RIP, Jack LaLanne, an American original who was way ahead of his time, and so enduring that even my 13-year-old WatchDog pup knew who the guy was in his mid-90s. (Thanks to informercials for his power juicer.)
I very much enjoyed Bryant Gumbel's spot-on take on LaLanne on HBO's "Real Sports" Tuesday night.
Here it is:
“Finally tonight, a brief fond farewell to Jack LaLanne, who died two nights ago at the age of 96. Jack never really played any major sports, and for the better part of his life, he was admittedly more showman than athlete. But if you care at all about sports, health and fitness, you have to admire LaLanne’s efforts.
"LaLanne began talking about the values of weightlifting and proper diet in an era when pro athletes openly ignored the former and routinely mocked the latter. Back when baseball and football players routinely spent off-seasons out of shape and wearing rubber suits to lose pounds, LaLanne was preaching the joys of the gym to any and all who’d listen.
"All those individual pursuits that today’s X-Gamers and fitness fanatics like to think are so cutting edge pale in comparison to the swims, exercises and feats of strength in which LaLanne routinely engaged in an effort to spread his gospel of health. And all those modern food labels promoting what’s light or low-fat – they didn’t hit your local shelves until years after LaLanne grew fond of saying, “If a man made it, don’t eat it.”
"Long before the shake weight, LaLanne was designing pulley devices and extension machines. Long before Jane Fonda and Billy Blanks, he had a TV fitness show that ran for 34 years. Long before self-help books came into vogue, he was writing workout manuals. And long before fitness centers, LaLanne was opening a nationwide string of gyms and spas. Was he eccentric? Yes. Was he extreme? Absolutely. In the end his efforts still weren’t enough to stem the rising tide of American obesity – but boy he sure did try.”