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In Memory of Frank Bond

In Memory of Frank Bond

David Kelley, PHD

7 mins
|
August 12, 2020

We are deeply sad to learn that Frank Bond died July 26, age 86, at his home. Frank was a long-time, generous supporter of The Atlas Society.

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Frank entered the fitness business early on, founding U. S. Health, which operated the Holiday Health Spa chain; it grew to 120 clubs when he sold it to Bally’s in 1988. He won many awards in the industry for his innovations, and was inducted into the Club Industry Hall of Fame. One innovation in particular he told me about with great pride: he realized that women were as interested in fitness as men, and he worked to overcome the male locker-room ethos of gyms to make them more accommodating to women, who were less interested in pumping iron than in getting fit and trim. After selling his business to Bally’s, he started the Foundation Group, whose real estate developments won further awards.

Frank was a strong advocate of Objectivism long before I met him in the 1990s. He had been a representative for the Nathaniel Branden Institute in the 1960s and had a statue of Atlas on the roof of his first club. By the time I met him, Frank was involved with many libertarian organizations, including the Cato Institute and the Reason Foundation among others. He seemed to know everyone in the movement—and was connected with everyone in the fitness or business worlds, from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Michael Milken (who provided funding).

He graciously took us on as another group to support. He was a trustee from 1995 to 2009 and chairman of the Board of Trustees for most of that time. He was instrumental in building the board and staff during his tenure, and he advised us regularly about programs. I was CEO in those years and spent many hours talking to Frank, on the phone or in person, about everything under the sun, from organization strategy to events, to philosophy and current politics.

I wondered how Frank, with so many business and financial tasks on his plate, found the time to read and think so deeply. He was truly one of Ayn Rand’s “New Intellectuals,” the alliance of a business creator and an intellectual to promote capitalism.

A friend of Frank’s once described him as “as irresistible force.” Despite Frank’s calm demeanor, the description is apt. It is doubtless one of the reasons for his business success and his influence in the organizations he supported. During his time as chair of The Atlas Society and mine as CEO, we did not always see eye-to-eye. At times we enacted the medieval conundrum of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object. Those issues were important, but limited, as we were aligned in ultimate purpose and shared values.  What I remember most and loved about Frank was his larger-than-life vision and especially his showmanship in integrating his values to that vision.  

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My favorite memory in that regard is the October 1997 conference to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Atlas Shrugged. Ed Crane at Cato suggested that Cato and our organization (then called the Institute for Objectivist Studies) co-sponsor a conference. I quickly agreed, and I went to Washington, D.C., with the late Donald Heath, our director of operations, to meet with Ed and Frank. We discussed the program and then turned to funding. Ed wrote something on his Styrofoam coffee cup and turned it toward Frank, who nodded, and we moved on. Afterward, Don and I looked at that cup; the inscription was $75. The “K” was not needed. I learned something that day about fund-raising finesse.

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While Don, Ed, and I planned the full-day event program, Frank planned the evening, after-dinner spectacle. He engaged Roland Kickinger, Mr. Universe 1994, to perform Atlas shrugging on stage. As Roxanne Roberts of The Washington Post said in her account of the event, “It was a fitting tribute to the late author, who appreciated dramatic gestures, philosophical symbolism and naked male bodies.”

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We thought that that was over the top, but wait… Frank wasn’t done. After the performance of Atlas shrugging, there was an indoor fireworks display forming the sign of the dollar, with a crescendo of classical music playing over the sound system while I read the last words from Atlas Shrugged: “He raised his hand and over the desolate earth he traced in space the sign of the dollar.” Frank had to get special permission for this finale from the D.C. fire department as well as the hotel. I have no idea how he did it. But then, he was a man of irresistible force.

Frank was one of a kind. As an individualist, he would have objected that everyone is “one of a kind.” True. But he really was.

Our sympathies to his wife, Arlene; to his son Baron, a TAS trustee, and his family; and to all of Frank’s family and friends for their loss.