Just ask the Alberici Sisters, Maria Lauren and Linda Eichberg. They grew up in 1960’s Philadelphia as part of a health-conscious vegetarian family–a choice their parents made for health, not religion. When kids were bringing Wonder bread and bologna sandwiches to school, they had vegetables on sprouted wheat bread that “grossed out” the others. Instead of tidy little cartons of cow’s milk, they had fresh goat’s milk. Their mother juiced vegetables and made nut burgers.
Today Maria and Linda are certified fitness instructors promoting a healthy lifestyle at corporate wellness centers in the Los Angeles area. But the journey wasn’t always easy. Right out of high school in the mid-seventies, the sisters were selected to join the famous Golddiggers dancing and singing troupe. That is where they met local personality Patti Gribow of Palm Desert. Patti, Linda and Maria were the only members of The Golddiggers to share regular appearances on the Dean Martin Comedy Hour, a tour with the Rat Pack, and opening for Dean Martin in Las Vegas. This year they celebrate the 35th Anniversary of their tour with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin in 1977.
Patti grew up in Cincinnati and was raised on whole foods with everything cooked fresh and homemade. However, she adds, “When I met Maria and Linda, they ate an entirely different way, and it definitely had a positive influence on me. Processed foods were the new thing in the 60’s and 70’s and it was hard for them, but they stuck to it.”
“Here we were living the dream traveling around the world, performing in exciting places but we had to go to bed early to ensure we got up for a healthy breakfast and maybe get some eggs for protein,” says Linda. The all-day breakfast didn’t exist, except in Vegas. “We took trail mix with us on the road. Of course, trail mix wasn’t invented yet; we called it our ‘nut mix’ consisting of raw nuts and dried fruit. Linda and I bought fruit in the local supermarket and would heat up V-8 juice in our tea pot to make soup in our rooms because most restaurants didn’t have foods we could eat,” says Maria. When The Golddiggers troop went for a steakhouse dinner, the sisters would choose a big baked potato and a Caesar salad, a change from the bland iceberg lettuce salads that were the norm back then.
Why didn’t they stray? “We had no desire for processed food or meat. It wasn’t in our DNA, so to speak. Our habits were ingrained.”
The sisters also worked out and showed Patti how weight training could improve her stamina and endurance for their busy performance schedule which included 37 weeks of touring a year. “I was 20 years old majoring in Musical Theater at the Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati. I tried out for the Golddiggers and within three weeks, I was on the stage performing with Dean Martin.” It was a whirlwind and staying fit helped.
Patti and the sisters performed with Dean, Frank, and Bob Hope to name a few. Patti was with the troupe for 13 years while Maria and Linda stayed on with Dean for almost 20. The Golddigger’s became a family and are all close friends today. (In fact, Maria introduced Patti to her husband, Dale Gribow, a local lawyer many readers may know).
That friendship was called upon recently when Patti decided it was time to get serious about her health. While she grew up on wholesome foods, the importance of eating healthy–as in most families – was taken for granted. “I just turned 60 and decided it is time to kick it up a notch.” Her father’s family produces cholesterol and her mother’s side has high blood pressure and Patti is on medication for both. “I would like to see if I can reduce my medication through diet.”
“Our parents were strict, but it kept us from straying and that became very important throughout our adult life – especially when we entered show business.” The sisters reference a quote from their father, Albert Alberici, when interviewed by the The Vegetarian Health Review and Digest: “Children who rely on foods that are depleted of nourishment suffer in every way….but there are other elements just as important. The love of family. We are close-knit, warm, and affectionate. There is no generation gap. Our mealtime gatherings are festivals of joy.”
Patti calls the Alberici Sisters for recipes and simple ideas to incorporate healthy lifestyle change. She has increased the quantity of vegetables she is eating and has significantly reduced her meat consumption. She has cut back on dairy, prepares a lot of fresh fish, and watches her salt intake. Patti is working with her cardiologist who oversees her progress with blood work scheduled every six months.
The lifelong friendship these women share is invaluable and their work together is part of our American history. Maria and Linda have even written a book about their experiences with the Rat Pack called “Beyond Our Wildest Dreams.” (www.BeyondOurWildestDreams.com)
In the end, it all comes down to healthy choices. Maria and Linda agree that teaching your children the value of nutritious food and exercise is important and can lead to a lifetime of healthy choices. But as Patti will tell you, it’s never too late to start. “My goal is to live longer. To spend time with my grandchildren (if I am so blessed), and to continue making healthier lifestyle choices along the way.”