LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jack LaLanne, the late guru of physical fitness for generations of homemakers, was remembered Tuesday by Arnold Schwarzenegger and other bodybuilders who called him a pioneer and an inspiration.
“He was a true saint,” Schwarzenegger told several hundred people at a “Celebration of Life” gathering at the Forest Lawn cemetery in the Hollywood Hills.
He compared LaLanne to leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela because he inspired millions of people.
LaLanne, who often said, “I can’t die, it would ruin my image,” was 96 when he succumbed to pneumonia at his Morro Bay home on Jan. 23.
He was a jumpsuited purveyor of fitness decades before celebrity exercise advocates began to flood the airwaves.
As early as 1936, LaLanne opened a gym that encouraged weight-training for women. His TV show that ran from the 1950s through the 1980s used equipment as simple as a towel or chair to perform exercises. It was especially popular among housewives.
Preaching exercise and a healthy diet, he also wrote books and marketed vitamin supplements and juicers.
LaLanne also was known for feats of strength such as doing more than 1,000 push-ups and, at age 70, swimming a mile in Long Beach harbor while handcuffed and towing 70 rowboats.
When Schwarzenegger was California governor, LaLanne was on his Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport. Schwarzenegger said he first met LaLanne in 1968 on Venice Beach in Los Angeles, where LaLanne suggested they work out together.
“After 30 minutes of chin-ups and other exercises, I got so pumped I couldn’t move anymore,” Schwarzenegger said. “He kept doing it for another hour.”
The former governor joked that with LaLanne in heaven, there will be no slacking-off for those who thought they could rest in peace.
“He has already told old Saint Peter that the wake-up call is going to be at 6 in the morning,” Schwarzenegger said. “And there will be thousands of push-ups.”
Other speakers included Lou Ferrigno, who played TV’s “Incredible Hulk,” and fitness expert Denise Austin.
LaLanne’s wife, Elaine, and three children attended the ceremony.
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