Long before he exhorted his devoted followers to walk over hot coals or shell out ten-thousand dollars for a seminar, the freakishly tall motivational phenomenon Tony Robbins was president of his class at Glendora High School in Southern California. According to classmate Julie Fellinger, the future self-help guru sold his candidacy with a speech about his childhood struggles. “It was very touching, it was very compelling, it was inspirational,” recalled Fellinger for A & E’s Biography in 2005. Although Robbins resigned his office early because of difficulties at home, he declared his abbreviated tenure to be a rousing success in the 1978 yearbook:
When I came into office I set a goal. That goal was to make 1977-1978 “the best year ever.” I wanted to build a “new spirit,” and I had a group of the most outstanding, exciting, and dedicated student leaders ever assembled.
Elephant races, pep rallies, spirit weeks, Channel 7, open forums, better food, “G” on the mountain, lighting for the soccer field, new and different assemblies: all these things marked the hard work of the leadership class to make your year more enjoyable.
Were we successful? If there was ever a time when interest filled your eyes or a smile broke out on your face, if there was ever a time when you looked forward to some activity, or, most importantly, if there was ever a time when you were proud to say, “I’m a Glendora Tartan,” 1977-1978 was truly successful.
I would like to thank every person on campus for making my years at Glendora so enjoyable, and a special thanks to the leadership class of ’78 for a year that will truly live forever...
A.S.B. President 1977-78
The remainder of Robbins’s term was served by his vice-president, Brian Brooks, who was also voted “Most Likely to Succeed” by his fellow Tartans. We were unable to locate Mr. Brooks to ask him if he ever gets to “fire walk” with his former superior in student government.
By the late 1980s, Robbins was a best selling author (Unlimited Power) and an infomercial star. In the 1990s, he released another hugely successful book (Awaken the Giant Within), counseled President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and appeared as himself in the terrible Gwyneth Paltrow movie, Shallow Hal. Today, Robbins’s various business ventures (including a nutrition line) earn him eighty million dollars a year.
Some critics call the toothy giant a charlatan for charging people exorbitant fees to hear his ridiculous empowerment mantras (“Using the power of decision gives you the capacity to get past any excuse to change any and every part of your life in an instant”), but there is no shortage of customers for his “product,” so who are we to judge?
In 2001, Robbins—who also promotes himself as a relationship expert—was accused of stealing another man’s wife. The self-help star was preparing to marry a 28-year-old former health food clerk named Sage, when her ex-husband, John Lynch, a Canadian businessman, told the media his wife had been carrying on an adulterous affair before their divorce. Robbins filed defamation suits in Canada against Lynch and the two newspapers that published his allegations.
After the controversy subsided, the couple was wed and they now co-star in an educational DVD series entitled “Love and Passion: The Ultimate Relationship Program.” Robbins’s ex-wife Becky, whom he divorced shortly before marrying Sage, probably has not availed herself of the “risk free” offer to see these videos.
Bellendaine Yearbook, 1978, Volume 19, Glendora High School, p. 151, 172, 244.
Ann O’Neill, “One Unhappy Ex,” Los Angeles Times, June 28, 2001, p. E-2.
A & E Biography, Tony Robbins: The Secret of his Success, 2005.
Steve Salerno, Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless [New York: Crown, 2005], pp. 75-87.
Rita Cosby, “Clinton Advice,” Fox News Channel, December 15, 1998.