Longtime Venice resident Deforrest “Moe” Most, a gymnast who served as director of the original Muscle Beach in Santa Monica half a century ago, has died. He was 89.
Most died of heart failure Saturday, September 2nd, at the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, according to his son, Steven Most.
A memorial for Most was held Sunday, September 10th, at the Back on Broadway restaurant in Santa Monica.
“His personality was such that everyone loved him,” Steven Most said of his father. “He would encourage everyone to do whatever it is they wanted to do.”
Most had started going to the original Muscle Beach, a stretch of sand south of the Santa Monica Pier, “from the very beginning” as a teenager in the 1930s, his son said.
“Muscle Beach was the first place to be spotlighted as an exercise place around the world,” said Bill Howard, a consultant for Muscle Beach in Venice.
The Santa Monica Muscle Beach closed in 1958 and was later relocated to a site on the Venice Beach Boardwalk.
From the 1930s through the 1950s at Muscle Beach, Most took part in various acrobatic stunts with such fitness pioneers as Jack LaLanne.
A famous picture of one of those stunts shows the “four-man pyramid,” a trick that reportedly took two years to perfect. In the pyramid stunt, Harold Zinkin is bent over with Most standing on top of his torso, with LaLanne on top of Most’s shoulders and Gene Miller on top of LaLanne.
Steven Most said his father became known as the “bottom man” for many of the stunts because of his strength.
While at Muscle Beach, Most was known for influencing tourists and beachgoers to take part in the many different performances.
“He would pull tourists right off the beach and incorporate them into the routine,” Steven Most said.
Paula Boelsems, an acrobat performer who had known Most since the 1930s, said Muscle Beach was an exciting place to perform.
“I can’t explain the feeling you had when you were a participant down there,” she said.
Boelsems called Most the “ambassador” for Muscle Beach because “he helped bring people in” to the shows.
“At Muscle Beach you could say he was probably like the guru,” said Howard.
“He was a nice, mild-mannered person and he didn’t have to be in the spotlight,” Howard said.
Boelsems said Most was inspirational for many Muscle Beach visitors, recalling a time when he persuaded a then-11-year-old Bob Yerkes to do acrobatics instead of play Ping-Pong. Yerkes later went on to become a stuntman, she said.
From 1947 until the Santa Monica site closed in 1958, Most served as director of Muscle Beach.
As director, he was in charge of dispensing all equipment and organized contests such as Mr. and Miss Muscle Beach and other bodybuilding competitions.
“He ran the facility basically,” Steven Most said. “He organized everything.”
More than 40 years after leaving Muscle Beach, Most was given the Spirit of Muscle Beach award in Venice in 2001.
Most was preceded in death by his third wife of 40 years, Jackie, in 1999 and his son Michael in 2000. He is survived by his son, Steven of Carmel Valley; brother, Burton of New York City; sisters Brodea Drogin of Palm Springs and Sonya Most of Burbank; and two grandsons, Matthew and Jesse Most of Carmel Valley.