Thomas Vinciguerra: Fit for heaven

(In this encounter between St. Peter and Jack LaLanne, who died last weekend, the latter speaks in his own words.)

St. Peter: Hello, Mr. LaLanne. Welcome to the hereafter.

LaLanne: I can’t die. It would ruin my image.

St. Peter: Well, according to our records, your time is up. But don’t feel so bad; you did have 96 years.

LaLanne (shrugging): Obey nature’s laws, and you can be born again!

St. Peter: That’s the spirit. Tell me, Mr. LaLanne, do you believe in the Almighty?

LaLanne: Well, especially being in my profession, if you don’t believe there is a Supreme Being, you’ve got to be psycho — you’d have to be sick! Do you think that man could ever make a calculator like your brain? Do you think that man could ever make a pumping system like your heart? Do you think that man could ever make a filtering system like your kidneys?

St. Peter: Er, getting back to the Almighty —.

LaLanne: How often do you work out?

St. Peter: Well, not too much. You see, I have all this record-keeping to attend to —.

LaLanne: You dummy! Are you sitting down? Good. (Sports-stadium-type organ music starts up.) Now stand up. Sit down. Stand up. Sit down. Raise your butt a half-inch off your chair. Sit. Again. Again. Now stretch your legs out, bring your knees to your chest. Stretch. Bring your knees up. Do it again. Again. Again. ... See what you can do just sitting in a chair?

St. Peter: But Mr. LaLanne, I’m 2,000 years old.

LaLanne: Don’t talk age! Age has nothing to do with it. (He springs into the air.) Come on, now. … We’re going to work on reducing the old back porch! (He pats his posterior.) I’m going to build a new and lovelier you! A brand-new you, looking the way the Lord intended you to look when He made you. (He begins doing dozens of finger push-ups.)

St. Peter: Mr. LaLanne, after all these years, you’ve earned a long rest. Why don’t you relax?

LaLanne (still doing push-ups): Jesus, when he was on Earth, he was out there helping people, right? Why did he perform those miracles? To call attention to his profession. (He gets on his feet to work out with his Glamour Stretcher.) Why do you think I do these feats … these incredible things that I do? To call attention to my profession! (He begins lifting weights, flexing his 161/2-inch biceps.)

St. Peter: You must be famished after all that activity. Would you care for some bread?

LaLanne: If man makes it, I don’t eat it!

St. Peter: Er … how about some wine?

LaLanne: I never drink wine unless I am eating. (Into a blender, he inserts 400 vitamin supplements, a quart of carrot and celery juice, two tablespoons of wheat germ, two of brewer’s yeast, a tablespoon of bonemeal, a banana, 100 liver-yeast tablets, 15,000 milligrams of Vitamin C, 2,000 units of Vitamin B, some boron, zinc, and 75 alfalfa and kelp tablets. He drinks it down.) That’s the power of the juice!

St. Peter (impressed): Well, Mr. LaLanne, you seem to be a prime example of muscular Christianity. Now, if you would just sign on the dotted line —.

(LaLanne signs and, donning handcuffs and shackles, dives into the river of eternal life, towing 70 boats filled with 70 passengers.)

St. Peter: Mr. LaLanne, what are you doing?

LaLanne: Dying is easy. Living is tough. I hate working out. Hate it. But I like the results!

(He disappears into the distance with his white German shepherd, Happy, energetically paddling behind him.)

Thomas Vinciguerra is a former deputy editor of The Week, and his book Backward Ran Sentences: The Best of Wolcott Gibbs From The New Yorker will be published by Bloomsbury USA this fall. E-mail him at