- So, can you reflect back on 2003?
- The Hollywood scene?
Yes, I did a bunch of commercials, a couple of movies. I did a commercial with Stewart Scott and ESPN, the Tylenol commercial. That was shown pretty frequently, and I am still getting residual checks from that now. I also shot a music video with Smashmouth, and I had a small role in a Ben Stiller flick, which will come out in 2004, called Dodgeball, A True Underdog Movie. I know this is a big stretch, but I play the club bodybuilder. My name is Rory in the movie, and Ben Stiller is the character that owns a gym, and I play the bodybuilder in the gym. At least this movie is going to be out in the theaters. Besides Ben Stiller, Vince Naughn, Christine Taylor, and Jason Bateman are in it.. The premise is that a group of misfits enter a Las Vegas dodgeball tournament in order to save their cherished local gym from the onslaught of a corporate health fitness chain.
- Do you have a SAG (Screen Actors Guild) card?
Yes, I do, because I am a Master Thespian. I have been in SAG for about a year now. I can go to free screenings and I can vote.
- Tell me about Uriel?
Ah, Uriel, my first movie. I play Uriel, the arc-angel. It went straight to video. It was a low budget sci-fi / horror flick, but a great experience for me, and it got me my foot in the door. The movie was called 'Demons at the Door'. I also have a new movie coming up in the springtime, working title is called 'CE4K' or 'Close Encounters of the 4th Kind'. I think I will be playing a biker.
- With the Night of Champions, when you placed sixth, did you ask why?
No, not really. Out of the few people that I did talk to about it, nobody really had a good answer for me. Nobody could pinpoint any particular reason why I didn't place in the top five, why I didn't get comparisons with guys in the top five. I thought I had every right in the world to be compared to Craig Titus, that had beaten each other on occasion, and even tied previously, yet we were never next to each other. The whole idea is to compare guys that are somewhat close to each other. I am not saying to compare Victor Martinez and Ken Jones on the stage, because that would have been ridiculous, been guys who have shown a history or are close to each other, absolutely should be compared. Especially after round one, when Titus and I were only two spots away from each other. Some people think it was a political thing because of the whole union thing and stuff. I have heard various conspiracy theories, but who knows?
- But you got some ideas done in 2003?
That is the one thing nice about that, especially when there were naysayers and idiots who thought we were wasting a bunch of time. If anybody was to bring out that list that we had brought out at the Arnold and wanted to go over with the bodybuilders at that meeting, a lot of those things has been done now. The purse has been increased at the Olympia, as it has gone to 12 and more now; they did have partitions in the judges table; an Athlete Rep was elected; the judges were moved up 20 feet. There was probably six or seven items on that list that have been addressed. So people can think that it was a failure but it basically brought awareness to what we wanted to bring awareness to. And now people are starting to realize that with Shawn as their spokesman, that there can be some changes made.
- What will be your focus on for 2004?
Well, 2004 is already starting to be a decent year, even though we are only a week into it. I have just agreed to a contract in principle with Bodybuilding.com, so I will be pretty much their main guy over there. They are great guys! Brenda and I just came back from Idaho, where their headquarters is, got a chance to meet everyone. There will be some great things coming up with them. It is going to be a good year. I am very excited to be working with these guys. They have a youthful approach, and they are going to propel themselves up to the tops of the industry. They also have their own product line, called Higher Power.
- What happened with the GNC contract?
GNC has been up and down in terms of being sold and being bought, and there has been three CEO's in three years there. And at this moment, they just don't have a firm direction as to where they are going with me. Which is kind of frustrating, because they don't use me as much as I would like to be used. My contract just happened to be coming to an end in January 2004, and GNC just sold to another corporation called Apollo just prior to that. A new company does not know exactly what they are doing, and the old regime didn't want to commit to anything, and they chose to kind of do nothing, just sit there. So I basically told them that I need to make a living, and I can't rely on them to just wait and figure this out somewhere past the first of the year. So I told them I would be looking around, and that was it.
- What bodybuilding shows are you planning to do for 2004?
Currently, I am going to do the Ironman, the Arnold Classic, and probably, the San Francisco Pro right after that, since they are only a week apart. Being that they are all within three weeks of each other makes it profitable to do some of the smaller shows like the Ironman and the San Francisco Pro. It was very nice to get the invite for the Arnold. I have never competed in the Arnold which I have always wanted to do. It is going to be a good opportunity, and it will be a tough show.
There will be a tough lineup. Dexter, Chris, Levrone, Marcus, Ahmed, Kamali. Yes, there will be competition. The guy that surprised me in the lineup is Greg Kovacs. He is a big boy, but his physique might need a little refinement.
- So how are you preparing for the Ironman, and the Arnold?
For the most part, the same as it has been for any other show. The main difference will be in the whole carbing up process. That is where we are making some changes. My physique just demands way more carbs then what we have been doing. As much as I have carbed up and we have kept bumping it up, it is still not enough. So I think that the formula of the old "3 day carb up thing" is not enough time for me. We have got some new techniques that we are going to try out, and hopefully, it will lead to a more fuller appearance on stage. It don't know if my weight will be heavier, and I don't really care of it is or isn't. As long as I look fuller on stage, as I usually do for photo shoot a week after the show, that is what we are aiming to put on stage. My contest weight is 250 pounds, and I am currently 265 pounds. I always try to stay in decent shape, so my bodyweight doesn't fluctuate that much. It just seems to be the way that my body responds. I don't think I can be 300 pounds even if I wanted to be.
- Are you training with somebody?
Yes, I am still training with Tom Prince. He is doing good, and he is getting ready for the Ironman also. That may or may not be his last show, that is up to Tom. Tom is an interesting guy. We have diametrically different training styles. That is not necessarily a bad thing, we kind of trade information and stuff, and sometimes I will follow his format style, and sometimes he follows mine. I think it is a good mix. The hardest thing for an established bodybuilder who has been around 20 plus years in training is doing different things. A lot of guys get set in their ways, of they are a victim of doing the same thing over and over and over again. I think that could make you stale. It halts progress. He's incorporated some of my ideas and techniques, especially with his "Power Training" that he does, and I have done some of his routines getting ready for the shows. Variation is the key to success in my book, so I have no problem doing different things all the time. I don't like a lot of the conventional old school exercises anyway. So I am all for changing the routines, getting the muscles off balanced. Anytime you can do anything fresh, you will get more out of it than doing the same thing for four or five months. Your body will get used to it. It will know what's coming.
- And what about your diet?
The dieting is pretty much the same. The dieting, the cardio… you know, at this point in our careers, to any of the guys who has been doing this for quite a time now, you are not going to reinvent the wheel. Nothing is going to come up for me that is anything crazy. Obviously, you must of been somewhat successful to have gotten to this point. So I am not so sure that making huge changes is the answer for me. It is making subtle changes, and ones that are smart. The only real change that is going to go on with me is going to be in the last 72 hours. And that will make all of the difference right there.
- You have a nutritionist guru?
Yes, I work with Chad Nicholls. And Tom. It is basically the three of us.
- Let's talk about the nutritionist advisors and gurus. Are they getting a bad rap via the Internet?
Yes, they are. A lot of fans are quick to discredit them. Bodybuilders choose with whom they want to work with. If you don't like the guy you are working with, move to somebody else. Most of them, in a nutshell, are very knowledgeable when it comes to drying you out. That really what they do. People call them drug gurus but that not what they are. They have very little to do with that. Any guy that has made it to the pro ranks has had all the experience he needs with doing whatever. This is why you don't see guys that have been around for a long time making huge changes all of a sudden. The best version I have heard of what these guys do is that they are a "Dial In Specialists". For me, I don't work with Chad the majority of the year. I think people would be interested to know that. When people say, he does everything for me, he doesn't. I tend to work with Chad during the last week of the show. I do my thing, and Chad comes in at the end, and gives me his expertise on helping me dry out, with carb manipulations, and other things. Making stupid comments against them is unfair.
People have to understand that the gear end of the sport has nothing to do with the final week or two of preps. Most guys are not taking anything the last two weeks before a show. Regarding health problems, you can't blame the nutritionists on that. People say that Chad's athletes are going done. That is not true. Flex has had problems for years, and we found out the were genetic. Tom is quite candid about his problems, it had nothing to do with Chad. It had everything to do with taking painkillers and Advil and stuff like that, and the doctors will verify that. That can create more havoc on your system that anything else. I love it when fans say that diuretics are causing all the problems. Most pros use that two days out of the year. And steroids. Steroids don't even go through the kidneys.
Bodybuilders have been taking gear since the 60's and 70's. And those guys had much better access to everything than now. It was legal, it was cheaper. Steroids go through the liver, not the kidneys. Like in any sport, people are going to have problems, and god forbid, die. It is a percentage. How about all of the people out there are have kidney problems that never took steroids, that don't compete. Are they working with Chad too? And what about all of the athletes that Chad works with that there are no problems. He has worked with numerous athletes that never had problems. It's like anything else, it's a percentage. For me, with Chad's help, I have done significantly better in the last three years.
- Do you think you get respect in bodybuilding, with some people calling you a second tier or third tiered bodybuilder?
Those people don't know what they are talking about. I only take some of the comments I hear with a huge grain of salt. They can call us second or third tier, but we are all pro bodybuilders. There are guys in the "First Tier" that I have beaten, so what does that mean? The fans are sometimes a little fickle when it comes to bodybuilders, and who is their favorites. Like the Night of Champions. Because Jay or Ronnie or Chris or Kevin are not in it, it is automatically designated by a few of the fans a second tier show. Wow. It is not up to me to decide who goes into the show. All I do is sign up well in advance to compete in the show, and whoever else wants to come and play, come on down. We are all pros, we are all competing for the same prize. Does it bother me? No, not really. These are people who don't really know the business, they don't know what's going on? And you know what? You can't really win no matter what. If you go into the show, and you get beat, well, you are a second tier bodybuilder anyway. If you go into the show and you win, well, you won, but there was nobody in it. If you beat a few of the top guys, then some guys cry out that it is politics. He knows the judges. Wow. Everybody knows the judges. Most competitors who have been competing for a few years knows the judges or some of them.
- You made some comments saying that the Ironman Pro saying that the prize money is subpar. The promoters were not happy about it.
Well, the truth hurts sometimes. If he took exception to that, then so be it, but the bottom line is that there was nothing that I said that wasn't the truth. What I said was factual information. This show was been around for 15 years, and not one time have they increased the purse. And each time, they come up with different excuses as to why. You can only come up with so many excuses for so long. It really isn't different than a pro bodybuilder that competes. You keep losing, you can come up with all of the reasons that you want, but the bottom line is that, you keep losing.
Or in my case, years ago. Most people know my story. It took me quite some time to turn pro. After a while, people did not want to hear from me on why I didn't win. People just knew you didn't win. But after a while, you basically stop telling them why.
- But you are competing in the 2004 Pro Ironman?
Yes, I am competing in it. Sure. There are three reasons why I am competing in it. The first is that it is two weeks out from the Arnold Classic. The Ironman, the Arnold and the San Fran, all within a month of each other, make it financially possible. The second reasons is that I am hoping to get an early qualification for the Olympia, and if that happens, that I can just train the rest of the year solely on concentrating on the Olympia, which I have never been able to do thus far because I usually qualify in a later shows. And the third reason is that I switched over to do the early shows are because of the fans, because I am doing my part to bring people to this show from the Southern California area. I have a fan base here. Those people will be coming to the Ironman. Friends and family of mine. I will have my contingent there to support the show and support the athletes. I am putting my hat in the ring. This way, people can't say to me that I bitch about the show, and I am not even in it.
If John Balik and the other promoters have a problem with comments, then so be it, but the bottom line is that the comments need to raise awareness. These comments should be made because nobody ever makes them, and nothing ever changes, just like that purse has not been changed in 15 years. And I know a lot of the inside scoop. Last year, John Balik himself at the 2003 Ironman at the microphone said that they would be doubling the prize money of the show this year. I was there and listened to him saying that. Now, of course I understand that it was a rough year, with advertisers owing them money and going bankrupt (Twinlab, Genn), and not paying up, but that is not my problem. Every business goes through its hardships, but the bottom line is, somebody should have been working on this show all year long. And what is the reason this year that they couldn't increase it at all?
While the prize money has not increased over 15 years, the pros cost for getting ready for the show was increased substantially over 15 years. So in effect, you are getting less than when the show first started. With the exception of the winner, who will make out with a few grand, every other athlete will either come out even or lose money. It averages each bodybuilder getting ready for the show a little over $5,000 in expenses. And from any prize money, you need to pay taxes on that. Of course, the main bonus from this 'second tier' show, as some fans like to call it, is the qualification to the Olympia.
But even that is getting expensive. This is not sour grapes from me. In the last few years, there was a trend going on. Many fans and pros have been around for a while so they know. Do you remember a time that so many pros opted not to compete in the Mr. Olympia? Before that, the only time a guy did not go to the Olympia is because he was physically unable to. You had a few other exception, but nobody ever opted not to go in. That so many athletes chose to not compete in the Olympia, that hasn't happened since the boycott of the 1981 Olympia. You have heard Craig Titus say it, you have heard King Kamali say it, you have heard others say it, that it is not economically smart for them to enter the Olympia. They think that they would have a very difficult time in getting into the top 10, they are going to spend $5K or more getting ready, and almost no shot of any payoff, you need to think smart.
With the exception of saying that 'I have made it into the Olympia', which is a lifelong dream for all of us that are pro bodybuilders, but if you have been there once, you have done it. It is always nice to get into the Olympia, but it is still a business for us athletes. And it is frustrating to see that the Weider Publications was sold for $350 million dollars last year. $350 million! Has that sunk in yet? Granted, Joe and Ben started the IFBB a long time ago, which is great for them, but what did they make this money on? Bodybuilders. That is where all the empire started from. They branched off over the years with different magazines and all that good stuff, but the base core was bodybuilding.
- Your personal life also has changed in 2003? I hear you are now with Brenda Kelly? How did you meet?
Well, me and Brenda have known each other through the industry for a long time now. We didn't know each other well, but we saw each other at shows all the time. We did a photo shoot together last year, and then we kept bumping into each other here and there, and eventually, we started dating, and we have been together ever since. We got together around the 2003 USA's. It going great. We have a lot of fun together, we have a ton in common. We do a lot of projects together, and appearances, so there are no complaints there. People couldn't be happier for us.
- So the fans want to know? Do you where a hairpiece or not?
That was purely some bullshit started by Tom Prince to bust my balls. I just think it is hilarious. Anybody who knows me obviously knows that it is totally ridiculous. If you look at my hair, you can see that it is my hair. I do find it comical, but I think that it is really funny that some people actually do believe it. As you well know, you can put anything on the Internet, and somebody will believe it. Come on guys, use your head a little bit. So the answer to that, to clarify one more time, no, it is 100% real.
- You train at Gold's of Venice, the mecca! Has anything changed lately?
Well, Gold's Venice is still Gold's Venice. It still has that aura about it; there is always a lot of things going on there; the energy there is very high. Those are the main reasons I like it there. It has changed a little over the last 5 years. When Gold's Venice changed hands, the new owners didn't have that much of an interest in bodybuilding. It is kind of an irony because Gold's Venice, as anyone knows, is the mecca of bodybuilding. And that place was founded on bodybuilding, and is a major part of history of bodybuilding. But they haven't kept up with the upkeep. The pictures on the walls, the pros, the winner of the Nationals and the USA's, stopped being updated around 1998. My picture isn't on there still.
It's funny because I remember one time just hoping and praying that one day my picture will be on that wall prior to me turning pro, and then finally I did it, and they are not doing that anymore. So I still don't have that picture on the wall at Gold's. Little things like that have been lost, that Gold's Venice is still known for bodybuilding. People still go there from all over the country who come there to see pro bodybuilders. They have made some changes. They have taken out a lot of equipment, some old good equipment which I wasn't really too pleased with. It is strange when a corporation runs Gold's Gym of Venice, because some of these decisions are made in New York City, and some of the people who make these decisions have never been in a gym before. It is kind of frustrating. One thing I did was to offer my services free of charge as a consultant, on what equipment to bring in there, or changing the gym around and things like that. I think it has helped a bit, and we made some changes with the format of the gym. I would hate to see a place like Gold's of Venice turn into a 24 Hour Fitness. This is our place.
- Do you view other bodybuilders as friends or foes because you compete against them all the time?
You know, I don't have a problem with anybody. And obviously, two of my best friends are King Kamali and Tom Prince. Tom, I train with every day, and King and I go way back. I don't have a problem with that. I know some of the other guys do, but those are usually people that are very insure. That is usually the main problem. Even if I compete against them, because the bottom line is that it is not up to us to beat each other. Me and King have helped each other, same thing with Tom and I. Tom actually helps me with my diet. And helps me prepare. Which may help me beat with. Tom also has a great quote which I love. "There is no defense in bodybuilding".
- Do you feel that you talk too much, on boards, in person, that can get you in trouble?
You know what the biggest irony is about these bulletin boards, and the guys that read the board don't realize this, but the very pros that many of them defend never come on the boards, Jay Cutler, Chris Cormier, Kevin Levrone, Gunter Schlierkamp, and so on. These guys have never posted on any of the boards in their life. Just not interested or whatever. The funny thing is that some of the pros can't figure out why we waste our time talking or arguing with people on the boards.
But the pros that do take some time, go on the boards, answer some questions, they are easier targets and they blast them. King goes on there, Tom goes on there, they blast them. Of course, some of these guys are a little controversial, like King, who likes to get a rise out of people, but 99% of the time, the attacks are brought on by the fans, not the bodybuilders. I think it is hilarious. Some of the readers love to pit Musclemayhem vs. Getbig. What do they think, they are rival gangs or something. Do they really think that all you and Chad do is spend hours on the bulletin boards. We all have lives. We don't sit on the bulletin boards eight hours a day like some of you guys think we do. I will go on in the morning and check the boards out, then I go do cardio, then I eat, then I go to the gym, then I sometimes I log on back in the late afternoon, see what's going on. Sometimes late night when I have some time.
Sometimes there are great threads on the boards, but they get twisted. Some people think that the pros want the fans to kiss their ass. For what? Why? If you ask a question, and I have time, I will answer it. If you have comments, go ahead. I don't want everybody in the world to love me. They may like my physique, they may not. But the problem is the trash, the lies. And that is why some of the pros don't feel like posting.
Call me crazy, but I would have killed to have a bulletin board around when I was a kid. I could of logged on there, and talked to Lou Ferrigno, or Franco Columbu, or Danny Padilla, Mike Mentzer or any of these guys. When I was a kid, I would of given anything to talk to a Mr. Olympia or a great pro. That would have been huge. Yes, you had the magazines, but they were three months back, but there was never the opportunity to be able to talk to top pro bodybuilders like there is now. Instead of taking advantage of this, some of the guys absolutely abuse it. It doesn't mean you have to agree with the pro bodybuilders, but you don't sit there making stupid, ridiculous comments or making shit up. People just like to cause trouble, and ruin it for the rest of the fans.
This small percentage of certain individuals are not bodybuilding fans. These are people who don't know anything about the history of the sport. These are either the meathead bodybuilders in the gym with nothing to do, or they are just pissed off because they are not pros. Or people who don't care. They get off on that. You can be anybody you want on the Internet. You can be a big tough guy there. Everybody is huge on the Internet. But they are always afraid to post a picture. And not one of these guys who love to incite the pros on the show has ever come to me at a expo or a show and tell me "You suck" to my face. I would love to see that. Can you imagine I am at the booth at the Arnold, and some guy come up to me and say "Hey, I'm Joe Blow from the boards, and you suck". Come on, it won't happen. I think that you need to re-evaluate why you are spending time on a bodybuilding board if you are not even a bodybuilding fan. I think the Internet is great, the boards are fantastic, it can be a very useful tool, but some guys just abuse the privilege.
- How do we make bodybuilding more positive for both the pros and the fans, with money being tight?
The problem is that limited money brings down a trickle down effect. Fans say a second tier show doesn't bring any names in. A lot of the top guys won't go in these shows, and the main reason is because of the money. So right off the bat, they are limiting themselves as to who will go into the show. So what can they do? They can try and get better sponsorships. Also, if you are going to run a show, it needed to be planned out way in advance. I don't mean like using the same banner, same things that we did last year. It just makes it a boring show. You need to make it entertaining for the fans. That might mean that you may need to bring in some special acts or halftime activities, like at the Arnold. If a venue is too expensive, then move it to a different one. Perhaps the IFBB could help out here in increasing the purse, maybe lowering the sanction fees. At least increase the money for the cost of living. But keeping it the same year after year is not helping the bodybuilders.
I think people think that we make a lot more money than we do. I can't quite understand that. With more fans, there will be more money. With bigger bodybuilders, there will be more fans. It all has to start with the promoters. Maybe the promoters should get some guys that are willing to be creative.