Beach, Venice, California
Warriors, Iron-Feathered Friends
Photo by Ian Sitren, Second Focus
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and I zipped down the coast to Venice Beach for the 4th where
the zillionth annual Mr. and Miss Muscle Beach contest was held,
30 muscley bodies ages 17 to 71. We sat amid hundreds of enthusiastic
beach, body and sun worshippers cheering this year’s
crop of natural musclebuilders from the Venice Muscle Beach Gym
and other close-by facilities. The day was perfect Southern California;
Venice was hopping the way only Venice can hop -- up, down and
sideways, in circles and loops of various descriptions, suddenly
and at once -- and the tan and gleaming competitors were smiling
broadly. The contest was held on the beach, of course, at the beautifully
upgraded lifting platform and staging area.
judges sweated and worked hard; the spectators encouraged every
colorful moment; the muscular guest posers stunned onlookers
and the show was pitched with spirited intensity by a popular
Mr. America from the good old days, Bill Grant, the Master of
Ceremonies. Bill and I trained side by side at Joe Gold’s gym, the original,
real-deal Gold’s Gym on Pacific Avenue (circa ’63-’73),
home of the champions before the microwave and cell phone, and
today share the secrets of getting huge and ripped with anyone
who’ll listen. Few people love and understand the sport of
muscle-building as much as Bill Grant, and his integrity is evident
in his specially formulated Creatine Cocktail available in gyms
and health food stores from Bill Grant’s Nutrition. Try his
smooth creatine and protein blend, why dontcha? The man is ripped,
fun and funny and I don’t hate him even a little because
of it. He’s also about five years younger than me and has
all his hair, and it is here where I draw a line in the sand.
Awesome fitness entrepreneur, Joe Wheatley, promoted the show
in conjunction with the Venice Parks and Rec. The whole affair
was a promising reflection of one American community getting
behind physical culture, a healthy and grateful page from the
past pasted in today’s rather sparse fitness scrapbook.
Let’s see more readiness and less laziness, more muscle
and less fat, more strength and less weakness, more courage and
less fear, more discipline and less disorder and more spirit
and less languor. Let’s rock 'n’ roll with the iron
was presented the Muscle Beach Hall of Fame award for July 4th,
2004, and of course I am not the slightest bit proud, humility
along with charm and bounteousness being among my finer features.
Got the Spirit of Muscle Beach award in July of ’99 from
Bill Howard, grand-master muscleman and forefather of Muscle Beach,
Venice, and presenter of the famous contest for the past 37 years.
You can shake my hand now or at the end of the newsletter. I mean,
Muscle Beach is where it is at, young grasshoppers.
After the event and toward the evening, Laree and I walked with
what seemed like the rest of LA to the boat-filled channel of nearby
Marina del Rey. Did I say nearby? We walked till our legs fell
off, one by one. There was a fireworks display and the spirit of
freedom surrounded us. Kaboom, spray, sparkle, glitter, kaboom,
boom, red, green and blue flashes, crack, crack, hiss, bang and
pop. Walking back was a fierce challenge as the calves and upper
quads begged for mercy. Speaking of quads, the police were in four-packs
on foot, on bikes and in cruisers. No dope, no booze, no jerks,
no problem. Everyone was up, nobody went down. Very cool.
my glutes, we moaned in unison, it’s those squats!
There’s more and I’ll be brief. On Monday, the following
morning, we visited the World Gym headquarters in MDR and hung
with Eddie Giuliani and Zabo and, to my surprise, Dick Dubois, ‘50s
Mr. America star. I haven’t seen Dick since my arrival in
California over 40 years ago and he’s looking as vigorous,
strong and rugged as ever. He’s a good man who preaches the
Good Word in a small bible-teaching church in Santa Monica and
lifts weights religiously. Long haul from his Mae West days in
Las Vegas with Zabo and Joe Gold. Good to talk with the boys and
soak up the latest noise.
gabbed with Joe Gold for an hour about this and that and we wondered
how much weight we’d lifted in our lifetimes. “Make’s
me weary thinking about it, Drapes,” he said, as I said, “Goodbye,
out of town we took a short impromptu detour as we passed through
the San Fernando Valley. On the corner of any street and 13601
Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks is Leroy Colbert’s Total
Nutrition Center. Saying hello to Leroy is always an inspiring
and glad time and as we pulled into the parking lot, lo and behold,
it’s Bill Grant and his fiancée, Eva, wedging their
car next to ours. Coincidences always make me wonder. The four
of us were sharing our disbelief walking to the store’s entrance
when who’s that trotting down Ventura but IronAge’s
Shawn Perine. Just yesterday we all sat together on the hot sand,
rapping, discovering, planning, rooting, applauding and eventually
bidding farewell. It’s getting stranger by the minute...
restless clouds are bristling overhead and we await the thunder
from on high. Bubbling through the door at once we five large kids
find Big Leroy beaming with open arms, like he knew we were coming.
It’s time for hugs, handshakes, slaps on backs and three
hours of conversation about the sameness and difference of things,
what’s come, gone and about to be, and how time flies and
how lucky we are.
the road again and reaching for the sunset. At this rate we’ll
greet Mugsy at our front door around 3 AM, at which time he will
be very grouchy. We grab a motel and a pair of breadless In 'n’ Out
burgers instead. Tomorrow's another day.
brings me to today, as a matter of fact, and the fact I have
no newsletter for my bombing bombers. Being a quick-thinking
fellow, otherwise known as sneaky and crafty, I will fill the
remainder of my already too-long weekly noiseletter with Bomber
Blasts. Bomber Blasts (BB) are short bits of nonsense I toss
on the discussion board each day for the fun of it, my contribution
to the popular and effective forum of intelligent exchange and
encouragement. Some of you are hip and some of you ain’t.
Grin and bear it, stealthy fliers. Buckle up.
been training for months and...
yet have a muscular six-pack, I still have a vat of fat
~ I haven’t lost that unbearable 20 to 50 ugly pounds
~ I don’t have cannonballs for deltoids
~ I’m not ripped, slashed or otherwise shredded
~ I can’t bench double my bodyweight or half my bodyweight
or the bar
Do you think nothing is happening cuz you don’t see
your hopes -- your fantasies -- come true on time? How about the
vastly improved health of your heart and lungs, the balance corrections
in your hormonal system, the continued development of your neurological
network, the ongoing detoxifying of your body, the enhanced fat
mobilizing and improved metabolizing processes? You overlooked
the steady increase in overall strength, energy and well-being,
the increased bone density, the consistent anabolic environment
working ceaselessly to repair and build muscle tissue and resist
disease and the glorious feeling when another fantastic workout
is done. You do remember these things, don’t you?
Vanity doth hide beneath the thinnest of epidermal coverings.
Oh, that I might one day be free of its callous, groping hand.
If during your workouts you find yourself daydreaming regularly,
you might want to review your training commitment. The imagination
is a wonderful thing; enjoy it and may it serve you well. But don't
allow the creative wandering to replace focus where focus is essential.
A workout without focus is half a workout, and the least effective
half at that. A workout interspersed with daydreaming is akin to
playing. One is going through the motions when one is exercising
and thinking of something other than the exercising. There are
few things more liberating and profound and exhilarating and constructive
and fascinating than total concentration. The only way to grow
strong, muscular and healthy is through focused and wise training
and eating. Daydream on that awhile... after your workout.
is not a startling revelation to you and to me, but it’s
worth repeating to our neighbor (I’ll use the first person
to soften the blow): The best thing we can do in a continuing effort
to enhance our apparently declining world is take control of our
own lives, individually. Put aside for a minute the extremes of
war, crime and immorality; we are surrounded by the masses just
poking along like life was a chore, the late shift, a bad habit
or a dull pain, and not a fragrant gift. Wake up, friends, smell
the coffee. We’re broken, we need fixing and it’s in
our control. It’s simple, yet it takes courage and work.
and eat right and be aware. Work out, eat right and be strong.
Train hard, eat right and be happy. I have a cliché for
all occasions. Lift weights, eat protein and live life for good.
Push the iron, stop eating the junk and be responsible and healthy.
you hear me? It takes personal courage and it takes hard work.
I’m losing most of the population, I can tell. “Courage
and hard work” do not ring a bell in the tower; they don’t
register on the scale of Popular Daily Behavior and I do not see
them on today’s list of Currently Applied Qualities. Seven
out of ten men and women are fat (sorry, I’m just a repeating
the statistics), and two of the remaining three out of ten are
under-muscled (personal observation). Now there’s something
to be proud of, neighbors. Nine out of ten of us are fat and under-muscled.
Bravo! Where are you on the charts?
I can get downright mean when trying to rebuild society.
Not every workout has to be a killer workout. Six out of ten is
sufficient, providing two of the remaining four are terrific and
the other two are swell. It's appropriate to seek killer workouts
every time out, but pulling perfect 10s is pushing it, even for
How do you judge or critique your training sessions? Do you base
it on sets and reps accomplished, maximum weight lifted, manifest
pump achieved, or its mere completion without collapsing from fatigue,
pain or boredom? For some folks success depends on with whom they
walk out door or how many laughs they have, considering they don't
drop any weights on their foot.
Sometimes a good laugh fits right in, I try to keep the equipment
off my feet and walking out the door the same way I came in --
alone and free -- is most agreeable. Sets and reps are recorded
in the rhythmic section of my brain and that one-rep max is always
a boost for the body and soul. I save those rascals for days
when I feel invincible and failure is not a one-rep possibility.
What really does it for me, bombers, is focus from to beginning
to end, starting block to finish line: total concentration on each
set, every rep, every deliberate pause. Between sets I recover
intentionally, carefully assess the work just completed and prepare
myself meticulously for the work to come -- a world of involvement.
I question: what hurts, where's the burn and how's the pump? I
note the groove, the contraction and extension, and smartly direct
the resistance to the preferred or needy muscle region. Got it!
Pace is important, intensity within the straining fibers, licking
the wounds as you go to assure flow and mitigate injury, and never
taking your eyes off the premise -- building further the muscle
and might and discipline of lifting.
Exhilarating. Rewarding. Absolute.
can hear the innocent bystanders saying, “You’re
only lifting weights, what’s the big deal?”
wouldn’t say to a relieved, ecstatic and gasping survivor
of suffocation, “You’re only breathing air, what’s
the big deal?”
I mean, we’re fighting for our lives here, Biff and
Betty. Get a clue.
strangers in a strange land, steel-winged warriors. Birds of
an iron feather.
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