Inside the troubled private life of Johnny Weissmuller
Johnny Weissmuller was born Johann Peter Weissmüller on June 2, 1904, in the tiny village of Freidorf.
He found his passion at an early age and went on to develop his skills. He started taking swimming lessons at Fullerton Beach on Lake Michigan at the age of seven.
His efforts paid off as he went on to join Northside YMCA where he won every race and performed wonders.
He went on to join the Illinois Athletic Club at the age of 16 where he then landed a tryout in front of famous swimming coach Bill Bachrach.
Bachrach recalled of the tryout, “He had the gawkiness of an adolescent puppy. Also, the stroke he used was the oddest thing I ever saw… but the stopwatch told it all; nearly record time. By the time he got out and dried off, he was an official member of the Illinois Athletic Club.”
At the age of 17, Johnny held more world records than any other American swimmer.
“Before a race, he asks me what the record is for the distance. I tell him,” Bachrach said. “‘All right,’ he says. I’ll break it.’ Records don’t mean anything to him. Although I’ve trained the boy and taught him and watched him.”
“I wouldn’t venture to guess what his limits are in speed. No matter how fast he swims he seems to be able to break his new record whenever he wants to. He is the strongest swimmer in the world despite his youth, and I expect to see him lengthen his distances and go right along breaking records as he grows older.”
He was gaining a lot of fame and decided to try out another niche, acting. He went on to take acting lessons and in 1932 Tarzan The App Man was released and he played the role of Tarzan.
The movie was a success, but playing the role of Tarzan has its downsides as people expected him to behave like Tarzan in real life.
“At parties people expected me to grab the prettiest girl and depart by the way of the chandelier and the nearest tree,” he said. “Every cook we ever had looked on me with undisguised scorn after the first meal just because I failed to eat a meal that would choke a horse.”
Speaking about his love life, Johnny has been married five times and that was the peak of all the tragedies he went through as he lost his daughter Heidi in 1962 and son, in 2006 to cancer. Johnny’s last marriage was to Maria Brock Mandell Bauman and they stayed together until he died in Acapulco, Mexico, on January 20, 1984, at age 79.