Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Coney Island History: Charles Atlas

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The Brooklyn Daily Eagle has a fun article on the life of muscleman and 'Dynamic Tension' inventor Charles Atlas in honor of what would have been his 114th birthday. The article includes an account of Atlas's legendary Coney Island beach encounter:

Picture this: Coney Island, circa 1908, Atlas is sunning himself at the beach and trying hard to make time with a pretty girl. Up walks this gorilla and literally kicks sand in Atlas's face and walks off with the dame. After this humiliating experience, Atlas beheld the statue of Hercules at the Brooklyn Museum and vowed that he would never again have anyone kick sand in his face.

In some ways, Atlas is a classic Coney Island figure. The iconic sand-kicking incident took place at Coney when he was fifteen or so; "By age 19, he was a professional Coney Island strongman, tearing phonebooks in half and pounding nails into blocks of wood with his hands."It doesn't get much more Coney than that. At the same time, it sounds like old Charles would have been a little uptight for a lot of the Coney crowd, considering that he frequently advised young boys, "Live clean, think clean and don't go to burlesque shows."

- post by Ben Nadler

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