Jim Elledge uncovers the life and allure of Eugene Sandow @ The Gay and Lesbian Review. The annals of gay history are littered with examples of men in the public eye who have successfully hidden their gay lives from view. They’ve used various strategies, such as marriage to a woman, to camouflage their sexual activities and to discourage gossip. Eugen Sandow was, for a short time, an exception to the rule. He was internationally known as the apotheosis of male beauty and the most perfectly formed man on the planet. Little remembered today, Sandow was the father of modern bodybuilding—and, for a short time at least, he was open about his sexuality: when he began his rise to international stardom in Chicago’s Loop in 1893, he arrived with his boyfriend in tow.
Just a few years earlier, in 1885, Sandow left his home in Prussia at age eighteen to avoid the military draft, touring the Continent with circuses, taking part in wrestling matches, and giving exhibits of strength to make a living. In early 1887, he found himself stranded and jobless in Brussels. To make ends meet, he modeled nude for established and up-and-coming artists, some of whom paid for more than his ability to stand still (Fig. 1). Befriended by Professor Attila (Louis Durlacher), a famous local strongman and founder of his own bodybuilding school, San-dow became Attila’s star pupil, and for the next year, he diligently chiseled his body into a piece of art, one rivaling the classical statues that he admired.