Magazine article The New Yorker

Alaskan Tropic

Magazine article The New Yorker

Alaskan Tropic

Article excerpt

Of the many things revealed about the Alaska governor Sarah Palin since she became John McCain's running mate last month, one of the most curious is the fact, reported two weeks ago, that she had a tanning bed installed in the state mansion in Juneau. Obama supporters seized on the news, arguing that private tanning-bed ownership is evidence that Palin isn't the folksy hockey mom she claims to be, while Republican partisans pointed out that she bought the bed secondhand from an athletic club, and, moreover, that tanning is a reasonable activity, given Alaska's sun-deprived winters.

Taking a charitable view of the revelation was the Indoor Tanning Association, a trade lobbying group based in Washington, D.C. The organization quickly issued a press release extolling tanning as a source of Vitamin D and gave "kudos" to Palin for standing up to those "trying to frighten Americans away from UV light." Palin hasn't commented publicly on her bronzing habits, but tanning professionals are nevertheless excited that an avowed tanner is so prominent on the national stage. "Word flew through our industry," Dan Humiston, the association's president, said the other day by phone. "They're all saying, 'Good news about Sarah Palin.' "

Humiston was speaking from Nashville, where he was attending the association's annual trade show. The three-day expo features workshops ("Total Salon Makeover: Saving and Rebuilding a Tanning Business on the Brink"), new products (the CosmoLux 9K90 low-pressure sunlamp), and, occasionally, themed entertainment. "Most tanning salons are owned by females," Humiston said. "If we have a band, we'll bring in someone for them to get up and dance. The Beach Boys gave a concert once."

In 1985, Humiston borrowed four thousand dollars from his grandparents, bought two tanning beds, and opened a salon in the basement of an office building in a Buffalo suburb. Now, at forty-five, he's the president of Tanning Bed, Inc., a chain with thirty-four locations across upstate New York. Humiston, who appears two shades darker than everyone else in photographs, normally adheres to a regimen of fifteen minutes a week under the lights, but lately he's been too busy to bronze--he's running for Congress as an independent in the Twenty-seventh Congressional District. …

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