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Joe Rollino, last of the Strongmen
January 11, 2010 7:47 PM   Subscribe

At 104, fit & spry Joe Rollino was the last classic strongman -- the sport of strength athletics, which evolved into modern bodybuilding. Standing 5'10" and weighing a mere 145 pounds, he was a fixture on Coney Island, known for feats of strength like 450 pound teeth lifts, or bending quarters with his fingers. Rollino also boxed in the 1920's as "Kid Dundee", and returned from World War II decorated with the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts. Joe Rollino never drank, never smoked, was a lifetime vegetarian and a confirmed bachelor. He died today after being struck by a minivan.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot (34 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Geez, all that, and then to get clipped by a soccer mom in a minivan. RIP, sir.
posted by pjern at 7:52 PM on January 11, 2010


Clean living: it'll getcha every time.

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posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:56 PM on January 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Your last link says he was 5'4" in his prime, which makes more sense for a 145 pound weight lifter.

Just how long would he have lived? Maybe there's something to all this healthy living after all.
posted by eye of newt at 7:56 PM on January 11, 2010


Wow, what a hardcore guy. The driver better take the minivan in to make sure it'll be OK...!

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posted by vorfeed at 7:57 PM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


O----O
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:59 PM on January 11, 2010 [10 favorites]


Sucks... and the NY Daily News refers to police officers as cops? Weird... having gone through journalism school using the AP Style Guide.
posted by Huck500 at 8:04 PM on January 11, 2010


Man, I do NOT envy that driver.

Thanks for this FPP. He sounds like he was an amazing guy.
posted by availablelight at 8:05 PM on January 11, 2010


huck500 - I'm generalizing a bit here, but when I was growing up in NY, the Daily News (and to some degree, the NY Post, as well) were considered "blue collar" newspapers. They're writing to their audience, who would be likely to also refer to the police as "cops", and would likely see the term "police" as overly formal.

Oh, and somehow a . doesn't quite feel right for a guy who lived the kind of life that Joe Rollino did. I'll just say...

!
posted by deadmessenger at 8:09 PM on January 11, 2010


Maybe it's OK. Maybe he was pissed that he might start getting old one of these days.
posted by fritley at 8:09 PM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


No meat, no alcohol and no smoking. 104. I'd be willing to go at 94 if I don't have to give up my beer.

From what I read, he walked 5 miles a day everyday rain or shine. Too bad he was jaywalking though. Cross at the green, not in between.

He sounded like a really nice man great with spinning a tall tale. He had some sort of record for swimming everyday for 8 years in Coney Island. Frigging cold and water gross most of the time.

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posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:12 PM on January 11, 2010


Getting clipped by a minivan is one of those deaths that just make you want to say, "Oh, the indignity!" See also: getting smashed flat by a vending machine or falling over a mall railing onto the floor of a food court.
posted by orange swan at 8:12 PM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


He also made the NYTimes and the NY Post
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:15 PM on January 11, 2010


Gotta respect the old school strong man. What they lacked in scientific methodology and training techniques, they definitely made up for in sheer mind over matter will.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:23 PM on January 11, 2010


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posted by yeloson at 8:26 PM on January 11, 2010


Huck500 - The Daily News and the Post cater to a very particular brow. Then again, one or the other had "Ezra Pounded by Lawsuit" as a headline a few months back, so who the hell knows.

Anyhow, I always admired strongmen a lot more than I do bodybuilders. There was something a whole lot purer about it. Possibly the fact that, compared with professional bodybuilders today, they had attainable and, dare I say it, human physiques.
posted by griphus at 8:27 PM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


At least he wasn't carrying an unused train ticket.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:28 PM on January 11, 2010


Uh, the word "attainable" was supposed to link to this.
posted by griphus at 8:29 PM on January 11, 2010


I would also say that strongmen didn't evolve into body builders, but instead became power lifters, a much more everyman's sport then Olympic weightlifting. Or maybe strongmen were the common ancestor between body building and power lifting, but yes, many of them seemed to be much more concerned with their actual physical strength instead of having an even coating of spray tan.
posted by BenNewman at 8:36 PM on January 11, 2010


Three Purple Hearts. Could not be knocked out. A short-ass who lifted OVER 450 POUNDS with his teeth.

Hmmmm.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:39 PM on January 11, 2010


While I think a 450 pound "teeth lift" is possible, if he did it while working Coney Island it's entirely possible there might be a bit of exaggeration going on. Here is a 100 pound lift. The real trick is to be able to swing the weight!
posted by Tube at 9:59 PM on January 11, 2010


Is that "confirmed bachelor" in the wink-wink obituary sense?
posted by kenko at 10:17 PM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Back in his prime he would have kicked that minivan's ass.
posted by delmoi at 10:44 PM on January 11, 2010


kenko: "Is that "confirmed bachelor" in the wink-wink obituary sense?"

I was wondering the same thing.
posted by brundlefly at 10:53 PM on January 11, 2010


I hope someone saved a sample of his DNA for the supersoldier formula.

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posted by benzenedream at 11:34 PM on January 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Was his real name Steve Rogers? Such a full life, a shame it ended like that.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:05 AM on January 12, 2010


Is that "confirmed bachelor" in the wink-wink obituary sense?

I don't know what the intent was, but now that you mention it: a healthy, energetic guy who didn't get married back then, especially after he came home from war a hero, certainly would be unusual, wouldn't he? He had years to land a wife, and he at least appeared physically fit, so it isn't as if he ran out of time and opportunities. Either he wasn't into romance and sex -- maybe wasn't all that healthy after all? and he compensated for it with this strongman stuff? -- or he preferred sex and romance through nonstandard channels. Single women? Whores? Men? Kinky stuff? Kids? Any of a million other things? Maybe he was an actual confirmed bachelor of the non-nudge-nudge-know-that-I-mean variety.
posted by pracowity at 4:40 AM on January 12, 2010


RIP, Joe. It's a very sad way to go out.
posted by fixedgear at 4:55 AM on January 12, 2010


Too bad he was jaywalking though. Cross at the green, not in between.

In Defense of Jaywalking

I went looking for a quote that I once read, something like 'a country without jaywalkers is a country without artists' but I couldn't find it. That Tom Vanderbilt article turned up instead.
posted by fixedgear at 5:53 AM on January 12, 2010


Either he wasn't into romance and sex -- maybe wasn't all that healthy after all? and he compensated for it with this strongman stuff?

If he wasn't into sex - and ejaculation - maybe that helps explain his freakish strength and longevity. Semen conservation is a key theory among Taoists and monks and whatnot, I know cos i saw it in a kung fu flick. I definitely once heard a theory that says that men live shorter lives than women because of all the ejaculatin'.
posted by criticalbill at 6:37 AM on January 12, 2010


.
posted by edrnjevich at 7:12 AM on January 12, 2010


I think a lot of people subscribe to that conservation of precious bodily fluids theory. Hell, I'm pretty sure some modern bodybuilders say that you can increase your HGH levels if you hold it in.

It does seem pretty universal across cultures. Many fighters in South America abstain for about 2 weeks before a fight. Many African tribes have a similar restriction before fights or feats of strength etc.

I think it's probably like figuring out how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, the world may never know.
posted by Telf at 7:26 AM on January 12, 2010


Semen conservation is a key theory among Taoists and monks and whatnot, I know cos i saw it in a kung fu flick.

You saw semen conservation? Sounds like a really lame movie scene.
posted by spamguy at 8:17 AM on January 12, 2010


Did the van bend?

(too soon?)
posted by chalbe at 9:48 AM on January 12, 2010


Was going to FPP this myself after seeing it in the NYT and hearing it on NPR. Truly a remarkable story, and the most tragic part is the way it ended. Seriously, it's depressing to hear about that kind of life being cut short by a minivan.

I heard charges were not being pressed against the driver, which makes me wonder what happened - did he accidentally step out into traffic?
posted by etoile at 12:49 PM on January 13, 2010


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