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Celebrating Jack LaLanne

About 500 of us celebrated the life of Jack LaLanne on Tuesday, gathering in the Hall of Liberty at Forest Lawn Cemetery in the Hollywood Hills at 1 p.m.

As expected, a large group of industry icons were in attendance, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, Joe Weider, John Balik, Robert Kennedy, Richard Simmons and Denise Austin.

Arnold led the way of several who took to the stage to give tribute to LaLanne, who died a week ago Sunday at the age of 96. “It doesn’t matter where you go, there’s a health club, and it all started with Jack LaLanne,” said Schwarzenegger. “Jack is now in heaven and, of course, that’s going to be very annoying for a lot of people up there. It’s not going to be pretty, because we know what’s going to happen. Residents of heaven have a new wake-up call at 6 a.m., and they are doing thousands of push-ups and stretching exercises.

“The people are in a state of shock because they were promised if they were good, they could rest in peace. There will be no resting now.”

As Kennedy, Publisher of MuscleMag International, said, “Jack opened the first health club in Oakland, California, in 1936…that was the start of the fitness revolution as we know it today.”

Ferrigno talked about how, as a starving newcomer to California in 1976, he came up with $35 for dinner. Well, for two dinners. Lou’s a big man, with a big appetite, as we all know. “The waiter came by and said the bill had been paid for by Jack,” Ferrigno said. “There he was, standing right there in the restaurant, Jack LaLanne, one of my idols. I couldn’t believe it.”

Simmons said he hated LaLanne when he first saw him on television. “He was everything I wasn’t,” Simmons said. “He was fit. He ate healthy. He had self-esteem.” When LaLanne appeared on the “Richard Simmons Show” in 1980, they became friends, he said. “I’m here to pay tribute to a legend, and someone who influenced me to be a better person.”

The line of the day, natch, went to Arnold. “People doubted what Jack was promoting in his early years,” Schwarzenegger said. “They warned if you lifted weights you could get heart problems, become a narcissist, turn gay, or it could reduce your sex drive. How do they explain the fact that Charlie Sheen works out every day? So, that’s nonsense.”

Schwarzenegger told the audience he met LaLanne at Venice Beach shortly after he moved to the United States in 1968. He reminisced about LaLanne asking him and Franco Columbu to join him in a work out. “After we went non-stop for about 30 minutes, I said ‘This guy’s a machine…a real machine.’ Little did I know I would end up playing a machine in the movies.”

Jack’s three children were there and, in perhaps the most fitting tribute to the king of fitness, Dan Doyle LaLanne shared his father’s final moments. Dan held up a dumbbell, and said “He had one of these in his left hand when he died.”

Now, would we expect anything less?

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