Photo: AP

Jack LaLanne, the fitness pioneer and eccentric with deep Bay Area roots, died this weekend, moving on to that Big Health Club in the Sky. He was 96.

You can watch complete episodes of his old fitness show — clearly launched before the invention of cue cards and the notion that frequent organ-music accompaniment can be off-putting — at Jack

All kitsching aside, the man truly was a pioneer. The San Francisco Chronicle has a good obit, and ore videos below.

From the Chronicle:

Mr. LaLanne was born in San Francisco on Sept. 26, 1914, to French immigrants. They lived in Berkeley, where Mr. LaLanne described himself as a skinny, pimply kid addicted to sugar.

His behavioral problems were extreme. He attacked his brother, attempted suicide and tried to burn down his house. His overweight father died of a heart attack at 50.

I was “a miserable goddamn kid,” Mr. LaLanne told The Chronicle. “It was like hell.”

Then he heard a speech at the Oakland Women’s City Club by Paul Bragg, who opened the nation’s first health-food store…

In 1936, he opened Jack LaLanne’s Physical Culture Studio in Oakland. Business was slow, so Mr. LaLanne offered massages to get people in the door. Once they started weight lifting, he would suggest routines and call them on the phone if they missed two or more workouts.

“How am I gonna help you if you’re not here?” he would ask.

In 1951, he started a live exercise show on KGO-TV in San Francisco. The “Jack LaLanne Show” went national in 1959 and ran for 34 years in the United States and Europe.

Mr. LaLanne became known for great feats of strength. At 40, he towed a 2,000-pound cabin cruiser as he swam the Golden Gate Channel. When he was 42, he did a record 1,033 pushups in 23 minutes.

When he was 60, Mr. LaLanne swam from Alcatraz to Fisherman’s Wharf – while handcuffed, shackled and towing a boat. (Full article)

There’s a gym-load of video on LaLanne all over the web today. Just a sampling…

Newsreel footage of LaLanne’s famous Alcatraz swim, from CNN:

From The Today Show:

From KGO, LaLanne in San Francisco for his 95th birthday last year:

Jack LaLanne on “pooped-out-itis,” from “The Jack LaLanne Show”

  • More Jack LaLanne videos
  • Photo slideshow (SF Chronicle)
  • 2004 NPR story
  • Timeline: Jack LaLanne feats
  • Jack LaLanne quotes
  • Guest Book for Jack LaLanne (
  • Fitness Godfather And Bay Area Native Jack LaLanne Dies 24 January,2011Jon Brooks


    Jon Brooks

    Jon Brooks is the host and editor of KQED’s health and technology blog, Future of You. He is the former editor of KQED’s daily news blog, News Fix. A veteran blogger, he previously worked for Yahoo! in various news writing and editing roles. He was also the editor of, which documented user-generated content about the financial crisis and recession. Jon is also a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S. He has written about film for his own blog and studied film at Boston University. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College.

    Sponsored by

    Become a KQED sponsor