Special to The Times
January 23, 2011, 10:18 p.m.
Jack LaLanne, the seemingly eternal master of health and fitness who first popularized the idea that Americans should work out and eat right to retain youthfulness and vigor, died Sunday. He was 96.
LaLanne died of respiratory failure due to pneumonia at his home in Morro Bay, Calif., his agent Rick Hersh said. He had undergone heart valve surgery in December 2009.
Though LaLanne was for many years dismissed as merely a "muscle man" — a notion fueled to some extent by his amazing feats of strength — he was the spiritual father of the health movement that blossomed into a national craze of weight rooms, exercise classes and fancy sports clubs.
In 1952, he went on TV, but because he could only afford time in the early mornings, he found his audience was mostly young children. So he got a dog — Happy — to appeal to the kids, who were encouraged to go wake up their mommies for a workout. The show was eventually syndicated nationwide and ran for 34 years.