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Look, Mom, I'm An Institution
Bob Ottum
November 23, 1981
Good old Jack LaLanne may be 67 now, but the message on his license plate is for you—he's still perfect
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November 23, 1981

Look, Mom, I'm An Institution

Good old Jack LaLanne may be 67 now, but the message on his license plate is for you—he's still perfect

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Chest: 47"

Biceps: 16½"

Waist: 27½"

Hips: 35"

Thigh: 23"

Weight: 160 pounds

Height: Well. It's listed at 5'7¼" in his publicity handouts. That may be stretching things just a bit, though he almost makes it with Cuban heels on his loafers and with the familiar old upsweep hairstyle. Not that it matters. LaLanne came on as a dynamic pixie right from the start, and it just wouldn't have worked at any other height.

He points to the house hidden by shrubbery across the street and says, "The gentleman who lives over there does his Jack LaLannes every day. He's in fine shape. And you know what? He's 101 years old! And my friend Gilbert Roland, the actor. He's 75. He does my exercises. And you know what? He looks wonderful!"

LaLanne spreads his arms as he says it. It's still familiar: Here is the exercise and nutrition evangelist who dazzled much of the nation in the years of television's black and white innocence. He would come on doing jumping jacks to De Camptown Races. "Good morning, students!" he would croon. He always appeared in a skintight, one-piece jumpsuit and ballet shoes, crackling with energy. His smile was full of healthy promise, no sexual innuendo in any of it. "All right, everybody stre-e-etch! There now. What a wonderful morning it is!" And in their living rooms, an estimated five to six million women responded, many in leotards or shorts or slacks, others still in bathrobes or pajamas, hair in curlers, all grunting, puffing and throwing themselves about to his commands. And with LaLanne whispering, urging, pleading, right into the camera, there was a sense of intimacy entirely new to the medium at the time.

The LaLanne show played in the '50s, through the '60s and beyond. His word became gospel during a time when Americans were more malleable and trusting. "I'm going to build a new and lovelier you!" LaLanne would promise earnestly. "A brand-new you, looking the way the Lord intended you to look when He made you." And on to a series of sit-ups. "Let's get back to Trimnastics!" he would say. "Come on, now, girls. We're going to work on the..." and he would pat himself on the fanny, "on reducing the old back porch."

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