Synopses & Reviews
The strongman whose pioneering focus on physique built an entertainmentempire
Before Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steve Reeves, or Charles Atlas, there was Eugen Sandow, a muscular vaudeville strongman who used his good looks, intelligence, and business savvy to forge a fitness empire. The German-born Sandow (1867-1925) established a worldwide string of gyms, published a popular magazine, sold exercise equipment, and pioneered the use of food supplements. He even marketed a patented health corset for his female followers. Among the colorful figures who played a part in Sandow's life are Bernarr Macfadden, Florenz Ziegfeld, Lillian Russell, and others in sports and the theater. Sandow the Magnificent is the story of this first showman to emphasize physique display rather than lifting prowess. Sandow's is also the story of the earliest days of the fitness movement, and Chapman explains the popularity of physical culture in terms of its wider social implications. Sandow was a proponent of exercise to alleviate physical ailments, anticipating the field of physical therapy. By making exercise fashionable, he encouraged the fitness craze that still endures. As the first superstar in his field, Sandow also pried open some surprising cracks in the Victorian wall of prudery. His nude photographs, a kind of soft-core pornography, were anxiously sought by both male and female admirers, and after many of his major public events he gave private "receptions" wearing little more than a G-string.