"I cannot afford to die, it will ruin my image." (citation needed)
January 23, 2011 8:15 PM   Subscribe

"Feel better, look better and live longer" (video) was the credo of "Nutritionist, Author, Lecturer and Physical Culture Expert on Your Figure and Beauty", Jack LaLanne, who despite everything, passed away today of pneumonia at the age of 96, less than a week after the Slate "Fitness Issue" compared him to other "fitness gurus".

Best known to the 'kids' as the guy selling the Power Juicer, he did a usually-daily TV show for a record-setting 34 years (1951-1985), leading a mostly-female audience in a workout wearing his trademark blue jumpsuit and ballet slippers. But he also invented the Smith Machine (negative review) and other commonly used pieces of exercise equipment, and ran a chain of over 200 "health spas" with his name on it before selling out to Bally Total Fitness. With a legendary life story (starting as a less-than-98-pound weakling), he was a devoted vegetarian and enemy of white sugar and white flour, and unafraid to be controversial, as one of the first to promote weight training for women.

Every year, on his birthday, he'd go for a little swim.

Outside Magazine said he was "Still an Animal" in 1995.

Jack LaLanne's 10 Point Self-Improvement Plan

His website JackLaLanne.com is almost as well-developed as he was (front page features a video of him explaining how fitness is patriotic)
posted by oneswellfoop (63 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
. used his juicer to make orange juice for homeless people just today -- one even recognized the juicer from the commercials, joked that jack would live forever.
posted by Homeskillet Freshy Fresh at 8:18 PM on January 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

One of my first TV memories. What an amazing inspiration. You'll be missed.

posted by ga4ry at 8:19 PM on January 23, 2011

I worked with him years ago, and he was sweet, chipper, and in on the joke.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:19 PM on January 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

Aw, man :(
posted by jtron at 8:33 PM on January 23, 2011

Aww, I'm glad he was born. He was so incredibly inspiring...and weird. I remember seeing him wayyyyy back in the early 60's in his tights, like some sort of Robin Hood in ballet slippers, doing knee bends by a chair and his somewhat erotic muscle bulges. He confused me. He had a kindergarten teacher voice mixed with a How To Win Friends and Influence People oomph, so full of vim!

Thanks for the decades of energy Jack. The universe will always be trimmer because of you.
posted by nickyskye at 8:34 PM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Copied from reddit:

[NSFW "Greek games" style beefcake!]
This is how I will always remember Jack. NSFW!
posted by orthogonality at 8:34 PM on January 23, 2011 [17 favorites]

I remember the time he gust starred on the Addams Family, and gave Uncle Fester an Astronaut workout plan. Hilarity ensued.

RIP, you fit old bastard.
posted by jonmc at 8:35 PM on January 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

And, he was the basis for Uncle Jack, a character played by Martin Short on Arrested Development.
posted by lesli212 at 8:35 PM on January 23, 2011

Optimism. Boundless energy. Tights. I miss him already.

posted by Kinbote at 8:37 PM on January 23, 2011

. He must have been doing something right if he made it to 96.
posted by octothorpe at 8:39 PM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is how I will always remember Jack. NSFW!

I always knew those bulges were meaningful! Nice to remember him like that. Whoohoo!
posted by nickyskye at 8:40 PM on January 23, 2011

That jumpsuiit was blue?? I watched him surreally in black and white through the seventies adn eighties in Malaysia as this afternoon joke we never quite understood but was always there.

posted by infini at 8:41 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by Joe Beese at 8:41 PM on January 23, 2011

He died too young.

posted by mosk at 8:47 PM on January 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

I did calisthenics with Jack on TV right before Spider Man. It was my after-school workout for years.

posted by notjustfoxybrown at 8:49 PM on January 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

posted by kimota at 8:49 PM on January 23, 2011

He was talking about the dangers of American eating habits/processed foods long before many people. He was certainly blessed genetically, but served as a symbol of fitness hope to all.

posted by SouthCNorthNY at 8:51 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

The end of an era.

posted by MexicanYenta at 8:53 PM on January 23, 2011

why am I looking at Jack LaLanne's penis is the best summation of the internet ever.
posted by The Whelk at 8:55 PM on January 23, 2011 [13 favorites]

posted by saslett at 8:56 PM on January 23, 2011

Jack lived the dream... and, apparently, rocked out with his cock out. In the 1950s.

Nothing more to say than that -- what a legend.

posted by vorfeed at 8:58 PM on January 23, 2011

RIP. I saw him on an episode of Gilad and was amazed he was still around and promoting physical fitness. (And his jumpsuit, at least in this clip with Gilad, was indeed blue.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 9:03 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

You've got to admire somebody who apparently lived life with the throttle wide open for so many decades.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 9:04 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I always remember his quip about how people start their days. You would never give a dog a breakfast of coffee, a doughnut and a cigarette -- you'd kill the dog and be prosecuted for mistreating an animal. So, what the hell are you doing?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:04 PM on January 23, 2011 [9 favorites]

Almost a decade ago, when my friend was in her late teens, she went out to dinner with her stepdad in Morro Bay, California, which is Jack LaLanne's hometown. They sit down to dinner, and before they're into their salads, Jack LaLanne and his wife walk in. They spot my friend and her stepdad at their table, and to their surprise, Jack heads over. Thinking about what a treat it was to meet a real live celebrity, my friend and her stepdad look up at Jack LaLanne in anticipation. And he says...

"Well, well, what do we have here. You [pointing to her stepdad] must be the sex GOD and you [at my friend] must be the sex KITTEN!"

The thing you have to understand about my friend and her parents is, the discussions about sex that happened in their house can best be described as rare and awkward. Her stepdad had also been on the road for years, and, well, the road was not kind to him. He had added a paunch and subtracted a front tooth.

Their faces changed to frozen smiles of horror. They laughed awkwardly, assuming it was a joke. But then it continued.

"You've got a few extra pounds on you, sex god! [Poke in stepdad's belly] You'd better start working out and getting in shape, or you won't be able to keep up with THAT ONE in bed!"

My friend tells me that it continued in graphic detail for several minutes uninterrupted, but it was so traumatic that she has blocked out the majority of the exact dialogue. All she remembers about the rest of the monologue is her stepdad's nervous OHMYGODSHE'SMYDAUGHTER laughter mingling with speculations about their sex life.

My friend looked across the room at Jack's wife in desperation, in the hopes that she'd come to save her. Instead, she yells...

"You'll learn soon enough, honey! You can't take your man anywhere!"
posted by quiet coyote at 9:10 PM on January 23, 2011 [37 favorites]

In a January 2004 column for Sports Illustrated, Rick Reilly wrote a terrific article about Jack. (Cannot find it online for some reason or would link to it.) I had a copy of that article taped to my wall for years as inspiration. The man was solid literally and figuratively. I always put aside the strangeness because his message was a good one. Live right, eat right and live long. I dutifully did my pushups and situps daily because of that dude.

Rest in Peace, my man!

posted by AugustWest at 9:12 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

That...that may be the weirdest story I've ever heard.
posted by sourwookie at 9:14 PM on January 23, 2011

Jack was almost the greatest California hero. Sort of what Arnold S. wished he could be. I don't know who is going to die this year but I challenge the New York Times to come up with a better cover shot for their year's end Lives They Lived Sunday Magazine story than Jack L.
posted by bukvich at 9:15 PM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

RIP. Inspiration for sure.

He had his epiphany as a teenager, at a lecture. Allegedly he worked out at least 2 hours every day. Even if he started at 20, that's 76 years of 2 hour workouts every day. 76x365x2=55480 hours.
55480/24=2312 days. Now, since you do have to sleep ~8 hours out of every day, that's effectively 3083 days. 3083 days divided by 365 = about 8.5 years.

He lived to 96. He spent, at a minimum, 8.5 of those years exercising. That puts him at about 88. Of course, he probably loved every minute of that exercise, so it puts him back at 96 happy years.
posted by VikingSword at 9:17 PM on January 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

To the nuts!
posted by theredpen at 9:29 PM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Well, 88 years is still at least 8 more years than the average life expectancy in most developed nations. So in essence, for every bit of time he worked out, he got roughly the same time added on to his lifespan (going by your numbers ~57 mins for each hour worked out).

That's a pretty sweet deal there, especially when you consider that he got to make the best of those extra years by being active and in great shape.

Man was definitely on to something.

posted by Throw away your common sense and get an afro! at 9:40 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Aw...when I worked in college radio I used to use one of his exercise records when training the youngsters how to use a turntable. Thanks, Jack. Your choice of zippy organ music cheered me up in the face of sullen potheads demanding to know why they couldn't play CDs on a record player. RIP.
posted by corey flood at 9:48 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I hope I reach 96.

I'd better get back to my fitness training then.
posted by bwg at 9:49 PM on January 23, 2011

posted by geekyguy at 9:54 PM on January 23, 2011

i have one of his glamour stretcher records on blue vinyl. seems appropriate to remember him here on the blue. RIP.
posted by lapolla at 9:55 PM on January 23, 2011

My little sister and I worked out to his show any dats we were home. Our father thought this was cute. He used to work out right with us. I am not in terrific shape but it all would have been worse without that early example. I remember the show where he said,
'Grab a chair, today we aren't exercising, we are going to talk about food' he had this big bowl. He filled it with all the crap food people eat during the day and threw in a few stubbed out cigarettes,then he said, 'You'd be better off eatting dog biscuits!' he always had these two gorgeous Samoyed dogs that came on stage with him. He threw each dog a biscuit,
Milkbone of course. I believe they were sponsors. Then he got one out of the box and ate it!

posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:01 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

seems appropriate to remember him here on the blue.

I just realized how similar the blue of JLL's jumpsuit is to the blue in MeFi's "Live Preview" box.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:26 PM on January 23, 2011

I love Jack. I was shocked to see this news today; thought he'd make it to 100 no problem. As a child of the 50's in southern California he was the only thing besides cartoons that I really enjoyed watching. I stll do some of his exercises and I encourage anyone interested to check out some of old video clips on his website to learn some.
posted by rmmcclay at 10:37 PM on January 23, 2011

I wish I had some of those glamour stretchers. My mom's were some of my favorite toys when I was a kid. I always enjoyed working out with them.

I thought exercising with Jack was a hoot.

posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:37 PM on January 23, 2011

Katjusa Roquette, I think his dogs might have been white German Shepherds instead of Samoyeds.

I used to watch his show in the mornings before school. His enthusiasm was a great way to get going. Jumping Jacks were part of PE every day too.
posted by Araucaria at 12:00 AM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by Smart Dalek at 1:09 AM on January 24, 2011

posted by timshel at 1:23 AM on January 24, 2011

From Neatorama: "Every year, Jack LaLanne went for a little swim on his birthday. For his 70th birthday, he swam a mile and a half through the Long Beach Harbor while towing a flotilla of 70 boats. With his hands and feet shackled, no less."

Into fitness before it was fitness. Took shit from the medical establishment and replied: "The only way you can hurt the body is not use it."

Another American life. RIP Jack.
posted by fixedgear at 2:21 AM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are quite a few episodes of the old Jack Lalanne Show on YouTube.

I was joking about this earlier with someone, saying that Jack Lalanne was so fit that his corpse can still bench press more than you can. Morbid humor, but really very respectful.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:35 AM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Everyone should do a hundred (or perhaps a few hundred) push-ups today in his honor. Oh, and I will be having the oatmeal for breakfast, no sugar added.

RIP Jack, You rocked.
posted by caddis at 3:50 AM on January 24, 2011


I remember watching him as a child. I feel so much older today.

Godspeed, Jack.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:54 AM on January 24, 2011

posted by phogirl at 4:59 AM on January 24, 2011

he lived until 96 years of age, that just shows how important exercise is!!
posted by bodypowersports at 5:58 AM on January 24, 2011

An important man. He will be missed.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 7:14 AM on January 24, 2011

The New York Times obit is on the sports page and it gushes. If anybody has a link to a video of him with the bowl and the cigarettes and the dog biscuits I would be interested in seeing it. Or videos of him performing feats of strength on camera.

I might put the guy's photo on my refrigerator.
posted by bukvich at 7:27 AM on January 24, 2011

. · . · . · . · . · . · . · . · . · . ·

(the dot is doing push-ups)
posted by Gridlock Joe at 8:16 AM on January 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dangit, I was hoping to see him pull a convoy of naval vessels across the bay when he turned 100. Oh well.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 8:32 AM on January 24, 2011

Jack was inducted into the Berkeley High School hall of fame my senior year, there were a lot of inductees that year, and they were supposed to stand up and wave to the crowd but not speak. Jack grabbed the microphone from our principal and gave a 20 minute motivational lecture to a group of pretty jaded high school students and almost instantly won everybody over. There was no stopping Jack. I'll miss him.
posted by Gankmore at 8:49 AM on January 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think I'll stop complaining about doing push-ups - and just do more in Jack's honor.

RIP, Jack. You were a staple of my childhood TV.

posted by Man with Lantern at 9:45 AM on January 24, 2011

I ran into Jack Lalanne in a restaurant near Hearst's Castle in 2003. We were the only 2 parties in the place. It was very obvious the Jack was very drunk and very loud but they were having a great time. I think any one who can still go out and raise hell at that age must be doing something right.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:17 AM on January 24, 2011

posted by martin10bones at 10:45 AM on January 24, 2011

He also popularised (for certain values of "popularised") the LaLanne (fingertips) push up. I didn't know he was still alive, but it looks like he has had a good run.
posted by ersatz at 10:55 AM on January 24, 2011

posted by joedan at 12:12 PM on January 24, 2011

Well, he outlived Izzy Mandelbaum.

posted by evilcolonel at 2:15 PM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

When Jack, aged 40, started on the tiny B&W screens in '51, US male life expectancy was about 65. You retired and you died. Lots of people cracked jokes about the exercise madman. Most of them are long gone.

96/65=1.48. Jack was on to something.
posted by Twang at 5:22 PM on January 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

Back in the early 70s LaLanne made an appearance at my high school, touting the importance of a healthy lifestyle. To us, a batch of baby boomers, he was a curiosity; we knew him from having watched him work out with Happy on our parents' TVs. He was not a young man, and I remember everyone present was taken aback by his short stature. Still, we listened--he spoke with real conviction, humor and sincerity.

Then he invited the captains of all the school's athletic teams to join him onstage. The school jocks scrambled up and stood in a line, grinning self-consciously, radiating arrogant youth.

"Okay, you folks are in pretty good shape, right? You're young--much younger than me, right? Can you guys all do push-ups?" The kids nodded. "We're all going to do some push-ups, you and me. Let's see who lasts the longest!"

You know how this turned out. My fellow students ended up lying limp onstage, exhausted, while LaLanne continued on, doing his push-ups while continuing his banter--not breathless at all. The kids came down off the stage looking considerably less cocky than before.

This was talked about for weeks. "Wow, that guy is amazing," muttered in a tone of great respect, was the consensus. The student body were in awe.

We'll miss you, Jack. BTW I have one of your juicers, and it really is great. Wish we could all be half as healthy as you.

posted by kinnakeet at 5:26 AM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

* More of The Full French.

* "The rich can't buy health, and the intellectuals can't think their way their either"

* As long as the emphasis is on winning, you're gonna have steroids.
-Jack LaLanne: What I've Learned

* If you have a six-inch tool and a 50-inch waistline, the thing doesn't look very big, does it...

You may bullshit yourself, but you can't. Energy makes people beautiful. That's what charisma is. You don't want to be close to someone who's dead and crapped out all the time, who's bitching that it's a lousy fucking world and 'Christ, my ulcers are killing me.' Maybe 50 or 60 percent of all divorces are predicated on someone's being physically unfit.

-Jack in Playboy

* Jack built the first proper gym in America in Oakland, CA. 510, baby.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:31 AM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Jack Lalanne -- A Life Well Lived by Bill Starr.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 6:45 AM on February 17, 2011

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