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It was part funeral, part remembrance for a past generation of body builders when Jack LaLanne was laid to rest Tuesday at Forest Lawn.
Among the 500 guests filling the cemetery’s Hall of Liberty lobby before the service was fitness magazine publisher Joe Weider, 91, who arrived in a wheelchair.
He said he’d first met LaLanne in either 1939 or 1940 in Las Vegas.
“He was my best friend,” said Weider. “He had such a personality. You couldn’t avoid him. He was always happy – and a good competitor. I cried all day when he died.”
The lobby was filled with massive photos of LaLanne, many from his days as a competition body builder. The most frequently heard remark, usually from a large man well over 60 was: “Now, that was when he was in his prime, right there.”
The service began with the presentation of a folded American flag to LaLanne’s widow by two naval officers. LaLanne had served both on ships and on land in World War II as an “Athletic Technician” doing physical training instruction.
There were 17 speakers at the “celebration,” as LaLanne had wanted the funeral to be called, with the most famous being former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger who spoke off-the-cuff with great enthusiasm for 15 minutes.
The idea that LaLanne was in heaven telling everyone to exercise was brought up by a number of later speakers, but Schwarzenegger went at it early and strong.
“Right now he’s telling St. Peter, ‘Get up at 6am, get a juicer, take some vitamins, do some stretching,’ ” said the former Governor, who had met LaLanne in 1968 in Venice when he first came from Austria and they did an exhausting workout together.
“After it was over, I said this guy is a machine. Little did I know I would someday be playing a machine,” added Schwarzenegger.
The former governor got strong applause when he said LaLanne should be canonized because under the rules of the Catholic Church one qualification for sainthood is a candidate’s prayers keeping someone alive.
“Can you imagine the number of lives Jack saved?” asked Schwarzenegger. “He was a true saint.”
Among the other speakers were Richard Simmons, who began his remarks by asking the crowd to put their arms in the air and stretch “because that’s how we honor Jack, with a big stretch”; and Lou Ferrigno who called LaLanne “the godfather of fitness.”
The final remarks came from LaLanne’s widow, Elaine, with whom he’d been married for 51 of his 96 years.
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