Monday, January 24, 2011

Jack LaLanne, September 26, 1914 – January 23, 2011

When I was a lad, I caught my first glimpse of the 1966 Batman film.  This was the one that spun out of the 60’s television show starring Adam West and Burt Ward.  It was a real treat to see as I had been trying to view it for some time before then but could never find it in my local TV listings or at the video store.

This film had everything a little boy who loved the Caped Crusader could possibly wish for or expect in a film based on the character; Batman and Robin, four colorful villains, kickass superhero vehicles and batfights complete with their colorful trademark onomatopoeia.

It also had Jack LaLanne

After seeing him pop up in a rooftop cameo I asked my mother, “Who’s that?”.  She answered calmly, “That’s Jack LaLanne.  He’s a fitness guru.”  “Oh”, I replied and went back to viewing my afternoon movie.

At the time I didn’t realize how important Mr. LaLanne was to our national culture.  This was a man who spread the word of the benefits of healthy eating and fitness routines long before it was fashionable in this country.   

It turns out he did feats in real life that my fictional childhood hero Batman never did such as:

In 1956 at age 42 he set a world record of 1,033 push-ups in 23 minutes on national television.

In 1976 at age 62, to commemorate the "Spirit of '76", United States Bicentennial, he swam one mile in Long Beach Harbor. He was handcuffed and shackled, and he towed 13 boats (representing the 13 original colonies) containing 76 people.

In 1984 at age 70, while handcuffed, shackled and fighting strong winds and currents, he towed 70 rowboats, one with several passengers, from the Queen’s Way Bridge in the Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary, 1 mile away.

Let’s see Christian Bale, Michael Keaton or Adam West do that.

Without him there might not have been later exercise gurus such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jake Steinfeld, Richard Simmons, Jane Fonda or others like them.

Without him Bally’s Total Fitness might not have survived past the 1980’s.  Why?  Because he licensed his health clubs to Bally's back then.

This was a man who extolled the virtues of a vegetarian diet and knew that processed foods were no substitutes for natural, whole foods—and he exercised everyday right up until his final days.  He passed away at 96. 

I never personally knew him but I will miss him.  He is the best example I can think of when it comes to inspiring others to be the healthiest they can possibly be.  Fictional heroes can be entertaining but real life heroes like Jack LaLanne are true inspirations.  

Talk to you soon!
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