WEAKNESS IS A CRIME: The Life of Bernarr Macfadden by Robert Ernst

WEAKNESS IS A CRIME: The Life of Bernarr Macfadden

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

The strange life and labors of the founder of America's physical-culture movement. Ernst (History/Adelphi) calls Macfadden (1868-1955) ""the supreme American showman"" of the 20th century. Certainly his subject, a man who changed his first name from Bernard so that it would sound more like a lion's roar, craved the rich red meat of fame, fortune, and power. He found all three through his body--chiseling his torso to perfection, and then promoting the virtues of exercise, sunshine, natural foods, and the like. Macfadden spread his message through Physical Culture magazine (circ. 500,000 plus), then expanded his empire to include numerous pulps (True Confessions, True Romance, etc.), and the sex-and-blood New York Evening Graphic. He also cultivated eccentricities that make for fascinating reading: 100-mile barefoot hikes, lots of sex (at one time he marketed a ""peniscope"" to revitalize flagging male organs), dousing his children with ice-cold water. In addition, this odd man ran for governor of Florida, landed in jail a few times, earned millions, philandered like a rooster, and was so cheap he chained his wallet to his pants. Outweighing these shenanigans were Macfadden's insights into healthy living, in particular his praise for raw foods and his contempt for drugs--attitudes finally in vogue nearly a half-century after his death. An American original--painted in bright, solid colors by a serious scholar.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Syracuse Univ. Press