Picture of Health
playmate linda summers turns people on to natural food -- and practices what she preaches
An elderly woman with a lined face asks where she can find "some nuts without salt in 'em." A middle-aged lady wonders about organic beef. "It's not raised with hormones," explains the girl at the counter, "like stilbestrol, which is used to fatten up beef for economic reasons and is really a bummer. It throws your body chemistry out of whack and it's known to cause cancer." A couple of young kids are waiting to buy some licorice, and one says, "You sound just like my aunt; she used to run a health-food store." After they leave, the girl remarks that it's been a slow afternoon: "At least there haven't been any of the usual daily tragedies. Have you ever tried to clean up after somebody drops a jar of honey?" If you live in San Diego, the counter girl at the nearest health-food store just might be our August Playmate, a chestnut-haired 21-year-old named Linda Summers. Linda's stepfather owns a chain of five such establishments, and she has been his full-time employee for almost a year -- (wo)manning the counter, cash register and telephone and advising customers with problems; every now and then, she reaches under the counter for her copy of Let's Get Well to see what Adelle Davis, guru of the natural-food movement, has to say about rutin, bioflavonoids and the like. Sandwiched between a loan company and a beauty shop in the middle of a shopping center, the store we found her in is a weird combination of the exotic and the mundane. On the shelves, between the fluorescents above and the vinyl tile below, are such items as vegeroni, bone meal and soyameat, and a freezer in back contains raw milk, unpasteurized and unhomogenized. In the tea section, you'll find such offbeat entries as bladder wrack, kelp powder, buchu leaves and anise seed ("The Indians used to use some of these things as remedies," says Linda. "They're supposed to cure colds and relieve arthritic pain; and some teas are natural sedatives").
Health food is more than just a job for Linda. Like her mother, stepfather and father -- a dentist who's also located in the San Diego area -- she believes in it. "I was raised on raw liver. Really. Because when you cook anything, you change its chemical composition, and my parents wanted me to have lots of iron."
Linda grew up -- and still lives -- on a modest ranch in La Mesa that includes a two-acre avocado grove and lots of fruit trees; the family is large enough -- three girls and a boy -- to consume all the oranges, limes, figs, strawberries and watercress they produce. Linda, whose concern with health and fitness goes beyond consideration of diet, does a lot of jogging, mostly on the beach, and recently completed a four-month course of swimming, bicycling and working with weights and belts at a local gym. As you can imagine, she doesn't favor tobacco, alcohol or coffee ("They kill the vitamins in your body and neutralize your power to rebuild tissue"). For R & R, Linda likes to strum the guitar and sing folk songs and, on occasional weekends, to drive her Capri down to Rosarito Beach in Baja California for some motorcycle and dune-buggy riding.
The world she inhabits is small but organic, and she's satisfied with it. She was surprised when we told her the Republican Party had been considering San Diego as a site for this year's convention. "I've given up on politics," she says. "It's just a rat-race. I'm a small-town girl, involved with my own life, trying to make it mean something and to maintain my peace of mind. And that's a full-time job."
Photography by Bill Figge, Ed DeLong