The ageless and iconic Maine resident brings his see-through healthy living show to L-A this month.

LINCOLNVILLE — He’s still rocking the skintight, bones-and-organs bodysuit.

Still singing about your heart/brain/muscles.

“Up and down, here I am. Up and down, I’m your diaphragm!”

Still Slim Goodbody.

But while kiddie kitsch helped launch John Burstein’s career in the 1970s, the iconic children’s entertainer is about more than singing in a bodysuit. He’s an educator, an advocate, a businessman who runs a small edu-tainment empire from his home — Lincolnville, Maine.

And although he’s years removed from his heyday on Captain Kangaroo and PBS, Burstein — Slim Goodbody — still performs, bringing lessons on nutrition, exercise and anatomy to a new generation of kids. Later this month, to a new generation of kids in Lewiston.

“Bones are great. They keep you straight. They protect your body, hold up your weight. Say, ‘I love my bones!'”

“I’m under no illusion that I’ve had a massive effect,” said Burstein, 65. “But I’ve been a positive influence to people’s lives, a tiny little spark of brightness. And that makes me feel good. “

Hard to forget

In his earliest days, Burstein was an actor and singer. He studied dance in Belgium and dramatic literature in college. He acted in New York, off — “Way off” — Broadway.

Burstein started writing children’s songs in the 1970s while working a summer job for the Floating Hospital, a New York charity that provides free medical care to needy children. His specialty: songs about the body.

“People said, ‘You ought to sell those songs to Sesame Street,'” he said. “I thought, ‘Well, I ought to sell myself to Sesame Street. If I can come up with a character.'”

With help from a dance costumer friend, Burstein created a painted unitard that made him look like a man turned see-through, with all his bones, muscles and (G-rated) organs on display. Suddenly Burstein wasn’t just singing about the body, he was the body. 

Slim Goodbody was born.

Burstein began appearing on “Captain Kangaroo” in regular segments called “The Adventures of Slim Goodbody in Nutri-City.” He was a superhero, battling the enemies of health — and evil genius puppets Sarah Bellum and Lobe — to save the people of Nutri-City. His sidekick was a man-sized robot named B1.

In 1980, Burstein got his own live-action show on PBS called “Inside Story.” Using music and props, puppets and guest stars, he taught children about nutrition, health and the inner workings of the body.

However, it was the bodysuit — along with his ’70s afro — that really got attention.

And made him hard to forget.

“I hear regularly (from fans), especially around Halloween. I heard from a Marine sergeant, this was back when we were fighting in Afghanistan, and he wrote me. He wanted to get a costume for Halloween on his base. He told me all his buddies love Slim Goodbody,” Burstein said.

“Inside Story” became highly rated and Slim Goodbody’s popularity exploded. For a while, his one-of-a-kind suit and enthusiastic life lessons seemed to be everywhere — on Nickelodeon, in children’s books, in short educational videos shown in classrooms across the country. 

His topics evolved with the times. As one decade turned into another, the environment and obesity joined lessons on the heart and lungs.

“I did a show on obesity back in 1990. Nobody was talking about it then,” Burstein said.

PBS stopped airing “Inside Story” around 2000, but Burstein’s career as Slim Goodbody didn’t stop. He performed various shows on stage — sometimes as Slim, sometimes as himself — with symphony orchestras. He brought Slim Goodbody into schools and classrooms.

And he continued to write children’s books. A lot of them.

He’s authored 50 at last count, including “The Exciting Endocrine System” and the series “Slim Goodbody’s Inside Guide to Pets.”

Over the years, Burstein has won at least 18 honors for his work, including an award by the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports for being an American fitness leader.

In 1999, Burstein, his wife and two sons moved to Maine. His wife, Christine, had lived in Brooks in the 1970s and the couple often vacationed here. 

“Every year it became harder and harder and harder to go back to New York City,” Burstein said. “And then (we) finally decided when the Internet was strong enough, I could do my business from up here.”

The Internet didn’t just allow Burstein to move forward, it also kept his old Slim Goodbody work alive. A YouTube search for “Slim Goodbody” turns up nearly 3,400 results, most of them clips of Burstein from his “Inside Story” and “Captain Kangaroo” days.

One six-minute “Nutri-City” clip has been viewed over 142,000 times since 2006.

“OH MY GOD! I FINALLY FOUND THIS! Yay!” wrote one commenter. “I’ve been trying to explain this show to my friends for years. Nobody else remembered it. I just found it now and I’m super excited to watch every episode. Wow. My life is now complete.”

Others were less nostalgic.

“What. In the. Hell?” wrote another commenter.

‘A piece of somebody’s history’

Even without YouTube, Slim Goodbody is all over the Internet. He has his own pages on Wikipedia and movie site IMDb. Ebay lists more than 300 Slim Goodbody items for sale or up for auction, including old albums, press photos from the 1970s and ’80s, and VHS tapes from the PBS series. Eighties tribute sites pay homage to him. (So did Radio Shack’s 2014 Super Bowl commercial, in which Slim Goodbody ransacked a Radio Shack store with Alf, Mary Lou Retton and other icons from the ’80s.) 

Burstein’s more recent work is online, too, including a website, Facebook page and online health classes.

Over the years, Burstein has lost the ’70s afro, but never his signature suit. It’s been through at least 10 iterations, the last one created eight or 10 years ago by people who had experience with Star Trek’s Starfleet costumes.

“So it has a slightly more uniform look to it,” Burstein said. “I don’t think anyone would notice.”

What people do notice: the fact Burstein still fits into a skin-tight bodysuit. So many people ask about it — How do you do that? — that he’s posted the answer on his website. (Hint: It involves working out and eating right.)

These days, Burstein wears the suit only for school assemblies or the handful of times a year he headlines the National Bodyology Tour, his interactive hourlong theater show designed to teach kids about anatomy and healthy living.

The show will come to the Public Theatre in Lewiston May 18-20. Of the five shows scheduled, three sold out by mid-April.

The theater offers one children’s production every spring. It chose Bodyology after a staff member saw Burstein perform.

“He’s really skilled and it’s very professionally done,” said Christopher Schario, the theater’s executive and artistic director. “We’re very, very careful about what we put on our stage. We’re a professional theater, we have really high artistic standards.”

Burstein’s theater shows are lot like his TV shows were — fun, high-energy, musical and more than a little campy. He doesn’t see a lot of difference between kids today and kids when he started.

“I find the audiences are very, very similar. What was funny or enjoyable to a kid earlier on is still,” he said.

He does, though, get more attention today from parents and teachers — his ’70s and ’80s fan base all grown up.

“It feels really great. It’s nice to belong to a piece of somebody’s history,” Burstein said.

That connection became very clear after one show in Phoenix. A mother had brought her daughter to one of Burstein’s shows, but the little girl got upset because she wasn’t one of the children picked to go onstage. After the show, Burstein spent time talking with the girl.

“A week later I got the most beautiful letter from this woman,” Burstein said. “She said, ‘You came over and my daughter just felt so special and she never stops talking about you now. And it’s so nice that she and I both can share this experience of sort of knowing you as kids.'”

Two Slims is better than one?

Today, Burstein, his wife and youngest son — now 16 — live full time in Lincolnville. His wife, a family nurse practitioner, was recently elected to the Maine House of Representatives. She serves on the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee.

Even at the State House it’s hard to get away from Slim Goodbody. 

“Her seatmate wanted a picture of me,” Burstein said.

However, Burstein isn’t the only Slim anymore. Seven years ago, Jonathan Burgard joined the company. He also plays Slim Goodbody, suit and all. The Bodyology tour stops at about 40 cities a year and Burgard now heads most of them. (Not to worry, the “original” Slim will be appearing at the Lewiston engagements.) 

And though Slim Goodbody remains the image of his edu-tainment company (you can order your own Slim Goodbody T-shirt), Burstein has branched out — producing math, reading and history DVDs, publishing e-books on bullying and peer pressure, and creating Mouthamatics.com, a site commissioned by the Maine Center for Disease Control to help schools teach dental hygiene.

He’s also played Scrooge at the Camden Opera House two years in a row, produced the play “Dracula” at the Rockport Opera House last Halloween, and has written and produced a free Mother’s Day show to be performed at the Rockland Strand on Mother’s Day.

Off stage, he plays music every week for Alzheimer’s patients and is a hospice volunteer.

“I’m just looking for a way to stay involved and do interesting things,” he said.

It’s hard, though, to move very far from his roots. Burstein is thinking of mounting a Kickstarter campaign to support a new New York live show. Something with a live band. Something sort of modeled after the Blue Man Group. Something with Slim Goodbody. 

“There’s a lot of amazing information about the way our mind works, about the way our DNA has been developing,” Burstein said. “There’s a terrific amount of really incredible information about who we are that I think I could really present in an interesting way to families.”

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