September 21, 2009 posted by

Preaching The Here And Now

On Thursday I’ll be attending Jack LaLanne’s birthday party. On Sat, I’ll be doing a fitness challenge in honor of his birthday. I guess that makes this officially Jack LaLanne week. I’m still not sure what my challenge is going to be yet. 95 is a pretty big number to play with. In the mean time, I’ve stumbled on another great article on LaLanne. You know, the guy who claims he “spent a lot of time on the floor with your mother.” This one is from Sam McManis at the SF Chronicle.

Raising the bar
At 88, fitness guru Jack LaLanne can run circles around those half his age

It may even top the article I posted last week for its entertainment value. LaLanne’s story is inspiring. His personality is amusing. Here we get a glimpse of the catalyst the got him into exercise in the first place:

“I’d eat a quart of ice cream in one sitting, shove my finger down my throat, heave it up and have another quart,” LaLanne said. “There’s nothing more addictive on this earth than sugar. Not heroin, booze, whatever. It’s much worse than smoking. Boy, I tell you, I had blinding headaches every day. I was mentally screwed up by sugar. I was psychotic. I was malnourished. I was always getting sick. I got kicked out of school. I wanted to die.”

And on what it was like to eat healthy as teenager in a world where humans are like “walking garbage cans.”

“They thought I was crazy,” he said. “I had to take my lunch alone to the football field to eat so no one would see me eat my raw veggies, whole bread, raisins and nuts. You don’t know the crap I went through, boy.”

LaLanne invented a lot of fitness gear, exercise regimens, dietary practices, and opened one of the first fitness chains in the USA, which caused a lot of people to eye him suspiciously.

LaLanne said Bay Area newspapers, except for The Chronicle’s Herb Caen, treated him like a “crackpot who doesn’t eat meat and wants everybody to rupture something lifting weights.” Few people joined at first, but one who did, restaurateur Vic (“Trader Vic”) Bergeron, gave LaLanne some advice one day while getting a massage from him: Wear a tight T-shirt and strut your stuff on high school campuses.

Eventually people sought him out, apparently even Clint Eastwood as a 16 year old. This led to a career in TV, the place I first saw him as a kid. This appears to not have been exactly smooth sailing for him either.

A TV novice, LaLanne’s initial reviews were not great. He heard those same old “crackpot” epithets, this time from newspapers back east: Women will look like men if they work out. That health food is bad for the body. On his very first show, Jack looked into the camera earnestly and said, “If man makes it, don’t eat it.” Then he took a loaf of Langendorf white bread, smashed it into a tight ball and flung it to the floor with a thud. “See,” he said, “that’s what it does in your stomach, too.”

Langendorf, it turned out, was one of the show’s sponsors.

It goes on from there, all the while referencing LaLanne’s famous cultural diatribes, such as:

On the evils of sugar and junk food: “It destroys the B vitamins. It destroys your mind, affects your memory, your concentration. Why do you think so many of these kids today are screwed up? It’s what they’re eating. You know how much sugar Americans consume today in white flour, cakes, pies, candy and ice cream? Would you get your dog up in the morning and give him a cigarette, cup of coffee and a doughnut? How many millions of Americans got up this morning with a breakfast like that? And you wonder why people are sick and obese.”

On whether people should consume dairy products: “Are you a suckling calf? No. Do you have two stomachs? No. Name me one creature on this earth, except for man, who uses milk after they wean. Why do you think so many people are fat and have heart attacks? Cholesterol! Butter, cream, cheese, ice cream, whole milk. They got these athletes prostituting their souls by posing with milk mustaches. Those guys ought to be thrown in jail.”

On celebrity: “I hated it. I was just doing my job. Celebrities give me a pain in the butt. Some of the biggest bums in this world are Hollywood people. They’re drunkards, do dope, don’t exercise.”

And finally, on life:

“Billy Graham preaches the hereafter. I preach the here-and-now.”

the challenge of challenges: pulling 70 boats and people across Long Beach harbor with his hands and feet shackled, at age 70.


  • Again great post. A life full of vitality, energy, strength and beauty is his reward for eating right and exercising.The answers are here for health they haven't changed since he started ….

  • Jack's just tryin' to put my heart surgeon outta work and DANG, he had to REALLY work to keep this old monkey alive.BTW I'm now a lacto(only fat free) vegetarian and feel MUCH better.

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