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Senior Superstar Banana George’s Biography Is Filled With Inspiration and Fun
Banana George: Don’t Wait for Life to Happen, Make It Happen is a biography of one of the most inspiring and colorful celebrities of recent years. Written by the Blair family (his wife and daughters) along with author and fellow barefoot water skier Karen Putz, this biography covers George’s entire ninety-eight years.
Readers travel with George from his childhood and college years to his first marriage and becoming a father and entrepreneur. We go through his debilitating back problems with him, undergo surgery for them, and then are thrilled when he discovers the wonderful world of barefoot water skiing. After all, George was the world’s oldest barefoot water skier, but he was also a natural showman. He was always busy with his signature yellow outfit; handing out bananas; appearing on major talk shows such as The Oprah Winfrey Show, Late Night with David Letterman and Live with Regis and Kathy Lee; traveling around the world; and meeting famous people. He even became a true ambassador of goodwill among nations.
After reading this book, I fell in love with Banana George and his zest for life. Most of all, I loved his creative spirit and his refusal to believe he couldn’t do something. Most people know Banana George as the world’s oldest barefoot water skier—he was entered in the Guinness Book of World Records for that designation and has consistently broken his record with each birthday—but what most people may not know is that he was an innovative Banana entrepreneur. George. After becoming a father himself, George had the brilliant idea to start a business that would photograph babies in the hospital so that parents could have instant photos of their newborns that they would treasure for a lifetime. As a result, the Hospital Picture Service was born. George expanded this business by traveling the country selling his services to hospitals. While visiting all these hospitals, George also noticed how many babies were constantly crying and how the nurses couldn’t attend to everyone at the same time, so he invented the Blair Motion Bassinet, which had a motor attached to the stroller to make it rock back and forth. Of course, he also sold the stroller to all the hospitals.
Much of the charm of the part about George’s early years, before he became famous, was the time he spent as a father. The book is filled with memories of his four daughters and their experiences growing up with their father, how he would just slow down the car and tell the kids to jump out when he had to drop them off because he was always in a hurry, how he had to have a lazy Susan on the dinner table to keep everything easier for everyone to achieve. He even installed bidets in his bathrooms because he believed they were more hygienic; his kids had a lot of fun demonstrating how bidets worked for their friends who had never seen one.
George didn’t start waterskiing barefoot until he was in his forties and after he had major back surgery. One day he was watching people on water skis and they asked him if he wanted to try it. He said he was too old, but the man offering insisted, so George gave it a try and never looked back. Soon the whole family was water skiing and performing at shows. George became a regular performer at Cypress Gardens and that was just the beginning of his showmanship.
There are too many fascinating and entertaining moments in George’s career as a barefoot water skier and then media celebrity to mention in this review, and I don’t want to spoil the fun for readers, but I can’t help but mention that he rode in a racing car with Prince Albert of Monaco and did a water skiing exhibition for King Hussein of Jordan. But that was just the tip of the iceberg for George – he loved to travel and started water skiing around the world. One of my favorite stories was when in 1988 George read an article that said a Russian Pravada editor was an avid water skier. It was during the Cold War and yet George decided he would like to water ski in Russia. He wrote a letter to the editor and was eventually invited to participate in the Friendship Tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria (also behind the Iron Curtain). From there, George and his second wife, JoAnne, visited Russia and traveled around the country. George became known as “Mr. Banana” in Russia because people did not understand his nickname. Later, in 1995, George welcomed a delegation of Russian water skiers to the United States, spreading goodwill between the countries and the Russians leaving with favorable impressions of the United States.
Before long, George was skiing on six continents. Then his brother-in-law reminded him that there were seven, so George went skiing in Antarctica. He also once accidentally ended up at the Miss Switzerland beauty pageant and gave bananas to the crowned winner. Before his long career as a celebrity ended, George even starred in Captiva Island about — what else? — about a young rich kid who goes barefoot on water skis and takes advice from several grown men, including George, Ernest Borgnine and Laugh-V’s Arte Johnson.
Banana George Blair proved to the world that you’re only as old as you think and it’s never too late to pursue the things you love. He is a man who loved water skiing so much that when he could no longer stand, he used a special chair made to sit on water skis.
We should all have George’s energy and we should all read this book because maybe some of George’s joie de vivre will rub off on us. The book includes a foreword by Phil Keoghan (host of The Amazing Race), Banana George’s Lessons for Life and a list of all the places Banana George has water skied and the businesses and associations he has been involved with. Overall, Banana George is a treat that will make you go bananas, you just want your own life to be more adventurous.
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