Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Strongman friend of Houdini dies at 104

The Columbus Dispatch reports that Joe Rollino - who is said to have been friends with Harry Houdini - died Monday after being hit by a car near his home in Brooklyn. He was 104.

During his storied life, Rollino not only hobnobbed with Houdini, but also watched Jack Dempsey knock out Jess Willard and was friendly with Mario Lanza. He even had a bit part in On the Waterfront.

A decorated World War II veteran, Rollino got his start as a strongman in the 1920s during the high point of the Coney Island carnival, and he billed himself as the "Strongest Man in the World." At one point, he could lift 3200 pounds.

He later made a living as a traveling boxer under the name Kid Dundee and fought in armories in cities around the country where boxing was forbidden.

Rollino would have been 105 on March 19, and was the model of health, according to friends. A vegetarian for life, he didn't drink or smoke, his friends said, and he exercised every day. He was a lifetime boxer and was part of the Oldetime Barbell and Strongmen, an organization of men who can still rip book binders at the seam.

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