Reprint from the Natural Foods Merchandiser
Patricia Bragg comes into a room more like a tent-revival preacher spreading the gospel of good health than the chief executive of a large health and wellness company famous for its celebrity and prominent clientele and world-wide health crusades.
Within minutes of arriving in the conference room at Bragg Health Products and Books in Santa Barbara, Calif., she announces that her favorite color is pink and that she always wears a hat because actor Jack Lord – “you know, from Hawaii Five-0” – once told her: “Patricia, you may be only 5 feet, but if you wear a hat you will be 6 feet.”
She demonstrates exercises that have kept her feminine physique firm and youthful, and marches around the room, pumping her arms and legs like a drum major, drilling a visitor on the four pumps of the heart: “Your two arms and your two legs. I always stand tall, walk tall and sit tall,” she says, chin high, pink flip-flops slapping the floor.
“I’m a health and life coach. I love it, live it and preach it,” she chants as she finally settles on a couch, both feet planted on the floor. “Never cross your legs, we’re not meant to sit like a pretzel and cut off vital circulation.”
Although her words and actions may seem random, they’re as scripted as a Sunday sermon. Virtually everything Bragg does is part of her crusade as a health missionary – ”saving souls physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.” Their marketing department put her face on the cover of the Bragg Health Books and on every bottle of Bragg Liquid Aminos and Apple Cider Vinegar sold by the company her father, Dr. Paul Bragg, founded in 1912. Her voice is as familiar as a mother’s to the millions of listeners of her wellness radio shows, but she reveals precious little about herself that doesn’t relate to her health crusade. Ask her age, and she throws her arms wide and joyously declares, “I’m ageless,” quickly turning the subject to another favorite topic: celebrity devotees of the Bragg Healthy Lifestyle. “Tom Selleck says I keep him 39. The Beach Boys are ageless – they’ve followed us for over 40 years.” Even to her close friends, she’s an enigma. “I’ve known her for over 30 years. She has a big heart, loves people, but I don’t think she’s taken a whole lot of time for Patricia the woman. All her energy goes into helping and healing people,” says Paul Wenner, founder of Gardenburger and a fan of all things Bragg. Seeing a Bragg Crusade and reading their books cured him of his asthma when he was a teenager and Paul Bragg set him on his life’s health path.
“Patricia’s a gifted crusader, like a little medicinal butterfly going from flower to flower. She continually shares the Bragg health knowledge with everyone.”
Daughter of Health Preacher
It’s impossible to understand Patricia Bragg without knowing the story of her father. Not only was Dr. Paul Bragg responsible for his daughter’s physical existence, he also shaped her emotional, spiritual and mental character. Even years after his death, he is still a daily influence on his daughter. “Dad said . . . “is one of Patricia’s most frequent phrases. “I believe my dad was on the right track about everything,” she says. “I’m very thankful he was my dad, my buddy, my mentor, my leader, my teacher, my angel.” To Patricia’s friends, her regard for her father is nothing short of reverence. “When she saw the impact he had on people worldwide promoting what we call today ‘alternative medicine,’ the admiration they had for him, the success stories of really prominent people he helped, she was in awe of him,” says Bobby McGee, former owner of House of Health Natural Foods store in Honolulu and a friend of Patricia’s since 1967.
Paul Wenner says, “She became him. If someone made a movie of her life, Paul would be the shadow behind her – he’s talking, she’s moving.”
When Paul C. Bragg was a teenager he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. After his third T.B. Sanitarium, he developed an eating, breathing and exercising program that restored his health (see pg. 4 “How to Live The Bragg Healthy Lifestyle”). He credited God for much of his newfound vigor and made a pledge that he would spend the rest of his life showing others how to achieve this “super health” and he did!
He wasted little time. According to Patricia, her father founded Bragg Live Foods in 1912, and originated and named the first Health Food Store in Los Angeles in the 1920s, launched Health Builder magazine in the 1930s, helped found the National Nutritional Foods Assoc. in 1936, and hosted the “Health and Happiness” Hollywood TV show with Patricia in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Along the way, he and Patricia wrote many books: Bragg Healthy Lifestyle, Build Powerful Nerve Force, Apple Cider Vinegar, Healthy Heart, Miracle of Fasting, Super Power Breathing for Super Energy, Bragg Back Fitness Program, Water: The Shocking Truth, andBuild Strong Healthy Feet – all life improvers!
But it was the Bragg Health Crusades that garnered the most attention. “We’d go into a town and have posters put all over town that said ‘Free Health Crusade.’ People would flock to them; they loved them,” Patricia says. “When we came to town, we gave the health food stores the biggest sales they ever had.”
As a teenager suffering from asthma, Wenner attended a Bragg Health Crusade, or as he calls it, “Paul’s tent revival,” in 1965 in Portland, Oregon. “It was kind of like a religious festival – loud talking, excitement, singing. Paul had this built-in ability to see the best and most incredible aspects of people, and they responded, I did.”
Handsome and tanned, with wavy, movie-star hair, Paul Bragg would run on stage, plant his feet wide and begin his sermon. Fitness guru Jack LaLanne, who was a skinny, sickly, pimply 15-year-old when he attended his first Bragg Crusade in the late 1920s, has never forgotten what Paul Bragg said that day: “It matters not what your present age is or what your physical condition is. If you obey nature’s laws, you can be born again!” Jack was!
Pictures show Paul Bragg with his arms thrown out, embracing rooms full of congregants. “He was so gung ho and energetic,” remembers Kathryn Matheson, owner of Full O’Life Natural Foods Market and Restaurant in Burbank, Calif. “People like him who have a strong, dedicated personality are natural salesmen. When you have a fire in your belly, you can sell what you believe in.” LaLanne agrees. “He sold me!”
His showmanship wasn’t too shoddy, either. Bill Galt, (inspired by Bragg) founded Good Earth Restaurants, remembers: “Paul had this big pot on stage. He’d put three processed, refined meals that the average American eats everyday into the pot – white bread, refined sugar, Coke, hot dogs, fried foods, coffee, meat, etc. Then he’d stir it up and shout:” “Who’s ready to eat? Folks, that’s what you’re putting in your body.”
Millions of people around the world (every major U.S. city and worldwide) became disciples of the Bragg Healthy Lifestyle after those crusades. Biochemist pioneer, Jeffrey Bland says the Braggs were an early inspiration in his health education. Dr. Henry Heimlich and Foot Dr. Scholl were Bragg fans. Patricia says her father inspired thousands to become health store owners, world-wide, including founders of Trader Joe’s and GNC – “Dad was lecturing in Pittsburgh,” and asked: “Who wants to have the first health store in all Pennsylvania? We’ll stock it with all Bragg Health Products on consignment,” says Patricia, arms spread wide, imitating her father’s booming voice. “And that was Lackzoom Yogurt Shop [opened in 1935], which later became GNC.” Paul inspired people world-wide to open health stores and helped them get started. House of Health’s McGee says that in the 1960s, “Paul was like a guru to those of us that got into vitamin and mineral food supplements instead of drugs.”
Then there were the celebrity Bragg followers. “Samuel Goldwyn called up my father and asked him to speak to his actresses. He said, ‘These young girls are staying up all night partying and they’re so tired, I can hardly make a movie,’” Patricia says, most of the girls ignored the Bragg teachings, but one was mesmerized: the 18-year-old Gloria Swanson, who became a strong Health Fan and occasionally joined Paul on the Bragg Health Crusades.
Bragg became a celebrity himself, remembers Joe Bassett of Bassett’s Health Foods in Toledo, Ohio (a former president of National Nutritional Foods Association for Health Stores, which Bragg founded). “He and the other health food guys were like rock stars. When they walked into a Hollywood restaurant, even the movie stars knew who they were. Jack LaLanne is the last of the guys around who were like that.”
“I like to say Paul Bragg inspired them and I perspired them,” LaLanne says.
Birth of a Health Missionary
A fifth-generation Californian, where her mother’s family settled before 1849, Patricia remembers an idyllic healthy childhood in California. “I didn’t know murder, didn’t know the word ‘rape,’ didn’t hear swearing or never anything negative,” she says.
She grew up in a house where “people would go look in our cupboards for aspirin, coffee, white bread and sugar, and they wouldn’t find them. I never had a Coke. My dad taught me to see a skull and crossbones on a bottle of Coca-Cola and bad foods.”
She once ate a Hershey bar, “but I got a terrible sore throat. I knew it was a sin,” she says. Same with alcohol. “When I was 23, I drank a glass of champagne at a wedding, and I threw up,” she says. My dad said, “You’re allergic to alcohol. It also dulls the brain and pickles the liver.”
She’s never shaved her legs, painted her fingernails or worn makeup (occasionally only lipstick – “After 60, I just needed a little help,” she says). Her father advised her to never wear a bra because it impedes circulation. But “everything still stands up by itself,” she says proudly, demonstrating the pectoral exercises she does three times a day in two-minute sessions. She’s never pierced her ears (“It exposes nerve endings”) and doesn’t wear a wristwatch because it can slow and even cut off circulation.
She never had the desire to rebel against her father’s teachings and sneak a cigarette or even an aspirin. “I always knew the consequence of living an unhealthy lifestyle is sickness. You pay for your sins,” she says.
“Patricia lives what she sells,” says Matheson of Full O’Life Natural Foods Market. “I’ve been with some pretty high-falutin’ people in the health food business, and I’ve seen them smoking and drinking. That’s not health crusader Patricia Bragg.”
Bragg’s childhood nickname was “Busy Lizzie.” “I was very active – I was playing tennis and piano when I was 5; I’ve been gardening since I was 5. I danced ballet and jazz. I always had super energy,” she says. Demonstrating that more than 65 years later she’s still worthy of the “Busy Lizzie” nickname, she leaps off the couch and begins jogging in place. “If you get up and bounce around, you massage trillions of cells, and good circulation is one of the keys to good health,” she says as she races around the room barefoot, pink sweatpants flapping, pink sequined cowboy hat bobbing.
When a youngster, Patricia began attending the boarding school she would graduate from – the Mary Wallace School in Piedmont, California. Others might be lonely or scared to leave home at a young age, but not Patricia. “I had my own vegetable and flower garden plots. The school was my second home, I loved being there,” she says. After college, she then taught kindergarten at the boarding school for a year. “I took little monsters and made them little angels. I taught them what’s right, what’s wrong, how to sing and dance, exercise, read, paint, and grow vegetables and flowers. I taught them healthy habits and never to say swear words! What comes out of your mouth is living – words are living.” Bragg is so opposed to swearing that she forbids it among her employees, and once fired a woman for cursing on the job.
During her school years, Bragg dreamed of being a Baptist missionary in Africa like her cousins. But when 18, her father approached her with an idea. “He said, ‘I want you, in time, to be a health missionary. Just give me one year.’ “ Paul Bragg wasn’t the type to take no for an answer. “The only person I’ve met who is stronger than Paul is Bill Clinton,” says Gardenburger’s Creator. “When you are around someone so strong-minded, so controlled, you realize you don’t change people like that. You do what they want.” So Patricia took her place in the Bragg Crusades.
She quickly discovered she loved being a Health Crusader and spreading the Bragg Healthy Lifestyle with thousands at the Crusades nine months a year. “My dad said I was his left and right hand. We were like two peas in a pod. Sometimes he said he even knew what I was thinking.”
During the long years she worked with her father, she was right there assisting him on the Bragg Health Crusades world-wide, appearing on the Bragg TV show, “Health & Happiness from Hollywood” and helping to write the Bragg Health Books. “They were always a team,” recalls Matheson. “When you looked at them, you would see only two people headed in the same direction, and as he slowed, she gently took over. She was born to do his work and carry on Bragg Crusades.” Also the Bragg Longer Life Exercise Club at Waikiki Beach has been going 6 days a week from 9 - 10:30 at Fort DeRussy Lawn for over 40 years. Thousands have attended and learned the health benefits of exercise.
Matheson remembers Patricia in those days as “beautiful, with long, blond hair and very tan.” LaLanne described her as a “devoted health crusader,” she never married. She was engaged at one point, but her fiance died in an accident a week before the wedding. Since then, “I have had many wonderful men friends, but I just can’t get around to thinking about marriage,” she says. House of Health’s McGee, who regards Patricia as his little sister, says, “She has had many opportunities to marry, but she’s never found the right one. I told her, ‘You admired your father so much, it’s impossible for other men to compare favorably with him.’”
Although her friends believe Patricia’s personality is as vibrant as her father’s, they also agree it’s not as forceful. “Paul was a little tougher in his approach—he’d literally challenge you and say you’re going to die if you don’t change,” Good Earth’s Galt says. Patricia recounts that when she joined the Bragg Crusade, my dad said, “Just don’t be too tough – don’t hit them over the head with a big stick.” He’d say, “Patricia, remember: go slow and speak softly from your heart.”
“I saw Paul Bragg when he was 92, and he was singing songs, vibrant, full of life. You would think he had another 25 years left,” says Sandy Gooch Lederman, founder of Mrs. Gooch’s health stores in Los Angeles area. She thanks the Bragg Crusades for her fulfilling health career. “Patricia observed and patterned herself after his attributes. She’s a character, a little fire-ball.”
Patricia’s approach to health crusading is more motherly, but just as persuasive as Paul’s. “She never stops talking health,” Galt says. “If you’re eating with her in a restaurant, she’ll find a way to go over to another table and strike up a conversation about health. We were on a cruise together, and before it was over, all the crew had Bragg Health Books.” Wenner adds: “If she’s at a gathering, she’ll go to every person and give them some information about being healthier. She doesn’t miss a person. Patricia gets them moving in the right direction. She truly changes lives, one person at a time.”
Patricia relies heavily on celebrity stories to get her point across, tantalizing listeners with tidbits such as: “Steve Jobs told me that he’s been reading the Bragg Health Books since high school and he admires our Health Crusades, or JC Penney – a kind, wonderful, brilliant man, so humble – told me we all have human angels. ‘You’re a human angel and so’s your dad,’ he said.” She talks about lunches she’s had with Jane Russell and how she taught Clint Eastwood to stand up straight. She rhapsodizes about how The Dalai Lama, Donald Trump and Tony Robbins love Bragg Liquid Aminos. She talks about famous people and celebrities, she leaves little time for questions about herself.
But like most things Patricia does, name-dropping serves a greater good. “Other people are a witness, just like in the Bible, which gives you stories of things that actually happened,” she says. People can more easily relate to a celebrity health story than a nutrition textbook, she believes. Galt adds, “If you talk about famous people, there’s something that hooks people into listening. So many people are wrapped up in famous people and the star syndrome today.”
She’s Still Crusading & Loving It
To Promote A Healthier World
Bragg Live Foods pioneered and produced 365 products in its Burbank plant. Bragg introduced the first Health Products: whole 7-grain crackers and cereals, herbal teas, date sweetener, honey, raw nuts and dried fruits, vitamin and mineral food supplements, amino acids, health candies and health cosmetics and more. The company had offices in California, London, Australia, and New Zealand.
“A lot of big corporations, including WR Grace & Co., Ovaltine and Kroger, wanted to buy us out, but we didn’t want to sell,” she says. At the same time, “Our attorney said it would kill me to keep all the products.” Patricia culled the inventory to her favorites: Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, olive oil, salad dressings, seasonings and apple-cider vinegar made with the nutrient-packed “mother” enzymes found naturally in Bragg Vinegar. She’s also planning to introduce her Organic Apple Cider Vinegar Drink. She kept the company’s Health Science division, which publishes the Bragg Health Books she updates yearly. And she continued the Health Crusades, lecturing schools, women’s and church groups, prisons, corporate gatherings and a host of other organizations around the world. “Spreading health is my life crusade,” she says. “It gives you a real purpose in life to be needed, to be a Bragg Health Crusader!”
Today, Bragg crusades mainly through radio talk shows, recording as many as five a day. For a woman who has been around the world 13 times, leaving home isn’t as much fun as it once was. Still, she frequently visits her organic macadamia nut farm in Maui and her organic farm in Australia that grows 30 varieties of tropical fruits. She has properties around California, many inherited from her mother’s family, which produce the ingredients for Bragg products. Last year, she moved the Bragg headquarters to a 120-acre organic farm in Goleta, near Santa Barbara, Calif., and set up residence in the 115-year-old farm-house. Surrounded by 250 rosebushes, the house is aptly named “Patricia’s Rose Cottage,” and is decorated with cheerful floral prints and family mementos and pictures of their pets.
Like her father, Patricia has a Ph.D. – and a doctor of naturopathy degree, which she earned in her 20s from Bernadine University. She continues to keep updated on health, incorporating new studies into “Bragg Books that talk for us,” she says. The old walnut barn at her farm, houses her father’s library with thousands of titles. Subjects include organic gardening, babies and motherhood, allopathic medicine, self-help, ageing, happiness, psychology, health and healing, poetry, cookbooks and the classics.
She also applies that research to Bragg Products. “In the Bragg Sprinkle, Patricia picked out every one of the 24 herbs and spices,” says the Bragg Chief Financial Officer. Sandy Gooch adds, “You could always trust the Bragg Products. Paul did his research, and he really believed in his products.”
Patricia also devotes time to charitable causes funded by the Bragg Health Crusades. “Not many people know how much she does for charity,” Galt says. “She put up the seed money graciously for Friends of the Animals International and set up a Mexican spaying and neutering program where U.S. vets train Mexican vets. She also funds research with botanicals for alternative cancer solutions.”
Her CPA says “Bragg helps pay the tuition for some of the employees at her corporate headquarters and gives money to everything from church camps and charities to wheelchair athletes. She has agape love for the world and all of us.”
For Bragg, giving back to others is a mission. You put your life to a daily test and you ask, “What are you doing to help mankind?” she says. “Sometimes people just have to have someone open the door and tell them – have a purpose! Also remember it’s up to you if it ‘s to be – to have either sickness or super health.”
The Bragg Healthy Lifestyle has many wise components. Here is a list of Do’s and Don’ts that Dr. Paul C. Bragg developed and Dr. Patricia Bragg practices and preaches: