Biography of Famous Body Builder Charles Atlas Part 2

About the famous body builder and weight lifter Charles Atlast who marketed the Atlas fitness course, history and biography.


CHARLES ATLAS (ANGELO SICILIANO) (1894-1972). "The 97-lb. weakling."

In 1928 Charles Roman took over the marketing of the Atlas course and rewrote the ads. He coined the term "dynamic tension" to describe Atlas's isometric exercises and concentrated on selling just plain muscles. "Just tell me where you want handsome steellike muscles," the ads proclaimed. "I'll add 5 in. to your chest." Later Roman created a comic-strip panel which showed the newly muscled he-man returning to punch the bully who had kicked sand in his face and stolen his girl.

Atlas supplemented Roman's ads with personal appearances. He bent railroad spikes and gave them away as souvenirs. He ordered the spikes in kegs from ironworks and bent 1,500 a year. He pulled six automobiles down a mile of road. He pulled a 145,000-lb. railroad observation car down a track and a boatload of friends around New York Harbor.

Subscribers paid $30 for 12 lessons in such arts as deep breathing, arm wrestling with oneself, doing push-ups on chairs, relaxation, and diet. He-men were told to avoid alcohol, tea, white bread, and doughnuts. Character building was an essential part of the training. Atlas told kids who came into his office, "Live clean, think clean, and don't go to burlesque shows." He told a businessman, "Burn your bonds. Tear up your stocks. Give away your property. Get on a healthy basis. My God, man, it's the body that counts!" Atlas believed that he was building character. "With good health goes honesty and integrity. If you've got good health, you think twice before you do anything wrong."

By W. W. II, Atlas had branch offices in London and Buenos Aires and students all over the world. Among his alumni were Max Baer, Fred Allen, Harry Von Zell, and piano manufacturer Theodore Steinway. A correspondent named Mahatma Gandhi wrote to him from India to say, "I have heard of the wonderful work you are doing and I wonder if there is some way you can build me up." Atlas prescribed a diet and some easy exercises. "I didn't charge him a dime," the strongman recalled. "I felt mighty sorry for him. The poor chap, he's nothing but a bag of bones."

Ultimately, 6 million aspiring he-men bought the course, making Atlas a millionaire several times over. He bought a seaside home at Point Lookout, Long Island, and lived in semiretirement, building furniture out of driftwood, working out at the New York City Athletic Club, and posing for publicity photos as a remarkably vigorous septuagenarian while Roman directed the mail-order business. He died of a heart attack at the age of 78. The isometric exercises he had pioneered had long since become part of the training used by the armed forces and professional athletes.

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