Copyright 2005 Johnny Blue Star – All Rights Reserved
Do Not Copy or Reproduce in any Way



Composed for the Palm Springs Film Festival
Hollywood Octogenarian, Kirk Douglas, Takes Another Stab at the Big Screen
By Johnny Blue Star

Kirk Douglas, speech-impaired, living at the whim of a pace-maker, survivor of a death-dealing helicopter accident, understandably weakened by the weight of his eighty six years- continues to stare Death and Infirmity square in the face, pushing the edge of his creativity and humanity defiantly forward. And, now in his later years, he keeps writing and speaking and acting, summoning us all to do what he has always done- to be himself at all costs.

And so now, the old Hollywood warrior comes to the screen once again, starring with his son and other family in “It Runs in the Family,” looks familial dysfunctionality in the face in, of course, a comic dimension. Regardless of his mode of portrayal, Kirk Douglas continues to thumb his nose at the ticking clock, leaving the younger generation of movie goers to have another glimpse at the movie star who never gave up. This stubborn refusal to heed the call of convention or the common current of the tides has characterized the older Douglas throughout his life and career.

When the Welch poet, Dylan Thomas, saw his father, then in his eighties, slowly losing his vision and power, he wrote his renowned poem, enjoining his formerly potent and vibrant parent, ‘Do not go gentle in that good night.” Surely, no one knowing this powerful poem, cannot envision Kirk and Michael Douglas on the screen in their new film, “It Runs In the Family,” without thinking of Thomas’ injunction. As former poetry professor Linda Sue Grimes has commented, “Dylan Thomas’ father had been a robust, militant man most of his life, and when in his eighties, he became blind and weak, his son was disturbed seeing his father become “soft” or “gentle.” .

If anybody has ever embodied the robustness and virility of youth, it is surely Kirk Douglas, whose “Champion” and “Spartacus” were startling tributes to this raw power. Following his stroke and helicopter accident, Kirk Douglas, now in his eighties himself, has brought an unexpected gentleness and vulnerability into his older years, but not without the edge of a crusader and errant warrior against the infirmities and trials of old age. It is indicative of this spirit that Kirk Douglas, who survived a serious 1996 stroke with a speech impairment, kept on going, using his misfortune to inspire those of similar experience- not to give up or stop the good fight- as the character he played in the film, “Diamonds,” which he made before “It Runs in the Family.” Several years ago, he spoke at the Nortel Palm Springs International Film Festival, haltingly, with difficulty, to be sure, but with great spirit and the legendary fierceness that now would take on the less spectacular twin villains of old age and death.

In his autobiography, “The Rag-Picker’s Son,” Douglas speaks lyrically of his fight with poverty, anti-Semitism and gross anonymity to create a screen persona of legendary significance. He is blunt about his sex life, his pacemaker and unquenchable spirit as he fought to the top of the Hollywood barrel. The picture he draws of his early years and the Indiscretions of his youth- and his middle age- do not necessarily paint a flattering picture. Nor does he pull any punches with his accidents or illnesses nor even shy away from his pacemaker. He draws you to him by his unrelenting truthfulness.

In his life, filled with acting successes, there was also a very successful business side, not often reaching the public’s consciousness. Douglas, in his life, created one of the first independent film companies, Bryna, named after his mother- and managed by his wife. This company, among other great pictures, produced “Spartacus,” “Lonely Are the Brave and Seven Days in May.” Still another legendary effort of Kirk Douglas when he succeeded in un-blacklisting Dalton Trumbo, writer of Spartacus.

In the Desert, as everywhere else, his charitable activities are well-known. He and his wife have been particularly active with the Desert Museum. The Douglas Foundation has contributed to many charities. Of many, we will mention here the Los Angeles Mission for the Homeless, which now has opened the Anne Douglas Center for Women and the Motion Picture Relief Home’s Alzheimer’s Unit, named after his father. One spectacular donationg is the $2 million the Foundation has promised to build a theater opposite the renowned Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. From the very small to the large and dramatic, the Foundation is an outgrowth of the actor’s ever-expanding heart.
“It Runs in the Family,” produced by Michael Douglas, presents three generations of Douglases, mirroring three generations of Grombergs, a New York family, they play in the film. Although featuring Kirk’s ex-wife and Michael’s mother, Diana and Michael’s son, Cameron, eyes will still undoubtedly remained focused on Michael and Kirk, both stars if significant and power. This pairing took a long time coming, perhaps significantly affected by Kirk’s recurring health problems.
Does Michael, no longer so young himself, stand there sometimes in amazement and mutter to himself a powerful piece of that last stanza- thinking of his father, whose courage the darkness could never dim?-

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Before I assisted ventriloquist, Paul Winchell,
In writing his autobiographical book, WINCH-
I wrote this article based on his website,,
which still exists.I never really bought Paul’s
metaphysical perspective, but he was an amazing man


-a review of a new website, ProtectGod.Com-
By Johnny Blue Star

Paul Winchell, the famed ventriloquist companion of Jerry Mahoney; voice of Disney’s “Tigger,” performer in innumerable films and top television shows, pioneer of the artificial heart- now has another mission. He is the author of a book called, “The Defamation of God,” which he has abridged in a website, titled Paul Winchell is on a mission to protect God from the one book that has long been conceived to be His own accurate, personal statement, the Bible.

Whereas Winchell is quick to point out that he does not actually know God himself, he does know what he stands for. “God is kind, wise, patient, loving, just, merciful, and compassionate. To me, that description exemplifies the true meaning of God.” And Paul Winchell is alarmed to see that, on the whole, the Bible, both New and Old Testaments, do not portray God in that light. In fact, according to Winchell’s extensive survey of the Testaments, God is more the author of carnage, atrocities and injustice than the author of compassion and mercy. To Winchell, these descriptions of God in the Bible must be untrue. Worse, their very presence, defames God as he must actually be.

This website is an exhaustive treatise on ethical anomalies in the Bible, revolving around God’s behavior. From the strange story of Abraham and Isaac, where Abraham’s loyalty is tested by being asked to murder his beloved son- to God’s protection of the incestuous Lot from the ravages of Sodom and Gomorrah to his punishment of Moses, for what seems to be a minor transgression, from entering into the Promised Land to his issuance. Winchell believes God’s image his profaned by the Bible’s false promulgation of the rules governing slavery and the mass destruction of humanity during the Flood. He is perplexed at the injustice of a Fall of Mankind countenanced by the eating of the wrong kind of fruit. or his re-hardening of Pharaoh’s heart when the Jews try to escape Israel, almost causing their doom.
Winchell doesn’t like the way women are treated in the Bible, beginning with the Fall. “The Old Testament treats men with respect while women are frequently referred to as harlots and whores. Patriarchs are lauded but very few females are given admirable status in scriptural narratives. Delilah betrays the beloved Samson by having his eyes put out. Cunning Salome orders the decapitation of John the Baptist. Males that meander receive no Divine punishment. But wives that are declared unfaithful are taken into the village and stoned to death.“
Whatever your take on Winchell’s interpretation of events, it must be noted that his descriptions of the way that the Good Book characteristically describes God has got to be generally accurate. Most of these are not abstruse examples. Many of these are storybook examples of God’s behavior, told and retold in both Jewish and Christian Sunday schools and homes. Has something been overlooked by these progenitors of God’s message? Is not the author of these events slightly out of character if he is to fit the theological description of being “kind, wise, patient, loving, just, merciful, and compassionate,” as Winchell so correctively describes the attributes generally given by God.
Perhaps Winchell does not know God. But he believes he knows what God definitely is not. And that must be a challenge for every reader who wishes to confront the reality of the contradiction between the ideal of God in theology and the reality of the Bible’s portrayal of God. And, what then, will the reader be left with? More than a few questions and perhaps the beginning of a very difficult quest. There are no easy answers to the questions raised in Just a whole other mission. Perhaps to protect god, we may first have to find him. And, somehow, over the centuries in which these books have been created, he has become very, very lost.

This article was published as the cover story in Mature Living in Palm Springs, a magazine devoted to the mature lifestyle.
A photographic montage of Gypsy Boots and other ikons of fitness was featured on the cover.

They play polo. They go swimming in packs in frigid oceans and lakes. They fly and jump out of airplanes. They throw footballs so hard it hurts when a non-professional dares to catch it. They have vigorous daily exercise routines. When they are sick, they fast; if not, they run or walk for miles. Who are they and what do they have in common?

They are a small group of men, who, in their eighties or beyond, lived or live a fabulously healthy lifestyle. They were the founders of the physical culture and health movements in the United States, a movement that has touched many parts of the world and gave birth to many types of health and fitness industries. They are the icons of fitness.
Take this man. He is now in his nineties. He has white hair and a white beard but still throws a football like a bullet. His name is Gypsy Boots and he tours the country, as an icon of fitness, with his cousin, Charlie Fox, selling his autobiography and promoting Wakunaga of America (odor-less garlic) products, whose flagship product is Kyolic Garlic. He is one of a small group of men who created the health, nutrition and fitness industry. He was a co-creator and contributor to the work of Paul Bragg, Dick Gregory, Bernarr Macfadden, Jack LaLanne- the pioneers of a physical culture movement whose constituents were icons of longevity, strength and health. James F. Scheer, editor of “Health Freedom News,” has written this riveting description of Gypsy, “You have to look at least twice, because you can’t believe what you saw the first time! Spare as Jack Sprat, crackling-with-electric energy, sun browned with long wild, white hair and a beard bristly enough to scour a burnt-on cooking pan, legendary.”
Gypsy has come to the Desert many times, particularly to promote his products at Nature’s RX. He is the product of an era that re-discovered nature at a time when food products were being consumed by chemicals and technology. And, probably as much as any other part of this new physical culture movement, he tried to live this way of life to the fullest, actually living outside and picking and growing his own wild food. He was a prototype for the song, “Nature Boy,” and, in his youth, hung out with a band of friends, dedicated to this raw and wild lifestyle.

Patricia Bragg, whose father was Paul Bragg, is one of Gypsy’s sponsors. Patricia continues her father’s work throughout the world. Paul Bragg, whose work has had perhaps one of the greatest impacts of all the icons of fitness, was playing polo in his eighties and still attending Polar Bear Clubs, where men would tempt fate and support their circulation by taking freezing cold dips in the icy Pacific during the winter. Paul Bragg made many contributions to the physical culture movement. In a way, you could say he made many contributions to modern civilization.

For instance, Paul Bragg developed the first Health Food store in America and initiated an industry that has never stopped growing. When you see Mrs. Gooches, GNC or local health food stores like Nature’s RX or Oasis, you are seeing the result of Paul Bragg’s work. He also opened the first health-oriented restaurants, during the depression in New York City. He opened the first health spa here with Bernarr Macfadden, whose legendary contributions including the first bodybuilding magazines and contests. Bragg imported the first juicers from Germany and launched juicing in America. When you see Jay Kordich the Juiceman’s ads, you are seeing the inspiration of Paul Bragg.

Besides all these projects, Bragg was a great health crusader and inspired many through his lectures and crusades. One of the most famous is Jack LaLanne, currently an advisor to the gerontology department of John F. Kennedy Hospital in Indio. As Jack says in his official website, ( “As a kid,” Jack flatly states, “I was a sugarholic. I was a junk food junkie! It made me weak and it made me mean. It made me sick. I had boils, pimples, and I was nearsighted. Little girls used to beat me up! Mom prayed…the church prayed. At the age of 15 when I heard pioneer nutritionist Paul Bragg speak at the Oakland City Womens’ Club in the San Francisco bay area, I finally realized that I was addicted to sugar.” Bragg promised him a new body and a new life if he would stop eating sugar and begin to exercise.

Jack LaLanne opened the first prototype of the modern gym in 1936. He says, “People thought I was a charlatan and a nut,” Jack says. “The doctors were against me – they said that working out with weights would give people heart attacks and they would lose their sex drive; women would look like men. Even the coaches predicted that athletes would get muscle bound and didn’t want them to work out with weights. I had to give them keys so they could come in at night and work out.” In addition to opening the gym and teaching people in his new methods, LaLanne helped develop some of the early technology of modern fitness including the first weight selectors, the first leg extension machine, the first pulley machines using cables.

Another man inspired by Paul Bragg was the comedian and committed civil rights activists, Dick Gregory. I saw Dick Gregory at the “hungry i” in San Francisco where his confrontational racist humor unnerved me, a burgeoning activist soon to be inspired by the work of the then Robert Moses and the Student Non-Violent Co-Coordinating Committee and Martin Luther King. But in many ways, Gregory, a big overweight man, continually puffing on an equally overweight cigar, was ahead of his time. Eventually, Gregory wound up in jail, where stumbled on a book called “The Miracle of Fasting,” a book which changed his life. This book, which inspired many people, became the basis of a change of diet and lifestyle, which startled those who knew him. Gregory utilized his fasting and new nutrition to lose dozens of pounds and become known as a thin, determined marathon runner, activist and founder of a health dynasty in his own right, the Bahamian diet.

Although was LaLanne did was ground-breaking, he and Paul Bragg were undoubtedly inspired by another icon of fitness, the controversial, Bernarr Macfadden, who like them, started out as a poorly nourished, weak child and became one of the legends of fitness. Overhearing a relative’s comment that he looked so sickly, he would probably die soon, Bernarr launched a private campaign for fitness that would impact on thousands, if not millions of people. He began taking long walks and began to work out with dumbbells. Soon, he started to work out as a gymnast and became attracted to wrestling, where, although small in stature, proceeded to win matches with heavyweight wrestlers, exhibiting his newly found showmanship, a trait which helped him launch many large-scale projects. Around 1887, long before LaLanne, he started his first fitness studio, where he titled himself, “Bernarr Mcfadden – Kinestherapist – Teacher of Higher Physical Culture.”

Desiring to improve his literacy, he began to work at a military academy in Bunker Hill, Illinois as a football and wrestling coach in exchange for tuition. During this time, he had a novel published, “The Athlete’s Conquest,” the first of many successful publishing efforts. At this time, he started to promote wrestling and boxing matches and to develop his special therapies, like the other icons of fitness in this article. This included diets and fasts, hydrotherapy, massages, even a form of bone manipulation.

After this, he went to New York and began the most significant part of his career. He set himself up as a physical culture specialist and trainer and began to publish small booklets on his ideas and his art. He began to promote wrestling again and to compete as a wrestler. Ever bolder, he went on a tour of Europe, where he solicited subscriptions for what became the first physical culture magazine. This magazine, called “Physical Culture” was begun in March 1999, originally selling for a nickel and was published for fifty years. He eventually developed a woman’s magazine, as well, called “Beauty and Health.”

Macfadden ultimately became the first promoter of body building exhibitions and contests, in which both men and women participated. Macfadden went on to develop a whole community, Physical Culture City, devoted to his way of life. In Battle Creek, Michigan, he formed a sanitarium, which he later moved to Chicago. He formed the “Bernarr Macfadden Institute” where he trained future coaches, trainers and therapists in his methods of physical culture. He developed a chain of “healthy” restaurants and had at least twenty restaurants active at one time.

Unfortunately, during this time, Macfadden had to absorb the cost of a few expensive lawsuits, resulting from one of his exhibitions, which was deemed as potentially lewd. . In 1907, he was arrested for publishing “obscene material” in his magazine, an article that dared to openly discuss venereal disease. Incensed by his arrest, he campaigned for his cause and managed to get a Presidential pardon from Taft two years later.

But Macfadden never gave up. His trip to Europe procured him a wife and ultimately a large family, which he proceeded to promote on radio and in print as the icons of physical culture. But true to the challenges he faced in all things, his English wife, Mary, ultimately divorced him, taking his authoritarianism to task in her book, “Dumbbells and Carrot Strips.” But despite his family difficulties and some other business difficulties, Macfadden was still riding the wave of fortune and as a spin-off of some stories regarding readers who had overcome difficulties, he published a new magazine called, “True Story,” the first in a series of magazines, slightly off the physical culture track, like “True Detective,” “Midnight” and “Photoplay,” which created a massive circulation that even overtook that of William Randolph Hearst’s. Besides publishing magazines, Macfadden wrote books throughout his life, taking on problems such as diabetes, hair growth, natural sexuality, strengthening the spine, preventing eye damage.

When he was eighty-one, somewhat after his fourth marriage to a lady who was forty-four, he decided to celebrate with a parachute jump. He did this for a few birthdays after that. After all, he had gotten his airplane license at 61 and flying around in his airplane had probably gotten a little boring over the last twenty years. He kept up his physical exercise during this time, especially his favorite of standing on his head for prolonged periods of time. Macfadden was a true pioneer and, in some way, his is probably the inspiration for many of the icons of fitness that I have mentioned in this article.

This article does not attempt to collate all the stories, all the history or all the names of the men and women who have contributed to this movement. But it should allow one to question some of the assumptions one might make about what aging really means and the hidden potential that exists in all of us.


Copyright 2005 Johnny Blue Star
Do Not Copy or Reproduce in any Way


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