Wladyslaw Kurcharczyk was born in Poland. Some sources quote his birth date as 1876, others as 1882. He and his brother, Ludwig, were champion gymnasts and went to England in the early 1900s with a sensational horizontal bar, posing, muscle control and hand balancing act. There remains little evidence of Bobby Pandour’s phenomenal physique other than a handful of photographs. Documentary evidence of him is skimpy too. The following has been gleaned from the few articles that have been written about him.
Professor Attila’s Role
The public, at that time, were more interested in ‘strong-man’ acts and, despite their skill and bodily appearance they were never able to top the bill. Professor Attila is credited with the change of name to ‘Bobby Pandour’ and he was also instrumental in getting the brothers some publicity. It’s All in the Name.
Some of the photos presented here were published in the 1904 ‘Health and Strength Annual’ and this is possibly the time of the transition of name to Bobby Pandour as the publication has managed to get both his old first name and his new surname wrong!
The publication credits him with being a ‘strongman’. In fact, it is now accepted that, despite his remarkable physique, he was not ‘strong’ in the accepted sense. This did not stop him earning money, however, and his very muscular appearance made him extremely popular with artists who were unable to afford Sandow’s high fees.
Pandour apparently refused to do any training with heavy weights and concentrated on exercising with a pair of 10lb dumb-bells. He was also forever tensing and flexing his muscles.
His only concession to exercise was to carry his brother up several flights of stairs as fast as possible, whenever he could. This developed magnificent thighs, which are evident from the photographs.
Cover of French Magazine
“La Culture Physique” a French Magazine published in 1905 showed that Pandour’s fame had already spread. Again the name was misspelt. This publication also referred to him as ‘Pendour’.
From 1907 to 1915 Bobby Pandour toured American Vaudeville with his brother Ludwig. In 1915 he suffered a bad accident whilst on stage in Cincinnati and never recovered fully. After that he retired from the stage and lived in New York. He had by that time married and was said to be living a prosaic existence. Ludwig went to live in Brooklyn.
According to an article written by Earle Liederman: “Pandour’s posing act consisted of standing on a white, Roman style column. He seemed to be about 10 feet in the air. A bright spot light streamed down before him from overhead, yet hidden from view. All around the back stage there was a black cyclorama curtain.
Pandour was very thickly muscled. His arms looked short because of this muscle-density. He had sensational abdominals and great deltoids, while his legs were in similar proportions. His posing was done with simple ease and grace, yet every motion brought out the muscle or muscle groups exactly as he wished them shown.”
“His lighting was perfect and caused deep shadows under every prominent muscle layer. His routine was one continuous series of motions and opposition and contrast. He also gave a most interesting abdominal control display which was unforgettable. Upon this column, he appeared to be a 200lb. man with a Sandow mustache and with a professional air to his bearing. It was his great regime of muscle-motion that impressed audiences and, to my mind, he was one of the greatest posers I have ever seen.”
A Life Cut Short
At his peak Pandour weighed 160lb, was 5’6″ tall and had a 42″ chest, 23″ thighs and 16-17″ arms. In his later years he was supposedly found in Posen, Germany earning a living as an artist’s model. He died at the age of 44 (or 38 depending on the source of information).
This page has been compiled from several sources, some of which have conflicting dates and information (for instance other sources give his dates as 1876-1914). Whilst attempting to lay this page out in accurate chronological order there is no guarantee that the information is 100% accurate.
Photographs contributed by Gordon Anderson, Tony Holland, Gil Waldron and Roger Fillary.