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Sacramento Invaded by Musclebound Ambassadors


Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Betty and Joe Weider, Sylvester Stallone
Photography by Robert Gardner

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How we got here is a long story, so please don’t ask.

We sat in the sweeping balcony of the Capitol Building’s ornate Senate Chamber, Frank and Christine Zane, Penny and Dick Tyler (West Coast Bodybuilding Scene), Ann and Peter McGough (Flex and Muscle & Fitness senior editor) and Laree and me, peering down upon California’s finest governmental figures at work, a hardhat area of another sort. It was shortly after noon and Joe Weider was being officially honored by Governor Schwarzenegger and the State of California: Today was July 9th, Joe Weider Day.

The family of Joe and Betty Weider was seated in various sections of the gallery, as were official friends of the Governor. Lunch was shortly after the ceremony in the conference room attached to the Governor’s office. Security guards, officials and assistants, like worker bees, buzzed everywhere. None of us in our little muscley group expressed disappointment we had not pursued public service or government as a career choice.

Even amid the innocuous procedure of awarding an elder citizen for his outstanding contribution to society, the heehaw of politics raised its ugly voice. The Senate Pro Tem introduced the Governor with less-than-amusing acrid remarks about his presence (Arnold’s) in the Chamber and the opportunity of meeting “the man responsible for bringing him (Arnold) to America.” Oh, boy!

We filed out and made our way to the luncheon, our appetites in our suit coat pockets. The fellow who led us and the fellow who trailed wore shoulder holsters and ear pieces and whispered incessantly to their lapels. We decided at the last moment to abort the attack, cancel the strike and abandon the take-over. Rats! There’d be another time.

The room was alive with people of all walks of life, and included cousins, champions, cops, robbers, and Sly Stallone, governmental spokespersons, journalists and cameramen. What a feast! Observation is my forte. I observe well. I’m a better observer than I am a participant. Or, to be candid, I stare dumbly rather than mingle and socialize enthusiastically. One syllable words tumble from my mouth like water from a slow-leaking faucet: hi, yup, er, ah, huh, wha, nope, yup, nope.

Glad-handing, casual introductions and dutiful sound bites filled the animated room for 30 minutes. My deep and influential conversation with Melissa Johnson, the sprightly Executive Director of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, was interrupted at one point and I was handed a mic and positioned swiftly before the roving video camera: “Say something to Joe Weider,” was the direction given.

Spontaneously, unhesitatingly, excitedly I drew upon my insight and powers of articulation. Huh, um, yup, as we all know, Mr. Weider, The Trainer of Champions, otherwise, Joe, far be it from me, er, furthermore. My lips sizzled with inspiration and authority and newly cast words never before spoken on the planet earth: reamazible, extramarketorial, supravisionish. I was impressive, indeed. My eyes darted about like a pair of guppies looking for a secret way out of the bowl.

Everyone settled down and assumed their seats after catching up and making new acquaintances. We ate a light lunch of tasty chicken salad as the round-table socializing continued. The Terminator, seated five feet to my right between Rocky and the Master Blaster, regularly received 4x6 cards informing him of news updates and the latest events in Chambers, which he discreetly scrutinized and calmly managed. I, the Bomber, was alert and ready for any advice or assistance he might need.

Arnold spoke, Franco spoke, Melissa spoke and Joe was honored. A short film was shown depicting Joe Weider’s remarkable rags-to-riches life -- borrowed-nickels to multi-billions, major development of bodybuilding and staggering influence on the health and fitness industry. We applauded sincerely. The guy built the ship, raised the sails, manned the helm and set the course. His hands alone. He managed the winds and rough seas, endured the still air and silent waters and negotiated rocky reefs and uncharted oceans. No one showed him the way.

The luncheon wound down in a timely fashion and the guests were offered a private tour of the Capitol Building. Laree and I opted to locate our nearby hotel, the Hyatt, and take advantage of some quiet time. The heat of Sacramento laid its heavy hand on our brow and the uncommon activities pulled at our ear, while the attire -- sport jacket for me and dress for Laree -- caused tugging, itching and hives. How does Arnie do it?

Did you know Governor Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria, chose the Hyatt penthouse as their residence during Arnold’s tenure? I’ll bet if Laree or I stuck our heads out our 10th floor hotel window far enough, we could see the corner of their 15th floor living room window and the verdant hedges trimming their sky-high patio. I’m just sayin’... maybe...

Evening came right on time and Team Draper made its way to Lucca, the favorite eating place of the local political emissaries. We walked the six blocks with Frank and Christine Zane, and Bill Chatfield, the energetic Director of the Selective Service System. After one block I began to fall behind, which is deadly to the ego of winged warriors. I managed each step carefully and seriously to accommodate my less-than-quick-and-sturdy, post-op gait.

Confessing my mortality and apologizing for my temporarily weakened state, the subject of heart surgery became the center of conversation for Bill and me. He was, it unfolds, the former spokesperson for a leading foundation for medical chelation therapy. Chelation is a bonding process in supplement manufacturing that engages nutrients in a super-efficient manner. The application of advanced treatments of EDTA chelation promises to promote health and healing to bodies stressed by today’s toxic absorption and overload.

Arterial health -- not my strongpoint -- is one of the troubled areas primarily improved by chelation therapy. I am bound and determined to research the subject further. Some doctors, it appears, disregard the treatment, bogus, they say. Many have joined in the advancement of chelation to relieve patients of horrible conditions or to prevent them from occurring.

Our very own Dick Tyler, a 30-year-veteran of chiropractic medicine and the renowned author of “West Coast Bodybuilding Scene” and “Alternative Chiropractic,” hooked up with Bill Chatfield at Lucca and entered a passionate hour-long conversation applauding the extraordinary merits of EDTA chelation and the sick body. More later, kids, on this probing subject.

The guests at Lucca, a new restaurant with lots of atmosphere and wood and open street-front windows, congregated in a private garden patio. Drinks were served and we proceeded to further our friendships -- the same faces minus the diplomatic types and fewer whispering men-in-black. Name cards placed judiciously on the single long table designated the seating arrangement.

The lights were dimmed as one by one people gave up intermingling and chose the cushioned seats bearing their names. Ah, to sit: Joe Weider at the center of the table with Arnold and Betty to his left (much to everyone’s disappointment, Maria was in Washington, DC); Laree and I sat to Joe’s right, and the Zanes and Tylers across from the man of the day. What a crew.

Joe’s 87 and as in love with bodybuilding as he was 70 years ago when he cranked out his very first muscle publication in his family’s front room in Montreal.

Today and tomorrow, the weather and taxes, were discussed, evaluated and argued among the Golden Age contemporaries. Mostly the memories were deep and wide and stirring. We were nice folks, good, grateful and kind. The food was exceptional, a menu offering variety and the best money could buy. Thanks, Joe. Thanks, Arnold.

Intermittent silences indicated the company’s undivided attention to eating, savoring and appreciating. I had baked salmon; Laree had a steak fit for a queen. Time continued its march unencumbered and the early departures began.

“Thanks for everything, so good to meet you, you have my number, it was our pleasure, please call, see you again soon and bye-bye.”

Frank eased to the front of the table now scattered with half-full glasses of wine and iced tea; his signature harmonica-and-poetry tribute was about to unfold. All eyes and ears and rhythmically clapping hands were directed to Mr. Olympia as he celebrated “Weider, Our Leader” one more time. His rich, bluesy harmonica stole the show and his sing-song words, though not Robert Frostesque (nor meant to be), accented his love for Joe Weider. Faces beamed.


Joe and Betty Weider, Dave and Laree Draper, July 2007
Photography by Robert Gardner

Laughter and grins and draining upend glasses... Time to go, guys and girls and you muscle worshippers. The walk back to the hotel was hopeful, visions of soft mattresses and pillows and quietude drifting in our heads.

Home is anywhere you hang your wings.

Tomorrow promises clear skies and zero turbulence.

Go... God’s might... DD

Laree's report continues here

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