It’s impossible to measure the influence that Reps’ founder Robert “Bob” Kennedy had on the fitness world, but to get a good idea, you need only have looked through the guest list for the celebration of his life, held on June 10, 2012, in Santa Monica, California. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger took time off from a busy movie-shoot schedule to be there as honorary guest speaker. Others speaking at the event included Lou Ferrigno, Rachel McLish, Bob Proctor and Elaine LaLanne. Bob died on April 12, 2012, of complications from cancer.
Photos by Gregory James
Schwarzenegger delivered a powerful address to about 140 guests gathered for the celebration, speaking about his first encounters with Bob at the Mr. Universe contest in London in 1966, when Schwarzenegger was just 19. He described how Bob was the first to encourage him to travel to America. “He pumped me up so much,” Schwarzenegger said. “I’ve never ever gotten so much of an inspiration, and so early on … He was my biggest supporter during my bodybuilding years, and during the movie years.”
Schwarzenegger went on to describe how after Bob nicknamed him “The Austrian Oak,” Schwarzenegger in turn came up with a moniker for Bob: “The Palm Tree.” While Bob was at first insulted by the wimpy-sounding nickname, Schwarzenegger explained that while Bob was muscular, he was also lean, and like a palm tree, he could weather the storms and the ups and downs in life, bending down to the ground but never breaking or toppling. “The palm tree can withstand any weather, whereas other trees get ripped out of the ground, but the palm tree just bends and comes back, it never breaks, and comes back again.” Schwarzenegger’s speech brought many in the audience to tears.
Two-time Mr. Universe Lou Ferrigno had the crowd laughing with a story about Bob’s obsession with functional fitness. Years ago, Bob showed Ferrigno how he could do the human flag, grabbing onto a pole and suspending his body in a perfect horizontal line, hanging on only with his two hands. “And then he said, ‘Now you do it,’” Ferrigno recalled. “I tried to do it and I couldn’t do it, and I said to myself, ‘Son of a gun, this guy is a publisher and he’s outdoing me by becoming a human pole! I’ve got a long way to go.’”
Robert Kennedy Publishing president Tosca Reno, Bob’s wife, was the final speaker of the afternoon and summed up what Bob did for her, and for millions of other fitness enthusiasts around the world.
“Bob had that ability not just with me, but with others,” she said. “He had the ability to see in people what they could not see for themselves. The way he performed his Bob Magic on me changed me from being a 204-pound housewife living a purposeless life to Oxygen cover girl and New York Times best-selling author … I make a guess that he experienced this power firsthand when he transformed himself from a stick-thin boy to a well-muscled teenager back in the 1940s. When he underwent his own physical transformation powered by fierce determination and hard work it taught him an important life lesson —the practice of building beautiful physiques could also transform one’s life.”
The Secret author Bob Proctor hailed Bob’s posthumously published new book, Bull’s Eye, as one of the greatest motivational titles ever produced. And that’s coming from a man who’s been in the motivational book industry for more than 50 years. “I’ve seen thousands of these books and this one is the real deal,” Proctor said.
Master of ceremonies Lonnie Teper interjected several anecdotes about Bob throughout the celebration, including the fact that he only recently discovered that Bob was an accomplished artist, painting under his father’s name, Wolfgang Kals. “May Robert’s colorful spirit travel with you always,” Teper concluded.