A Self-Styled Food Cop Polices the Coolest Fridges in L.a.
03/27/1989 at 01:00 AM EST
Dana Delany, star of ABC's China Beach, needed someone to lay down the law when it came to her food habits. She was five pounds overweight and had a tendency to pig out on ice cream and other nutritional no-noes. So she hired L.A. diet consultant Yolanda Bergman. On her first house call, Bergman followed standard operating procedure. She visited Delany's kitchen the same way a team of narcs drop in on a crack house: unannounced and expecting the worst. Surprisingly, Delaney's kitchen was clean. Too clean.
Bergman, 34, attacked the refrigerator and cupboards in her usual ferocious fashion, a fresh, empty garbage bag at the ready for all the grotesque junk food she usually finds in her clients' homes. Delany's kitchen was bare, save for a couple of bottles of wine and a jar of mayonnaise. Stumped? Hardly. Agent Bergman deduced the truth immediately: "She was eating out at restaurants, as well as eating the catered food on the set, and that was the problem."
But not for Bergman. She proceeded to put Delany on a balanced diet plan, cooking and then delivering low-calorie meals to the set and to Delany's Venice, Calif., home. Some of Bergman's other celebrity clients haven't been so simply transformed and rescued from their self-destructive food addictions.
Kiss guitarist Paul Stanley had a bad sugar habit until he hired Bergman. The sweet-toothed rocker watched in awe as the 5'4", 97-lb. ex-ballerina swooped into his home for one of her now-famous kitchen cleanouts. "She threw out everything," he says. "Then she refilled the fridge with food I had never seen in my house, like vegetables." Says Bergman: "Paul lived on junk food, but he was ready to change."
Carrie Fisher, another sweets freak, proved less malleable. Even after Bergman introduced Fisher to low-calorie candies, chocolates and fruit sorbet, the actress still strayed from the path of the righteous. "She used to sneak Coca-Cola behind my back," reports Bergman, "so I had to keep going over to her house to throw it all out."
Bergman comes by her chutzpah organically. The daughter of Walter and Betty Kempley, a TV writer-producer and a gourmet cook, Bergman grew up in Pelham Manor, N.Y., and studied dance with the Harkness Ballet in New York City. In 1979 she was making a meager living as a member of the Los Angeles Ballet company. As for her diet, she was not exactly practicing what she now so fervently preaches.
"The way I had learned to diet was bulimia," Bergman confesses. "In ballet it was condoned. I also kept thin by eating an apple a day and steamed vegetables at night. Now I stay at 97 lbs., and I eat like a horse. That's because I have figured food out."
Part of that process involved using the cooking skills Yolanda picked up from her mother to woo her then boyfriend, TV actor Richard Bergman. She won his heart by filling his stomach with nutrition-packed, low-calorie gourmet meals. They married in 1980, had a baby girl and divorced in 1986.
At the time of their amicable parting, Yolanda was employed as a Jane Fonda workout instructor. Five years with Fonda convinced Bergman that she should open her own personal training business, which is still going strong. Made up of a staff of three trainers, Yolanda Enterprises Inc. is headquartered in the renovated garage behind Bergman's Sherman Oaks home.
So when exercise client and Beverly Hills dermatologist Dr. Arnold Klein asked for diet help to lose some weight in 1987, Bergman expanded her company by blending all her skills together in a surefire recipe for success. Not one to deprive the pampered palates of her rich and famous clientele, Bergman whips up such fit and fancy entrees as grilled turkey burgers, skinless, orange-teriyaki chicken with sesame seeds, and crustless, oil-less pizza. In two years Bergman has built up a business that has 35 clients, among them Cathy Lee Crosby, Kate Jackson, Martin and Janet Sheen and Bonnie Franklin. This kind of health takes wealth: Bergman's meals cost $7 to $27, plus a $10 delivery charge.
At home with daughter Nolina, now 7, Bergman is as strict a food watcher and calorie counter as she is with her big-name fans. Nolina is not allowed to drink soda or eat any processed foods and, boasts her mom, "She has not been to the doctor for any reason since age 3."
And for her infant business venture, Bergman's ambitions are even bigger than her own wide brown eyes. Those orbs see it all now: a network of Yolanda fast-health-food restaurants stretching from coast to coast. Says the self-assured diet dynamo: "Everyone's obsessed with instant food and look what we've got—eating disorders and weight obsession. It has got to change." Yolanda Bergman is ready and eager to feed the revolution.
—Ned Geeslin, Lorenzo Benet in Los Angeles