WOONSOCKET ‚Äď Quick, what do Superman, President Barack Obama and screen actor Jason Statham all have in common?
Yeah, they‚Äôre all men with an uber-high public profile. Celebrities, you might say.
Then there‚Äôs Detective Sgt. Phil Kamer, a 16-year veteran of the Woonsocket Police Department: He‚Äôs no celebrity, but with a little luck he could end up in the same place as the Man of Steel, Obama and the tough-guy actor ‚Äď on the cover of the largest men‚Äôs fitness magazine in the country.
So far, it‚Äôs looking pretty good. Out of more than a thousand entries in the Men‚Äôs Health ‚ÄúUltimate Guy‚ÄĚ contest, Kamer is currently in fourth place.
‚ÄúI‚Äôd like to win,‚ÄĚ says Kamer. And he thinks he‚Äôs got a fair chance. After all, ‚ÄúWhen you look at the competition, it seems like I‚Äôm one of the most regular guys in the running.‚ÄĚ
The magazine says the Ultimate Guy winner would mark the first time a photo of a reader has appeared on the cover of Men‚Äôs Health. And with nearly 2 million subscribers, if Kamer isn‚Äôt a celebrity now he‚Äôd stand a good chance of becoming one if he landed the spot.
Men‚Äôs Health sets the bar high.
‚ÄúThis guy is physically fit, confident, stylish, career-driven and a pillar of his community,‚ÄĚ the magazine says.
But it‚Äôs easy to see why Kamer‚Äôs doing so well. A longtime bodybuilder, Kamer has beefy biceps and bulging pecks that fill out a T-shirt in all the right places. He‚Äôs been pumping iron since he was 16 years old. And back in the mid-1990s, he persuaded the Woonsocket Police Department to create a state-of-the-art gymnasium in the basement of Clinton Street headquarters by using drug forfeiture funds to purchase exercise equipment from a fitness club that was going out of business.
With more than 10,000 pounds of free weights, elliptical machines, treadmills and an assortment of other training equipment, the WPD‚Äôs gym is still the only place where the 39-year-old Woonsocket native works out, seven days a week.
He‚Äôs also an enthusiastic cheerleader for physical fitness among fellow member of the police force. Every year, he sponsors a ‚Äúbiggest loser‚ÄĚ contest to encourage other officers to shed pounds and tone up. Twenty-five police officers took part in this year's event, and each one of them lost weight, said Kamer.
‚ÄúPhysical fitness is important to police officers,‚ÄĚ said Kamer. ‚ÄúIt reduces injury and it reduces stress.‚ÄĚ
A father of three who lives with his wife in Burrillville, Kamer is also a musician ‚Äď he plays drums ‚Äď and often stages fundraising shows for various causes. A few weeks ago, he performed at City Streets in a benefit for the late Woonsocket Athletic Director George Nasuti, raising $4,000 for the Nasuti Scholarship Fund. He‚Äôs also a regular benefactor for his department‚Äôs COPS Walk, a fundraiser for survivors of police officers killed in the line of duty; and for the homegrown Athena' Cup, which aims to find a cure for breast cancer.
But Kamer says that in all candor, it‚Äôs not the chiseled cut of his physique or his volunteer work that‚Äôs keeping his Ultimate Guy entry propped so high in the standings. It‚Äôs his connection to Athena‚Äôs Cup.
Kamer is a childhood friend of Jennifer Jolicoeur, the founder of city-based Athena‚Äôs Home Novelties, a wildly successful company that‚Äôs managed to put a wholesome spin on marketing sex toys, marital aids and racy lingerie. Kamer has become a staple of Athena‚Äôs advertising and marketing campaign, appearing on the cover of a series of the company‚Äôs product catalogues during the last several years.
Kamer says the folks at Athena‚Äôs caught their first glimpse of his cover-worthy modeling potential when they saw a photo of him wearing a tank-top and playing the drums on his web site, philkamerdrummer.com.
So it might not be exactly correct to say Kamer isn‚Äôt a celebrity. He‚Äôs become such a hot commodity among Athena‚Äôs largely female clientele that the company‚Äôs representatives have asked him to autograph copies of the catalogue before they head out to the home-based sales ‚Äúparties‚ÄĚ ‚Äď Athena‚Äôs signature marketing vehicle, much like the Tupperware parties of the 1950s. He‚Äôs signed over 600 of them.
Some of the covers are rather steamy, but it was hard to say no to Jolicoeur after growing up with her. One that didn‚Äôt get much applause on the home front depicts him locked in a tight, sweaty embrace with a woman. You can‚Äôt see much except for Kamer‚Äôs bare, muscular back, and the woman‚Äôs arms reaching out from under him holding something that looks like a tube of toothpaste.
‚ÄúMy wife didn‚Äôt like that one too much,‚ÄĚ quipped Kamer, who‚Äôs quick to point out that there‚Äôs nothing particularly stimulating about doing such photo shoots.
Kamer still isn‚Äôt sure why he was invited to compete in the Ultimate Guy contest. He doesn‚Äôt even subscribe to Men‚Äôs Health, but for some reason he gets it regularly.
‚ÄúThey sent me an e-mail asking me if I was interested in competing in the contest,‚ÄĚ said Kamer. ‚ÄúI figured, ‚ÄėWhy not. What have I got to lose?‚Äô‚ÄĚ
When he first entered, he mustered only a handful of votes. But as soon as Jolicoeur learned about the entry, the figures quickly shot over 4,000, and he‚Äôs been straddling third or fourth place for the last couple of weeks.
It‚Äôs all because Jolicoeur tapped her well-established social media marketing network to check in on his behalf, according to Kamer.
‚ÄúYou‚Äôve got to give her credit,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúI would bet that out of the 4,500 votes she‚Äôs responsible for bringing in 4,000 of them.‚ÄĚ
Under the contest rules, the votes only count for 20 percent of each contestant‚Äôs entry, Men‚Äôs Health says. The balance will be chosen by the magazine‚Äôs ‚Äúall-star judging panel.‚ÄĚ The winner will be named at the end of July. The prize includes plane fare, a three-day stay in New York and a session with the magazine‚Äôs photographers.
Though the marketing literature about the contest says Men‚Äôs Health aims to put a reader on the cover for the first time, a careful reading of the rules indicates there aren‚Äôt any guarantees, no matter who wins. The rules say the photo shoot is for ‚Äúa potential cover‚ÄĚ for the November 2014 issue.
Right now, the leading contestant is Vaughn Ripley of Maryland, who bills himself as a hemophiliac who‚Äôs lived longer with HIV than anyone on the planet. In second is Drew Adelman of New Jersey, founder of the low-cal, gluten-free Devotion Vodka label, and third is Patrick Midgley of Virginia, a Shakespearean actor who likes to exercise and eat healthy.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve always put fit, healthy, successful and authentic athletes on our cover because our readers aspire to be like them,‚ÄĚ Men‚Äôs Health editor Bill Phillips said in announcing the contest recently. ‚ÄúBut those words describe so many of our readers too. Picking the ultimate guy from their ranks, and showing the results of living the Men‚Äôs Health lifestyle, will be hugely motivational to all men.‚ÄĚ
To vote for Kamer, click on the link http://www.mhguysearch.com/entry/202/ljl8rn3qtu8brg7b14slbhnl53.
Follow Russ Olivo on twitter @russolivo