The incredible life of New York’s “strongest boy”

Born in 1910, Jack Beers’ early years echo a familiar East Side story.

His Austrian immigrant parents were desperately poor. His family shared a cold water flat on East Sixth Street, heating it with bits of coal that had fallen off trucks. Jack pitched in by hawking the Daily News on Avenue B.

But he was also entranced by bodybuilding. Blessed with incredible natural strength, he began training in Tompkins Square Park and later on Coney Island.

As a teenager, he performed as a strongman in city clubs and on vaudeville stages, earning local fame and the title “New York City’s Strongest Boy.”

His story is chronicled in the 2006 documentary Holes in My Shoes, which features Jack, then 94, talking about his life and revisiting his old East Side haunts.

After a hand injury at a pool hall ended his strongman career, he went to work at Fassler Iron Works on East 10th Street and helped build New York’s top skyscrapers. He trained dogs and later became a character actor.

As the trailer from Holes in My Shoes shows, Beers retained amazing power even as a very senior citizen—watch him rip a phone book apart with his bare hands. He died a few days short of his 99th birthday.

[Photo: Holes in My Shoes]

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9 Responses to “The incredible life of New York’s “strongest boy””

  1. Newport Carl Says:

    Thanks for the link to the movie trailer. Love your blog

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    You’re welcome–Jack Beers is a fascinating guy.

  3. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    In the early 1960s, Tompkins Square Park, around Ave B & 10th St was a hoard of Arnold Shwarznegger’s showing off their muscles and smart alecky talk on the muscle bars they used to have there. But as more blacks and Puerto Ricans swarmed into the neighborhood they were sent packing and booted out. I wonder who is showing off these days?

    • wildnewyork Says:

      Interesting! I spend a lot of time in that vicinity, and I think the dominant crowd these days are the pet parents bringing their charges to the dog run.

  4. Beth Says:

    PBS aired Holes in My Shoes a couple of years back. Really great story. Jack was a true New York character, full of color and life.

  5. Sharon Florin Says:

    I saw the documentary on PBS and it was wonderful. What a unique and gifted guy.

  6. David Wachs Says:

    I’m the director of the Holes In My Shoes – David Wachs. Nice to see this written up here. Cheers! Hope all enjoy it. Peace.

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