Sidestepping the Sports Illustrated cover jinx

This is only peripherally about North Carolina, but the recent death of Jack LaLanne reminded me of his visit to Charlotte in 1981. He was promoting both his chain of fitness centers and his belief in intense physical exercise.

The latest issue of Sports Illustrated had profiled him, showing him posing with a statue of himself. The headline read, “Look, Mom, I’m an Institution.” He was 67 years old.

LaLanne had almost made the SI cover, he told me. “It was nip and tuck. They ended up putting that football coach on the cover. Yeah, Bear Bryant. I’m glad. They say when somebody gets his picture on the cover of Sports Illustrated, he goes downhill.”

Barely a year later Bryant was dead of a heart attack at age 69.

LaLanne lived to be 96.

President’s daughter seeks lost voice in Asheville

On this day in 1920: Nearing the end of a national tour, Gen. John J. Pershing, commander of the U.S. Army during World War I, arrives in Asheville. Despite an influenza quarantine, hundreds are on hand to see Pershing’s private rail car, attached to the Carolina Special, pull into Biltmore station.

During his three-hour stay he tours the Oteen hospital for tubercular veterans and is greeted at the Grove Park Inn by Margaret Wilson, daughter of President Woodrow Wilson, who is trying to recover her voice after singing for Pershing’s troops in Europe.