Christian Weight-Loss Guru Gwen Shamblin, Former 'Tarzan' Husband, 5 Others Die in Plane Crash
Gwen Shamblin, the extremely controversial founder of Remnant Fellowship and a proponent of a Christian approach to weight loss, perished Saturday in a plane crash along with her husband, onetime TV Tarzan Joe Lara, and five others.
The New York Post reports Shamblin's daughter Elizabeth Hannah had texted parishioners at the time of the crash, "My brother and I are asking for immediate prayers right now, as we have just gotten word that Gwen and Joe Lara’s plane had to go down for a controlled, quick landing. We do not have word yet of the outcome, but we are asking for prayers."
News Channel 5 reports members of Remnant, based in Brentwood, Tennessee, later received a group text confirming that the ill-fated plane was carrying the fundamentalist power couple; early church leaders David and Jennifer Martin; Jonathan and Jessica Walters; and the Laras' son-in-law, Brandon Hannah.
The Cessna C501 carrying the church members crashed into Percy Priest Lake, about 10 miles east of downtown Nashville, soon after taking off just before 11 a.m.
Ironically, the couple were aviation enthusiasts, gushing online about their excitement whenever they were near planes.
"I love being at the airport," Joe Lara says in one video. "Something about being around airplanes that's just so cool!"
His wife responds, "It's represents a lot of freedom, doesn't it?"
It was an abrupt ending for Gwen Shamblin, 66, whose rise to prominence — amid passionate condemnation — began in 1980 with the creation of a consulting practice centered on weight loss. By 1986, she had established the Weight Down Workshop, a program without calorie-counting, foods to avoid, or even a recommendation to exercise. Instead, she believed people should be trained to stop eating when full.
She once told Larry King, "How in the Holocaust did you have all these people getting down real skinny? They ate less food."
Throughout the '90s, Shamblin's weight-loss program went international, leading to the building of a compound in Franklin, Tennessee, and the publication of her million-selling book "The Weight Down Diet." By 1999, she had founded the Remnant Fellowship Church, which over time was branded a cult by critics, with Shamblin comparing herself to Moses and denying hers was a for-profit organization — in spite of an opulent lifestyle.
When asked in 2001 if she considered herself a prophet, Shamblin — who has positioned herself as a seer following the 9/11 attacks — said, "I don't believe I know what my gift name is."
She was also accused of encouraging corporal punishment for children after a child of a Remnant member was beaten to death in 2003, and faced condemnation from traditional Christians for denying the tenet of the Trinity, asserting Jesus and God were separate.
In spite of the naysayers, Shamblin continued to appear on her own Internet series and to make numerous media appearances.
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After divorcing David Shamblin, her husband of 40 years, Shamblin wed Lara, an actor best known as Tarzan in the TV 1989 TV movie "Tarzan in Manhattan" and the ensuing syndicated series "Tarzan: The Epic Adventure" (1996-1997), on August 18, 2018.
Shamblin is survived by her daughter Elizabeth and son Michael. Lara, 58, is survived by his daughter from his previous relationship with Natasha Pavlovich.