage, that it is safer. It will be smart, clever and funny–the classiest porn you can get.”

–Bene Cipolla

Even a City Squirrel Finds a …

Bernhard Goetz, who was found liable in 1996 for the subway shootings of four African-American men in 1984, is an Independent candidate for Mayor of New York City. Mr. Goetz, 52, also shares his West 14th Street apartment with a five-and-a-half-month-old squirrel named Cuba.

When did you get into squirrels?

“About three years ago, my chinchilla died; my pet chinchilla died and I wound up getting a couple of squirrels. They are wonderful pets. They are loving, gentle, clean pets.”

Some people think they’re just rats with big tails.

“If that’s true, then people are monkeys.”

Where did you get the ones you had as pets?

“Oh, there are excess squirrels around. There’s always an excess of squirrels available.”

Didn’t they try to bite you and freak out?

“Sure. Wild squirrels will try to bite you. But if you get them as a baby, then they don’t. The adult ones, sometimes the adults can be tamed …. [They] take very well to apartment living. Usually the females are tamer.”

What do you feed them?

“It’s crucial, if you have a baby pet squirrel, that you have to feed it esbilac.”

What’s that?

“Puppy milk. They won’t survive unless you give them esbilac. It’s rather expensive, and a squirrel only has a little bit a day. You put it in the refrigerator and let it get cold, and then when you shake the can and you open it, you pour it into an ice-cube tray and make maybe a dozen ice cubes of [it] … and every time you need it, you pop an ice cube out, put it in a little plastic dish in the microwave. I also like to feed them natural apple sauce with honey mixed in it. When they’re older they like, they like, uh, all kinds of nuts, avocado–and they like spaghetti, if you have natural spaghetti with good spaghetti sauce.”

Good sauce?

“Definitely. I only buy Barilla spaghetti sauce with mushroom and garlic. Sometimes I have to run into the bathroom, because the squirrel loves it, and he makes a big mess because he gets his front paws in it. Then he’s walking all over the place and on me with his spaghetti paws.”

Cute. So they really aren’t afraid of humans?

“Well, it depends on the squirrel. Squirrels do not like the unfamiliar. They do not like strange humans. If a stranger comes in here, forget it.”

–Anna Holmes Chubby Chasing