Boots Bootzin Quest Story



Robert “Boots” Bootzin, also known as “Gypsy Boots” (1914-2004)

Largely responsible for bringing healthy living, eating and the acceptance of organic foods to the American consciousness, Boots Bootzin embodied the Quixote ideal. His quest was for people to eat well, live well, laugh and be happy and he lived this quest fully in a wildly exuberant, zany style all his own. The inspiration for the Nat King Cole classic “Nature Boy”, Boots lived off the land for over a decade in a canyon outside of Palm Springs. He first gained national prominence when he got Groucho Marx’s seal of approval on You Bet Your Life. He appeared 25 times on the Steve Allen show in the 1960s to 20 million viewers, swooping in on a rope and getting Steve to try something organic or do exercises with him. He coined the term “smoothie” and ran the Health Hut, which was an inspiration for GiIligan’s Island. To celebrate his 50th birthday he ran 10 miles barefoot in 120 degree heat. He ran the LA Marathon when he was in his 80s. Here are some quotes from his appearance on You Bet Your Life and his autobiography The Gypsy In Me.

“Watch what you eat. Exercise. Relax. Take Care of yourself. And be able to laugh. Laugh at life and enjoy it, remembering always to be tolerant of your fellow man, regardless of his beliefs and ideas.”

“The important thing is not in what you do in life, it is in how you go about doing it.”

“I’ve always tried to throw myself into something with everything I had.  I can’t way I’ve made much money, but I haven’t had an unhappy day.  This is more valuable than all the money in the world to me.”

On living off the land:

“Well, I lived there about 20 years, in caves and under trees and top of trees.”

“Well, of course I didn’t have to pay any taxes living that way and I felt very healthy up there, I mean I had a lot of air, I like a lot of air.”

“I ate wild berries and acorns and I climbed high fig trees and I’d eat sweet figs – I’d chase the birds away because they eat the sweetest.”

“I ate sweet figs and grass – its good for your eyes, alfalfa – cows got good eyes, I want good eyes.”

On meeting his wife:

“I met my wife out in San Francisco beach and I was beach combing and she was practicing her ballet, so I always dreamed of being a Nijinsky, so I went into my dance and she got intrigued, so she decided to share the tree with me so we decided to get married – we’ve been happy ever since.”

Did his wife live off the land too?

“Well, she did for three months, but then afterwards the mosquitoes got her and peanuts, she got tired of peanuts and tired of climbing fig trees for her breakfast, so she said, I compromise and we got half of a house, I mean we got a little house, a little cottage, a room.”

His occupation:

“I’m a singing fruit peddler. I peddle figs and peanuts and the peaches in the desert, Bel Air, Beverly Hills and I sing and peddle fruit.”

On the Nature Boys

“We wanted to live as we wanted, but at the same time thought we could give others something to enjoy.  If we had any talent at all, it was in knowing how to enjoy life and, hopefully, spreading that joy a little bit.”

Getting Married

“Before the ceremony we celebrated on the courthouse lawn.  We drank carrot juice and sang and danced.  Gypsy Jean played ‘Happy Days Are Here Again’ and the ‘Wedding March’ on the accordion.  Lois banged away on a tambourine.  And Charlie crashed away on a huge drum and rattled a bunch of ring bells.”

The Health Hut (Inspiration for Gilligan’s Island)

“Most of my customers were not celebrities.  I never refused anyone.  If someone came in and said, ‘I love your food, but I haven’t any money,’ I said that was all right, just put on an apron and help out tonight.  That is how I got all my help.”

“I had two mottos at my health hut.  The first was ‘a good laff feeds the soul.’  I still feel that way.  We had fun every night and every day.  We had art shows, weight-lofting exhibitions, and sing-alongs (way before Mitch Miller).  The rule was anything goes, so long as the food was good and the customers had some fun.”

“This is where my second motto came in.  I said the food and drink came ‘from tree to you.'”

On the Steve Allen show

“Usually I just tried to get Steve healthy.  I fed him lots of food – dates, nuts, alfalfa sprout sandwiches, carrot juice, everything you can imagine, and probably a few things you can’t imagine, things I dreamed up overnight.”

“I did a lot of running around and yelling on Steve’s show, but underneath it all was a serious effort to promote health.”


Most quotes from:

The Gypsy in Me! by Gypsy Boots (available used from Amazon)

You Bet Your Life DVD Disc 2 – Episode #54-30: broadcast – April 7, 1955

Watch Gypsy Boots on You Bet Your Life here.

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