Vic Tanny, a one-time schoolteacher who parlayed an interest in physical fitness into a chain of gymnasiums and health spas that at their peak numbered 100 and grossed $35 million a year, died today.
Tanny was 73 and died in University Community Hospital in Tampa, Fla., of cardiac arrest. He had been ill for several weeks, said his brother-in-law, Bert Goodrich.
Tanny had retired to Florida several years ago after his gymnasium empire fell apart in a series of complicated financial and tax involvements. He refused to claim bankruptcy, however, and turned most of his spas over to employees. Several continue to operate in major American cities and in Canada.
Tanny, who opened his first gym near Muscle Beach in Santa Monica in 1939, was the first to merchandise the current physical fitness craze. He advertised on television and offered installment plan contracts.
Rudy Smith, president of Holiday Health Spa Health Clubs of California and a longtime friend and former Tanny employee, today said "Tanny was to the gym business what Henry Ford was to the auto business."