by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

People in New York are all abuzz about the amazing odyssey of Julie Ridge. Ridge, a professional actress, is swimming around Manhattan — 28 miles up and down the Hudson and East Rivers — once a day for six days.

On the seventh day she shall rest.

The event is billed as a “sports spectacular.” But I don’t know. I figure if God meant for woman to swim 28 miles he would have given her fins, or at least put some sharks behind her.

Besides, as most New Yorkers can tell you, the East River is not something you just go diving into.

In fact, the East River is usually reserved for non-swimming items, like refrigerators, beer bottles, Pontiacs, chicken bones, sewage, and an occasional dead gangster.

But Julie — once a star in the nude musical “Oh! Calcutta!” — has decided a six-day Manhattan swim is a “great test of endurance, character and the outer limits of physical strength,” not to mention a decent way to get another acting job.

And so — plop! — she’s in the drink, even as you read this. Today marks her first lap. Actually, Thursday was to be the first day, but eight hours into the swim the tides turned and she had to be pulled out near the World Trade Center. Hence, back to square one.

Many people think she is crazy. Others figure maybe not, since swimming around Manhattan is a lot safer than walking through it.

Either way, Julie has caused a stir. People photograph her, and reporters ask lots of questions, like when did she last have her shots? A diet of bananas and cocoa

A few days ago, I called Julie Ridge at her New York apartment to ask why she was doing this.

“A challenge,” she said. “Endurance is the last frontier. Our country is not at war. There are no serious causes. There are no mountains left to climb. It’s time to discover your personal limits.”

Well, um, yeah. OK, I said.

She was clearly excited. Though she had swum around Manhattan once before, she said a six-day marathon like this had never been attempted. Each lap would take her about nine hours, and she would be accompanied by a boat crew.

The crew would feed her only bananas and hot chocolate, she said, “because you don’t want to throw up 10 minutes after you eat,” though, in the East River, I’m not sure how you tell the difference.

“Won’t you get bored?” I asked.

“Oh, no,” she said. “When you’re in the river that long you get to a place where you just ozone out. It’s very restful.”

Where I come from, I said, we call that falling asleep on the couch. Alas, that is what separates New Yorkers from the rest of the human race.

Take Detroit. If a woman tried to swim back and forth to Windsor for six days, nobody would get too excited. Maybe someone would go down to the river and holler the Tigers’ score at her. You know. Keep her in touch with reality.

But in New York City things are different. People love new fads. In fact, Julie’s swim could add a whole new wrinkle to their lifestyle.

Picture it. A couple is strolling along the river in Battery Park. “Oh honey, it’s just so beautiful,” she says. And he says, “You’re right, darling. Why don’t we jump in and do a lap?”

At which point they take off their coats and shoes and pants and dive in, head first, laughing and hugging, and then a drug addict comes along and steals their money. This is no easy feat

But this is getting away from the point, which is, what is the point?

Even Julie admits she does not consider herself a swimmer first, but an actress. Her life’s goal is to land a part on “All My Children.”

“There’s some really good acting being done on that show,” she said. I believe she was serious.

All of which makes me wonder just how much sports are involved in this sports spectacular.

The event is being sponsored by Jag, a Beverly Hills sportswear firm. Jag is providing the bathing suits Julie wears, though I don’t suppose they’ll be wanting them back when she’s done.

True, it is no easy feat to swim around Manhattan, though someone once told me the currents are so strong a beer can could make it around in a matter of hours. And nobody ever gave a beer can a part on “All My Children.”

Still, Julie insists she’s in it for the challenge.

“To do something like this for publicity would just be stupid,” she said.
“If I just wanted to get publicity I’d go do something else.”

Like what? I asked.

“You know, jump off a bridge. Or go shoot somebody on the subway.”

After all, she added, it is New York.


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