Sandow was already a great admirer of Greek and Roman statues ofgladiators and mythical heroes when his father took him to Italy as aboy. By the time he was 19, he was already performing strongman stunts in side shows. The legendary Florenz Ziegfeld saw the young strongman and hired him for his carnival show. He soon found that the audience was far more fascinated by Sandows' bulging muscles than by the amount of weight he was lifting, so Ziegfeld had Sandow perform poses which he dubbed "muscle display performances." The legendary strongman added these displays in addition to performing his feats of strength with barbells. He also added chain-around-the-chest breaking and other colorful displays to Sandows routine. Sandow quickly became a sensation and Ziegfeld's first star.
Eugen Sandow's resemblance to the physiques found on classic Greek and Roman sculpture was no accident. He actually measured the marble artworks in museums and helped to develope "The Grecian Ideal" as a formula for the perfect physique. He built his physique to those exact proportions. Because of this, he is considered to be the father of modern bodybuilding, having been one of the first athletes to intentionally develope his musculature to pre-determined dimensions.
Sandow performed all over Europe and came to America to perform at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. He could be seen in a black velvet-lined box with his body covered in white powder to appear even more like a marble statue come to life. His popularity grew since he was cultured, highly intelligent, and well-mannered. He also dressed very well and had a charming European accent, coupled with deep blue eyes and hearty laugh. He wrote several books on bodybuilding, nutrition and encouraged a healthy lifestyle as being as important as having a sound mind.
He was married to Blanche Brooks Sandow, had 2 daughters, but was probably unfaithful to her, since he was constantly in the company of women who paid money to feel his flexed muscles back stage after his stage performances. He also had a close relationship to a male musician he hired to accompany him during his shows. The man was Martinus Sieveking, a handsome pupil of Sandow. The degree of their relationship has never been determined, but they lived together in New York for a time.
Sandow knew many famous people in his lifetime... among his friends were Arthur Conan Doyle ; Thomas Edison , who made early motion pictures of Sandow; the King of England; Isabella Gardner of Boston and many other celebrities of the day. Sandow invented many bodybuilding exercises, some still used today, and equipment such as a lightweight dumbbell-shaped hand exerciser that was spring-loaded. He was quite generous with his time and money -- out of his own pocket, he paid the housing costs of foreign athletes at the Olympic Games held in London. Sandow was the promoter and judge at the first bodybuilding contest ever held, in New York on September 14, 1901. Sandow also made a world tour in 1903. He died prematurely in 1925 at age 58 of a stroke shortly after pushing his car out of the mud.
Sandow was a charming, intelligent and industrious man who worked very hard for what he earned. He also inspired countless men to look at their bodies as something at least as important as their minds, since for several decades in the 19th century, more men were working in offices as clerks, bankers and other jobs which turned many bodies pale and weak. He changed countless attitudes about health and fitness, and we continue to feel its effects today
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