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You’ve Got to Have Heart

Archive   ·   June 22, 2009

The Legendary Dan Lurie Has Seen it All – 

The 16-year old felt as if his world came crashing down on him all at once. With aspirations of becoming a prize fighter, the last three years of training all seemed for naught when he was turned down at the prestigious Golden Gloves tournament in New York because he had a heart murmur, the result of being born with a hole in the organ.

Totally dejected, the youngster shed a few tears and then had a life-changing moment. He met a man by the name of Terry Robinson who told him, “Kid, I used to be a fighter. There’s always someone else that’s going to beat the hell out of you. You don’t need it. You have a nice body. Why don’t you go into bodybuilding?”

The teenager didn’t even know what that was at the time, but took Robinson’s suggestion to join the Adonis Health Club in his home borough of Brooklyn and began to lift weights. Within one year, he had built up enough confidence to enter the Mr. New York City contest. When he stepped on stage next to a much more experienced group of young men, he realized that he had a long way to go. Finishing in last place may have been a blow back then but in retrospect, he viewed it as the “best thing that ever happened” to him.

‘Him,’ of course, is the legendary Dan Lurie, who used to spend five cents on the subway to travel from his home in Canarsie to East New York where the Adonis Health Club was located. Money and proper nutrition were hard to come by in those days, so after every workout Lurie used to have what he called his “favorite health drink – a malted with pretzels.”

By the time he was 19, Lurie had been named America’s Most Muscular Man but was unable to break the monopoly that Bob Hoffman had on the AAU, the controlling body of all competitions. “They always kept me second,” recalled Lurie, who added, “All of his (Hoffman’s) men became Mr. America.”

An example of this occurred at the 1944 Mr. America contest in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Lurie finished as the runner-up to a Hoffman athlete by the name of Steve Stanko, who had a leg condition that prevented him from walking to the stage platform, which was inside of a boxing ring. For effect – and obviously also to hide Stanko’s limitations – the lights would go out while handlers carried Stanko in and out of the ring.

That same year, Lurie’s photograph appeared in an advertisement in “Your Physique” magazine, the precursor of “Muscle & Fitness.” Hoffman then stripped Lurie of his amateur status on the assumption that he was paid for it, but as Lurie put it, “I didn’t get a penny.” In another case of ‘us versus them,’ John Grimek appeared in advertisements on numerous occasions in “Strength & Health” magazine, but because both were under the Hoffman umbrella, it was overlooked.

Lurie began selling his own weight sets and partnered up with Joe Weider in promoting the products in “Your Physique.” After three years, the relationship deteriorated and by 1950, Lurie had become the first bodybuilder on television when he joined the Sealtest Big Top Show on CBS.

Every Saturday from 12 to 1:00 p.m., ‘Sealtest Dan’ performed feats of strength on the highest-rated children’s program, which was also the first to be shown in color. Although he did receive a salary, Lurie also enjoyed the fringe benefits of working for a company like Sealtest. “I got free ice cream, 20 gallons at a time,” Lurie said with a laugh. “I gave them out to everybody. I went through the toll booths on the New Jersey Turnpike and I gave out a gallon to all of them. I had to unload it because it would only melt, so I made friends with a lot of people along the way.”

By the time the next decade rolled around, Lurie had formed his own federation, the World Body Building Guild, and started a magazine called Muscle Training Illustrated, which eventually branched out into more publications – Fitness & Nutrition, Body Talk, Boxing Training Illustrated, Wrestling Training Illustrated, Karate Training Illustrated and Hot Rock Magazine, which covered music.

“I had a certain formula and the whole thing was to get an editor who was knowledgeable in that field,” said Lurie. “I bought my own print paper and didn’t have any overhead because I used my barbell business as an office. That’s what helped me keep the costs down and to make them grow. I was very proud of it.”

Another thing that Lurie was proud of was his WBBG, which included the Mr. Olympus contest. “I had them all, you name them,” he says now. “I even had Reg Park, who was on the first cover of my magazine in 1965. I had Sergio Oliva, Boyer Coe, Chris Dickerson, Steve Michalik, Harold Poole, Freddy Ortiz, Jim Morris, Lou Ferrigno…you can’t even remember them all.”

After 35 years of publishing, Lurie decided that it was time to retire. “I wanted to enjoy my time with my wife and my family and that’s what my goal was.” Throughout the years, he met some great people, including President Ronald Reagan in the oval office.


Today, Lurie, 86, still works out and has just released a book entitled “Heart of Steel – The Dan Lurie Story.” He is also part of a team that runs the annual Mr. And Mrs. Jones Beach USA contest along with Michalik and female bodybuilder Emy Silvagni.

“We have big plans for this year,” Lurie said of the show scheduled for August 9 on Long Island. “It’s going to be bigger and better. We’re going to have it officially known as the Muscle Beach of the East.”

With a man like Dan Lurie behind it, the show was an immediate success last summer in its inaugural run. The legend himself has given new meaning to putting your ‘heart and soul’ into a project.





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