Dan Lurie sculpted his award-winning physique as a young man not merely by hours of weight lifting but also by hauling furniture for his father’s Brooklyn moving company. He would even fit in exercise between loads. “One routine would require 25 push-ups on the landing of the stairs before I returned to the truck for more furniture,” he later said. “Ten trips meant 250 push-ups.”
Lurie’s early life was something of a “storybook tale,” said The New York Times. He was born with a heart defect and not expected to live beyond his fifth birthday. But by the time he was a teenager, he was “freakishly strong.” At age 17 he could lift a 150-pound barbell above his head with one arm, and by the time he was 19 he was voted most muscular American by the Amateur Athletic Union. At Lurie’s peak fitness, he could do 1,665 push-ups in 90 minutes. Yet the muscleman’s defective heart made him ineligible to serve in World War II, an irony widely reported at the time.
Lurie won fame in the 1950s as “Sealtest Dan the Muscle Man” on the CBS TV show Sealtest Big Top, said the Long Island Herald, and he went on to become a bodybuilding entrepreneur, opening a chain of gymnasiums, selling weight-lifting equipment, and publishing six different bodybuilding magazines. In 1984, when one of his publications named President Ronald Reagan the fittest president in history, Reagan challenged Lurie to an arm-wrestling contest in the Oval Office. The president, then 73, made headlines by defeating the 60-year-old strongman. It was only years later that Lurie admitted to having thrown the match. “I wasn’t going to beat the president,” he wrote.
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