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Gary Jones (Son of Arthur Jones) - Former Owner and Designer of Hammer Strength Exercise Equipment Company By Bill Pearl Gary Jones (pictured above), former owner / designer of Hammer Strength exercise equipment company, was born in 1952, in New Orleans, Louisiana. He spent his early childhood in Slidell, Louisiana, where his father, the eccentric visionary Arthur Jones (1926 - 2007 ), of Nautilus Sports / Medical Industries, Inc., at that time, operated a "Wild Animal Farm." Although Arthur was American, English was not Gary's primary language due to his mother's Hispanic heritage; consequently, he did not speak English until he entered grade school. Gary experienced a more than an unusual childhood as the son of an obsessed self-seeker. Arthur, a third-world mercenary, packed a loaded pistol in his waist band and owned and operated an import / export enterprise that specialized in snakes, a variety of reptiles, and other exotic animals. Gary recalled traveling to Latin America and Africa as a youngster, in a cargo airplane piloted by his father. On these trips, it was always, "Yes Sir...Mr.Jones," to anything Arthur demanded or required. During the 1950's and 1960's, Arthur was also a well-known television personality. His syndicated series included: Wild Cargo, Capture, Professional Hunter, and Call of the Wild. His final television production, "Operation Elephant" aired on CBS in 1970. As a youngster, Gary did not realize how extraordinary it was to have been involved in the care and feeding of crocodiles, lions, tigers, snakes, and other creatures warehoused at his dad's Slidell, Louisiana, wild animal park. He claims he developed his people skills by showing customers and visitors around the compound and regarded bites from snakes or jaguars as common occurrences. In 1965, the Jones family moved to Africa, where Arthur continued his extensive wildlife movie projects. Gary fortunately found the British school system to his liking as he pursued his interests in math, science and physics. In Rhodesia, Gary discovered a more moderate mentor than his father. The man was a retired engineer who was part of the South African chess team and who, at one time, had tied with world champion Bobby Fischer. Gary recalled being taught to practice the game of chess without the aide of the Queen or Bishops, forcing Rooks and Knights to accomplish a check-mate. "This strategy of doing something the hard way was a terrific lesson that I employed years later in my manufacturing business," he said. Recalling their final months in Rhodesia, where his family lived on the edge of a war zone and had to travel and socialize "armed to the teeth," Gary currently views rifle-toting children of war-torn third world countries with a feeling of unpleasant familiarity. In 1968, Gary's father had reached a point of "no-cooperation" with Rhodesian government officials and made arrangements for his $1.5 million worth of cameras, sound equipment, a helicopter, and two airplanes to be shipped state side. Unfortunately, the Rhodesian government confiscated the lot, which Arthur never recovered. Returning to Louisiana, approximetely $5 million in debt, Arthur borrowed $2,500 from his sister to begin the design of a prototype resistance exercise machine in the family's one-car garage. Working alongside Arthur, 16-year old Gary designed an off-centered cam, configured like a seashell, which they installed in the unit to cause the resistance of the exercise to vary as the users worked their muscles through their range of motion. Gary's father's strategy for marketing the revolutionary exercise piece became the adopted, "one-set to failure" principle, which Arthur coined as "High Intensity Training." Labeled the "Blue Monster," the prototype version of the multi-purpose Nautilus machine was previewed at the 1970 AAU Mr. America contest, held in Culver City, California. Arthur, accompanied by Gary, had transported the unit in a rented trailer, arriving with seven dollars in change and an expired credit card. * Arthur Jones - "The Blue Monster" - Nautilus Gym Equipment The following 14 years, Gary worked for Nautilus Sports / Medical Industries, Inc., in conjunction with two years at Stetson University and nine years with the Orlando Fire Department. By 1984, approximately 4,700 Nautilus Fitness Centers existed in the United States, with complete lines of Nautilus equipment in physical rehabilitation centers, professional sports team training rooms, colleges, high schools, and private training facilities. In 1986, Nautilus Sports / Medical Industries, Inc., was sold to Texas oil man, Travis Ward (1922 - 2015) (Photo below) for $23 million. Gary stayed on as Vice President and Director of Manufacturing for six months, but grew disgruntled with the new management and walked out without a goodbye. In 1988. Gary partnered with Peter Brown and Kim Wood to found the Hammer Strength Corporation, which went into direct competition against Nautilus. Aligning himself with Brown and Wood caused a severe rift to develop between Gary and his dad, due to the partners having sued Nautilus Sports / Medical Industries, Inc., for the violation of their distributor's franchise agreement, following the sale of the corporation. Furthermore, when Gary abruptly abandoned Nautilus, with Travis Ward still owing his father millions of dollars, Arthur became so bitter regarding the trio's alliance that he allegedly said, "Gary's not my son! He's given up that right." Gary responded, "It's true. I potentially cost Nautilus millions of dollars by walking away from the company. I was the son of the founder. I had a tremendous amount of information, and I was thought to be an enemy of the corporation." Similar to the success of Nautilus exercise machines, Hammer Strength grew to be the number-one brand for plate-loading exercise equipment almost overnight, with sales in the millions of dollars per year. Gary, responsible for the design and manufacturing of the Hammer Strength machines, used a highly sophisticated computer program he had written and later sold to Hewlett-Packard Company. He remarked, "I was one of those kids who studied multi-dimensional calculus. I was doing flight problems for my dad before I was old enough to go to school ". In 1997, Hammer Strength sold to Life Fitness Inc., a division of Brunswick Corporation for an estimated $32 million. Gary then worked for Life Fitness as he mentored the younger engineers. In 2019, Gary and his wife Brenda, divide their free time between homes in Florida and Colorado. Regarding his late father, Gary commented, "I got nothing...zilch, zip, zero, from the sale of Nautilus. I had no ownership which was the way my dad wanted it. The only financial opportunity I felt I had was to start a new business competing in the field I knew. Arthur taught me a lot. I still read all his books and articles. But he believed in throwing you to the sharks. If you survived, he added more sharks. I didn't mind competing against the outside, but I didn't need that kind of competition from the inside. Understand, I'm not saying my dad was evil. It's just the way it was." * Arthur Jones has a "Who Blinks First Loses" contest with his pet crocodile. More information on Arthur Jones can be obtained from ArthurJonesExercise.com. Books on Arthur Jones can be purchased from here. An amusing Arthur Jones and Gary Jones story can be read here.
Arthur Jones, 80, Exercise Machine Inventor, Dies By Andrew Martin Originally published: Aug 30, 2007 Arthur Jones (1926 - 2007), a wild-animal enthusiast, filmmaker and entrepreneur whose Nautilus fitness machines helped to transform the fitness industry and the way ordinary people exercise, died on Tuesday at his home in Ocala, Fla. He was 80. Mr. Jones died of natural causes, his son William Edgar Jones said. Mr. Jones was a rough-and-tumble character who had six wives, a nearly lifelong smoking habit and an affection for exotic animals like rattlesnakes and crocodiles, which he kept at his farm, the younger Mr. Jones said. He tinkered with exercise equipment for more than 20 years before creating his first Nautilus machine, called the Blue Monster, in the late 1960's. Mr. Jones presented the equipment at a Mr. America contest in California and started Arthur Jones Productions to sell the equipment. The company’s name was later changed to Nautilus, because the cam, or gear, that was crucial to the machine’s success resembled a nautilus. Mr. Jones’ invention led to the “machine environment” that is prevalent today in health clubs. The company grew rapidly, and the machines helped to transform dank gyms filled with free weights and hulking men into fashionable fitness clubs popular with recreational athletes. “It really took us out of the Stone Ages,” said John Wildman, interim chief marketing officer and senior vice president at Bally Total Fitness, the nation’s largest health club chain. “When it was just dumbbells and barbells, the perception of the industry was it was just power lifters and bodybuilders.” What made the Nautilus machine unique for the time was that the amount of weight being moved changed during the course of one repetition of an exercise, making the workout more efficient. Mr. Wildman said the innovation made the barbell antiquated. “Now, with one of these machines,” he said, “you could do a bench press that was better than the bench press you could do with a free weight.” Mr. Jones sold his interest in Nautilus in 1986, and the company is now based in Vancouver, Wash. By creating a machine that accommodated human movements, Mr. Jones revolutionized how people exercise, said Greg Webb, a Nautilus vice president of product development, who started working with Mr. Jones in 1977. “The idea of a health club really changed,” Mr. Webb said. “It became big business. It was Arthur Jones that started that.” Arthur A. Jones was born in 1926 in Arkansas and was reared in Oklahoma. His son William said that Mr. Jones, whose parents were doctors, never finished high school but left home and did odd jobs. He served in the Navy in World War II, his son said. From early in his life, Mr. Jones was enamored of animals. He tracked big game in Africa and ran an import-export business for wild animals, flying the animals himself in old B-25 bombers, his son said. Mr. Jones began filming some of the animals and eventually had a wildlife television show. The younger Mr. Jones recalled that in the mid-1960's, the whole family moved to Africa, where his father worked on several movies, including “Savage,” which Arthur Jones wrote and produced. * Savage! (1962) - A Movie written and produced by Arthur Jones The Nautilus business grew from it's Florida home, and Mr. Jones eventually bought a sprawling farm near Ocala where he kept his airplanes and an assortment of wild animals, including elephants, snakes, alligators, crocodiles and a gorilla named Mickey. In addition to his son William, he is survived by another son, Gary, and two daughters, Eva Jones and Joyce, whose last name was not available. Mr. Jones once said, according to his son, “I shot 630 elephants and 63 men, and I regret the elephants more.” The younger Mr. Jones said he thought there might have been some truth to his father’s sometimes outrageous statements. “You didn’t argue with the man,” he said. “Not twice.” Source