On the morning of his 65th birthday, Jack LaLanne woke up at a quater to 4 and swung his legs out of the bed in the darkness. He put on gray sweatpants, a gray sweatshirt, gray socks and a pair of Adidas. He padded down the stairs, past Happy the white German shepherd and Organic the minature Alaskan husky, past the swimming pool, past the Italian cypresses, past the bigshouldered black fiberglass statue of himself that makes him look seven feet tall instead of 5 feet 7 inches. He unlocked the gym. He felt for the light switch by the door. The light came up and shone softly off the mirrored walls, the deep tomato-red carpet, the barbells, dumbells, calf machine, incline bench, Real Runner, body conditioner, flat bench, squat machine wrist roller and bright stainless Jack LaLanne Fitness King All-Purpose Exerciser. $ there was no sound except the slow, mechanical panting of the fence-electrifying machine in the corner. $ laLanne did not look in the mirror. He does not like his body much. "I look in the mirror," LaLanne will say quickly, in his frantic, smiling way, "I want to puke." He worked out for 2 1/2 hours. Put Sinatra, Jerry Vale, Tony Bennet on the tape machine. Squatted. Pressed. Lifted. Strained. Swung mammoth barbells over his head.
LaLanne likes to think of the gym as his church. Health is all. Health is spirtuality. Sending sparks to the blood approaching the godhead. One day soon he will walk a mile down Hollywood Boulevard, carrying a 350-pound barbell set on his shoulders, to protest the drugs and filth and prostitution. A full mile carrying twice his weight. Unheard of in modern history. This day he was up to 14 minutes already, weight on his shoulders, walking around the carpeted gym, in circles.
When LaLanne finished the workout his viens were throbbing in that loud contralto chorus ("Jack," he says he wispers to himself after each morning's exercise, "you've done it again").
He went upstairs to the kitchen.
He put a hundred desiccated liver and yeast tablets in the blender.
He put in four 500-unit Vitamin E capsules, 25Vitamin C tablets, 75 kelp tablets, 250 miligrams of zinc, 15,000 units of Vitamins A and D, 10 tablets each of dolomite and bone meal, four tablets each of potassium and selenium, a handful of acidophilus tablets, and a few garlic pearls.
He put in a cup of water and pushed the "low" button so everything mashed up nice. Then he pushed the "high" button. Then he turned off the blender and strained away the plastic from the capsules and drank it all down as the September sun came up in North Hollywood, Calif.
"anything is possible!" cries Jack LaLanne.
This man is never going to go away.
Jack LaLanne is going to hang around for all enternity, foisting yougurt and raw vegetables and desiccated liver upon us, luring lumpy bodies toward terrible shiny machines, maligning flab.
One, TWO, One, TWO. Twenty-five years LaLanne sweated on the television screen -- before jogging, before marathons, before roller skating, before light beer, before sprout-tomato-cream-cheese sandwiches, before care and flagellation of the corporal self became a national obsession. Back in antiquity.
Jack LaLanne was our first coast-to-coast in-home cheerleader.
He taught housewives how to exercise. He opened what he claims was the nation's first conditioning studio, back in Oakland in 1935. He wrote big-selling, big-picture, uncontrollably buoyant books: "The Jack LaLanne Way to Vibrant Good Health," "Foods for Glamour," "Abundant Good Health," and "Vitality After Forty."
ONE, two. ONE, two. "This one tightens up the buttocks, ladies, swing those legs up." His muscels bulged. Mountian ranges rose and fell under his jumpsuit. Always he smiled. Reflex, the smile. Now when a camera is pointed at him he attaches 30-pound weights to his legs, lifts himself into a couple of quick chin-ups, and smiles.
"I feel fantastic," he says.
I feel like -- I'm aways -- I feel I could be 21, 30, 35, you know? It's the old adage. Use or lose."
Here is how Jack LaLanne will commemorate his 65th birthday:
On Oct. 15, if all goes according to plan, he will swim across a mile-wide lake at the base of Mount Fuji, Japan, towing 6,500 pounds of Louisianna-Pacific wood pulp behind him.
"Thirty-five boats I'm going to tow," says LaLanne. "three and a half tons of wood pulp. This is going to be the greatest feat anybody's ever done in history. Make everything else I've done look like kids' play."
Everything else LaLanne has done includes the following: One Alcatraz-to-Fisherman's Wharf swim, wearing handcuffs and legcuffs, and towing a 1,000-pound boat. One set of 1,033 pushups, in 23 minutes, on the television show "You Asked For It" (apparently someone did). One 30-mile, 9 1/2-hour, nonstop paddleboard ride from the Parallon Islands to a beach in San Francisco. One mile-long swim in Long Beach Harbor, inspired by the Bicentennial (spirit of '76 and so on), towing 13 boats contained 76 people.
These are identified, on LaLanne's publicity bio, as "magnificent feats."
He could perhaps explain why he does them?
"Just exactly to prove to people that Jack LaLanne's philosophy works," he says, practically spitting out the words in his favor. "If a man believeth, if you believe in yourself, you can do it."
He is cruising along in the family Mercedes, blue, license, XERCIZ. (The $85,000 alabaster Stutz Bearcat, with its swiveling television and Australian lambswool seats and 24-karat gold window buttons and REDUCE tags, is home in the garage.) He hit a bunch of golf balls out at the country club, and now he is heading home, driving with his left hand and pounding the console for emphasis with his right.
"Those young kids, when they see -- 'Gee, look at this guy, he's 65 years old, my God, he's pulling 65 boats, that's impossible' -- then they feel guilty, and they start doing something. After I do these feats I get letters from all over the country, telegrams -- 'My God, I saw what Jack did, and I feel so ashamed of myself, I have to get in and do it.
"People need leaders. They need examples. Just like Jesus. Didn't he perform miracles for his people? It's the same thing."
Jack LaLanne is the Oral Roberts of sweat.
"See, we are our own worst enemies. Too many of us set limits. Guy says, 'I'm gonna make $50,000 a year,' why can't he add a couple of zeros and say 50 million, or 50 billion, or whatever? My main philosophy is getting as much happiness out of life as possible. And if the brain and the body don't work together, you don't have it."
Jack LaLanne has brown eyes, straight teeth, lines across his forehead, darting eyebrows, ponderous shoulders and taut little neck muscles corded like sailor's rope. He has a wife (usually referred to in LaLanne publications as "the beautiful Elaine"), three children, three dogs, a health spa franchise, a new string of weight-loss clinics, and a corporation that distributes vitamins, bread, protein powder and three kinds of candy bars. "All natural ingredients," says LaLanne. "Tastes FANTASTIC." Hyperbole surges through his veins.
He says he lives on fish, chicken, turkey, fruits, vegetables, brown rice, whole wheat bread, protein powder and vitamins. "Everything in its natural state as much as possible," he says. "Mostly fish. Raw. I love raw fish, man. I'll tell you somehthing. When I went to one of those sushi bars they had 25 different types of raw fish, and you have to eat' em all. And one of 'em was abalone liver. Jesus. You know regular liver. Just accentuate that about 10 times and that's what abalone liver tasted like."
He received the Word at an early age.
"I was a sugarholic by the time I was about 10; that's all I wanted to eat, cakes, ice cream, soda pop. I had an uncontrollable temper. I tried to kill my brother on a couple occasions. I was thinking about suicide. I got failing grades in school. It was affecting my brain. It was affecting my intellect. I was so weak and skinny I couldn't participate in sports. I hadpimples and boils. I was wearing glasses. The doctor recommended my parents take me out of school for six months."
A kindly neighbor lady suggested that LaLannes's mother take him to hear a visiting nutritionist.
LaLanne's eyes glisten now as he tells this story.
"He said 'Regardless of your age or your present physical condition, if you OBEY NATURE'S LAWS, you can be BORN AGAN.' That did it.
"Here I was 15 years old and no one had ever said I could be born again. I was sick and tired of these aches and pains, this dilapidated body, the kids making fun of me every day . . . I went back to his dressing room right after that lecture, and we had a long talk until about 2 in the morning.
"It was incredible . Here was this man talking to me. I went home that night and sat on my bed and prayed. . .
"I said, 'Dear God, please give me the intestinal fortitude and the will power to refrain from eating these foods that are undermining my health. Please give me the willpower to exercise when I don't feel like it.'"
God came through.
"From that night to this day, these foods are out of my life. Just like that . . . I went back to school. Within six weeks or so my headaches cleared up, I threw my glasses away. My skin cleared up like magic . . . by the time I was a senior in high school I had scholarships to three different universities for sports. I went into everything, football, baseball, swimming, track, the whole thing. I was the wrestling champion. You name it.swI wanted to make up for lost time."
Jack LaLanne went into business selling the pure life. By his senior year of high school he had 25 friends out hawking his mother's bread, his mother's cookies, and the unsulfured raisins and prunes they got wholesale off central California ranches. He had built a rudementary gym in his parents' house, stocked with barbells and dumbells and home-designed exercise machines, and LaLanne -- 18 years old and unstoppable in his musclebound evangelism -- held exercise classes for policemen and firemen inside his gym.
"The word got around," says LaLanne. "This crackpot LaLanne. This ass. You can't believe the negative things people were saying. Radios Television. Newspapers. All these articles about this guy, this nut, Jack LaLanne, this muscleman. It was incredible. I was going broke. Then I got this idea . . . I'd go to the high schools . I'd wear a tight shirt, you know, and pick out the skinniest kid I could find. I says. 'How'd you like to gain about 30 pounds, build yourself up, go out for the football team?'"
He hit the fat slobs, too.
Everbody got the fever, says LaLanne. The fat got svelte. The thin got muscular.Businessmen gazed at their boys' biceps and sighed back into the past and made secret appointments with Jack LaLanne during their lunch hours,. Wives watched their husbands, and wondered, and sidled in for exercise on quiet afternoons.
LaLanne was in business.
"My whole life, God is my witness, I never ever thought about making a buck," says Jack LaLanne.
Is there no ligament, no joint no tiny place that creaks or hurts or whines at the mounting years?
"None. None. Nowhere. Never. Not a pain. Nothing."
Jack LaLanne whistles to himself.
See, happiness to me is this moment. If you have enough willpower to control yourself, you control your thoughts. 'Cause that's what you and I have. We have these negative thoughts. We have ever kind of thought that everyone has ever thought, good thoughts, bad thoughts. But if we're strong enough to be able to weed out the bad, just take the good and dwell on the positive -- then we're working on happiness."
"If you believe in something, you're going to sell it, aren't you?" asks Jack LaLanne.