Where Hard Bodies Began—Photographs and Memories
Harold Zinkin with Bonnie Hearn
Muscle Beach, Santa Monica, California: the birthplace of the most important health phenomenon of the twentieth century—the fitness movement. A haven for health nuts in the 1930s, Muscle Beach attracted the best bodies of the day: Jack LaLanne, John Grimek, Vic Tanny, Joe Gold of Gold's Gym fame, and the very first Mr. California, Harold Zinkin, the author of REMEMBERING MUSCLE BEACH, his nostalgic history of this physical fitness landmark and the people who made it a legend. Every famous bodybuilder has worked out at Muscle Beach, from Steve Reeves and Charles Atlas to Arnold Schwarzenegger, but few people know the real story of what it was like to build bodies—and use them— in the pre-steroid muscle days. Finally, the real story. And even more unbelievable, the real pictures.
Harold Zinkin and co-author Bonnie Hearn secured more than 125 never-before-published photographs from the private collections of the men and women who somersaulted and hand-walked their way through the invincible summers of Muscle Beach in the '30s, '40s and '50s. The authors show and tell the story of the gymnasts, weightlifters and wrestlers who changed the shape of America's bodies. Pictures show 14-year-old girls lifting 175-pound men, fabulous hunks building human pyramids four high, women flying through the air, and both men and women balancing in positions that even Isaac Newton could never explain. The stunts were so remarkable that huge crowds thronged Muscle Beach to gawk at the "muscleheads" as they performed their daring. And for the performers, it was simply "the perfect place to show kids that anything was possible."
Take Steve Reeves, who was discovered by Cecil B. DeMille and ended up a legend as Hercules. "He was the most beautiful human to ever walk the sand of Muscle Beach," recalls Zinkin. Everywhere Reeves went people told him he should be a movie star. Well, if he could balance three people on his shoulders and do a double somersault flying off the rings, Steve Reeves could be a movie star. Dozens of films later, Reeves became the celluloid legend from Muscle Beach. The Beach was a gathering spot for plenty of Hollywood types—Clark Gable hung out there, so did Tyrone Power; Mae West found her boys there, Jayne Mansfield met her husband there (so did Jane Russell), and Roy Rogers learned to stand on someone's shoulders with his boots on at Muscle Beach, right outside Silent Leo's cafe.
REMEMBERING MUSCLE BEACH is a tribute to bodies
beautiful from decades past—trendsetters for the world's
lean, mean silhouettes. REMEMBERING MUSCLE BEACH
is a fast-paced journey back to where hard bodies began.
Author Harold Zinkin grew up on Muscle Beach. While managing a gym in Fresno, he saw a need and developed the Universal Gym Machine—the piece of equipment which launched the fitness industry. Oh yes, he's also the guy on the bottom of many of those human pyramids.
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