As longtime readers of this zillion-word narrative of my boring life know, at one point I worked as a copy editor, one whose shift started at 5 a.m. I read the sports copy for an afternoon newspaper, which meant I often had to trek back to the sports department to ask stupid questions and make ignorant suggestions. (“Can we get rid of one of these basketball pictures? We have three wads of armpit hair on the sports front.” Answer: Of course not. It’s Indiana, silly.) Anyway, the sports-department TV was tuned to one of the ESPN channels, and at that point of the very early morning, they showed reruns of Jack LaLanne.
LaLanne died yesterday, and like many people, I was astounded. I thought he’d live forever. He’s been old for decades now — 96 at the time of his exit — and it seemed every year, you could find a three-paragraph story about his latest birthday-celebration stunt, some act of defiant fitness. I recall one year he swam a considerable distance in the Houston Ship Channel, towing a large vessel behind, although a quick Google doesn’t turn anything up, other than the amusing detail that the Houston Ship Channel has a clogged artery (a beef-tallow spill), and LaLanne died of something else entirely (pneumonia). It should have been a lightning strike, or maybe shot by a jealous husband he had cuckolded.
It would appear it’s my memory that’s faulty; according to his obits, the swims took place in California:
At 60 he swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman’s Wharf handcuffed, shackled and towing a 1,000-pound boat. At 70, handcuffed and shackled again, he towed 70 boats, carrying a total of 70 people, a mile and a half through Long Beach Harbor.
Impressive. Anyway, on those early-morning rambles down to argue with the sports editors, I was struck by two things about LaLanne’s fitness show — his old-fashioned wardrobe (that stretchy one-piece thing and the shoes that looked like ballet slippers) and his modern technique. Exercise has trends and fashions like everything else, and I’ve been around long enough to see them come and go and sometimes come again. (The medicine ball is back, but deep knee bends are probably gone forever, replaced by the squat.) Sometimes what LaLanne did on those shows look suspiciously like Pilates (new), which is sort of like isometrics (old). He was also a big believer in push-ups, currently enjoying a renaissance as perhaps the most important single exercise anyone can do, at any age. I don’t know if he ever used the words “core” or “abs,” but he seemed to understand that staying fit doesn’t require much more than a little bit of time, every day, that the most important thing you need is persistence and that a firm midsection will serve you no matter what your sport, from running to swimming to sitting behind a desk.
Jack LaLanne — now juicing carrots and towing ships in the next world, reunited with Happy, the white German shepherd.
So, how was your weekend? We went to the Detroit News Christmas party. Srsly. The way the story went, somehow December got away from everyone, and the next thing you knew, the company had run out of dates for a pre-holiday party, so they opted for a post-holiday one. I thought maybe they’d dispense with the theme, but no — there was a tree, and Christmas gifts, and snowflake sweaters and a holiday singalong. Plus karaoke. Every department had to come up and do a number. We left after an assistant managing editor and mild-mannered designer (or editor or something) teamed up for “Rapper’s Delight,” the whole thing, and crushed it, they were so good. Always leave a party on a high note. That was a high note. Reminded me of the time a similarly mild-mannered guy from my last newsroom stood up at a karaoke party and performed “Baby Got Back” better than Sir Mix-a-Lot. And the time before that, when one of those guys who works the overnight shift and nobody knows very well, the guy who gets called Boo Radley behind his back, did the same thing, only with “Friends in Low Places.” Karaoke makes a lot of people miserable, but for some? It’s like a telephone to their soul.
We also went to the movies. A.O. Scott is absolutely right about “Somewhere,” which I enjoyed very much, although I’d love to see the script. All 22 pages of it.
Roger Ebert quotes a film editor on why 3D sucks. I’m in full agreement, but my argument is simpler: Because so many of the films made in 3D suck.
Manic Monday awaits. Outta here.