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Joe Greenstein
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Bodybuilder
    (January 2, 1893-October 8, 1977)
    Born in Suvalk, Poland
    Birth name was Yosella Leib
    Strongman
    Known as 'the Mighty Atom'
    Stood 5'4, weighed 140 pounds
    Feats included bending a horseshoe with his teeth, breaking chains by chest expansion, and resisting the pull of an airplane with his hair
    He claimed his strength came from his dying father laying hands upon his head when he was seven. (It more prosaically came from training with another strongman while touring together in a circus.)
    One biographer described the aftermath of his holding back an airplane with his hair: 'Skin that should have been on the cheeks was lifted almost to the forehead.'
    An ardent Democrat, he consoled himself after the election of Herbert Hoover with a relaxing evening of driving nails through boards with his bare hands. Unfortunately, he was so distraught by the Republican victory that he held one of the nails the wrong way around and impaled his hand.
    Late in his career, he enhanced his 'world's oldest strongman' reputation by pushing his birth year back to 1882.
    He was a sickly child, with doctors predicting he would die from tuberculosis when he was 14.
    He was shot in the head by a man obsessed with his wife, but was able to leave the hospital the same day as the bullet flattened against his skull on impact (1914).
    His feats were frequently featured in Ripley's 'Believe It Or Not!'
    He ripped down a 'No dogs or Jews allowed' sign outside the New York headquarters of the German-American Bund and was attacked by twenty Nazis -- who he proceeded to beat the snot out of (1939).
    He received a proclamation of thanks from Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia for training the auxiliary police in jujutsu during WWII.
    He was the inspiration for the comic book hero 'The Atom.'
    He made his last appearance as a strongman at Madison Square Garden five months before his death, and finished it with a celebration of his great-grandchild's first birthday.

Credit: C. Fishel


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