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Should you ask, my inspirations were the real guys in my Jersey neighborhood who walked on their hands in t-shirts or hammered and nailed and dug ditches at construction sites. I was not a magazine consumer, nor was I entertained by the glossy contemporaries. I recall Leroy Colbert, Reg Park and Steve Reeves the decade before me. Larry Scott and Don Howorth were by my side as the years plowed on.

Somewhere along the way it became crowded and noisy.

The evolution of bodybuilding began its acceleration in the early days of the 1960s. Joe Weider (Muscle and Fitness) and Bob Hoffman (Strength and Health) and Perry and Mabel Rader (Ironman), with their passions and commercial insights and hard work, afforded platforms for the iron men and women and their enthusiasts to show their stuff. Though precious, their stuff wasn't worth anything outside a narrow viewing audience with just enough change to buy the magazine. Interest was local and amateur. Most were pleased to get a photo in the mags, a signature of accomplishment.

The reward was in the lifting, the feel, the strength, the hardiness, the camaraderie and bold appearance. These were lone, honorable and worthy achievements to be enjoyed and appreciated and stored away for safe keeping and future reference.

As the decade progressed, bodybuilding progressed, not unlike a storm off the coast of cuba. Pleasant breezes became big winds and the oceans began to rumble and rise. What was a tough and hardy sport for the determined and gutsy was tweaked, glamorized and offered as a cutesy dash along the beachfront with a babe in one hand and a protein drink in the other, and a barbell trailing behind… all yours in two weeks for $14.95.

Take the chrome and cushioned Vic Tanny's gym chain, add the colorful muscle journals, throw in Steve Reeves’ Hercules Unchained reruns and you had bodybuilders coming out of the thickets and from across the ponds.

Civil folks wondered why, what’s the point? There were the obvious notions of the overbearing, look-at-me ego motivation, or the gay and dandy theme or the all-muscle, no-brain image. Over-compensation for deep weaknesses and multiple shortcomings fit well among the assessments. More than a few envied the strength and look of strength, their jealousy finding a place to ridicule and lament. There they were, as they are today, prejudice and misunderstanding, but soon enough the bitterness diluted to a mild tang, sour became sweet and then dissolved as sugar in clear water.

It's expensive to lift weights, train hard, eat smart and live right. Besides, training to compete year after year, to win or to lose, everything or nothing, quickly became rancorous, greedy, ugly and impure. Part coward, I chose to lift weights and make muscles for the painful joy and severe comfort, and the enabling strength and vast usefulness in an impolite world. There's the seductive feel and the gratifying look and the wink of identity and whisper of individuality. I was a self-taught bum with growing diligence, fortitude, determination, perseverance, patience and, oops, empty pockets.
Just the other day someone asked, “If you could do it all over again, would you become a bodybuilder?” Before he could finish his thought, my immediate response, more like a sudden reaction to being bitten by a snake, was, “You don’t want to go there, buddy!” I threw “buddy” in there at the end just to let him know what a jerk I really am. “I’m not a bodybuilder, then, now, or ever.”

Accompanied by spittle and a sneer, I went on to ascertain I’m a rugged dude who lifts weights and builds useful muscle and strength. Period. Kind of like the guy who lifts iron and likes the iron -- you can keep the iron. Period. If you belong to a gym and you like your gym -- you can keep your gym. Period. That doesn’t make me a daisy-picking bodybuilder adoring his muscles from every angle at every mirror or reflective surface under every light to whatever music happens to be playing in the background, though I do prefer a montage of the “Theme from Rocky” and “2001, A Space Odyssey.”

Is that a camera in your hand? Let me get a quick pump… do I have enough oil on my lats? How’s the lighting?

Buster Bombs, B-72


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