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Jack LaLanne

Jack LaLanne (born September 26, 1914) is an American fitness, exercise and nutritional expert, celebrity, lecturer, and motivational speaker who has been referred to as "the godfather of fitness."

LaLanne gained worldwide renown for his success as a bodybuilder, as well as his prodigious feats of strength. He has won numerous awards, including the Horatio Alger Award from the Association of Distinguished Americans, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Hall of Fame.

Early life

Born in San Francisco, California, the son of French immigrants, Jennie Garaig La Lanne (b: 10/28/1884; d: 12/14/1973) and John/Jean La Lanne (b: 5/19/1881; d: 9/17/1939). Jack also had an older brother, Norman LaLanne (b: 8/31/1908; d: 9/24/2005).

LaLanne admits that as a child he was addicted to sugar and junk foods. At age 15, he heard Paul Bragg give a talk on health and nutrition. Bragg's message was very simple, but had a powerful influence on the troubled boy. LaLanne decided to focus on his diet and exercise habits. He studied Henry Gray's Anatomy of the Human Body and concentrated on bodybuilding and weightlifting, which, in the 1930s, was uncommon.

Fitness career

Health clubs

LaLanne originally planned to enter the field of chiropractic health care to become a Doctor of Chiropractic, (D.C.) He attended Oakland Chiropractic College in San Francisco (which eventually merged with Los Angeles Chiropractic College), but in 1936 decided to open his own health spa (gym) in Oakland, California and encourage clients to better themselves through weight-training. He designed the first leg extension machines, pulley machines using cables, and weight selectors which are now standard in the fitness industry. He was the original inventor of the Smith machine. He also encouraged women to lift weights (in spite of the fact that at the time it was thought this would make women look masculine and unattractive). By the 1980s there were more than 200 health clubs bearing his name. LaLanne eventually licensed all his health clubs to the Bally company, and they became known as Bally Total Fitness. Today he is no longer associated with any gym but is still actively pumping iron.

Books, television and other media

Between 1951 and 1985, LaLanne presented fitness and exercise advice on television. "The Jack LaLanne Show" was the longest running television exercise program. It began as a local program on San Francisco's ABC television station, KGO-TV and was eventually carried on the ABC network nationwide. Critics said the show would endure less than six weeks, but it lasted 34 years. In 1959 he recorded Glamour Stretcher Time, a workout album which provided phonograph-based instruction for exercising with an elastic cord called the Glamour Stretcher.

He has also published books and videos on fitness and nutrition, appeared in films, recorded a song with Connie Haines and marketed exercise equipment, a range of vitamin supplements, as well as two models of electric juicer. These included the " Juice Tiger", as seen on Amazing Discoveries with Mike Levey and "Jack LaLanne's Power Juicer". It was on this show that Jack's introduced the phrase "That's the power of the juice!".

70,000 Juice Tiger juicers were recalled in March 1996 after "14 incidents resulting in at least eight lacerations to the hands, face, arms, and chest and one permanent eye injury " were reported to the CPSC and National Media Corporation of The USA (see CPSC Recall Page). However, this is about 9 percent of the Juice Tiger models. Another 600,000 units were not recalled. The Power Juicer is still actively marketed.

In the early 1980s, LaLanne criticized fitness instructor Richard Simmons for using a fast-paced regime. Offended, Simmons called to complain about the remarks, but the two resolved their differences enough to occasionally appear on each other's shows.

Later life

At age 94, he continues to work out every morning for two hours. He spends one and a half hours in the weight room, and half an hour swimming or walking. LaLanne and his wife Elaine (80) live in Morro Bay, California.

When interviewed by Katie Couric on NBC's Today show, LaLanne declared that his two simple rules of nutrition are "if man made it, don't eat it", and "if it tastes good, spit it out." He often says, "I cannot afford to die, it will ruin my image." Interviewed on his 93rd birthday, he said his feat of strength was going to be "towing my wife across the bathtub". In a June 2007 interview , he claimed that for his 95th birthday, he'd like to swim to Santa Catalina Island from the coast of California, a distance of approximately 20 miles.

Jack was an Inaugural Inductee into The National Fitness Hall of Fame in 2005.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver announced on May 28, 2008 that LaLanne would be inducted into the California Hall of Fame, located at The California Museum for History, Women and the Arts. The induction ceremony will take place December 10th and he will be inducted alongside 11 other legendary Californians.

Timeline: Jack LaLanne's feats

As reported on Jack LaLanne's website, and as documented contemporaneously when they happened:

  • 1954 (age 40): Jack swam the entire length of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, underwater, with 140 pounds of equipment, including two air tanks. A world record.
  • 1955 (age 41): Jack swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco while handcuffed. When interviewed afterwards he was quoted as saying that the worst thing about the ordeal was being handcuffed, which reduced his chance to star jump significantly.
  • 1956 (age 42): Jack set a world record of 1,033 push-ups in 23 minutes on You Asked For It, a television program with Art Baker.
  • 1957 (age 43): Jack swam the Golden Gate channel while towing a 2,500-pound cabin cruiser. The swift ocean currents turned this one-mile swim into a swimming distance of 6.5 miles.
  • 1958 (age 44): Jack maneuvered a paddleboard nonstop from Farallon Islands to the San Francisco shore. The 30-mile trip took 9.5 hours.
  • 1959 (age 45): Jack did 1,000 star jumps and 1,000 chin-ups in 1 hour, 22 minutes. His well-known white German shepherd, Happy, was born this year, the same year The Jack LaLanne Show went nationwide.
  • 1974 (age 60): For the second time, Jack swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman's Wharf. Again, he was handcuffed, but this time he was also shackled and towed a 1,000-pound boat.
  • 1975 (age 61): Repeating his performance of 21 years earlier, Jack again swam the entire length of the Golden Gate Bridge, underwater and handcuffed, but this time he was shackled and towed a 1,000-pound boat.
  • 1976 (age 62): To commemorate the "Spirit of '76", United States Bicentennial, Jack 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.
  • 1979 (age 65): Jack towed 65 boats in Lake Ashinoko, near Tokyo, Japan. He was handcuffed and shackled, and the boats were filled with 6,500 pounds of Louisiana Pacific wood pulp.
  • 1980 (age 66): Jack towed 10 boats in North Miami, Florida. The boats carried 77 people, and he towed them for over one mile in less than one hour.
  • 1984 (age 70): Once again handcuffed and shackled, Jack fought strong winds and currents as he swam 1.5 miles while towing 70 boats with 70 people from the Queen's Way Bridge in the Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary.
  • 1992 (age 78): Jack received the Academy of Body Building and Fitness Award.
  • 1994 (age 80): Jack received the State of California Governor's Council on Physical Fitness Lifetime Achievement Award.
  • 1996 (age 82): Jack received the Dwight D. Eisenhower Fitness Award.
  • 1999 (age 85): Jack received the Spirit of Muscle Beach Award.
  • 2002 (age 88): Jack received a star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame.
  • 2004 (age 90): Jack celebrated his 90th birthday in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. ESPN Classic ran a 24-hour marathon of the original Jack LaLanne television shows.
  • 2004 (age 90): Jack became the official spokesperson for Covenant Reliance Producers, LLC, a Financial Marketing Organization based in Nashville Tennessee
  • 2005 (age 91): Jack received the Jack Webb Award from the Los Angeles Police Department Historical Society, the Arnold Classic Lifetime Achievement Award, Interglobal's International Infomercial Award, the Freddie, and the Medical Media Public Service Award, and he was a Free Spirit honoree at Al Neuharth's Freedom Forum.


LaLanne appeared as himself in the following films:

LaLanne also voiced himself in the 1999 Simpsons episode The Old Man and the C Student


Further reading

External links

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