An Evening Of Culture

Bernar’r Macfadden, eccentric fitness guru of the last century, was arguably the inventor of the culture of diet, exercise and weight loss for health that is so prevalent today. Before the actual health benefits were known, or even suspected by the mainstream medical community, Bernar’r promoted alternately vegetarianism and a predecessor of the Paleo diet (raw food, including red meats) as the natural diet of the human animal. This, combined with strenuous outdoor exercise, became the foundation of Physical Culture, and the beginning of a lucrative career for Macfadden as America’s first fad-diet shiller. Promoting his Physical Culture, Macfadden created a publishing house and a variety of magazines, some of which still survive today. An extremely prolific writer, he also released over 100 books, including “Virile Powers of Superb Manhood”, “Physical Culture for Babies”, “Strenuous Lovers”, “Calisthenics: Strengthening the Eyes”, and “Constipation: Its Effect and Treatment”. Presumably, people bought and read these, as by 1902 Bernar’r was a millionaire, and opened a chain of Physical Culture Hotels, resorts where paying guests were subjected to his every whim, in the name of health. The first, and longest lasting, of these hotels was in Dansville, in a building previously used as an institution for Civil War veterans, and a sanatorium, prior to being a health resort. Its guests included multiple presidents, Lucille Ball and Katherine Hepburn, among other celebrities of the day, as well as touring jazz artists and big bands who would play rooftop dances for the guests, but much like the Catskills resorts, the next generation lost interest and by about 1974 Physical Culture fell into disuse. While the property is still privately owned, there are no legitimate plans as of 2012 for the collapsing castle.

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