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Robert Bootzin
Born August 19, 1914 (1914-08-19)
San Francisco
Died August 8, 2004 (2004-08-09)
Camarillo, California
Other names Boots Bootzin
Gypsy Boots

Gypsy Boots (August 19, 1914 - August 8, 2004), born Robert Bootzin (and also known as Boots Bootzin), was an American fitness pioneer, actor, and writer. He is credited with laying the foundation for the acceptance by mainstream America of "alternative" lifestyles such as yoga and health food. His books Barefeet and Good Things to Eat and the memoir, The Gypsy in Me, gained him a cult following.

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Biography

Bootzin was born in San Francisco to Russian-Jewish immigrants. His father, Max, was a broom salesman. His mother, Mushka, raised Bootzin and his four siblings in a vegetarian household, while also leading the family on hikes in the hills, performing Russian folk dances and feeding the homeless with her homemade black bread. Bootzin's older brother, John, died of tuberculosis as a young man; this led to Bootzin's decision to grow his hair long and pursue healthful, natural living.[1]

By 1933, he had dropped out of high school and left home to wander California with a group of self-styled vagabonds. In the 1940s, Bootzin, along with 10-15 other "tribesmen," lived off the land in Tahquitz Canyon near Palm Springs, slept in caves and trees, and bathed in waterfalls. Decades ahead of the Hippie movement, Bootzin and his companions lived a carefree existence and were seasonal fruit pickers. The group became known as "Nature Boys".

The 1948 Nat King Cole hit "Nature Boy" was inspired by Bootzin and his fellow "tribesman", and composed by fellow tribesman eden ahbez.[1]

In 1958, Bootzin married Lois Bloemker, a conservative, academic woman from Fort Wayne, Indiana and settled in the Hollywood area. They had three children, Daniel, Alex and Freddie (who died in 2001). The two divorced in the late 1990s.[1]

His health food store "Health Hut" was one of the first of its kind in the world (if not the first), and was patronized by dozens of Hollywood celebrities in the early 1960s. The original Health Hut had an authentic "Tiki" style to it made with leaves and bamboo. It has been said many of the cast members of Gilligan's Island had met there and the "Tiki" theme is said to have been part of the inspiration before the TV show began.

Bootzin personally advocated never eating meat, drinking alcohol, or smoking tobacco. He was an early believer in the health properties of organic foods. One of these organic foods was garlic—and he later became a spokesperson for the "Kyolic" variety. He also did work for a Sonoma cheese factory. He would often have a garlic-spiced cheese, "Sonoma Jack," at his booth at health festivals and fairs in Sonoma Valley," along with his all-natural, sugar-free "Boots Bars", wheat grass, spirulina, and kyolic garlic, as well as "honey sweet" Medjoule dates from his orchard.

Bootzin died in Camarillo, California, just 11 days short of his 90th birthday. He was survived by his former wife, Lois Bootzin, two of his sons Daniel and Alexander, three grandchildren, and a sister. His son Freddy died in 2001.[1]

Appearances

Bootzin received national exposure in 1955, when he appeared as a contestant on Groucho Marx's network TV show You Bet Your Life. Introduced as "Boots Bootzin," he cheerfully espoused his philosophy of clean living, exercise, and healthy eating. Groucho, who usually displayed little tolerance for extremists, admired Bootzin's rugged individualism and said so, on camera.

Bootzin made personal appearances with the Spike Jones musical-comedy troupe, speaking about health foods. He was a regular guest on American television talk shows in the 1960s, appearing 25 times on The Steve Allen Show. On the Allen show he would often play up his role as a health advocate by swinging from a vine on stage as a "Nature Boy", and persuade Steve to drink one of "Gypsy Boots"-concocted fruit health drinks. He referred to this drink as a "smoothie", giving credence to Gypsy Boots as one of the originators of the popular style of blended natural fruit health drinks.

He released a record album, Unpredictable, on Sidewalk Records in 1968.

Gypsy loved to participate in parades, including the annual, wildly creative and non-commercial Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Parade. Even in his late 80s he would energetically dance, make music, and holler all the way up the parade route for a couple of miles. He would show up for weekly farmers' markets in his wildly-painted van promoting kyolic garlic, and would always be a showman with the gift of gab and giving out free garlic samples.

Bootzin was an avid fan of the USC Trojans football team, where he was known for eccentric clothes and an ever-present cowbell. He also regularly attended Los Angeles Dodgers, Lakers and Raiders games with spirited cheers, noisemakers and streamers. At age 86, he was still able to throw an American football at least 40 yards.[1]

In Movies, Bootzin appears sitting in the diner scene in Michael Douglas's film The Game. Other previous movie appearances include "Mondo Hollywood", "Swingin' Summer," and "Confessions of Tom Harris".

References

  1. ^ a b c d e Elaine Woo, Gypsy Boots, 89; Colorful Promoter of Healthy Food and Lifestyles, Los Angeles Times, August 10, 2004, Accessed December 22, 2008.

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