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Muscle Beach, Venice, California

Steel-Winged Warriors, Iron-Feathered Friends

Photo by Ian Sitren, Second Focus

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Laree 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.

The 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 'n’ steel.

I 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.

Oh, 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.

I 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, Joe.”

Heading 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.

On 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.

Which 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.


I’ve been training for months and...

~ I don’t 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

What? 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.


This 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.

Exercise 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.

Can 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 a Bomber.

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.


… and it's finitto.

I can hear the innocent bystanders saying, “You’re only lifting weights, what’s the big deal?”

They wouldn’t say to a relieved, ecstatic and gasping survivor of suffocation, “You’re only breathing air, what’s the big deal?”

Hello. I mean, we’re fighting for our lives here, Biff and Betty. Get a clue.

We’re strangers in a strange land, steel-winged warriors. Birds of an iron feather.

God’s speed... DD

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