Charles Atlas, the Body-Builder
Charles Atlas, the advocate of weightlifting whose advertisements showed a 97-pound weakling sprayed with sand by a bully, died tonight in Long Beach (L.I.) Hospital. He was 79 years old.
Mr. Atlas, a barrel-chested man with amazing strength and physique had actually been a slender teen-ager by the name of Angelo Sicilano. He was later called the "World's Most Perfectly Developed Man."
During his heyday, three generations of pulp comics carried his advertisement: a strong man with a big smile that seemed amused at flabbiness.
He would pose in what is now accepted as the popular bikini-type, legs planted apart in hot, white sand, asking only a five-day trial to turn a sprat into a tower of strength.
Body-building as an American fad found one of its greatest proponents in Mr. Atlas. He began preaching the system of building muscles, for which he invented the term "Dynamic Tension," in 1921. The theory is to pit one muscle against another.
Now variations of his system, in which
muscles struggle against immobile objects, have developed into a tremendous
part of the American business system. Out of it has come methods that
scientists lump under the word - isometrics.
Mr. Atlas was born on Oct. 30, 1893, at Acri in the Calabrian sector of Italy. He came here at 10 with his parents. In his prime he stood 5 feet 10 inches and weighed a trim 180 pounds.
Bernarr Macfadden, the publisher in the mid-twenties of many popular magazines, dubbed Mr. Atlas "America's Most Perfectly Developed Man" at a physical culture exhibition in 1922 at the first Madison Square Garden.
In 1938, weighing 178 pounds, Mr. Atlas towed a 145,000-pound railroad car through the Sunnyside yards of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Using one rope, he moved the heavy car 122 feet along the rails.
Even as he approached the years of middle-age his chest measured 47 inches in normal position. He had biceps that measured 17 inches and a 32-inch waist.
For many years Mr. Atlas, known to youngsters as "Charley," was one of the most popular persons at Point Lookout, where he maintained a summer home.
Mr. Atlas, who lived in Brooklyn and started a professional career as an artists' model, kept his body-building business going through his life.
The course goes out in seven languages to 70,000 people a year. It sells for $30 cash or
$35 credit, just as it did when he started in 1922.
The sand-kicking incident, which was later to be the basis of a successful advertising campaign brought about by his close friend and business partner, Charles P. Roman, came out of a rather usual beach confrontation. He recalled:
"One day I went to Coney Island and I had a very pretty girl with me. We were sitting on the sand. A big, husky lifeguard, maybe there were two of them, kicked sand in my face. I couldn't do anything and the girl felt funny. I told her that someday, if I meet this guy, I will lick him."
Mr. Atlas said the girl found herself another date and he started his system of exercises and then saw a statue of Atlas in Coney Island and decided to adopt the name.
His wife died in 1965. Surviving are two children. A son, Herc, a mathematics teacher in Santa Monica, Calif., and a daughter, Diana.
New York Times