I love these crazy old bodybuilders and fitness freaks - they carved out a niche in the culture when bulging muscles and a serious fitness regimen was considered freakish and obsessive, and they were inventors and entrepreneurs as well. The first "Mr. California" and inventor of the Universal exercise machine, Harold Zinkin, died last week at 82 after a fall:
- Born in San Francisco, Zinkin dropped out of high school in Los Angeles when his father died.
During World War II, he was a physical therapist in the Navy and continued working as a rehabilitation therapist for sailors returning from the war.
He relocated to Fresno in 1953 and married his wife, Betty, on Valentine's Day the following year. It was a second marriage for both of them. She survived him. Also surviving are his son, DeWayne, from his first marriage; four grandchildren; and several great-grandchildren.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was among those who recalled Zinkin on Thursday. "Some of my fondest memories of our friendship are of the two of us doing balancing acts together on Muscle Beach," Schwarzenegger said in a written statement.
"Harold was a great mentor," Schwarzenegger said. "I am deeply indebted to him for the friendship we shared and the counsel he gave me. He was a trusted confidant and supported me personally and professionally throughout my bodybuilding, movie and political careers."
....As a teenager in Los Angeles, Zinkin became a regular at Muscle Beach in Santa Monica, and fell in with a group of athletes who were not only bodybuilders but also had an acrobatic bent. They would form human pyramids, and Zinkin, who was just 5 foot 7 inches tall and in incredible shape, was often the guy at the bottom.
"Harold was an exceptionally well-rounded athlete," longtime fitness guru Jack LaLanne, who met Zinkin in the late 1930s, told The Times on Thursday. "He was a bodybuilder, an acrobat, a tumbler. He was a champion in every way: physically, mentally, morally and spiritually."
The beach was a training center for a number of future fitness legends. In addition to LaLanne, there were Joe Gold — Zinkin's high school classmate and the founder of Gold's Gym — and Vic Tanny, who went on to start one of the first national chains of health clubs.
Some of the young athletes brought their own weights to Muscle Beach, an oddity in those days, and used them to build strength for their acrobatic routines that drew spectators every weekend.