Callan Pinckney

Callan Pinckney was raised in Savannah, Georgia. She trained in classical ballet for twelve years and studied other forms of dance, movement and exercise. She had to restore her own body to health when, after an eleven-year backpacking odyssey around the world, the rigours of travel, combined with a congenital back defect, led to physical collapse.

On her return to the U.S. she experimented with various exercise techniques, using her early ballet training to develop the program which finally solved her physical problems. Callan taught her revolutionary exercise program from her New York apartment and had many famous and distinguished clients worldwide, all of whom testify that Callanetics is a unique, safe exercise system for transforming bodyshape.

Callan Pinckney passed away in March 2012. Sign the guest book here: CALLAN PINCKNEY'S GUEST BOOK

Getting There...

"I traveled around the world 11 years. I lived under trucks and in alleyways. I was the original bag lady. I thought that I, a female person, had no chance for betterment. I was scared. Sometimes I was so immobilized with fear that I felt frozen.

"I was brought up to be a lady. A Southern lady. I was taught never to draw attention to myself. To survive on my own, I had to get beyond that. I'd pretend I was a female John Wayne. I got a Turkish sword, small and round and lethal. I forgot I was short. I forgot I was a little female. When men accosted me, I flashed that sword. They were so flabbergasted, they backed off.

"I don't know why I went on that long trip. I was angry. But I don't even know what I was angry about. I just ran away from home. I didn't want to abide by rules and regulations. I certainly didn't want to get married. I'd been kicked out of college the University of Georgia. So I just hopped on a German freighter and went where the roads led.

"Three times men attacked me. Three times the killer instinct in me came out. Once, in the Sahara Desert, an Arab started to molest me. I removed his hands from my breasts and said: 'How unchivalrous of you.' He went crazy with anger. He said, in perfect English: 'I'll rape you! I'll kill you! I'll bury you in the sand! No one will find you!' Then he saw all my freckles. He thought I had a disease. That was the end of him. He disappeared into the night.

"I've been slapped by men. I never cried. I felt I was fending for my life. It was my life or theirs. If I was going down, they were going to go down with me. That was the fighting attitude I reflected. I guess I have two angels looking after me, one on each shoulder. I was never raped. I got out of every bad situation.

"When I got halfway around the world, wandering became a lifestyle. My father had said I couldn't exist six months without his money. After a while, I lost all track of time. Time didn't matter. See, to this day I don't wear a watch. Being free of the strictures of time is wonderful. It really frees you.

"Then I came back to America. I had never seen Saran Wrap, push- button phones or refrigerators with ice-makers. I thought: 'These are the creations of superhuman beings. These are the creations of Americans.' I wanted to be a part of my own wonderful culture. I thought: 'I want to do something special in America.'

"I wanted to be a success. But I thought only men were successes. But I also realized that I could have been a woman bent over a rice paddy, working all day, with her baby strapped to her body. Those were the two extremes, the pull to be an achiever and not having the push to know how to go about it. I couldn't relate to having a home. I couldn't relate to being a part of a society again.

"But I went to New York. I said to myself: 'If I make it, it's got to be in America's toughest city.' I had a door that closed with a lock, a bed, running water. I had protection. If anything happened, I could call the police. It was a culture shock. I was a happy woman.

"First I worked in an exercise studio. Then I started teaching out of my apartment. Word got around New York that my exercises worked. I created exercises that tightened the buttocks and slimmed the thighs. My students said: 'You've got magic. Sell it. Write a book.' And I said: 'Don't be crazy. I can't spell.'

"One day someone in my class told me to write an exercise book. I said: 'You've got to know somebody in publishing.' She said: 'My husband is always talking about so-and-so. Let's look up the number in the phone book.' I refused to make the call. But another student got the agent on the phone. Finally I got on and the agent said to me: 'What's your name?' I said: 'Callan Pinckney.' And she said she'd been trying to locate me because she had friends who'd heard I had incredible results. She asked for my exercises. And I told her I'd give them to her if she sold my book.

"I believe in destiny. I was destined to write this book. I know that. I don't search my soul trying to figure out why. I just accepted that an opportunity had happened. When I was in Hong Kong, a Buddhist fortune teller told me I could have an impact on the world. I thought it was rubbish then because I had so little to eat. But that impact happened.

"It wasn't easy. I'd rather fight the Arab in the desert than deal with shrewd business people. My book wasn't being properly promoted. So I became a nuisance. I made demands. More than once I heard: 'Who do you think you are?' Remember, I was still full of anger.

"My anger had taken a different turn, though. What maddened me was that you had to be a celebrity to write and sell an exercise book. Anger can be a positive force. It galvanized me.

"I borrowed $70,000 and went on the road, promoting myself in city after city. That $70,000 was for traveling expenses, press kits and thousands and thousands of dollars worth of telephone calls. I got so nervous that my face twitched. I thought: 'What if I can't pay the money back?' I had no money for myself. So I ate cat food.

"It has all worked. When I first started out on my trip, my philosophy was: 'Do something to help yourself or get out of the universe.' I survived 11 years on my own. That was Part One of me. In a sense, I was a daydreamer then, someone who stared at the world going by.”

'Callanetics': The Little Book That Could

The Wall Street Journal – January 28th 1986, Joanne Kaufman

Barbara Biffinger Pfeiffer Pinckney's students view her as a healer and miracle worker. "But I don't go along with that," says Ms, Pinckney, who on the advice of a numerologist changed her first name to Callan. To people in the publishing world she is the 5-foot-l, 108-pound author of "Callanetics," a best-selling book of "deep" muscle exercise that gives you a perfect figure."

The freckled, 46 year-old Ms. Pinckney based her book on 13 years' experience reshaping the bad bodies that happen to good people. But her most calisthenic achievement was to lift her book onto the best-seller list a year after publication, just when It was about to fall onto remainder tables. Currently, William Morrow & Co. has 200,000 copies of "Callanetics" in print and selling briskly at $17.95 each.

"Fourteen months after a book is published to a great lack of Interest, for it to become a best seller is extraordinary; it's unprecedented," says Pat Golbitz, Ms. Pinckney's editor at Morrow.

"Most books catch fire in the first two or three months of their life," says Stuart Appelbaum, Vice president and director of publicity at Bantam Publishers. "I can't think of another example of a book that made the best-seller list a year after its publication almost entirely because the author didn't give up working the pipeline to make It happen."

"She has shown the publishing houses how to do things," adds a Bantam editor who requested anonymity.

Callan Pinckney hardly set out to show the publishing houses a thing or two. In fact, she didn't set out to write a book at all; she was far too busy living one. A ninth- generation Savannah, Ga., debutante who was suspended from every school she attended, Ms. Pinckney quit college after two disgusted years, and, making a large blot on the Pinckney escutcheon, took a job in a department store to finance a carefully plotted "getaway."

Late one night she threw her suitcase from a second-story window and climbed out after it. Friends drove her to the depot, where she caught a bus for Wilmington, N.C., then a freighter bound for Germany. The next 11 years she spent shoveling snow in London, waiting tables in Capetown, tracking animal migration in central Africa and modeling miniskirts in Japan. Then an overloaded rucksack threw her back out and sent her home. At the airport, she looked so bad that her mother fainted.

"I was getting to the point where I couldn't lift my neck," recalls Ms. Pinckney. To avoid surgery and possible confinement to a wheelchair, she started creating exercises she hoped would stop the pain. "Then one day I looked in the mirror and saw what the exercises had done for me."

And so Callanetics - "exercises that melt fat off buttocks and hips, flatten the tummy, slim the thighs," etc. etc. -was born. The word spread and drew diplomats, businesspeople and celebrities such as Barbra Streisand and Ellen Burstyn to Ms. Pinckney's East Side aerie.

"I never thought about writing a book," she says. "I thought you had to have 35 years' experience before voicing your opinion on the body. But I saw those Hollywood movie-star fluff-puff books coming out and they were a giggle. So I said, 'How do you write a book?'"

Her 207-page album of exercises and unretouched photos of pre- and post- Callanetic body parts came out in September 1984, With a 10,000-copy first printing. Morrow sent Ms. Pinckney on a tour to Cincinnati, Cleveland and a few other cities. The first printing sold out within three weeks, followed by a second press run of 5,000 and, according to the author, "the books just sat there in the warehouse. I don't understand why."

Part of the "why" had to do with a prevailing attitude that can be summed up as "No aerobics, no celebrity, no good." Twelve cities turned Morrow's director of publicity down when she tried to arrange a tour for "Callanetics."

"The reaction of the chains and book- stores was. 'She's not Jane Fonda. Who's Callan Pinckney,''' recalls Ms. Golbitz. ''We acquired the book because it was an extraordinary regimen. I knew that the exercises worked. Morrow was so sure of them that the book carries a money-back guarantee. We packaged it beautifully but no one was very interested."

Morrow couldn't book Miss Pinckney? Fine, she'd book herself, concentrating on the South because of family connections. She'd nag book chains into restocking, and she'd nag Morrow to supply books to stores on her self-arranged route. Her monthly phone bills were $1,000 and her ties with Morrow were strained. "Callan can be a real pain in the ass," noted one editor.

Ms. Pinckney was a blazing success at every stop- in Hilton Head, Charleston and Greenville, S.C. -but these blazing successes amounted to little more than brush fires.

"I started stuttering," she recalls. "I had a twitch. I couldn't eat, and all my friends said 'Callan, give it up. The book is dead.' “ But Ms. Pinckney had reason to believe otherwise, since she had a thick folder of fan mall from people who'd bought the book in its first printing and wanted to know when she'd be coming to their city, when she'd be coming out with a video, when she'd be franchising her operation. Still, she almost quit. "I was going to give myself one week more and then I was going to give it up."

That week, a Chicago fan who had seen improvement after only two hours of Callanetics but wasn't sure whether she was doing the exercises just right called Ms. Pinckney to ask when she'd be in town. The desperate Ms. Pinckney said, "Get me on a TV show and I'll be there." The desperate fan pleaded her case to an "A.M. Chicago" producer who arranged a booking.

"We had 400 orders within the first hour of when she was on the show," says William Richman, vice president and trade-book buyer for Kroch's & Brentano's, a major retailer that had initially carried "CaIlanetics" but then returned it to Morrow after tepid sales. "It's the largest single response we've ever had. It's almost unheard of; so we were forced to reorder again, and it was several months before we could catch up on demand. Then she appeared again and it took off again. She has an inordinate ability to sell the book."

Noting her success in Chicago, Morrow sent Ms. Pinckney to St. Louis for an appearance on "The Sally Jessy Raphael Show." "Since we're syndicated and appear at different times in different markets, every time the phones began to ring crazy we would look at each other and say 'Callanetics,' and there would be viewers from New York, Los Angeles or Philadelphia saying 'Where do we get the book?'” says the program's executive producer, Burt Dubrow. He remembers one book-store that had a "Callanetics" waiting list of 400 names.

The response was equally vigorous on "The Regis Philbin Show" and "The Joe Franklin Show," which logged more than 100 calls the day after Ms. Pinckney's appearance. The author herself received 300 calls and a flood of letters from people wanting to know where to find the book. Those two shows gave "Callanetics" its final push onto the best-seller list.

"This is a very strong argument for doing the smaller shows that aren't national and keeping at it," says Tom Consolino, director of sales at Morrow.

"It's one of those mysteries that make publishing so wonderful," says Morrow's president, Sherry Arden.

Ms. Pinckney also thinks what's happened is wonderful, but she isn't mystified. "I was reading about my ancestors' taking on King George and I felt that I could take on the publishing world." Still flexing, she plans to put out a Callanetics video and then write a book about her world travels.

Callan Pinckney Pushed Her Fitness Book Up the Best-Seller List All by Herself

People Magazine – April 28 1986, Kristen McMurran
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Geeee, I look good," marvels Callan Pinckney, reflecting on her image bouncing off a mirrored panel in her Manhattan living room. "I'm not tight, I'm lethal." What Pinckney sees is a woman of 46 with a stomach as flat as Melba toast, a bottom as shapely as an apple and taut thighs that are mercifully free of cottage-cheese lumps.

These days Pinckney has every right to preen. Not only did she invent the exercises that molded her remarkably pert figure, she also published Callanetics: 10 Years Younger in 10 Hours and then single-handedly pushed it up to No. 2 on the New York Times bestseller list—a Herculean feat that makes her purely physical accomplishments look almost frail by comparison.

"I knew nothing about agents or publishing," says Pinckney, explaining how she launched her crusade in 1982. "But when I saw these ridiculous, pathetic books by celebrities who had less experience than I, I got angry. I was a maniac. I said, 'That does it. How do you write a book?' "

Having figured out that part, with some students' help, she quickly got Callanetics published by William Morrow ($17.95) in September 1984 and waited for recognition. And waited. The fitness secrets of Jane Fonda, Raquel Welch and Victoria Principal were selling almost feverishly, but the world seemed largely uninterested in the secrets of Callan Pinckney. "We had resistance from booksellers and we could not get her on the morning shows because Callan was not a star," says her Morrow editor, Pat Golbitz. Morrow's faith in Callanetics waned.

But Callan's did not. "When they told me the book was dead, forget it, I said, 'I can't, I'd die first.' " So Pinckney, who was raised as a ninth-generation Southern debutante, departed radically from her ladylike background: She hustled like crazy.Borrowing money from friends to pay for press-kit mailings and cross country phone calls, Pinckney launched a solo sales campaign that seemed nothing more than an exercise in egotistic futility. "I called every show I could think of, and producers would say, 'Well, who are you?' I had so many doors slammed in my face, but I knew I had something, though no one else did." After five months of rejection, she had developed a facial twitch, tripped and broken her nose and lost her boyfriend, 20 years her junior, who, like other people, found her single-mindedness off-putting. Her first break came on a local television show in the South. Then, last July, she coaxed a Callaneticsian to get her onto a Chicago morning TV show on which Pinckney flashed photographs of a student's thighs before (bulging) and after (beguiling) several hours of Callanetics. Afterward, one bookstore received 400 orders. Callan's crusade suddenly looked less quixotic. The TV appearances increased; she went on the Oprah Winfrey and Sally Jessy Raphael shows and was invited back by both; in November, 14 months after it was published, Callanetics became a bestseller.

The exercises might have been called Barbara-netics if Callan had not changed her name on the advice of a numerologist in 1972. "He said, 'Lay low, nothing is going to happen in your life,' " she recalls, "and I said, 'Can we cheat?' I was desperate then. I wasn't accomplishing anything and I wasn't happy with myself."

Barbara Biffinger Pfeiffer Pinckney grew up bored in Savannah, Ga. She was born with curvature of the spine and wore leg braces for seven years, then spent a decade studying ballet to correct clubfeet and crooked legs. Finding herself out of step with the local social set, inclined at 21 toward neither college nor marriage, she boarded a freighter bound for West Germany and spent the next 11 years as an impoverished nomad. She shoveled coal in London, waited on tables in South Africa, was nearly raped in Jordan, came down with amoebic dysentery in Tunisia and in 1972 settled in New York. She was still broke and now also bent from years of carrying her possessions in a backpack. So severe had her curvature of the spine become that doctors felt only surgery would keep her out of a wheelchair.

Instead, Pinckney went back to her ballet barre and there developed a series of deep muscle contractions and spine stretches, inspired by ballet movements, that not only relieved her pain but reshaped her figure. She claims that one hour of Callanetics equals 20 hours of aerobics because the delicate, precise, tiny movements of her exercises work deeply to tighten and lift droopy bodies. She also discovered that she could make a living by teaching her therapeutic methods to others who wanted only to keep their bottoms up.

Today some students fly from as far as Europe to attend six-person classes (at $25 an hour) in Pinckney's apartment studio, which has so many windows it seems suspended over the Manhattan skyline. The phone rings continually. Fan mail is stacked in tall columns and two fluffy cats stretch out beside her disciples as Pinckney, often dressed in her nightgown, flutters among them. "If you're a klutz and a blob, she doesn't make you fee/that way," raves one.

"She inspires." With 500,000 copies in print, a six-figure paperback deal and a video being negotiated, she has not stopped selling—Callan-style. During a preliminary interview with David Letterman recently, she gushed, "Oooo, you have the cutest little behind. I want to help everyone in America have a gorgeous little tight behind!" The rather shy Letterman replied, "Yes, but what do you do?" Pinckney announced, " That's what I do." She has not yet heard from the show's producer, so Callan will probably call again.