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Muscle Smoke & Mirrors Vol. 3, Book 1 Preview (3)
- Updated: March 5, 2016
By Randy Roach – Chapter 1: Bigger Than The Sport?
Competitive bodybuilding was in fact emerging into mainstream American culture. This was clearly evident with the growing media coverage by the major television networks. Before haggling with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Wayne DeMilia over sanction fees in late 1977, Ben Weider continued his traffic direction on the one-way IFBB financial highway with a new decree from the executive council issued at the 1977 IFBB Congress in Nimes, France. “It was decided that the IFBB would from then on ‘retain a share of all television fees.’” (MB, Jun/1978)
ABC’s Wide World of Sports was the first major television network to air both weightlifting and bodybuilding back at Jim Lorimer’s AAU World Weightlifting Championships and Pro Mr. World contest in late September of 1970. According to the IFBB 1974 fifth international Congress Report, their cameras again were present for that year’s World Amateur Bodybuilding Championships (Mr. Universe) contest in Verona, Italy. (MB, May/1975)
By 1977, the “Pumping Iron” book had sold over 125,000 copies following the debut of the movie earlier that year and the charms of Arnold Schwarzenegger no doubt helped lure ABC back to film his promotional efforts for the 1977 and 1978 Mr. Olympia contests in Columbus, Ohio. Arnold also served as colour commentator for these events. CBS joined in 1978 for their shot at the World Amateur Championships in Acapulco, won by Mike Mentzer. They obviously liked what they saw since they outbid ABC and signed a 3-year contract from 1979 through 1981 for the Mr. Olympia events. (MB, Feb/1980) Little did they know that the deal would sour terribly in only the second year of their contract while bodybuilding’s favourite son was standing centre stage.
One would think that having a contest filmed by a major American television network for international viewing would be deterrent enough for any level of contest compromise, but CBS would experience the quirks of competitive bodybuilding in the land down under. In early October of 1980, their network cameras rolled at the Sydney Opera House in Australia where they shot what was definitely one of the most controversial Mr. Olympias ever contested.
Cutting straight to the heart of the matter was top competitor Mike Mentzer. Mike was one of a few favored to win the 1980 Mr. Olympia title, but ended up in a disappointing fifth place. When addressing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s controversial comeback victory at that particular event with John Stamatopoulos of bodybuilding.com 20 years later, an angry Mentzer asserted:
“The 1980 Mr. Olympia was definitely fixed. The promoter of that contest was Paul Graham, a very, very close friend of Arnold’s. As it turned out, while the rules stated that individuals had to officially enter their application to compete one month before the contest, the IFBB bent the rule and let Arnold enter the day before! He waited that long because by that point he knew who the judges were. CBS, who was there to film the event for future televising, was convinced it was fixed and discovered that a majority of the judges had either close personal or financial ties with Arnold. Well, so convinced – and pissed off – was CBS Sports that, despite the time, money and effort required to send a film crew halfway around the world to Australia to film a sporting event, they refused to air that contest.” (bodybuilding.com 2001)
Mentzer spewed a mouthful of accusations with his above statements; some true, some inaccurate, and some speculation. He was certainly correct regarding CBS Sports, who were angry enough to summon Ben Weider to meet with them months after the contest to defend his sport by explaining specific judging antics caught on film. Ben, the political diplomat of the Weider family, would delegate IFBB diplomacy for this controversy over to his head of the Professional Committee, Wayne DeMilia. It would have been interesting had Arnold Schwarzenegger still held that position. Would Ben have sent Arnold to CBS to answer for his own antics? Arnold’s laughter would have been heard all the way from California!
It was winter in New York early in 1981 when Wayne received the call from Ben Weider instructing him to go to CBS headquarters to smooth things over for the IFBB. Boyer Coe, who had finished fourth in the contest, was in New York at the time and met Wayne and his wife Karen in front of CBS headquarters. They were also joined by Chris Dickerson and another friend. Chris had actually placed second just behind Arnold in a controversial decision. The group set off to meet with CBS producer Sherm Eagan, in order to eat some Arnold crow on behalf of Ben Weider and the IFBB.
DeMilia recalled being quite uncomfortable sitting through what he had to view. Compounding matters, he had to actually explain it. Wayne basically had to concede on several issues that he had no explanation as to what he had just witnessed. (W. DeMilia, phone 2009-2015) Wayne’s only saving grace, if any, was that he did not participate in the judging and better yet, he was on the other side of the planet at the time of the contest. However, Boyer Coe was in fact there and recalled what he viewed on the CBS screen that day actually looking even more bizarre than what he personally witnessed in Sydney on stage standing just one over from Schwarzenegger. (B. Coe, phone 2009-2015)
We’ll look more at what DeMilia watched on screen in New York in Chapter 4, including comments from Norm Komich who was present at the Sydney Opera House in the front row area, and basically concluded that Arnold “marches to his own drummer and that is why he is as successful as he is…” (N. Komich,email2009)
Marching to the beat of his own drum, was there anyone who Arnold needed to answer to in 1980? The Schwarzenegger brand and persona had built itself by that time to such a magnitude, as compared to bodybuilding, that he had become arguably bigger than the sport itself!
As mentioned earlier, great athletes such as Muhammad Ali, Björn Borg, and Mark Spitz all enjoyed periods of total dominance, but none rose above that of their chosen field of athletics. Boxing, tennis, and swimming had cultural establishment going back many decades. Bodybuilding was just emerging into societal acceptance after years of shunning and ridicule. By 1980, bodybuilding as a vehicle for improved strength and health was on a solid track. The sport, too, was finally given some spotlight, but it had nowhere near the established credibility as soccer, rugby, hockey, basketball, baseball or football.
Any athlete who had reached superstar status within the realm of their sport rarely, if ever, matched that level of popularity in their succeeding endeavours after leaving their game. This wasn’t necessarily the case with Arnold Schwarzenegger and the sport of bodybuilding. Physique competition still carried enough of a precarious public disposition so that an athlete leaving that sport for a shot in Hollywood would definitely be taking a step up in career status. As popular as Arnold became in the small circle of bodybuilding, that status was dwarfed when compared to how well-known he became in his subsequent pursuits.
Arnold was a six-time Mr. Olympia winner from 1970 through 1975. Only Larry Scott, Sergio Oliva and Frank Zane had won more than once, with Oliva and Zane taking three victories each. No one had yet matched the bodybuilding status of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Without money, sport glory, or public status serving as any real allure, it could actually have been argued that a return to bodybuilding for Arnold would be a step backward for his career.
Arnold may in fact have marched to the beat of his own drum when forging his success, as Norm Komich asserted. How much can be attributed to the brash charisma of Arnold, Joe Weider’s business avenues, or the breakout publicity from George Butler and Charles Gaines is up for debate. Let’s not forget Jim Lorimer with his accumulated resources from his days as an Ohio mayor, an FBI agent, and in a significant position with Nationwide Insurance. Lorimer had the pull to secure a private corporate jet to fly Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu, Dave Draper, and Boyer Coe from New York to Columbus, Ohio in order to make the AAU Pro Mr. World show back in September of 1970. The jet belonged to Volkswagen, a sponsor for that event. (“Total Recall”, 2012)
Regardless of the influence all of these men had in moving Arnold along through the 1970s, there still seemed to be some level of additional media and political undercurrent writing the music for the Schwarzenegger drum from the 1980s onward. By the end of the 1970s, none of his acting roles resembled that of a marquee performance, nor were any all that memorable except perhaps his brazenness in “Pumping Iron.” Compounding the issue was the fact that western culture was still being groomed to accept the bodybuilding look; they certainly were not begging for it. However, on the Hollywood scene, Arnold just seemed to have kept on coming no matter what the critics had to say.
As impressive as Arnold’s Hollywood status became, it arguably stood second to his political ascent. It was curious enough as to how Arnold was absorbed into the Kennedy family, but considering his academic and professional background, it is still dumbfounding to many as to how he landed as a Republican in the Governor’s Office for the state of California. Even acknowledging the political path of Ronald Reagan, one does not become head of the eighth largest economy of the world without being very heavily connected and, some might say, compromised as well. This no doubt came when Arnold was brought into the fold of the heavily powerful political family headed by one George Herbert Walker Bush!
Regardless, Arnold Schwarzenegger was destined for power and it was already becoming apparent by 1980. The bigger question was why Arnold decided to test this power by putting his bodybuilding legend on the line with a Mr. Olympia comeback. And could the sport of bodybuilding, still with a fragile public interpretation back at that time, absorb the ramifications from the manner in which Arnold returned to the Mr. Olympia venue that year?
Randy Roach is the author of the 3-volume book series “Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors.” The books entail a comprehensive history of bodybuilding and all its related issues such as diet, supplements, weightlifting, fitness, strength training, drugs, and even global politics. The emphasis on nutrition intersects historically with the fitness industry and the general public. Many facets of this intriguing history are revealed for the first time, as well as an amazing cast of characters whose diets, philosophies and even idiosyncrasies alone make for a fascinating read.
Upon its completion, the over 15-year-long project will most likely breach three quarters of a million words through extensive interviews, research and analysis. Volume I was released in June of 2008 at 562 pages followed by Volume II in November of 2011 at 728 pages. Volume III, being released in a series of smaller books, launched Part 1 late in December of 2015 at 208 pages.
Reaction to these publications has been extremely favourable with endorsements coming from both the general reader and professionals in the field. David Epstein of Sports Illustrated commented on the “unbelievably extensive research”. Veteran industry writer, George Coates stated, “If Volume II is only half as good as Volume I, it will still be terrific! I must have read Volume I at least six times and I’m still amazed at the clarity and content throughout.” Paul Solotaroff of Men’s Journal and Rolling Stone called Volume II “a riveting, panoramic read”.
Industry experts John Kiiha and Bill Hinbern, called Book 1 of Volume III, “Outstanding”, and regarding the subject matter, Joe Rork stated, “Randy’s presentation is the best I have seen all these later years.”
Randy Roach has been active in the muscle building industry for over 40 years. Sixteen of those years have been spent in deep research of bodybuilding’s historical past digging up the secrets of training, diet, supplements and drugs. Before losing his eyesight, his 15 years as a computer programmer and technical writer in both the museum and environmental engineering fields has trained him in rationalizing large amounts of information making Randy perfect for this job. He has been published in three different fields. Randy now makes his living as an author and private health and training consultant in his home in Ontario, Canada. He is also the co-host, along with Tamas Acs, for their weekly podcast, “The World of Muscle” at www.theworldofmuscle.com.