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Dave Draper Furniture

Dave Draper Gun Cabinet

People often ask about Dave’s furniture building days, and if we have any pictures of what he built.

Well, turns out we did. Here, have a look:
Dave Draper Furniture Gallery

Larry Scott, RIP March 8, 2014

There is not one bodybuilder, past or present, who generated more excitement and admiration when on the posing platform than Larry Scott. He captured the crowd with his magnificent physique and magnetic charm and the fans idolized the man. Wicked Willie from the IronOnline forum describes Larry’s ability to woo the crowd in this first hand account of the Legend in action.

“I remember seeing Larry Scott guest pose at one of the Michigan contests I used to attend. Can’t remember the year or contest, but Scott…what could be said? Larry Scott was well into his comeback to the posing dais.

“The man literally had the house in the palm of his hand. He was just a bit off his Mr. Olympia form…the arms were probably 18 – 19 inches, rather than twenty. However, no one seemed to notice…the over all form was there. The hair was there (albeit starting to thin,) the signature poses were done, the famous Scott smile was there. Michigan crowds are tough crowds. Don’t show up out of shape for your guest shot…they won’t stand for it. Don’t pose and run…they’re liable to tackle you in the parking lot. Don’t give glib answers to questions or they’ll shout you down.

“Larry showed up in shape…and the crowd loved it. I can only think of one other time when so many flashbulbs were going off…and that was for Viator. Scott was very articulate and answered all questions patiently. You could have heard a pin drop…and that was unusual. He appeared to be very humble and enjoyed the adulation of the audience, thanking them several times.

“I’ve seen Oliva, Zane, Mentzer, Draper, Ross, Platz and Viator…but none captured and held the crowd like Larry Scott.”

“Humility, not arrogance is the true mark of a champion.” Larry Scott

A Vince Gironda protégé, Larry as a child was small of stature and narrow shouldered. Under the guidance of Vince Gironda, Larry transformed his body into an all time classic physique. Larry followed a strict nutrition protocol which included the famous Rheo Blair protein drink. Although not the first bodybuilder to follow a strict nutrition regimen, when Larry preached the importance of nutrition and bodybuilding, people listened. The Preacher/Scott Bench, the down the rack protocol for deltoid development, the volatile yet close relationship with trainer Vince Gironda, Clint Eastwood, Rheo Blair and Larry’s training routines…it’s all here in Alan Palmieri’s article on Larry Scott, the first Mr. America, Mr. Universe, and two-time Mr. Olympia winner. This one from IronMan is a beefy one, too.

This is the IronMan Magazine tribute to Larry.

Ready to put the burn on those abs? Check out Larry’ Scott’s Ring of Fire instructions.

“Larry never missed a workout.” ~Vince Gironda

* Here is an excerpt from Larry’s book, Loaded Guns

* This is a sweet article on Larry Scott by David Gentile

* From Dave’s book Brother Iron Sister Steel, here’s Dave’s memory of Larry’s win at the 1965 Mr. Olympia contest.

* This is a brilliant collection of photos of Larry

* Here you’ll find a Larry Scott tribute page from bodybuilder Richard Baldwin, with Larry’s magazine covers

* This is Larry’s profile on Bodybuilding.com, with some great photos

* Read Steve Cotter’s informative interview of Larry paralleling martial arts and bodybuilding with the Ring of Fire and the mind-muscle connection.

* This is Larry Scott’s wikipedia page.

* Larry died in Utah — here’s The Salt Lake City Tribune obituary

* And if you’ve got some time, here’s Larry talking about his life in bodybuilding:

Zuverman lands in Pennsylvania!

He’s listed as an ‘odd attraction’ in Roadside America, but we just know him as Zuverman, Bob Zuver’s gigantic representation of the members of Zuver’s Hall of Fame Gym. After Zuver’s closed, Zuverman made the trek to Oregon.

Just last week he added a cross-country trip to his travels, where he landed in Pennsylvania for a long stay.







Here’s the news story, direct from CBS Pittsburgh.

A Tribute to Jean Zuver

 8/27/1929-7/1/2013, Age 83
by her loving son, Bob

This is my tribute to my mother, things I should have said when she was still with us.

She was the strongest lady I knew growing up, always there for my brother and me.

And she was always there for Dad through all the years of hard work building Dad’s Dream Gym, Zuver’s. She was a huge part of Zuver’s history.

Jean was the wife of Big Bob Zuver and the mother of three sons: Rick Zuver, Robert Zuver, and from a previous marriage, Dan Casher. She was the grandmother of three, Bob Jr, Amber, and Rick’s daughter Kayley Ann, and had one great granddaughter, Catie, with another great grandchild due sometime in November.

She spent her life loving her family, her God, and her work in the fitness world, and stayed in great shape her whole life. At age 83, although she insisted she was 39 and holding, she would walk a half-mile every day to the store to buy a paper and whatever else she might need.

She loved life, reading and going out to eat with her friends from her church. Her big thrill was for my wife Jan and me to bring her to our place to visit, and for me to take her to the local casinos to play the slots. Funny, she was the luckiest person I ever knew, winning most of the time. God always blessed her that way.

She loved it when her grand kids would call or visit. She always had a smile on her face and was loved by all who met her.  I’m honored to be her son.

Even though I’m grieving deeply, I’m also smiling knowing that she passed away peacefully in her sleep and now is together with my dad and brother, and so many other great friends from the muscle world.

She is smiling down on us from her new home in the kingdom of God, and thanking all of you for being her friend.

Jan and I love you and miss you. God bless you, Mom, rest in peace.

Bob Zuver

This is something she wrote to us all in her own handwriting

She had a smile that touched our hearts.

She stayed in great shape her entire life. She could eat anything and never gain an inch of fat. Don’t we all wish we could be like that?

Little brother Rick, my dad and mom, together again with The Lord

Mom not too long ago, winning as always

Mom’s book, Getting Your Shape in Shape

She loved the camera and was good at working with it

Zuverman: Portland to Pennsylvania

by Robert Zuver

On Saturday 4/6/2013 Zuverman was removed from Giants Gym and started on the journey to his new home in Pennsylvania. It was quite the job getting him out of the building. It seems Zuverman had done a lot of training and bulked up since moving to Portland over 20 years ago.


Lowering Zuverman.



Zuverman bulked up a bit to much and wouldn’t fit in the truck, so he had to have emergency surgery to fit.


Not to worry, though; there’s a crack team of specialists waiting in Pennsylvania to reattach his arm and make him bigger and stronger than before.


Now for the added news: Zuverman won’t make the trip alone. He’ll be joined by his little half-brother, the Golden Zuverman bust that sat on the Odd Lift Stage in the Original Costa Mesa Gym.


As he sat in Giants Gym in Portland.


The Golden Zuverman Bust stopped the first day for a visit at a Roadside Attraction for a few pictures at Stonehinge. It’s the first time two Roadside America Attractions have met for photos.





Lil Z made a stop at Quad’s Gym for a workout in Chicago along the way. All the patrons of Quad’s took pictures and enjoyed the stories. He just had too much fun on his trip home.





Zuverman and The Golden Bust will continue on the trip to their permanent home in Pennsylvania, where they will be reconditioned and once again become a Famed Roadside America Attraction.

Update: May 1, 2013: Zuverman in Pennsylvania via Roadside America.

RIP, Joe Weider, March 23, 2013

Seen around the web

Joe Weider, Dave Draper
Joe Weider, Dave Draper

In the main:

Behind the Smile

by Dave Draper

Muscle and Fitness, a colorful and energetic riot of musclemen and musclebuilding information, isn’t a recent publication that gained popularity overnight. It has gone by a variety of names over half a century and was reared by a guy named Joe Weider. Joe, dubbed the Trainer of Champions, dragged it from the ink-smeared pages of a manual printing press in his grandma’s Montreal apartment and gave it dramatic life based upon his vision of muscle and might.

I was one of the characters who played a role in his elaborate vision, a Mr. America and Mr. Universe in the dream he presented to the world. Appearing on the scene in the early ’60s, I filled the pages of his magazines, adorned their covers and, through inspiring pictures on California beaches, conveyed stories of delight, promise and hope to the young and young at heart.

I smiled broadly, flexed my muscles and frolicked with beach bunnies on lazy, crazy sunny afternoons. The blue Pacific rolled in mightily, billowy clouds with silver linings caressed the horizons and dogs playfully chased seagulls along endless sandy shores. Hop in. The water’s fine. Life is grand.

Hold it there. Back up twenty feet and take another look. I see a distressed cameraman and his elaborate gear in a heap of cases, containers and bags; I see a guy — that must be Joe — in half a suit with his sleeves and trouser legs rolled up; off to the side a group of sticky, uninterested bystanders mope about, kick sand and suck on water bottles. These must be the delighted characters in the delightful pictures awaiting a moment of delight.

The sun pours down, hot and relentless, and more baby oil is applied to the muscular bodies. A pump is sought to give vibrancy to fatigued and dehydrated muscles; instead itchy sand is distributed generously to far reaches of the body — ears, eyes, nose and every known crack and crevice. Are we having fun yet?

Now the sun is going down and neither the cameraman nor the subjects can delay the untimely process. Joe is flailing his arms, while Artie Zeller or Russ Warner or Jimmy Caruso — bless their hearts — tries hopelessly to interpret his wild gesticulations. Reflectors are brought in, the location is moved, the ocean grows calm and the dramatic lighting is lost to soft shadows suitable for capturing romance, a bottle of wine and thou. Not good.

But wait! The sun’s lowering rays join their own reflection off the ocean’s surface and the bodies amid the stunning light are spectacular. Everyone is by some freak of nature in the right spot at the right time and in the right mood. Joe screams at Artie, whose nose is deep in his film bag, to take the picture now, now, now.

Art Zeller was a master photographer and physiques were his specialty. He knows what to do, when and how. The digital camera is not even a dream of the future and, alas, our patient and sensible lensman fusses with his ole’ reliable Roloflex. Joe is now tearing at his shirt and performing what appears to be an Indian rain dance and whooping, “Artie, Artie! Shoot the picture! Shoot the picture!” Without hesitation Artie shouts, “Joe, the camera is out of film.” Joe, with a child’s authority and desperation shrieks, “Shoot it anyway!”

Artie did. Joe was pleased. Another day at the beach.

The pretty models went their way — they could care less for muscleheads in the 1960s — and the muscleheads went theirs. The first thing on their minds was protein and then a workout missed due to the fun and frolic at the beach. But it was worth it, wasn’t it? Maybe your mug will be in the mag and you’ll be famous. In those days fame and glory in a muscle magazine and ten cents got you a cup of coffee.

Hey, buddy, can ya spare a dime?

Undeniably, the most inspiring and pleasant photographic sessions were experienced during the winter. Not! Though snow does not fall, nor the temperatures drop below 50 in southern California, winter is winter is winter. Tis the season for hibernation, losing the tan and gaining weight to accommodate heavy off-season training. Repair and grow, relax and attend life beyond cuts and striations is the bodybuilder’s theme. Let’s go to the mountains, the deserts or visit the folks back east. Throw in a few year-end holidays and you’ve got bulky, round and white all over.

“What’s that you say? Pictures on the beach this Saturday? What beach? I thought the beach dried up in the winter, was evacuated, dismantled or closed for repairs.”

“An up-coming summer promotion needs to be shot now, Bomber, or I’m out millions of bucks.”

Oh! In that case, don’t want to lose my eighty-five-dollar-a-week shipping clerk’s salary. Sure, JW, see ya there… bright and early… I’ll bring coffee. The grazing white rhinoceros in Dave Draper’s trunks will be me.

I’m training hard, strong as a hippo and about as shapely. Put me on a beach and big-game hunters from miles around will gather to claim me as a trophy. You can’t do this, Joe. I’m too young to die. Not the beach. Flash! Cover boy is as white as a blank billboard and twice as big. The only definition I have goes something like this: bulky, rounded, colorless, foolish, unwilling, miserable, pouty.

Breaking News: Unidentified Blimp Hovers Aimlessly Over Southern California Beaches. No Details at This Time.

Smiles form with difficulty on frigid lips. The air is cold and nippy breezes supply shivers in spasms. The unlikely crew of plump and pasty bodies huddles under beach towels to stay warm and protect themselves from blasts of sandy wind. The ocean is ominous, the beach is desolate and surviving seagulls are inland hiding under bushes. Dogs and their owners are home where it’s safe and cozy. February is no time for these shenanigans. Neither is July for that matter.

Joe is quite a character and has more color than a rainbow and twice the gold found at the end. He loves the bodybuilding scene, gave it a stage upon which to play and did more to present it to the world than anyone.

Anyone, that is, except the players themselves. Praise be to musclemen who, driven by passion and desire, did what they did because they had to do it.

The smiles on the beaches were hard-earned and their payment was gained in the dark confines of gyms filled with heavy iron. Weights — barbells and dumbbells — were the source of resistance that built the muscles that built the men that built the magazine. I, and the guys before me, lifted the cold and noisy metal not for a moment on a page of paper, but for reasons — wonderful reasons — too numerous to count.

Oh, heck! Let me give it a try. I’ll be brief.

There’s health, muscle and might for starters. Not bad. There’s the fun of lifting weights and the exciting challenge it presents, the physical pushing and pulling and stretching, the intelligent formation of exercises, movements and routines, and the tantalizing pumping, burning and striving. Weight training is a dynamic diversion providing strong camaraderie, identification and hope. Be sure of this: Few pastimes provide more benefits, rewards and fulfillment.

Training builds discipline, perseverance and patience. Mountains are climbed with these superior characteristics, lives are saved and nations are shaped. Tough exercise puts order and rhythm in our lives, diminishing confusion and reducing stress, and that’s worth more than a few trips to the psychiatrist’s couch. As quality is added to life, so is it extended with enduring, useful and enjoyable years. When once we said, “I can’t,” after gaining fitness and well-being through dedicated exercise, we say, “Don’t just sit there, let’s get moving.”

A strong back and strong heart match one’s courage and confidence, four natural byproducts of working out and regular lifting. And, though personally pleased, true ironheads don’t brag about their accomplishments — one more modest attribute gained from solid cast-iron training.
I said I was gonna be brief.

Not all the fun was captured on the beaches of sunny California. There were the eight- and ten-story abandoned buildings in the old garment district of Manhattan. Somehow we gained admittance to these deteriorating fire hazards and were dragged by chattering and screeching cables of old industrial lifts to forsaken levels high above alleys and dumpsters below. After clearing a corner of over-turned benches, worktables and indeterminable debris, we settled in to serious photography. A white backdrop was hung in contrast to the dust and mold, and spider webs as thick as tapestries in a haunted house. The rats kept to themselves; I was more concerned with the warped floorboards that shook perceptibly as we traversed our surroundings, soldiers in a minefield.

The camera sat on its tripod, the lights and reflectors and umbrellas were in place and the champion stood on his mark, all objects precisely determined by strings with signifying knots in measured placements. The oil is smoothly applied after a hint of a pump is gained by flexing in place. Swell! Move from your mark, you get smudged and grimy, splintered and wounded, infected and quarantined. The trouble starts when a thirsty star asks for a slug of water. It’s hot and stuffy in New York City in August. No water. It worsens when he has to go to the men’s room. No plumbing.

No problem is too big or too small for a band of smiling bodybuilders.

“One, two, three and flex. Again, and this time, Dave, twist harder and don’t forget to flex your legs. Jimmy, is he standing in the right spot? One, two, three and flex. That was good, Bomber. Once more, this is for a cover. Twist and bring your arms higher; flex your legs. NO, no, no! Caruso, you tell him! Twist, flex, arms higher, higher; Smile.”

I’ll tell you this: No one got the poses and the photographs like Joe Weider.

Once I stood in the center of Century Plaza, on the granite edge of a stunning water fountain. The size of a tennis court, the fountain adorned the center-divide of Century Boulevard and was framed by towering thirty-story glass-fronted office buildings to the east and west. Water gushed brilliantly toward the sky, and I nonchalantly busied myself while glowing with oil in my teal posing trunks waiting for Russ Warner to prepare his camera, position himself and position me. It was high noon — lunchtime, in the bustling, sophisticated business district of Beverly Hills, home of world finance and filmmaking. Traffic was heavy and animated. No problem, I’m cool. I’ve been stared at before.

“Yeah, you too, wise guy!!”

Oh, look. Russ is talking to some policemen who are pointing at me. Old friends, no doubt, but I refrain from waving. Rather than pump up, I try to look very small as I stroll through the slightly slimy shallow pool to the other side. Chilly. Halfway there I hear the whoop-whoop sound emergency vehicles make when they approach an intersection and want it cleared immediately. I return to my original post — dripping wet — and, as if responding to their signal, hit an overhead, double-arm biceps shot, a side back shot and a kneeling side chest. I’m Mr. America, after all. I bow and wait for the traffic to subside before I jaywalk and join them at their bleeping patrol car.

“Hi, guys. My name is Dave Draper.”

I forget how it went after that. The human being has a weird way of going numb and blocking things out — playing dead — when under siege.

Crazy, man. Why did we do the stuff we did? Don Howorth, Larry Scott, Zane, Yorton, Labra, McArdle, Zabo, Eifferman, Sipes. The money?

No. Not the money. Sure, a few bucks would have paid some bills and broadened the smile, but no, not the dough.

The fame and glory? Such rewards circulated close to home and no one was profoundly impressed, least of all the champs. The brotherhood of recognition was quiet, almost silent. Fame and glory were as rewarding as the kiss of congratulations from the pretty girl in the miniskirt onstage. I’ll never forget the authentic thunder of applause and cheering in New York, but those fans in those days were there for the same reasons we were.

It was the doing it that was good. And it’s the doing it that continues to be good. None of us would change much if we were to do it all again. The smiles came when they weren’t expected and they’ve lasted a long, long time.

Lift weights for fame, glory and money and you miss the point entirely.

If you don’t understand what I’m saying, I can’t explain it. ~Dave Draper

Zuver’s, The Saga of Bodybuilding

Bob Zuver

The Saga of Bodybuilding was a giant painting depicting some of the best bodybuilders of their days. Bob Zuver had an equipment factory in Santa Ana, California, and at one point, he and Joe Weider were going to sell Zuver/Weider Gym franchises (click link for the fun of it).

Zuver's Franchise ad

The gigantic Zuver’s showroom needed something extra special — after setting it up, Bob decided it needed something remarkable to set it off. And so The Saga of Bodybuilding was born. Few people knew this existed.

The first picture is of the original sign that was over the great painting.

Zuver's Saga

The next photo is of the showroom before the great velvet painting. That’s Bob on the walkway. The year was 1978.


The next shot is the same showroom in 1981 after the painting was complete, which took several years to finish. It was an awesome thing to see at just under 60 feet long and a little over 7 feet tall. The 16 famous bodybuilders shown were close to life size.


The painting was done on a single sheet of black velvet, and was handpainted by master velvet painter Eric Askew. Eric also painted most of the signs in the Hall of Fame Gym as seen in most of the photos and articles in books and websites about Zuver’s, and helped design the 18-foot Zuverman statue. He also made the first clay model of the World Famous Zuver’s Muscle Plates. Eric is a close friend and very much contributed to the success of Zuver’s. The next photo is Eric in his younger days. He is now in his 90s and still goes surfing every day.


Here’s an image of the agreement between Eric and Dad for the painting.


As big as this painting is, there’s still only so much wall space, so only 16 of the all-time best bodybuilders could be depicted. From left to right, Zuver’s Saga of Bodybuilding proudly displayed:

Eugen Sandow, 1893

Lionel Stronfort 1900

Anton Matysek, 1917

Charles Atlas, 1921

Tony Sansone, 1932

Bert Goodrich, 1939

John Grimek, 1943

Clarence Ross, 1945

Steve Reeves, 1947

Bill Pearl, 1953

Reg Park, 1958

Larry Scott, 1965

Sergio Oliva, 1967

Lou Ferrigno, 1974

Arnold Schwarzenegger, 1976

Frank Zane, 1980

And to zoom in a little…





Someday you may get to see this great piece of art, as I still have it in storage along with two extra single paintings of the great Jack Lalanne and a Hollywood bodybuilder named Jack Thomas, all still in pristine condition.


Jack Lalanne and Jack Thomas

I’m looking for a proper place to display them, which is not at all easy due to their size.

Hope you enjoyed this bit of Zuver history.


Famous Zuver’s Hall of Fame Muscle Plates at the Arnold Classic

Head on over to the 2013 Arnold Classic in Columbus over the weekend of February 28th if you want what may be your only chance to get your mitts on one of the four remaining 200-lb Zuver’s plates. This is one of the feature attractions of the Arnold Mighty Mitts grip contest taking place on the Expo Stage, where you can also see Richard Sorin’s Blob, a Saxon Bar deadlift, a Jowett Anvil lift, an Inch Globe dumbbell, along with many of our favorite gripsters at work on a number of other grips and grins.

Zuver's Hall of Fame plates 200s

If I know these guys at all, I’ll guarantee they’ll retire to the hallway for more fun when they get shoved off the stage by ringmaster Bert Sorin. These guys are the friendliest — just follow them out the side door and you can get a grip lesson from the best in the world. I don’t know if they sell beer there; if they do, your lesson may cost you a draft.

Hey, speaking of grip stuff: Check out Randy Strossen’s new gripper, the Zenith. Slick!

zenith gripper

Can You Feel the Magic?

by Bob Zuver

As the sun came up on Christmas morning, slowly coming alive after a night of food and fun, the Zuver family got ready for the Christmas cheer. Out in my workshop lay my father’s great Historic Hall of Fame Muscle Weight Plates.


As the sun came through the window, the great works of art awakened and as if my father were standing there, started speaking, “LIFT ME,” they would say, “LIFT ME.”


My boys could hear them calling them. The boys didn’t tell me they were sneaking out to see for themselves the wonder of the magic plates. They walked through the shop door and heard it again, LIFT ME. They looked at each other, thinking, we have never done this before, should we, could we, it’s Christmas let’s do it, they must be magic!


It took both of them to get one of the Big Boy plates off the pallet and roll it to the middle of the floor, where they stood, wondering, “Can I lift this with one hand?”


Once again they heard it, “LIFT ME.”


Well, the pictures can tell the rest of the story.


As the boys found out, there is still MAGIC in Christmas for all of us if you believe. I know my father, Bob Zuver Sr., was standing there with a big smile on his face. See Santa does live on.

And dreams can come true.


Bob Zuver, Jr.

The First World’s Strongest Man Contest

Thanks to Robert Zuver for the remarkable photographs

World's Strongest Man 1977

The year was 1977, 35 years ago.

World's Strongest Man 1977

The place was Universal Studios, California

World's Strongest Man 1977

World's Strongest Man 1977

World's Strongest Man 1977

The first eight contestants were all superstars.

World's Strongest Man 1977

They were…

World's Strongest Man 1977

John Cole | Franco Columbo | Mike Dayton | Lou Ferrigno | George Frenn | Ken Patera | Bruce Wilhelm | Bob Young

World's Strongest Man 1977

World's Strongest Man 1977

Restoring Zuver’s Hall of Fame Plates

by Jake Le Master

What do you do when you finally get a famous Zuver’s Hall of Fame plate of your own? Do you take it as given – as a relic of the past? Or do you dare attempt to restore it to its former self, as it was when it was first stacked in Zuver’s Gym?

At first I shied away from latter. How could someone take such a rare, sought-after item, and strip away what has survived of it? Depending on the shape of the plate, a person may not even ever consider doing such a thing. Just look at Richard’s. But with the way mine looked, it was always something in the back of my mind. Every square inch was covered with decades of rust, not to mention some other grime I’m scared to know the origin of.


I finally decided one day that it was time to at least do something about the rust. I couldn’t stand to see such a potentially good-looking plate be so plagued by something like rust. So, having no experience in removing rust from any type of object, I opened my web browser and began researching.

I had recalled seeing individuals post on various bodybuilding forums in the past about how they used wire brushes and other materials to scrub away the rust, so that was what I first looked into. But I quickly learned how ineffective – and destructive — that could often be. I started looking into other options and it wasn’t long until I learned of a method called electrolysis. This method uses electricity and was touted as being cheap, very effective and, most importantly, non-destructive.


Washing soda

Battery charger

Piece of scrap iron to use as an anode

Cola (as it contains phosphoric acid)

Step 1: Washing soda solution

Washing soda contains sodium carbonate. This was needed for the process to be effective. The washing soda was not to be confused with baking soda, as baking soda contains sodium bicarbonate. Hot water was mixed with the washing soda in a plastic container. The rule is roughly one tablespoon per gallon of water.

Step 2: Attach the wires

A battery charger is recommended by most for this process. It can be switched to 12 volts and 2 amps, and lights on most chargers signal that everything is connected properly. However, I don’t own a battery charger. So, I had to dig through my electronics drawers for something that met the 12 volts/2 amps requirement. I ended up finding a power supply cord to one of my external hard drives which met them. In order to use it, I had to cut off the end, split the wires, and remove the casing. It was very important that the polarity was correct and the neutral wire was connected to the plate and the positive to the anode; for, if they were reversed, then the anode would have been de-rusted and the plate would have become even more rusted.

Step 3: Submerge

Now, both the plate and the anode needed to be placed into the washing soda solution, and the power to the wires needed to be switched on. The anode was to be long enough so that part of it was emerged from the water. Also, the plate and the anode absolutely could not touch.

(I mistakenly used a stainless steel object as an anode, which I learned later is a no-no. Stainless steel emits chromium which can be a health hazard.)

Since I’m no electrician and since I am unaware of how electricity acts in this sort of scenario, I avoided touching the objects and the solution as long as the power was on.

The process releases a hydrogen outgas, which is odorless and tasteless, and thus can’t be detected. But it is harmful, so this was done in a well-ventilated area.

After just one hour:

After fifteen hours:

Step 4: Black oxide removal

After allowing the plate to sit for around 48 hours, I unplugged the power cord and removed the plate. Pouring out the liquid and taking the plate and anode is an extremely messy process; I was sure to wear clothes that I didn’t mind if were gotten ruined.

An object under electrolysis turns black. This occurs because the rust is converted into black oxide. In order to remove the black oxide, it needs to be submerged in something that will remove it. I used some store-brand cola, as it contains phosphoric acid, which removes the black oxide. Other things work as well, such as naval jelly and lemon juice.

I allowed the plate to be submerged in the cola for over 24 hours. The final of the result looked like this:


While the result from electrolysis was a significant improvement over what I originally had and had brought back to life some of the original paint, it was still a far cry from what the plate once was. After discussing what I had done with the plate online and mentioning my desire to restore it even further, I was contacted by none other than Robert Zuver Jr., who, as we learned from Richard Sorin’s articles, painted all the plates to begin with. Robert was a joy to talk to and he generously took me through the entire process from start to finish that he himself went through when painting all the plates the first time.

Step 1: Strip off surviving paint

Just a few blocks away, I located a company who removed the existing paint via walnut blasting, which is a much less destructive method than sand blasting.

Step 2: Prime the plate

After the paint was stripped of all its original paint, the first step in repainting it was to coat each side with a grey primer. After allowing each side to sit for thirty minutes, I moved on to the next step.

Step 3: Paint the Zuver Man

The Zuver Man was coated with gold paint. First, an initial coat was sprayed. Twenty to thirty minutes later, it was sprayed well a second time. I was sure to coat the inside of the hole in the process.

Step 4: The Black Coat

After allowing the gold paint to set up for several hours, I taped off the Zuver Man with masking tape. Heeding Robert’s advice, I used non-blue tape, as the blue type doesn’t like to stick to this kind of paint. Following taping the Man off very well, I sprayed the front side with an initial coat of hammered black paint. 10-15 minutes later I gave it a good second coat. Letting that sit for a good 30 minutes, I removed the masking tape from the Man. As the rim and edges were also sprayed on this side, it needed to be allowed to cure for nearly 24 hours (for if the plate were to be flipped before then, the weight of the plate would have caused the paint on the rim to come off, due to the pressure). Once flipped, the back side was sprayed likewise and left to cure for at least that amount of time.

Step 5: Touch-ups

Once the black paint set up enough to allow the plate to be moved about, touching up in various spots was in order. This was especially necessary where the gold paint of the Man met the black. Touching up was done using a brush and spraying the appropriate color paints in their respective spray can caps.

Step 6: Whitening the letters

Using a small sponge brush, coloring the letters white was the final touch to the plate. This took a steady hand and was the most difficult part of the process to me.

Final Result

It’s a pleasure to have a plate that is now identical in appearance to the plates Robert Zuver originally painted, the plates that helped give Zuver’s Gym it’s defining look. Restoring this plate has felt like giving another beat to the gym that was the heart of the Iron Age.

Sergio Oliva & Arnold Schwarzenegger: The Great Olympia Posedown

RIP, Sergio Oliva, 11/12/2012

This is an excerpt from West Coast Bodybuilding Scene
written by Dick Tyler

“I am ready for Sergio,” yelled an excited Arnold Schwarzeneg­ger as he came offstage. He had just finished giving a posing ex­hibition at the Mr. Western America contest. The audience had gone wild and was screaming for more.

I laughed. “Better go out there again and give them what they want.”

Once again he strode onstage to the music of King of Kings and brought down the house.

Ever since Arnold came to this country, he worked to­ward one goal: meeting and beat­ing Sergio Oliva. Arnold’s life is almost consumed by the fire of bodybuilding. He trains like a madman and goes to every con­test he can find no matter how small. He reads all he can on bodybuilding and practices his posing every day. He is the con­summate bodybuilder, the dis­tilled essence of desire chan­neled into the heaving of weights.

It was now just one week away from the day Arnold aimed for all this time. He knew he must beat the top man in order to prove himself the best. Arnold thought he was the best there was. This was not conceit, but confidence and honesty—nothing is worse than the man who is forever digging his toe in the sand and saying “Shucks, I ain’t no good,” when he really thinks he’s Apollo.

The top body­builder is the man who holds the Mr. Olympia title and that man, of course, was Sergio Oliva, who many believe may be the greatest bodybuilder of all time. Arnold had done everything he could, and now, forged into steel by the sweat of his brow, he was girded for battle.

But what about Sergio all this time? What was he doing? Every­one knew he held a back-breaking job in a foundry. When did he find the time to train? How good could he look with such limited time to train? These questions could only be answered on the posing platform.

The following week, I was working at the check-in table at the stage door in New York when in strode the man himself. Ser­gio looked the picture of health and ready for the challenge Ar­nold was giving.

Having the NA­BBA Mr. Universe title, Arnold was eligible to enter the Mr. Olympia, but he wanted to compete for the IFBB Mr. Universe as well. This gave Sergio a great opportunity to size up his opponent at the Universe prejudging. As the tall class came out on the stage it was clear the winner would be Schwarzenegger. By the look on Sergio’s face, he knew he had a battle on his hands.

That evening I kept trying to get a glimpse of Sergio. No one had seen what he looked like. He was the great mystery man. Was he in shape, or just there for the visit? Arnold, in the meantime, was pumping like a fiend. When he wasn’t doing that, he was strid­ing back and forth like a caged animal. The tension was getting unbearable. The hours went by and at last Arnold was called to pose for the Universe title. He walked slowly to the platform and went through an ab­breviated routine. He wanted to save his greatest effort for the Mr. Olympia contest. The crowd loved it. They could see why he was one of the most publicized bodybuilders in the world.

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With the Mr. Universe complete, it was now time for the Mr. Olympia. The dressing rooms emptied and there were soon almost as many stuffed around the sides of the stage as there were sitting in the audience. No bodybuilder wanted to miss this one. I had the feel­ing this one moment might decide the greatest bodybuilder of all time.
Bud Parker stepped to the microphone and quieted the audience. It was time for the event people had come from all over the world to see.

“From Italy, the IFBB Mr. Eu­rope, Franco Colombu.”

Franco walked on the stage and gave his usual superlative rou­tine. Just standing without flex­ing he could win many a Most Muscular. Franco proved to be one of the favorites of the eve­ning.

I still hadn’t gotten a look at Sergio.

“And now from Austria, Arnold Schwarzenegger!”

Once again Arnold went slowly toward the plat­form. This was it. This was the exact moment he trained and lived for. He posed as he had never posed in his life, for this was its most important moment. His mass and definition were un­believable. The shadows from the posing light seemed to rip deep creases of black in his body while the massive mounds glistened with highlights. The crowd cheer­ed him from pose to pose.

“And now,” said Parker through all the noise, “Mr. Olympia, Ser­gio Oliva!”

But where was Sergio?

“Sergio, you’re on!” yelled the stage manager.

“Where’s Sergio?” we yelled.

With painful slowness, he walked toward the stage. He was still in his robe. Then he was lost behind a crowd of admirers. From where I was, I could only get a glimpse every so often between the others; I could barely see him remove his robe. Then I heard a gasp.

“Oh, my God!” exclaimed someone, and that just about summed it up.

On to the stage strode one of the most muscular human beings to ever walk the face of the earth. The audience let out a roar that almost peeled the paint off the walls. I cannot describe what I saw.

The words of an unknown body­builder said it all, “Oh, my God!”

After Sergio finished, the judges called the contestants back for another look together. Sergio wisely wanted Arnold to pose first, but Arnold would have none of that.

“Come,” he said, “we pose side by side at the same time.”

Sergio mounted the center platform and there began the greatest showdown in bodybuilding history. Two of the greatest bodybuilders of all time, matching each other pose for pose un­der the light. I will never again see anything like that.

Yet, still this was not enough for the judges, who by this time were even—­four to four. And they insisted Bud Parker call them back again to deter­mine the winner. The decision was a split one—a close, very close, deci­sion for Sergio.

Arnold looked stunned for a minute. Then he recovered his composure and showed the sportsmanship I knew he would. He threw his arms around Sergio in a warm congratulatory embrace. As a final gesture he raised Ser­gio’s arm in victory. The greatest body­building event in history had just concluded and its greatest champions side by side accepting the admiration of their fans. That moment can never be repeated.

After the contest Sergio told Joe Weider the miracle he had created in Arnold—in just nine months—proved within another year that Arnold would be out of this world.

“The greatest of all time!” Sergio said.

Coming from a true Caesar of bodybuilding, that’s praise indeed!

You’ll also enjoy this excerpt: Golden Impressions

Richard Sorin’s visit with the Zuvers

Bob Zuver

I want to share with your readers a recent visit I had from the great Grip Master, Richard Sorin. He is a man who loves iron history. He wanted to know more Zuver’s Hall of Fame History, so I invited him to come to the west coast to learn what he could from me. Richard was our guest for four days here at our home in California. He is a gentle man who impressed me many times in the past when talking on the phone. His passion for the historic iron is the highest I’ve seen in a long time, and his strength is amazing for a man in his 60s.

My wife and I wanted to show him what the Zuvers were all about. Richard expressed great pleasure in meeting my mother, Jean Zuver, at her home in Orange Country. We went to lunch and Richard got to know her a bit.

I’ve got to say the real joy for me was when I opened the door to my home workshop and for the first time in 20 years showed someone my stash of the famous Zuver’s Hall of Fame Gym Muscle Plates. The look in his eye was pure joy. I thought I could see a tear in the corner of his eye.

He stood there in the door entrance for what seemed like an hour. We spent many hours that first night, looking taking pictures and talking about those plates. He was in love.

The next day the temptation got to him — he had to play with them. Being the Grip Master, he just had to grab on and try to lift one of the 150-pounders with four fingers. Up it went with ease, not once but several times.

Richard was the first man to close the #3 Captains of Crush Gripper back in 1991. This is a real casting of Richard’s right hand and is on display in the museum at the Stark Center in Austin, Texas. After all, he is the Grip Master!

After that, I used a fork lift to pull out my pallet of the monster 200-pound plates. He took lots of photos, and then fondled those plates with joy. Finger-lifting a 200-pound plate was tough, even for Richard, but he did get that baby off the ground with a few more fingers. It’s something he will always remember, as will I.

His visit wasn’t all about Zuvers, either. We took him to the desert floor to see some giant metal art work.

On our last day together we had some fun with him. Could the Gripster lift a famous giant rock from the original Zuver’s Gym entrance? I’ve kept that rock all these years, and was eager to see if he could hoist it.

It took some doing, but the big guy did it. Maybe he will tell the story one day.

His visit was a pleasure for Jan and me, and my mother, Jean. And I hope you enjoy these pictures of my visit with the Gripster Richard Sorin.

He loved spending time enjoying the life I had to show him. We spent the evenings on my porch late into the night looking at pictures and talking, with our iPads clicking away.

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Bob Zuver

Zuver’s, That Powerlifter’s Paradise

Dick Tyler

Excerpted from
West Coast Bodybuilding Scene

“You wouldn’t believe it,” said one of them, “it’s the most incredible thing I ever saw.”

Hmm, that got my attention so I strained to hear more.

“The place has more weight than I’ve ever seen in my life,” he continued, “and the apparatus defies description.”

That did it.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Zuver’s gym.”

“What’s gym?”

“Zuver’s. It’s the most incredible gym I’ve ever seen.”

He proceeded to tell me things that didn’t seem real, so I dismissed the whole bit, thinking the guy was smoking something weird. I would have kept this line of reasoning if I hadn’t begun to later hear similar stories. Each tale seemed to get wilder than the one before.

Finally I heard tell of a wall that had been handbuilt by Bob Zuver from boulders averaging a ton apiece. It sounded like one boulder too many for me. The next thing I knew I was calling Zuver and arranging a story.

Try as I might I couldn’t convince Zeller the stories about Zuver’s Gym were for real.

“Look,” he said as we drove along the freeway to Costa Mesa where the gym was located. “I’ll take the shots for you, but a gym is a gym is a gym is a gym. The only thing that really makes one different from another are the guys who train there.”

I looked out the window at the passing palm trees that seemed to glory in the winter California sun.

“Guess we won’t know till we get there.”

Zuver’s Gym is located in the little southern California city of Costa Mesa, a few miles south of Long Beach. As we pulled up, I noticed a small sign shaped like a dumbbell. On it was printed the name of the gym. That was the last small thing either Art or I were to see while we were there. We got out of the car and walked a few paces until we reached the sign. Only then did we realize the gym was set back off the street. Leading from the street to the front was a long promenade. On either side were potted plants and between those plants were Zuver Olympic barbell plates.

What plates they were! Molded into the facing of each was a golden muscle man spread-eagled so it appeared as if he were holding the rims apart. As we got closer to the front door, the plates went from fifty pounds to 200 pounds apiece! That’s what I said–each plate weighed as much as 200 pounds.

There, finally, looming in front of us was the massive wall I had heard about. In front of that was a spectacular fountain. A draw-bridge crossed what seemed like a moat. All this was surrounded by a massive chain that entwined over an archway that was surmounted by a loaded Olympic set. We hadn’t even reached the door and I had enough for a story.

“Hi,” said a voice. I looked to see a good-looking man with a pleasant smile. “I’m Bob Zuver.” We shook hands.

“That wall!” I said shaking my head.

“That wall,” said Zuver, “weighs sixty-five tons. Each boulder you see weighs an average of 2,000 pounds.”

“That must have cost a fortune to build,” I said.

Zuver smiled. “Not so much when you build it yourself.”

“You really built that by yourself?” I asked in disbelief.

“That’s right, my sons and I took the truck and went as far as 120 miles into the mountains to get the boulders. It took a lot of time, but the boys in the gym helped and we all had fun building it.”

Now I was getting a little tense. Was this guy pulling my leg?

“Over here is the big doorbell,” said Zuver as he pointed to a huge bell. Then he walked over to an enormous key. “And this!”

“Don’t tell me,” I interrupted. “The big key.”

“Right. Which fits into the big keyhole.”

“Which opens the big door,” I said.

“Right again,” said Zuver. “I guess you’ve noticed how I refer to everything as ‘big’.”

“I’ve noticed.”

“That’s because I want everyone who trains here to think big and to act big. However, if he’s too big to be nice, he’s too big for the gym. Christ, and our faith in him, is big. Shouldn’t our lives try to match the bigness of that faith?”

I looked at him intently. His eyes were set. He believed what he was saying. It gave me a nice feeling.

Dick Tyler, Bob Zuver

“Now here we have the big door handle,” he continued, “which is a dumbbell that weighs 320 pounds. The big door alone weighs 4,000 pounds and took a year to build. It’s perfectly balanced and even a child can open it.”

With that he opened the big door. If the outside startled me, it was nothing compared to the explosion of sights that greeted Art and me as the huge door opened wide to reveal what must be the greatest layout of tonnage ever assembled for the training of the human being.

On racks angled against the wall were dumbbells that went in five-pound jumps from ten pounds to 300 pounds. I didn’t want to meet the one who used 300-pound dumbbells in his workout. In the center were racks that contained curling bars that went in five-pound jumps from forty to 300 pounds.

“Bob,” I asked, “who could ever curl a 300-pound bar?”

“Paul Anderson did it,” he said without hesitation. I decided not to ask anymore dumb questions.

As I looked around I saw the Big Rope, which is the world’s largest rope climb. I tried to figure out who would have hands big enough to hold on to it, much less climb it. Bob started showing us around.

“Now, here is the world’s largest dipping rack,” he said as we went over to a set of bars I was told measured twelve feet long.

“What are the wheels under the bars for?” asked Art.

“To hold the weights when you’re through,” said Bob. “Now here is the big hook we use to hold the weights around the lifter’s waist.” With that he showed us a hook attached to a belt. “The hook alone weighs seventy-five pounds.”

Next we came to the big lat machine; the cable had a five-ton test. After seeing what I had so far, I wondered if that was strong enough. The weight-holding apparatus alone was a 100-pound anchor. At the far end of the gym was one of the greatest assortments of odd lift weights I have ever seen.

A power rack nearby had lights that flashed red when you stepped under the bar to let people know a strongman was ready to lift. A row of benches made just for bench pressing was next. And on a platform was the heaviest bench in the world weighing 652 pounds. It was complete with a seat for the spotter.

Zeller then asked for a drink, and laughingly remarked, “At the big fountain.”

Zuver pointed toward the world’s biggest fountain. That’s right–it was a fire hose.

“That’s the big scale there,” said Bob, “and here we have the world’s largest squat rack.”

He led us to what looked like some medieval torture device. When you stand inside its confines, red lights blink.

“The bar alone weighs 200 pounds and the whole thing can be loaded to a ton.”

“Isn’t that pretty dangerous?” I asked. “I mean, who could spot you?”

Zuver didn’t answer. Instead he pressed a button and down came two hooks on some kind of hydraulic lift that grabbed the weight and lifted it clear of the man using it.

Bob could see the look on my face. “Look,” he said with a smile, “I know this is all a little kooky, but why should we take training so seriously. Let’s have fun while we work out.”

This was all we needed to relax. I found Bob Zuver was one of the finest and most sincere men I have ever met. He is an ordained evangelist minister who quite literally practices what he preaches. He feels Christ is the answer and goes out to the youth with the word of God for the soul and barbells for the body.

Looking around all these weights I had to ask, “Bob, who can lift all this iron?”

“You mean do we have men strong enough to lift big?”

I nodded.

“Well, a gym member by the name of Wayne Coleman loaded so much weight on the lat machine that he couldn’t lift it.”

“See!” I said.

“So,” continued Bob, “he just bent the bar around his neck.”

I cleared my throat. “Okay.”

Then I spotted a giant weight that was tagged The Blob. “What’s that for and who can lift it?”

“It’s for one-arm deadlifts, weighs over 500 pounds and I can lift it.” With that he took hold and proved he was as good as his word.

At that moment a group of men smartly dressed in Zuver lifting outfits entered the gym for a training session. We were introduced to the team captain, Bill Witting, who introduced us to the rest of the crew, Rudy Lozano, Jim Waters, Willie Kindred and Chester Horvath. Not present were such power stars as the 165-pound California champ, Leonard Ingro, and the 181-pound national squat record holder, Tom Overholtzer, who can pound out 575 pounds in that lift.

“That’s quite a team,” said Art.

Bob nodded. “I just hope one day very soon we’ll hold the national team championship.”

We walked outside again and I asked Bob about his future plans.

“The next thing we have planned is an outdoor training area under a cliff-like overhang called the Cave. Then there are the plateaus in which the men will be training on these cliffs and descend from them by fire poles.”

At one time, I would have thought he was kidding, but after seeing what I just had, I didn’t even blink.

We said goodbye and I was reluctant to leave. It had been a memorable experience. I had seen a gym that was unique in all the world, Zuver’s Hall of Fame Gym, but what was more important, I had been privileged to meet a fine man who was dedicating his life to the youth of his country.

Excerpted from

West Coast Bodybuilding Scene, by Dick Tyler

Read Dr. Ken Leistner’s Memories of Zuver’s Hall of Fame Gym

Visit the book excerpt page for more from West Coast Bodybuilding Scene

Bob Zuver and the Zuver’s Door

H. A. “Hal” Fischer

When my thoughts reflect on Zuver’s Gym, it conjures up much, much more than a place where we just lifted weights to try and improve our health and physical appearance. Zuver’s Gym was not just a roomful of weights to be grunted and groaned under to try and see if we could exceed our own lifting records; Zuver’s Gym was Big Bob, his wife Jean, a congenial and literally tireless beautiful lady, Bobby, son number one, and Ricky the Rino, son number two. As a family, they were a team, all working together to build one of the most unique gyms ever created or designed. Zuver’s Gym was unique because it provided a place where anyone could go to just have a cup of coffee and enjoy a good conversation or conversely unload on Big Bob all our troubles and worries, leaving feel refreshed and encouraged.

Bob was not just a weight trainer. Moreso, he was someone who was there for us, no matter what our problems, needs or seemingly earthshaking dilemma was. He was someone who literally would give you the shirt off his back, or his last dollar if needed; stay up with you all night just to be there for you, minister to you, pray for you, and convince you that nothing was impossible if you put your faith and trust in God.

Bob was someone who could do almost anything he set his mind to do. He not only designed, but he built from scratch almost all of the weightlifting equipment used in the gym. An example of his unique abilities was the entrance door he built for the gym. Constructed with a heavy steel frame that encased large decorative rocks and a door handle made out of a barbell with about 200 pounds of weights. The door was about 4 feet wide, 8 feet in height and approximately 18 inches thick. The estimated weight was about 1.5 tons. He was not a trained construction or design engineer, yet he developed the hinge to support all that weight with which you could open and close that huge door with your little finger.

I relate this story to you to just try and give you a minds picture of this man’s God given talents and ingenuity. This door epitomizes the uniqueness of Zuver’s Gym and Bob’s commitment to serving God with all of his heart and soul.

During the lifespan of Zuver’s Gym, many champion award-winning weightlifters were developed, competition weightlifting expos developed and broadcast by network television, and more importantly innumerable lives blessed and encouraged through this family ministry. This short expose is just a tiny overview about the life of Zuver’s Gym. It would require a book to reveal all the accomplishments of this family who dedicated their lives to serving God.

My life took me from a street cop, through the ranks to police chief for two different California police departments, retiring after 31 years of law enforcement. A great amount of the encouragement I needed to succeed I attribute to my friend “Big Bob” always being there for me through tough times as well as the good times of my life.

H. A. “Hal” Fischer
Chief of Police, Retired
Placentia Police Department

Zuver’s Hall of Fame Gym Big Barrel Lift

Dr. Ken Leistner

In this story about Zuver’s Hall of Fame Gym, Robert Zuver, Jr., wrote, “The more articles that get out there, the better chance the younger generation will learn about my dad’s gym and the iron history here on the west coast.”

Of late, the readers of Dave Draper’s website have been treated to a very special peek into the training world that was Zuver’s Hall Of Fame Gym. Accompanying the articles on the site have been a number of discussions on the forum about Zuver’s, the unique equipment and some of those who trained there.

In my opinion, the most interesting writing has come from those who actually trained at the gym. I don’t believe the forum members or casual followers of davedraper.com understand that they have been treated, and in many ways blessed, to have exposure to information and photographs about Zuver’s and Reverend Bob Zuver. I know my level of motivation was taken up a level when I first heard about the gym, later walked into the gym, and then found myself training there on a regular basis. With Richard Sorin’s recent and quite wonderful contributions about Zuver’s (part one, part two) and my own correspondence with both Jean and Bob Jr., it is almost as if I have been able to rekindle even more enthusiasm for training.

With 53 years of consistent training experience, I have found one truth that never changes: Many things can stimulate one’s desire and motivation to train, but little in the way of enhanced muscular size and strength is achieved without the consistent belief that one can make progress. “Going through the motions” of training will not cut it, will not bring consistent gains.

Yes, I have found that even in my mid-60, I can and do have very productive periods of training where a 230-pound stone can be lifted and placed for reps upon our elevated platform and it doesn’t feel like one of Hercules’ labors — when a projected 10 reps in the squat becomes 20, with the feeling that I’ve got two more; when rolling frying pans with one of my late-30-something-year old training partners seems like a fun and relatively easy way to top off forearm training rather than an arduous exercise.

These tangible bouts of positive feedback bring me back into the office or garage facility and remind me that I’m not like the other typical guys my age who just don’t get it. Weight training, powerlifting, strength training, and a quest for improved health, like Dave and so many others of my generation, always allowed me to separate myself from the pack, not in a boastful or haughty manner, but in a way that reinforced the virtues of discipline and hard work in a very productive manner. Zuver’s Gym was a large part of that.

Another truth I have found is that the equipment one trains with is secondary. One can make consistent progress and reach one’s physical potential with a barbell and squat rack. However, equipment, at least for most of us, is a continual source of inspiration and motivation, providing variety, challenge, and if I dare say it, fun to what to most observers is compulsive and what appears to be a repetitive and boring activity. We as dyed-in-the-wool enthusiasts understand that the obsessive nature of lifting weights is one of the attractions and again, having equipment that we know is safe, challenging and emotionally stimulating in turn stimulates our desire to change.

No gym ever provided the variety or uniqueness that Zuver’s did in terms of equipment, especially in an era when most gyms were little more than storefront holes in the wall with very basic benches, racks and few specialized pulleys. When 190-pound college running back teammate Larry Gordon, a former Teenage Mr. Ohio, left school for a semester to “see what California was all about” and came back at a ripped-to-the-bone and twice-the-size-and-strength 230 or so, his two-word explanation of his startling gains were simply, “Zuver’s Gym!” His description of the available equipment was almost hard to follow, and certainly impossible to fully grasp.

In conversation, well-known lifting coach, commentator, trainer and former competitive powerlifter Dan Martin described it well when he said, “To me, and I’m a hammerhead, Zuver’s was the ultimate homemade home gym,” and this was an extreme compliment and a statement I fully agreed with.

It was clear I would not “get it” until I actually arrived at the gym. In truth, when my training partner, Jack, and I made the 52-hour non-stop New York to Los Angeles drive in my cramped two-door Ford, and eventually wound our way down the coast to Costa Mesa, I’m not sure we “got it” that first evening at the gym.

I have previously written about my meeting with Reverend Bob, how enthusiastic he was, and the fantasyland of equipment we stumbled upon. Even today, the impact of that meeting, his words, and the initial sight of the gym is palpable. Prior to his passing, I received a phone call from Laree Draper, who explained, “Bob Zuver has been trying to reach you; he wants to talk with you.” I had not communicated with Bob or Jean in a very long time, but we spoke at length and then spoke at length a number of times. I felt extremely fortunate and in many ways honored that among others, I was still singled out by Bob as one he wished to converse with regularly in his last months.

Bob Zuver said a number of very poignant things to me, predicted success for me that I would never have predicted for myself, and from my immigrant home perspective, allowed me the continuous privilege of having open access to the family’s living area in order to sit and just talk with him and Jean. When Jean continued to communicate with me, sent previously unpublished photos of the gym, and just took the time to stay in touch, I found the same enthusiasm for training being stimulated as I had as a 20-year-old aspiring football player and powerlifter.

When Robert, Jr., and I also began to talk about the old days and the subject of equipment, a rather easy topic for the two of us with our welding and fabrication backgrounds, I saw this as an opportunity to augment Rich Sorin’s wonderful contributions. I recently wrote the following to Robert.

Robert, as expected, I enjoyed Richard Sorin’s last installment on the Draper site. Thanks for sharing so many wonderful memories. I have a question I was reminded of today, as one of our trainees asked, “How much did that barrel weigh?” He was, of course, referring to the photo shot in early July of 1968 of me completing the overhead press (jerk really) with the Big Water Barrel. That thing pre-dated all of the strongman contests by a decade or so, thus pat yourself on the back for what turned out to be another innovation and contribution to the iron game. That thing also almost killed me! I practiced after workouts, and sometimes before scheduled workouts, as well as on non-training days, until I was able to roll it up the front of my body, get it set, shove it overhead, and yell for my friend and training partner, Jack, to, “Take the picture!”

I believe your dad told me it weighed 200, 225 or 250 pounds, was 3/4-filled with water that shifted, thus making it more difficult than “straight weight,” and I was definitely the 12th man to successfully lift it with my friend, Pat Casey, being number 11. Do you recall the weight of that thing?

When I wrote, “That thing also almost killed me,” it was very much an understatement. The Big Barrel had a hold on me, the one piece other than the Big Blob that I saw and immediately said to myself, “I am going to lift this.”

My attitude and approach to the one-handed 500-pound Big Blob deadlift was very different relative to the Big Barrel. A few years into the future, while working in Florida for Nautilus Sports/Medical Industries and Arthur Jones, I learned about muscle measurements, lengths and the effect of various anthropomorphic parameters upon leverages and joint movement. Arthur also was quick to point out that, especially in my arms and forearms, I had exceptionally short muscle lengths and thus had a natural limitation to potential size in those specific muscle structures.

This certainly provided, at least in part, an explanation for my teammate’s and training partners’ constant bemusement at my lack of arm size relative to forearm size. Neither was going to challenge Sergio or Larry Scott, but everyone knew my forearms, while also not particularly large, were ropey looking and strong. I also had confidence in my grip and holding strength from years of assisting my father in his iron and welding shop and taking on a full day of man’s work on the weekends when it was not football season, starting at the age of 12.

Thus, fully dressed in street clothes one evening when Jack and a number of us were just sort of hanging out and not training, something Bob more or less encouraged as it kept us in a wholesome, positive atmosphere, I chalked up, walked over to the Big Blob, and lifted it.

Of course, this was Zuver’s Hall Of Fame Gym in Costa Mesa, California, so before I could even get an initial inner glow from what I thought was a fairly significant feat, Bob or one of the other powerlifting regulars off-handedly said, “That was nice, but you know that Jim Waters does that almost every week.”

Jim Waters was one of the Zuver’s Team lifters, tall and actually thin rather than lean, though the experienced eye could see the trained muscle on his frame. Jim was known for being the best in the gym on any of the one-handed lifts and on the extraordinarily painful one-finger lift, something I tried once and decided, “Once is enough!”

So… the Big Barrel became my nemesis. Being stronger would have helped, of course, but I had faulty technique, and, after what must have been three- or four-dozen failed attempts, creeping self-doubt. Despite Bob’s constant encouragement and my own almost dangerous level of willingness to sacrifice my body to overcome a challenge, this forerunner to today’s strongman contests had my number.

Robert, in response to my e mail above, stated,

Wow, Doc, it’s funny — I just got asked that same question yesterday by Richard (Sorin). At this time, I also can’t remember the weight of that barrel. I do remember you were #12 and Pat was # 11. Can’t recall who were the other 10 before him. If you, by any chance have that list, I would love it if you could send it to me. Also, do you remember signing the barrel? As I remember it, Pop use to have whoever completed the lift sign it. I’m sure you did. I’ve been looking through old photos I have here to try to answer that question, because dad liked showing what things weighed in the gym. When I find out for sure, you will be the first to know. I do know at The World’s Strongest Man Contest in 1977, we had 150lb, 200lb, 225lb and 250lb, barrels. It’s hell getting old and not remembering everything, but for me it’s kind of fun trying. I’ll let you know if I find out the answer.

Of course, lifting a barrel of even 250 pounds as I eventually did in the late morning of July 1, 1968, is no big deal to the behemoths who now populate the organized strongman competitions, but the shifting water in Zuver’s 250-pound Big Barrel was a tremendous challenge to me. Unlike today, when familiarity with the event due to exposure on television — and as part of the general assortment of strongman exercises at least allows one to develop the concept of lifting a barrel from the ground to overhead — the presentation of this monstrosity left me, and many others, perplexed.

Rolling the barrel up the front of one’s body and arching under it before trying to push-press it proved to be both dangerous and damaging to one’s chin, chest and spine. Robert, Jr., also noted the true difficulty in elevating the barrel to the shoulders as per the technique of the day, writing, “To me the weight of that barrel doesn’t matter. It was a feat of strength that I remember very few ever completed. Many men could press the weight once it was on their shoulders. But few could get it from the ground up to their shoulders with the water shifting. You may not think of yourself as one of the greats of that day, but to the Zuvers you will always be one of the best. You are a piece of Zuver’s history.”

After being asked about the photo showing me holding the barrel aloft, my usual response to the questions of “How difficult was it?” and “How could you do that?” is “Who knew? If I knew what it would do to me, I might not have done it!”

I was very fortunate to have the late and very great Pat Casey as a friend for more than 30 years and he was the 11th man to lift the Big Barrel at Zuver’s Gym. This certainly inspired me, especially since Paul Anderson, according to Bob, had also lifted it, and just about everything else in his gym.

Also, having the distinction and reputation in our neighborhood of being a “rockhead Polack” helped. As Jack said when we recently discussed the old days, “Zuver brings a smile to my face. I remember that big barrel. You were determined to do it and you did. Good times.”

Even with memories fading with age, I believe I signed the barrel because I felt I had earned the right to sign it considering how beat up I was as a result of my numerous attempts made over an approximate three-week period.

Remember though, long before the age of cameras in cell phones, video tape and social media where most people, it seems, document their breakfast in both prose and picture, Zuver’s was informal, and if someone made one of the challenging lifts, they would receive a handshake and a pat on the back, very much as if it was an expected occurrence.

Of course one would also walk away knowing they had done something unique. But even those of us fortunate enough to have been there and known Bob and the many wonderful lifters and characters who called Zuver’s Gym home, perhaps did not realize then just how unique the entire experience was.

Dr. Ken Leistner

Click here to enjoy another Zuver’s memory from Doc Ken.

Richard Sorin: Reflections of Zuver, Part 2

by Richard Sorin, Sorinex

This is Part 2. If you missed, Part 1, it’s here.

I had the thrill of another conversation with Robert Zuver upon returning from our participation in the National Strength and Conditioning Association Summer Convention. We find great satisfaction in sharing the newest possibilities in training with the coaches and trainers of the NSCA, which has a strong membership of 30,000. As I marched down the long hall to the exhibit area each morning, I took a bit of time to observe the display of “short list” of lifetime and yearly awards bestowed for excellence in the field of strength science. I saw one award reflecting the Best in Coaching of Strength Practitioning and Lifetime Award to what an individual has given to the world of strength. Immediately the name Zuver would creep into my mind, wondering how many of the greats in the hall were inspired by this man.

When we talked that day, I tried to jog Robert’s mind about recollections of his direct involvement with his father, his dreams, and how now, some 40 years later, he reflects back on his everyday young life.

One step leading to another, Bob Zuver started in the Navy stationed in Norfolk Navy Station as a UDT, a Underwater Demolition Team Member. As the never-ending desire to create and be active, Bob Zuver moved his family to California. The trips to Disneyland and the closeness of Muscle Beach, Westside Barbell, and the rough version of Zuvers Hall of Fame brought forth the Monsters, as Robert referred to them. The additions to the gym were daily, and in the early times, ultra-heavy black iron, hard usage barbell plates gave rise to wider and stronger weight racks and benches to support them. Robert was designated to do the welding on jobs like the 1,000-pound Blob and welding fabrication of items rescued from junk and ship yards that provided the start of many a grand project.

The distinctive barbell plates of the gym were first simply cast by the Bell Foundry in sizes 2.5 LBS through 45 LBS and resembled any barbell plate of the day. However, Robert told me the “meatheads” didn’t like adding 45s and they hated 35s on a 45 LB bar. The early non-distinctive plates were like those found at any gym, but the Zuver guys wanted things big and simple, so the second phase was started when an artist friend designed the Zuver Giant for all plates 50lbs and above, from a clay rendering into an aluminum master mold.

The weight amount, which was never really checked, was an approximate amount since the plates were never machine finished. The barbell plates ranged from 2.5, 5, 10, 25, 35, 45, 50, 100, 150, and 200 LBS, with the 35 LB and 45 LB being initially used and later dropped from the Zuver scene. In a few photos, the 35s and 45s are present, but as Robert said, Dad “hated” the 35 LB plates and mostly used them for decoration. Robert recalled drilling and screwing a number of them of the 35 LB plates to the walls as pure display.

The plates lower than 45 LBS were of a flat design much like a giant modern style 5 LB plate, and the 45s were culled out or borrowed by area gyms. Only one set of 45s were retained by Bob Zuver as shown in several pictures of the gym. Plates in smaller sizes were cast in two lots, the first lot being in un-numbered sizes 2.5, 5 and 10 LBS. Then, the numbered plates were made in larger amounts. Dumbbells up to 300 LBS were loaded and welded up. Cold rolled steel bars then peened over at the washer ends to tighten them up. The first barbell plates in 45 LBS were of a common deep dish design of the era and soon changed out to the Zuver Strongman Design. Less than 100 were made of the 50 LB size and two score of each of the “big boys” 100, 150, and 200 LBS were done.

I asked, “Who loaded a set of 200 LB plates on a bar?” Robert replied, “Well, not me.”

In most circumstances, big bar loads were done using four men, two men grasping each plate. The 200 LB plates were the largest, and by Robert’s recollection measured over four inches in thickness and of a deep dish design. The plates were never checked for accuracy. “If you were strong enough to lift them, you wouldn’t care,” quipped Robert.


Other items in the gym had a special flair and were chrome plated. Paramount Co Bars were replaced by Zuver Bars machined on large lathes and made of tough, bend-resistant chrome vanadium steel. Epochal equipment was built, like a train track power rack drilled on two-inch centers for its entire length. The racks were hand-drilled by Robert, Bob and the denizens of the gym pressed into work by The Boss. A half-inch drill was used to make each hole, taking hours to drill, and in days — perhaps weeks — formed each piece of equipment.

Pop, as Robert always called Bob, had ideas galore, and never rested until passing at a ripe old age of 80. It was mentioned that the excessive work, while heroic, just wore his beloved dad down over the years. Robert said the heydays of the Hall of Fame were during his mid-teen years, the mid-1960s. Lifting was hard but fun, and the camaraderie was high. Big Paul Anderson, Chuck Ahrens, Steve Marjanian, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbo, Billy “Superstar” Graham, Peanuts West, Bill Thurber and others all rallied their strength and troops through the place.

Many times Robert felt like a tour guide instead of being able to work or work out on his and his dad’s creations. When Pop finished his 500 LB blob, which looked like a half of a wrecking ball, it was joined quickly by half of a metal harbor buoy modified to weigh a neat half ton. No one lifted it, but it WAS there! There were endless tests of grip strength, where Bob had a real affinity by one-hand hauling the 500 LB blob up at will and conquering the visiting giants with an odd one finger ring lift. The steel ring was only large enough to allow one finger access and according to Robert, “hurt beyond belief” each time he tried it. Many a friendly bet was settled on this devilish device.

Frequent visits by Dr. Ken Leistner and Art Zeller continued through the final days of The Gym to record its history. The hard-earned skills of Robert served him well during his efforts at The Circle Gym Equipment Company, so named for the bending used in the framework, which was initially located on Superior Street in Costa Mesa, California. In the early part of 2000, the gym equipment market settled down and Robert, now steeped in the ways of steel, continued a successful fabrication business. Now at 60, he looks back, as I did on my early years, as being unwittingly immersed in the pure history of the iron game and never really knowing it. “It was just what we did every day,” said Robert.

I sometimes daydream and wonder, “If I was a young teen again and wandered into Bob’s gym, would I have ever left?”

To end this segment in a fitting manner, Mr. Robert Zuver has provided from his private collection the first photos of his unique aluminum master mold for the large Zuver Man Olympic Barbell Plates that have become the signature hallmark of the Zuver Hall of Fame. Also included are exclusive close-up pictures of the rare 150 LB and the one of a kind chromed early vintage generic Zuver Olympic 45 LB Plate as seen in photos above.

Richard Sorin, Sorinex

Click here for more Zuver’s stories, and here for our long forum conversation of photos and memories.

Giant Zuverman, and a Message from Bob Zuver’s Family

August 2012
from Robert Zuver

This letter is to thank all the people in the muscle world who have kept my father’s dream alive for all these years. Bob Zuver and his Dream of Zuver’s Hall of Fame Gym have been written about hundreds of times in newspapers, magazines and on so many websites over the years, and it continues on today thanks to all the people who love the iron game. My father never could have known how famous his dream would become. Pop thought of himself as the Walt Disney of the muscle world. Everything needed to be the biggest, the strongest the best he could build.

The Giant Zuverman was on ebay at auction earlier this month, but the bids didn’t meet the seller’s minimum. It’s still available for purchase to the right buyer, someone who knows the history and wants to display the Giant. If interested, contact George at Giants Gym, Portland Oregon.

Pop was blessed to have many of the worlds greatest weightlifters, powerlifters, bodybuilders and some of the worlds strongest men visit and train at his hand-built Hall of Fame Gym in Costa Mesa.

As a young boy I was there working beside him to make his dream come true. He worked us days, nights, weekends, even holidays—for when he had something on his mind to build, he wouldn’t stop till it was the way he wanted it. He wanted everything to be fun so all would enjoy working out and pumping the iron in his dream-world gym. Many visitors went on to become the superstar’s of today.

I would love to see all of the Greats who visited his gym send in their thoughts about my dad, Bob Zuver, and the stories they remember about the old gym back when they visited. My dad thought a lot of you  and the great things you have done for the iron world. Mom and I join him in that thought, as do so many others. It’s a shame so many of the great old gyms and great men are gone now. The only way the newer generations of the free weight world will know how it all got started is by us old-timers telling the story. Thanks to this thing they call the Internet, it’s easy for the young to hear about the history. But only if the good old boys tell their stories.

So this letter is to thank all of you who have already told your stories and to all who have written articles or will write them in the future. I know there are a lot more great stories to be told by the men and woman who came to visit my dad’s dream. I heard Dave Yarnell has a new book out about the old west coast gyms and guys who used them, Great Men, Great Gyms Of the Golden Age — can’t wait to read it.

And a special thanks from Bob Zuver’s wife Jean and eldest son Robert to
Laree and Dave Draper
Dick Tyler
Ken Leistner (Doc)
Artie Zeller
Richard Sorin
Jeff Preston
Dave Yarnell

And all the rest… too many names, not enough time

Thank you all,

Thanks to all from the Zuvers

We’ve gotten a thank you note from Jean and Bob’s son Robert, quoting:

August 2012

This letter is to thank all the people in the muscle world that have kept my father’s dream alive for all these years. Bob Zuver and his Dream of Zuver’s Hall of Fame Gym have been written about hundreds of times in news papers, magazines and so many websites over the years and it continues on today thanks to all the people who love the iron game. My father never could have known how famous his dream would become. Pop thought of himself as the Walt Disney of the muscle world. Everything needed to be the biggest, the strongest the best he could build.

He was blessed to have many of the worlds Greatest Weightlifters, Powerlifters, Bodybuilders and worlds strongest men visit and train at his hand built Hall of Fame Gym in Costa Mesa.

As a young boy I was there working beside him to make his dream come true. He worked us days, nights, weekends, even holidays, for when he had something on his mind to build he wouldn’t stop till it was the way he wanted it. He wanted everything to be fun so all would enjoy working out and pumping the iron in his dream world gym.  Many visitors went on to become the superstar’s of today.

I would love to see all of the Greats who visited his gym send in there thoughts about my dad, Bob Zuver and the stories they remember about the old gym back when they visited him.  My dad thought a lot of you guys and the great things you have done for the iron world. Mom and I join him in that thought, as do so many others. It’s a shame so many of the great old gyms and great men are gone now. The only way the newer generation’s of the free weight world will know of how it all got started is by us old timers telling the story. Thanks to this thing they call the Internet, it’s easy for the young to hear about the history. But only if the good old boys tell their stories.

So this letter is to thank all of you  that have already told your stories and to all who have written articles or will write them in the future.  I know there are a lot more great stories out there to be told by the men and woman who came to visit my dad’s dream. Come on guys, let’s hear them. I heard Dave Yarnell has a new book out about the old west coast gyms and guys who used them, “Great Men, Great Gyms Of the Golden Age” — Can’t wait to read it.

And a special thanks from Bob Zuver’s wife Jean and eldest son Robert to
Laree and Dave Draper
Dick Tyler
Ken Leistner (Doc)
Artie Zeller
Richard Sorin
Jeff Preston
Dave Yarnell
And all the rest… too many names, not enough time

Thank You All

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