Many in bodybuilding, particularly those who’ve been around for awhile, are well aware of Dan Lurie. Dan’s story is an inspirational one; as a skinny kid with a heart murmur, he threw himself into exercising of all kinds, including gymnastics, boxing, then of course his fateful entry into bodybuilding. Dan transformed his physique so much so as to become the winner of the “Most Muscular Man” in the Mr. America contest, three times running. At 5’6½” tall and 165 pounds, Dan developed a muscular, pleasing, athletic physique which many could relate to and aspire to. Dan also entered the business world, as he began manufacturing and selling exercise equipment, later he owned and operated gyms, finding a solid place in the bodybuilding industry, building a considerable business empire from his own unstinting efforts. His accomplishments in the sport as well as his entertaining personality even landed him a role as a strongman, “Sealtest Dan, the Muscle Man,” appearing in “The Sealtest Big Top Circus” on CBS tv.
These, along with some of Dan’s notable strongman feats, such as his mind boggling amounts of pushups –1,665 in 90 minutes, or an equally mind bending number of dips, 1,225, also in 90 minutes, along with his barbell and dumbbell lifts and other strongman displays are admired and still recounted in the bodybuilding press. Later, Dan began publishing his bodybuilding magazine, Muscle Training Illustrated, and formed the World Body Building Guild, or WBBG, which held contests and was a big part of the East Coast muscle scene for many years. But these accomplishments, as impressive as they are, really don’t tell the story of the man. Read as dry words on a page or recited as a list, they don’t animate or come close to capturing the essence of the man.
“Muscles,” the late Mike Mentzer, a formidable bodybuilder in his own right, once said, “aren’t the measure of a man.” Mentzer uttered this deceptively profound insight only after he himself had learned its truth during what came to be a short and troubled life. But Dan Lurie knew this, fortunately for himself, all the way along. Do your bodybuilding but make a living, too, Dan would say; live your life, let bodybuilding be a part of it, but don’t let it consume you. Not easy to do in the sport, as its history of many wrecked lives attests. The thing that most characterized Dan was that he was a person, full and complete. Again, many in bodybuilding will recognize that such a thing isn’t necessarily the norm, particularly at the higher levels of the sport, and that it isn’t always an easy thing to achieve.
While many will focus on the positive role of Dan Lurie—a worthwhile thing to do-- on his accomplishments and inspirational life, including his often overlooked significant contribution to the health and fitness movement in which he was one of the twentieth century pioneers, though far less recognized for this than Jack LaLanne and some other bright stars, others will fasten onto the inevitable controversies and conflicts that were part of Dan’s professional life, as they were with almost any figure in the highly charged worlds of bodybuilding, business, and entertainment. Bulletin: in the high-testosterone world of bodybuilding, sometimes people didn’t get along.
Everyone has their subjective view of Dan, whether you knew him from afar as a figure in the sport or whether you knew him personally, so closer, but to those of us privileged to have something of a friendship, it was clear that what Dan was ultimately about was people. Dan was remarkably down to earth, friendly—really, a dynamo of a personality, with a quick mind capable of covering a breathtaking array of topics often serious and thoughtful, at the same time ready and equally capable of joking, laughing, entertaining. Dan loved life. He lived large in a way that wasn’t “Hollywood large,” like a reality show, but in a real way, with his family, his loved ones, and his friends.
Dan was duly proud of his Jewish heritage, as he pointed out that the Jewish culture “is a culture that encourages success,” yet Dan was incredibly tolerant and appreciated diversity long before those were buzzwords in our culture. Dan could get along with anybody and usually did. He didn’t care about ethnic, racial or religious distinctions, and often provided startling insights into people just when you thought Dan might not be paying attention. But he was. Always. Dan was remarkably talented, perceptive, extremely intelligent, with an intelligence not limited to business or bodybuilding, and had a surprising sensitivity. But what he really loved and cared about most was his family. We hear and read that a lot these days, but in Dan’s case it was utterly genuine. That’s what drove Dan, that’s what made him. That beyond bodybuilding or anything he did in the business world, will be his strong personal legacy. Long live Dan, with his larger than life spirit, in those of us whose lives he touched with his so generous friendship.
Greg Sushinsky is a natural bodybuilder who has trained for several years. He is a professional writer who has written extensively about bodybuilding, with numerous training articles appearing in Musclemag International, Ironman magazine, Reps! and others.Greg continues to train hard and enthusiastically. He strives to maintain a lean, proportionate physique, write and publish on bodybuilding, and continues to do and pursue many writing and publishing projects in his other areas of interest. He continues to advise and consult with bodybuilders, athletes and fitness people. Read Complete Bio.