In the lobby, booths from The Wellness Program gave out free pins, key-chains and flyers. There was another booth for people to sign up for the Look-a-like contest and a best outfit contest. An arcade booth featured a spin-the-wheel game of different 80’s trivia questions; prizes included an Etch-a-Sketch and a light-up board game. It soon became so packed that people were bumping shoulders and scraping past each other to get into the ASPB co-sponsored event. Free glow sticks were quickly snatched by many and placed upon the head, creating an amazing visual of unity seen through neon halos. The abundant amount of camera and video coverage also signaled that this was definitely one of UCR’s biggest highlights of the year.
As he introduced himself, the audience was absolutely ecstatic about his generous amount of energy, his impeccable sense of humor and his sincere humility. His workout routine, which started promptly, was full of flamboyant dance moves and heart-racing cardio; both which the audience eagerly ate up.
He began by telling us his real name, which is Milton Simmons, and that he grew up in New Orleans with two very poor parents and a brother. Both parents were aspiring stars that “didn’t make it,” and Simmons took the opportunity to remind everyone that out of every star, there are a million who don’t make it.
Even as a young boy, he could not bear to see his parents suffer. At the tender age of eight he began selling pralines and being funny on the street, collecting the cash he had made from the entire day and putting it on his parents’ bed at night. In school Simmons was bullied and rejected, particularly from one boy who would hit him over the head with a bat every day for six years. He developed compulsive eating habits and graduated high school at a staggering two hundred and sixty eight pounds. Eventually Simmons began abusing his body, trying everything from overdosing on laxatives to developing bulimia.
His tragic story reached a climax when he decided to starve himself for two months; the result was a loss of over one hundred pounds that ultimately landed him in the hospital. In tears, Simmons recalled what his nurse had asked him: “Do you want to live, or do you want to die?” He answered, “I want to live.”
Greg Wontorek, a 45 year old staff member at the UCR Transfers & Admissions office who was fully donned in full 80’s gear said, “He is a huge inspiration for everyone. Before Biggest Loser and all those other TV shows, he was the one who would sit next to obese people and cry with them. He was the one who reached out, identified with people, and started a huge movement. Him being here tonight really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”