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Author Topic: AAU/NPC/IFBB History as I've Seen It  (Read 4638 times)
Getbig V
Posts: 7242


« on: November 11, 2005, 01:31:43 PM »

My intent here is to offer my insite on the history of the 'Sport' of bodybuilding and its relationship with the AAU and the NPC and the IFBB as I personally witnessed it.

But in order to do that I have to set the stage and start at a time way before I knew anything about the AAU or the NPC or the IFBB or competitive bodybuilding.

Bear with me. It could be ed-u-ma-ka-tion-al. And please feel free to offer your comments if you have a "second opinion".

My real involvement with the 'sport' of bodybuilding goes back to the early 50's.

Earlier than that I had a few occasions to meet Steve Reeves and a few other prominent local bodybuilders in the San Francisco Bay Area, but it wasn't until the mid 50's that I realized that some of  the 'weightlifters' were competing once or twice a year in a couple of Bodybuilding Contests held at local Y's or community centers in the Bay Area.

A San Francisco police officer by the name of Bill Stathis was lifting a lot of weight at the Golden Gate YMCA and promoted a small bodybuilding contest that was apparently sanctioned by the AAU.

This event was held n the GOlden Gate YMCA 'theater" and it would  usually drew about 6 to 10 competitors mostly from the city and Oakland across the Bay. Like today the prejudging was held in the early afternoon and the finals in the evening with maybe about 50 to 100 in the audiance.

The winners got trophies just like the amateurs today, but I don't recall if the event or the winners got any type of publicity whatsoever.

The only 'real" bodybuilder in the area who received any publicity was a young kid by the name of Reeves and that was only because one of the newspapers interviewed his mother and the most impressive part of that interview was that "her son never had a cold or a cavity and he learned to ride horses on some ranch in Oregon".

Back then the term 'weightlifter' was more prominent than the term 'bodybuilder' and any coach who was worth a pound of  beans was convinced that lifting weights would only make you 'musclebound' and unable to excel in sports. And those coaches were very outspoken in proclaiming that 'unquestionable fact'.

Back then the gyms were local YMCA's with some rusted plates and bars stacked haphazarly in the cornor over by some cotton stuffed canvas mat. You could usually find a medicine ball and some rope assisted wall pullies and a vibratting belt that supposedly shook the fat off of your mid section.

And if those old reliable bowling alley 'pins' weren't available, someone was sure to complain. I never did find out what I was supposed to do with those.

In many cases that was the extent of the bodybuilding gear unless the Y was advanced enough to include a couple of York Barbells and a couple of benches which was attractive to the bigger Y members.

And Walt Baptiste and his beautiful wife were doing a decent business in their Yoga/Gym off Van Ness avenue, but Yoga was pretty strange back then so no serious lifter paid too much attention.

And some downtown, 5th floor gym owner by the name of Jack Lalanne was getting a lot of notice for doing crazy 'strongman' stunts such as swimming across the Bay handcuffed or pulling a boatload of fat people.

And he had his own daily TV show showing old folks how to do jumping jacks and sit ups and he talked a lot and had a white German Shepard that made a daily appearance.

And other weightlifter had a Saturday afternoon show for kids and other less than mental giants. He was in the process of lifting (squatting) a calf each weekend until it grew into a full size cow (or was it a bull?) until that calf decided to shit all over him and the whole damn TV studio. The TV crew went hysterical and filmed the whole damn thing with a shaking camera and that show ended that very same week for some unexplained reason, but it wasn't due to lack of laughter.

That particular show was discussed in school-yards daily until the summer ended that.

I forget who or what started it all, but towards the late 50's, gyms started opening with chrome plated weights and barbells in an effort to be more appealing to the general public.

Somehow Jack Lalanne went big time (was it due to Wyn Paris?) and opened up a fancy chrome plated place on the second floor of some business building on Market Street in the vicinity of the cable car turn around table. (Ten cents a ride back then, but you had to help and push the cable car and turn it in the other direction).

And American Health Studios soon followed suit with fancy gear in an old abandoned basement on Golden Gate Avenue half a block form Market Street and a second gym in the West Portal neighborhood of the city soon followed.

Both soon folded up with a brief notice on the door ..... Out of Business!

But that was the start of the gym business in the SF Bay Area, except for a gym in Oakland where Steve Reeves trained (Ed Yarick's Gym) which I never saw back then, so I'll let someone else tell you that part of the story.

At this time, I would guess there were really less than a dozen guys in the Bay Area who called themselves "Bodybuilders" - (Names I can recall but really can't remember too much in detail - Curt Freeman, Mel Knoll, Heilbron, Bill Stathis, and Reeves of course.

If you wanted to really get involved with bodybuilding, you had to travel south to Muscle Beach. And I traveled south many times.

(to be continued)
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Getbig V
Gender: Male
Posts: 21940

« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2005, 02:02:10 PM »

Very good stuff Stunt.
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Getbig V
Posts: 7242


« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2005, 10:40:46 PM »

Thanks, Knny.

Back in them days (50's/60's) it was somewhat simple to categorize bodybuilding within various areas of the United States.

The East Coast had the Weiders' and their various publications (some of which you wouldn't take home to mother) and they were in direct opposition with Dan Laurie who published a magazine relating to the bodybuilding world in those early days. (Muscle Mag?)

Florida had a lot of decent beaches but not much in the way of bodybuilders or BB activity that I'm aware of back then.

A bit further west was Bob Hoffman and York Barbell with numerous warehouses stuffed with various iron equipment that was offered for sale in his own weightlifting publication. A few wild stories here but I got to leave that one up to the individuals who actually participated.

Then there was Perry and Mabel Raider who published a respectable magazine called Iron Man which catered to all the "lifting sports". They were both always great folks to meet and talk with. My recollection is that they were real down to earth, basic country folk who had a genuine interest in the sport and the parties involved and getting the word out to one and all.

Jump to  the West Coast and you found Muscle Beach in Santa Monica and the well equiped Joe Gold's.

Muscle Beach was a major tourist attraction where the "circus folks", gymnasts, and bodybuilders would hold court and take center stage. The small fenced in weight area was about 600 square feet of rusted metal and bent bars and worn out wooden benches, but it did offer a place to train in the sun.

Joe Gold's place was down the road a bit on Pacific Avenue. You parked on the street and entered right off the sidewalk. Joe was usually in the back someplace welding some new piece of equipment  together and most of the guys training seriously were either football players from USC or UCLA or stunt guys in the movies or on TV.

I kind of recall that the membership back then was about $30 a year but it could have been ten dollars more.

And then there was The Dungeon in a basement of one of the Santa Monica office buildings. Dark and dingy and not well known but kind of like the Mecca of the game way back then. You had to be pretty serious to train there and I never saw anyone who looked like they ran the place.

Out in the valley on Ventura Bl was Vince Gironda's place. Nothing exceptional at all put a lot of stars trained there under the direction of Vince and so did Larry Scott except on those days he did his squats.

Rheo H. Blair supposedly had the best protein on the market as there wasn't really much protein on the market at all, but Blair's was considered to be the best available on the West Coast. You could buy Weider's stuff through the magazine but that was considered "suspectable" stuff.

Bell Foundary was out in the Watts area casting cheap metal barbell plates that usually ended up 10% lighter or 10% heavier than inscribed, so you usually had to do a good  balancing act while doing overhead presses.

And all the areas at Camp Pendleton had simple lifting areas that were seldom used.

Meanwhile down in San Diego, Leo Stern had a decent place in the downtown area off the main street up a narrow flight of stairs to the second floor. Nothing elaborate  by any means but it was well equipped for those days and Bill Pearl's name was frequently mentioned in connection with the place and that gave it some added prestige.

I don't recall the year that Bill opened his Pasadena gym but that's got to be mentioned here. Bill's was well run and well equipped with a mixed bag of members consisting of college athletes and businessmen within the area.
And his wife, Judy, set it up so that the ladies had exclusive use of the gym during certain days or mornings of the week.

And I can't overlook Ralph Kroger's small little gym right along the side of  highway 101 between Oceanside and San Diego down there by the race track. If I recall this correctly, the beach was right outside his back door and Hwy 101 was less than 20 feet from his front entrance. It looked like an ocean breeze from the Pacific could have blown it over.

Ralph eventually closed up that place and started another gym in the Hilo area on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Bob Janus had a real small gym and handball court in Oceanside but nothing much to elaborate on.

Further north towards San Francisco there was the Moonlight Health Studio by San Jose which was the training center for John Corvello and a couple of other California contenders.

Most of the contests that I frequented were held at Muscle Beach in Santa Monica and then later on at the enclosed outdoor stage arena at Venice Beach which is no longer there. Once that place was torn down the contests were held right in the vicinity of the Venice Beach Weightlifing Pit (similar to the present setup).

The well worn Embassy Hotel Auditorium in the worst part of downtown Los Angeles was the home to many of the better contests of the period - such as the prestigious Cal and the LA and the AAU Nationals and Mr America on one particular occasion.

Gene Mozee would always arrive with what would appear to be a major Hollywood starlette at his side and Don Howorth always showed up with shoulders bursting out of his standard cardigan sweaters and talking a seat up front on the left side of the auditorium.

Mac Bachelor would arrive sometime during the proceedings and take a seat in the back away from the eyes of his many fans.

In those days, if anyone appeared on stage in less than contest shape, the audiance would yell and scream in protest and on a few occasions some object would arrive on stage hurled by a fan who felt that that guy had no right to be up there. It was always a tough, rough crowd who spent hours in the gym each week and expected the best of anyone who entered a contest. Any less and they voiced a unanimous opinion of discontent.

Today's guest posers wouldn't last more than 20 seconds on the podium back in them days.

Believe it or not but at one contest they had a big hook back stage to  pull dubious entertainers off stage center, and it was used more than once that evening on dubious bodybuilders.

As the sport gradually grew and became somewhat acceptable, it moved to places such as the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, but that's the subject for another posting.

Back in those days, the AAU ran bodybuilding and often used it to suppliment the sport of Olympic Lifting which was somewhat like watching white paint dry on a sunlit wall without a pair of Polaroids.

On this one particular occasion, Bob Hoffman and the York crew were running the AAU National Olympic Lifting Championships and Mr America Contest at the Embassy Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles.

I recall the weigh-ins being held at the YMCA a couple of blocks away about 10 in the morning and the lifring starting on the Embassy stage around noon.

By 2:15 the next morning, they were leisurely clearing off the stage of weights, sweat, blood and bananna peels to start the BodyBuilding Championships. And it was the AAU National Bodybuilding Championships - the somewhat prestigious Mr America.

The faithful bodybuilding fans who waited were mostly family members with kids sleeping in the aisles under the watchful but bloodshot eyes of various family members who stuck it out to see "their boy" win the championships and a ten dollar silver trophy.

Between 3 and 4 AM the decision was made and the awards presented but the majority of the audiance were too damn sleepy to know who won it or even give a damn.

It was evident to one and all that the AAU was useing the bodybuilders to keep the asses in those seats for the lifters so a sort of rebellion was born which would change the sport forever.

It would just take one more problem to strike the match and blow the whole damn setup sky high and over the edge.

(to be continued - GOT A LIGHT?   or    WATCH THAT NEXT STEP!

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Getbig V
Posts: 7242


« Reply #3 on: November 12, 2005, 12:01:53 PM »

At this point I think it might be a good idea to ID the principal players and the roles they played in the early days of bobybuilding from my viewpoint.

Might need some help here a bit, so feel free to jump in and lend a hand. I go through "TIME WARPS" so some of this may be out of sequence, but it should give you a fairly good idea of how it all came about.

Joe Weider - Joe was back east publishing a magazine or a series of magazines related to bodybuilding and with his brother Ben he was setting up an organization called the IFBB. Much later rumor would have it that someone in that newly formed organization was busy traveling to points unknown and countries of international origin setting up various post office boxes under the name of the IFBB.

Peter Grymkowski - Pete was living on the east coast and managing a neighborhood bar called Elliot's Nest. One Sunday morning he was sitting at home reading his Sunday paper while watching his baby daughter when the bartender on duty called him to report that he was haveing some problems with a local mortorcycle group and might need some help, so Pete asked the next door neighbor to babysit for an hour or so while he went down to the "Nest" to see that the problem was.

To make a long story short, Pete ended up solving the problem by shoving someone's head through the wall (or something like that) and returned back to his apartment to thanks the next door neighbor and resume his baby sitting duties.

Back to his paper and minutes later someone takes a shot through his front window and the bullet lodges in the wall over his daughter;s crib.

So now Pete's gotta leave the house again, so he makes the appropriate arrangements and ends up in a truck outside of the gang's clubhouse where all the motorcycles are neatly line up and parked in front. So Pete starts shooting with some type of "repeating" rifle and a few shots end up in the clubhouse.

When Pete gets back to his apartment, all hell breaks loose and the phone starts ringing off the hook.

A lot more happens which is not important here and Pete and others decide that it would be best for Pete and others if he was to leave the area ASAP.

And Pete chooses to head on out to California and lives with an empty wallet until better things start to happen and he eventually ends up as one of the major partners in Gold's Gym .... but how that came about is a major story in itself which will be briefly mentioned later.

There are many others on this board who can tell a better and more accurate story about Pete and how things turned out for the better at this time, so I'll Pete's part here and continue with the others.......

Dan Laurie - Dan was another bodybuilding magazine publisher on the east coast who had a strong dislike for the Weider brothers and will return to this history lesson at a later date.

Bob Hoffman - Bob owned the York Barbell Company located in York, Pa. and was the major force behind Olympic Lifting.

Joe Gold - A gym owner in Los Angeles who welded much of his own gym equipment in the back.

So Pete is in the process of moving out to California and Weider is having thoughts about moving away from the east coast for numerous reasons and Joe is busy running his little but respected gym and welding new pieces of equipment in the back and a major part of the US population have heard about Muscle Beach and know that it is or was  on the beach in a small beach town called Santa Monica.

Parts of the puzzle are coming together but it's not complete and won't be for a good number of years to follow.

To the best of my knowledge Weider's move to the west coast started with a young bodybuilder named Dave Draper who showed up one day and opened a small store full of Weider products across the street from Zucky's.

The shop was set up so that the products were on display in the front with the inventory in the back and a small shipping area in between and Dave would spend most of his working day mailing suppliments to those individuals who ordered them through the magazine.

Dave was a popular bodybuilder as a result the publicity he received in the Weider magazine so he'd usually hold court with visiting fans while he prepared orders for shipment.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, the AAU is still the sanctioning body for the "sport" of bodybuilding and a few of those contest are still tied together with Olympic Lifting, but then we meet the straw that broke the camel's back.

One or two of the competing bodybuilders decides that he/they are going to approach the AAU and ask for funds so that they can travel to one of the national contests and compete in same. Shortly after a formal reply is received stating that there are no funds to help bodybuilders travel to national events.

This same individual discovers that funds are available for other athletes such as swimmers and runners, but no funds are available for the bodybuilders.

And if any funds were available, they are no longer available because the fund is dry because the swimmers used it all.

You get the idea?

Now this causes a lot of problems and animosity among a small number of competing bodybuilders and someone finally decided to do something about it in an attempt to keep the bodybuilding funds separate from the other funds, so that some funds will be available for the bodybuilders when they are requested.

And when problems such as this exist in any organization there are others who see opportunities. Some saw an opportunity to break away from the AAU and start a new and separate group to control and manage the sport and keep funds separate and insure that contests would be held away from Olympic Lifiting sites at reasonable hours.

And the ball started rolling and picking up moss and all sorts of problems and accusations along the way. T

The fuse was lit but it was on time delay.

(to be continued ..... Who Shortened That Fuse Anyway?)

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Getbig V
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« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2013, 12:04:07 PM »

bumped back up for all new readers interest.
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