upon a time
back to 1966 is no short journey and as I begin to write it seems
I may have lost the way. I know this giant kid from Denmark or some
far away place, who yearns for the good old days
as if they
existed. He calls upon me occasionally to summon up those years
in the mid-60s when muscle building was like a grand piano with
stout, carved wooden legs, ivory keys, gold inlay and rich, magical
tones -- no slick, assembly-line plastic cabinet with spun-chrome
dials, synthesizers and massive Dolby Sound System to project exaggerated
music. Henrik missed what he and a lot of folks refer to as "The
Golden Era of Bodybuilding."
make me thirsty," said one guy. Another, adding a touch of
the spirit, said, "They restoreth my soul." A popular
writer of the days gone by tells us the days were "real, undiluted
and raw; the un-torched first growth - pure." Put the filter
of time on a moment, a day or an era, add slow motion plus your
favorite sounds, apply shades of black and white with brilliant
color and it's all legendary, pulsing and dramatic. Nostalgia is
more precious than the present, more real, friendlier and informative.
Today will be more important tomorrow
know all about the 60s; I believe I was there. Henrik is a kid like
you and me, a kid at heart who wants to know what the lifting scene
was like back when I trained for the Mr. Universe Contest, 1966.
I should have taken notes; it was a very busy year.
year before I won Mr. America in the same venue, the Brooklyn Academy
of Music. As I recall I was a lot younger in '65 than I was in '66.
Living in California -- my third year since migrating from the east
coast -- accelerated my growth like a shot of hormones. My lifelong
friendship with the Muscle Beach peculios (nonconformists) deepened
and I became engaged in the casting and eventual filming of "Don't
Make Waves." Working in Hollywood with hollyweird people and
training in The Dungeon with a bunch of bulging guys smelling of
DMSO tilted and stretched my already contorted east coast persona.
my training didn't change form from the prior year and my nutritional
walk followed the same sound path. I had stumbled into what works
for me; I discovered a vein of gold and just kept digging. At twenty-three
I realized that working the basics hard and consistently was the
direct route to reaching my potential. Granting myself a quarter
for experimentation and variation and bulking up on high-protein,
low-sugar food for six months in the fall and winter provided the
stress-free anabolic environment we all need to grow: lots of first-class
muscle-building, power food with no dieting struggle, lots of hard
work with both feet on the ground rather than on a high-tension
tight rope, no close and worrisome critical analysis, room for mushrooming
buoyancy and faith.
grow I did, not like a weed but slowly and surely. What I say here
is important to the wandering muscle builder who is ever-seeking
the perfect and right routine. Settled on my training scheme, confident
and determined, I worked and worked without doubt and without vacillation.
I didn't harass or plague myself with growth-inhibiting and time-wasting
fear that I would not improve. The twenty-five percent training
margin reserved for adjustment and spontaneity allowed me to think
on my feet and maintain a sense of freedom in my labor of love.
The folly of questioning my system would not numb my spirit and
enthusiasm. I pressed on.
didn't question my system and thereby numb my spirit and enthusiasm.
the early spring of '66 a casting call echoed through the then-sparse
muscle-building communities of southern California and a small herd
of Popeyes and Tarzans made their way to the Hollywood studio. I
was eventually cast as Harry Collard in the film version of Muscle
Beach, "Don't Make Waves," and two weeks later I stood
on a hillside in Malibu Canyon weighing 245 pounds beside Tony Curtis
weighing much less. Filming had begun.
early scenes - May of '66 -- my cohorts, Reg Lewis and Chet Yorton,
and I trundled about on-camera in our off-season bulkiness. Filming
had me up at 5 AM for an early morning one-hour blast at the gym,
make-up by 6:30 and on the set in the MGM studio at seven or on
location in Malibu at eight. The days with the crew and actors around
the lights, camera and action were fascinating and privileged and
tantalizing; even the behind-the-scenes boredom was exciting, Hollywood
picture-making tedium. I basked. When the day ended, it was back
to the Dungeon for some serious lifting, which became more serious
as the filming ended and the Mr. Universe contest coincidentally
neared. Mid-September was the blur of events.
sun shined brightly through the summer and not every day was a workday
nor was any day tough; "sit, stand, speak and roll over
once again, people, and cut
that's a take." Contest training
didn't suffer and I ate mightily from my trusty Igloo. My commonness
clung to me like wet underwear. Where the elite actors ate with
aplomb from a daily-catered banquet, I joined the rascals I knew
from Muscle Beach who comprised the extras, rapscallions playing
poker with quarters in the shade.
didn't gamble; I didn't take chances. Sometimes we'd bench press
or do standing barbell curls with our backs against a pole for singles.
Lunching on iron and steel was a sure thing. Throughout the summer
and as the September date neared I slowly dropped my bodyweight
-- wild guess, a pound a week -- aiming for 230. The heavy bodyweight
gained in the winter gave me freedom and power to roam and kept
my mind off the corralled details: veins, shape, definition and
tone. Training and filming sufficiently distracted me, allowing
the contest less priority and, therefore, less opportunity to defeat
day I woke up and it was Thursday; the studio cleared my plans and
I was on my way to the airport. Saturday was the Miss Americana,
Mr. America, Mr. Universe and the second annual Mr. Olympia contests
in The Brooklyn Opera House. I'd been there before in a former life.
can't say my homework paid off. I did what I did the year before,
only a little better, with more finesse and less numbness. I trained,
ate, slept and worked and played. I wasn't sure I was going to win,
I wasn't sure I was going to lose -- I was sure I was going to show
up on time. The whole affair was less daunting than 1965, I held
my breath for shorter periods of time and the win was as grand though
I can't recall the details as I do with my first extraordinary experience.
audience was thicker than a jungle and, like a jungle heaved with
wildlife, screamed and leaped, squealed and snarled with ferocious
excitement. Larry Scott, thick and powerful as a Clydesdale, graciously
accepted (again) the Mr. Olympia crown and said goodbye to competition.
Don Howorth, with his shoulders knocking over stagehands and microphones
every time he turned left or right, won Mr. America. I remember
Miss Americana was
well, actually, I can't remember
her at all. I have no doubt she was a beauty but I must have been
backstage pumping up, carbing up, oiling up, hiding
Bodies are everywhere.
show ends in a triumphant blaze, emotions are emptied in a rush,
the Emcee, almost suddenly, bids "good night and farewell"
in an optimistic tone and it stops. The whole raucous, bountiful,
resplendent extravaganza is unplugged. The lights dim and the union
stagehands unceremoniously gather wires, platforms, props and background
curtains. The entrails of the wondrous event are exposed and discarded
before the whooping spectators as they retreat from a memory under
and wired fans uncoil, food places fill up and the commotion backstage
is subdued. The producers, judges and volunteers exchange stories
and phone numbers, make plans for a late dinner and next year. It's
1 AM. The competitors, the winners and losers, lick their wounds,
drink the last of their water and wipe off patches of oil. A rare,
in-shape group, which has expended all the energy of a small town,
tugs at its reserves to pull itself up and drag itself home. I'm
amidst the spent yet indefatigable group running on empty. We all
live somewhere far away. I have a flight back to L.A. in the morning.
Shooting resumes at MGM Studios on Monday at 10 AM.
Larry. Let's grab a cab."
ahdat's all, folks.
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