From The Desk Of Clarence Bass
“I work at living. The simplest thing you can do is to die. Also, you gotta believe in a Supreme Being. How else can you explain the human body? Regardless, I’ve never heard Him knocking on my bedroom door at 5 a.m. saying Jack! This is Jesus. Time to workout! God helps those who help themselves!” Jack LaLanne (Legends of the Iron Game, 2010)
1914 – 2011
One of Jack LaLanne’s favorite quips was I can’t afford to die; it would be bad for my image. Like other laugh lines he delivered so well, it was with tongue in cheek and a twinkle in his eye. He was a showman and surely the most enthusiastic proponent of fitness who ever walked a California or any other beach. He knew he would eventually have to answer to St. Peter. He gave in after 96 amazing years and did it in super-star style. He went out with trumpets blowing. The news of his passing was featured in the Albuquerque Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and everywhere in between. Sports Illustrated profiled his life and carried an iconic photo. A beautiful floral wreath sprang up over his star on Hollywood Blvd. Even Rush Limbaugh was talking about Jack’s passing.
Our emails were filled with fond memories of Jack. He was an inspiration to everyone who even thought of picking up a barbell or donning a leotard. One man wrote that his first recollection was as a toddler exercising alongside his mother as they watched The Jack LaLanne Show. “He improved our lives, helping us to stay active, healthy, and happy,” the man wrote.
That he did.
On a gerontological note, Jack was the perfect exemplar for Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s (and others) ideal life line. In the final stretch of his life he was on TV promoting his fabulous new book, Jack LaLanne: Live Young Forever. As I wrote at the time, “How many people celebrate their 95th birthday with a 'knock-your-socks-off' autobiographical overview of his life full of wisdom for all ages? I would venture to say that there’s only one: Jack LaLanne.”
In their book Start Strong, Finish Strong (Penguin Group, 2007), Drs. Cooper (Ken and his son Tyler) offer a prescription for Squaring off the Curve of Your Life. Jack, of course, wrote his own prescription--and carried it out to the letter.
Unfortunately, the norm is quite different. “Most people’s lives begin to curve downward when they hit their thirties,” the Coopers wrote. “And by the time they pass fifty, that downward slope becomes very steep.”
Not Jack. He was flying high until the very last year. To borrow a few words from the Coopers, Jack’s health “spiked up” at 14 when he began exercising religiously and eating properly after a life-changing meeting with nutritionist Paul Bragg; continued climbing as he opened the nation’s first health club in 1936 (at age 21) and eventually over 200 fitness centers; stayed up as he inspired TV viewers in the United States, Europe, and Russia for 34 years (1959 to 1993); and for decades entertained the world with amazing feats of strength and endurance (such as swimming the length of the Golden Gate Bridge underwater) demonstrating to the world that he was still walking his talk when others were rocking on their front porch or worse. He barely missed a beat until “a brief period immediately before death.”
Jack was still working out two hours on most days—one hour of weights and another hour exercising in his pool—in his final years. He was also active on the motivational-speakers’ circuit until shortly before his death.
Well done, Jack. We’ll never forget what you did for us.
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