It's hard to imagine Newman, a fit 42-year-old with shoulder- length auburn hair, as a "size 14 at age 14" -- and equally difficult to picture her as the 90-pound anorexic she soon became. Oddest of all, perhaps, is that Newman has chosen to tell her story not in the form of a mawkish movie of the week or an angry "autopathography" displayed at Borders, but as an unsentimental solo show.
Performing stand-up at Igby's, the Ice House and the Improv, Newman occasionally joked about dieting ("When my trainer told me muscles have memory, I realized that my butt must have Alzheimer's"), but mostly riffed neurotic in the safer territories of her Jewish mother and "spousal equivalent" ("The Nutrasweet version of a marriage: All the great taste of a husband, only half the commitment").
Diving into pools -- metaphorically and literally -- had never been Newman's forte. In the mid-1970s, Newman's aerospace-engineer father moved his family from an immigrant neighborhood on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where "everybody was heavy," says Newman, to sunny Beverly Hills, where the chubby adolescent fretted about fitting into a bathing suit. As summer began, a Beverly Hills doctor put Newman on a diet of 600 calories a day, which Newman quickly pared down to 400 calories, then 20, and on some days, none.