Jack LaLanne was the first person to have TV exercise show, which he used to help popularize exercise to Americans, something he has continued to do ever since. (Photo by Brian Smith.)
LaLanne Family Carries on Legacy
It’s not always easy growing up in the shadow of a famous father. But Jack LaLanne’s kids have managed just fine.
LaLanne has four children, one from his previous marriage, two from his wife Elaine’s previous marriage and one from his and Elaine’s union.
Yvonne LaLanne was born to Jack and his first wife, Irma. Yvonne is a chiropractor (Jack also had attended chiropractic college) and lives in Walnut Creek, CA. She remembers her father’s unique profession before he became famous on TV. When asked what his job was, she’d reply “physical culturist,” leaving people more perplexed.
“I was the only kid in town who had a father who could walk on his hands,” Yvonne says. “It was certainly more interesting than having a shoe salesman for a father.”
Dan Doyle didn’t see many of his dad’s TV shows while he was away at school. As chief operating officer of the family’s company, BeFit Enterprises, Doyle got a chance to see many of the shows he missed when he reformatted the shows for ESPN Classic, which ran a Jack LaLanne marathon five years ago in honor of his 90th birthday.
“It was really interesting for me,” Doyle says. “He dedicated his whole life to working out, and he could never understand why people couldn’t see what he could see.”
Doyle, who kept his biological father’s last name, and his older sister, Janet, came from Elaine’s first marriage. Janet was an aspiring actress who performed in plays and commercials in Los Angeles. After a rehearsal doing summer stock theater in Michigan, Janet lost control of her car and was killed in an accident. She was only 21.
Jon LaLanne, the youngest of Jack and Elaine’s children, remembers waking up most mornings and seeing his dad on TV. Jon admits he wasn’t always an early riser, but his dad knew how to wake him.
Once in a while, after his customary early-morning workout, Jack would wring the sweat from his workout clothes onto Jon.
“It was just horrifying, but it was all in comedy,” Jon LaLanne says. “He was never a strict father.”
At breakfast, Jon had to hold his nose if he tried to drink one of his dad’s cod liver oil and vitamin B tablet shakes. The LaLanne kids knew about nutrition, but they found ways to sneak in some less healthy food, such as raiding the neighbor’s Cap’n Crunch cereal while visiting there. The LaLannes’ housekeeper, Hattie Montez, stashed some goodies and treats in the cupboard. But Jack didn’t mind. He knew all about the cupboard.
Jon now lives in Hawaii and manufactures surfboards. It took him a few years, Jon says, but he has caught on to following his father’s virtues of nutrition. He even grows his own natural food in his backyard.
“To this day, I have my breakfast by the blender,” he says.
Another member of the family is now making a name in the health club business. Chris LaLanne, the grandnephew of Jack LaLanne and the grandson of Jack’s brother, Norman, owns and operates LaLanne Fitness, Powered by CrossFit, a group training studio in San Francisco.
“The community and the accountability and the nutritional education and guidance are a big part of what we do, and it’s very similar to what Jack did,” Chris LaLanne says. “The irony and the similarity is so cool. He’s very proud and very excited.”
On Jack’s 95th birthday last month, Chris LaLanne attempted to do 1,000 push-ups and 1,000 pull-ups in 1 hour and 22 minutes, which Jack did on his 45th birthday in 1959. Because of a hand blister, Chris did only 500 push-ups and 500 pull-ups in 1 hour, 28 minutes.
“I’m 33,” Chris says, “so I’ve got 12 years to prepare for a second attempt.”