Group raises money for ALS with creative calendar

January 25, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Patients suffering from ALS, sometimes referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease, spend much of their time battling the steady deterioration of their bodies. But one group, led by a Bay Area performer, decided to fight back and raise money for research in an unusual way.

Singer and comic Carla Zilbersmith remembers the night she decided to let her audience in on her disease.

"A couple weeks ago, I was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, which sucks because I hate baseball. I was actually hoping for a basketball disease," she told her audience.

Now, two years after ALS ended her career, Carla is still edgy and finding new ways to educate audiences about ALS.

"I was talking to my nurse, and I said 'We could do a sexy calendar,'" she said.

With the help of friends, she's produced a calendar, titled "ALS -- Always Looking Sexy." The photos are take-offs on Hollywood movies, with Carla starring as the "Little Mermaid."

"I had been planning for the longest time to just dress up as a mermaid and wheel over to people and say, 'I move much better in the water,'" she said.

The challenge, she says, came in convincing fellow ALS patients like Corey Reich to tap his inner Tom Cruise.

"She said I'd like you to do Tom Cruise from "Risky Business." I am a little young to have seen the movie when it first came out, but everyone has seen that scene. So I got here and decided to go with it, can't say no to Carla," he said.

Some of the movies featured in the calendar include "Basic Instinct," "Braveheart" and "American Beauty."

Graphic designer Jennifer Brecheisen helped lay out the calendar, but also doubled as a model to help math teacher Jason Picetti live out his "Austin Powers" fantasy.

"So we were all pawing at him, kissing on him, ripping his shirt off. He hated it," Brecheisen said.

Patients say the images captured in the calendar prove that while ALS can attack their bodies, it can't destroy their spirit.

"I see myself as a really cool person with crappy luck. I want lots of money for research for ALS," Zilbersmith said.

All procedes from the calendar sales go directly to ALS research.

Written and produced by Tim Didion.