Jack LaLanne, RIP

/ Posted 01.24.2011

At Jack LaLanne’s 90th birthday party, held at the Casa Del Mar Hotel in Santa Monica, the fitness guru who promoted the benefits of pumping iron decades before it became fashionable,  told me “I can’t die, it wouldn’t be good for my image.” Jack held on another six years before he succumbed to respiratory failure due to pneumonia Sunday afternoon at his Morro Bay home on California’s central coast, according to his agent, Rick Hersh.

LaLanne, who said he exercised every day, swore he didn’t eat sugar since he was 15 years old. He opened what is believed to be the nation’s first health club in Oakland, CA, in 1936, and in the 1950s starred in what was the first ever television exercise program.

Jack was full of energy every time I saw him, and never left without rattling off a few of his long list of witty lines. When I asked him at the birthday party, which was co-produced by IRON MAN Magazine, how he was going to top towing a boat across the San Francisco Bay with his teeth (for his 70th), he snapped, “I’m going to tow Elaine (his wife of 51 years) across the bathtub tonight.” Check out the video interview I did with Jack at Muscle Beach in 2007 to get my drift.

Jack, you may be gone, but I wouldn’t have to tell you you’ll never be forgotten. Thank you for what you brought to this world.


Hester the Jester

/ Posted 10.19.2010

That’s what the headline read in my cover piece on Danny Hester in the September issue. Those who know this amazing 41-year-old will tell ya the former RN, who once worked in a mental institution, beats to a different drummer much of the time himself. Probably the effects of the job, eh Danny?

He was eating the same breakfast I was at the Firehouse in Venice a week before the Nationals: chicken breast, egg white and PANCAKES! I didn’t know he was planning to compete. Actually, he didn’t either, not making up his mind until the night before his Wednesday flight out of LAX.

Now, about that flight. Had a bit of trouble getting on the plane. See, he left his ID at home. But, in a stroke of genius, pulls out the IRON MAN cover, and it gets him on the big bird to Georgia. You’re welcome, Mr. Hester!

Of course, he didn’t realize the late fee would cost him double the trouble, going from $175 to $350. And, to top off the zany week, Hester falls asleep waiting for his class to take the stage during the finals, and barely made it in time for his posing routine. As a matter of fact, expediter Tracy Greenwood told me that Hester was nowhere to be found, so we had to move everyone up a slot (except for winner Dr. Victor Prisk, natch).

Travis Rogers, who was listed in sixth place, was told to join the other four finalists. Then, at the last minute, I spot Hester backstage from the podium. His eyes were nearly shut; you know, the way your’s look when you first wake up in the ‘morn. I heard him say he overslept. Say what, Danny?

No oil. No posing music. He says, in my honor, he had the music man play Elvis’ “Burning Love”, which happened to be one of the disks lying on the table. I smiled as I told the crowd, “This is the best music of the night.”

So, I do his intro, once again. Hester and I, you see, share quite a long history together. I was the emcee of the USA for the first time in 1992 (in Santa Monica), the same season Hester made his initial appearance in that event. A year later I hosted the Nationals (in Ft. Lauderdale), which ended up being the first of 18 consecutive shows I’ve presided over; Hester made his Nationals debut in that one.

Hester finished third in the Middleweight class at the USA, and was second to Prisk in the Welterweight division in this one. So, despite all the wackiness of the previous seven days, the year ended up on a great note for Danny.

‘ On second thought, maybe “wacky” ain’t the proper description in this case. What was the name of that drummer, Danny?


No Free Lunch

/ Posted 10.10.2010

Went down to Gold’s Venice on Saturday to shoot a preview of the NPC Men’s Nationals with Shawn Ray. Jordan Blechman, son of MD Publisher Steve Blechman, who traded coasts a couple of months ago, swapping Long Island, New York for Venice, California, was behind the video camera. He also was kind enough to film a second tape, allowing yours truly to talk up the IRON MAN Magazine Naturally, set for January 29, 2011 and the West Coast Classic, on June 25.

Jordan, 27, seems like a nice chap. He was excited about finding an apartment but a block away from the Mecca after a six-week search. I was excited that he joined Shawn and I for lunch at the Firehouse. Not only for his pleasant company, but for his generosity as well.

You see, for the 49th consecutive time (okay, made up the figure but you get my drift), Shawn allegedly left his wallet in the car when it came time to pick up the tab. So, as always, it was a “thumbs down” as he held “up” the check. Jordan quickly stepped in, and said he’d take care of this. Thanks, guy. And, get used to this scene for the ensuing times Ray comes down to shoot with you.

Recent IRON MAN cover model Danny Hester eventually showed up as well and, copied my order of egg whites, chicken breasts—and pancakes! So, what’s so special about that? Real special, since this amazing 41-uear-old says he’s probably hopping on a plane on Wednesday, headed for Atlanta, Georgia. To COMPETE in the Middleweight class at the Nationals! Don’t worry, Hester fans, he still looks terrific, as you can see by the photo I snapped of him before we left the eatery.

I ran into big Gunter Schlierkamp when we walked back to Gold’s; Gunter said he could be making a return to the stage in 2011, but at this point didn’t want to make any target date. 

Anyway, back to the predictions. I’m going with Keith Williams to finally get that pro card after second place finishes in the Superheavyweight class at last year’s Nationals and this season’s USA and North American Championships. Todd Jewell and Robert Burneika could be his greatest challengers—although both Shawn and I feel Steve Kuclo could be the dark horse here.

Can Fred “Biggie” Smalls nail his conditioning and take the Heavyweight class? Will Branden Ray show up, and finally display the pro potential he exhibited when he won his class at the Junior Nationals the first time he competed a few years back?

Can Hester topple Alan Bailey in the Middleweight division? What about the great battle in the Welterweight class? I’m going with Dr. Victor Prisk to cut up the division; to do that he has to beat this year’s USA class winner, Luis Santa Claus.

Don’t forget the rematch from the USA of the Kelly Bautista/Leonardo Pacheco classic in the Lightweight division. Shape (Bautista) versus thickness (Pacheco). Throw in Luis Santiago, too, who was second in this class a year ago.

As far as the Bantams go, I’m going with Chris Darby—if he competes (had no list of the competitors, so doin’ the best I can).  Richard Siegelman make may a splash, too.

Speaking of splash, need to go shower. Teaching at both East LA College and Pasadena City College, per usual, tomorrow. And, better start packing; don’t you always forget something when traveling? I need a three-day lead-time based on past experiences.

To some of you, see ya in Atlanta (I arrive Thursday, early evening). If you can’t make it live, check back on this site for my contest reports, with Roland Balik doing the video honors.

I’m out.


Blasts from the Past

/ Posted 10.03.2010

Spent a lot of time over the Olympia Weekend, as figured, doing video interviews for this website. But, this season, there was a special added touch.

In honor of the 45th Anniversary of the event, a “studio” atmosphere was created in John Balik’s Orleans Hotel suite. And, over the course of four days I conducted hour-long dialogues, taped by recent newlywed Brad Sang, with five former Mr. Olympia’s, and one ex-head IFBB judge.

It was a blast going down memory lane with Larry Scott, the first-ever Mr. Olympia in 1965; Frank Zane, who captured the Sandow three times (1977-79); Chris Dickerson (1982); Samir Bannout (1983) and Lee Haney, (1984-91), who shares the all-time record with Ronnie Coleman at eight victories apiece.

We talked about a variety of topics: where it all began, and what first motivated them to pump iron. The highlights, and disappointments, along their journey to the top. Past and current training techniques, what they would change if they could “do it all over again”, etc.

Scott, in fact, is such a nice fella that he offered to snap the enclosed photo of me doing my best Zane imitation at the Expo. With clothes on, of course. Think it’s close?

I was hoping to get the Big Nasty in front of camera, but Ronnie was buried at the BSN booth for most of the weekend. Was unable to connect with Sergio Oliva, either. Too bad on both of them, had a slew of query’s I couldn’t wait to ask. But, I still hope to capture the history, and thoughts, of at least two-time winner Franco Columbu (1976 and 1981) here in Los Angeles sometime soon. Invite me over for some homemade pasta, Franco, and I’ll be there in a flash. Oh, maybe I can even add a fella named Schwarzenegger to the list, time permitting. His time, of course, not mine.

Also was pleasantly surprised by the content of the interview I did with Balik’s long-time buddy, Roger Schwab, a former head judge with the IFBB, ex-strength and conditioning coach at Penn State, and currently the owner of Main Line Health and Fitness in Bryn Mawr, PA.  Roger is really a sharp guy, and his history in the industry, and opinions (especially on overtraining), he shared during our version of “60 Minutes” resulted in a classic interview.

Hopefully, the edited versions of these historical tapings will be up on the site not-too-far down the road. Give ‘em a look, think you’ll enjoy them as much as I did.


A 40’s Weekend

/ Posted 05.17.2010

Lots of celebrity birthdays in the industry over the past few days. Starting it off, of course, was The Big Nasty’s 46th on Thursday, May 13; AKA Ronnie Coleman for those of you who have never viewed the moniker I first bestowed on Ronnie at the 1998 Olympia. By the way, how many of you REALLY think Ronnie will put the posing trunks back on at this season’s Mr. Olympia? Not thee, although Coleman first told the fans at the San Jose Championships last July he would be making his comeback at the Big Dance in 2010.

On Saturday, the 15th, Ron “Yogi” Avidan turned 42. I think. I asked him three times if this was accurate–and Mr. Consistency didn’t respond all three times. So, 42 will have to do, right or wrong. Then again, when is the Swami ever wrong?

And, a former student of mine at Cal State LA many moons ago, James (Broadway) Bivens, also hit the 42 mark over the weekend. Damn James, you were only a pup when you not only competed at the Cal State LA show in 1990, but turned into the funniest guy in the building that night. I still remember you running from the pump up room to the podium after helping my guest poser, Shawn Ray, put on some oil. “Who says he’s narrow?!” Broadway shouted. “His back is THIS wide!”.

Anyway, happy birthday, folks–and to the many more I probably left out. Speaking of out–I am.

Filed Under: Celebrities, News

Orange County Happenings

/ Posted 04.26.2010

Went to the prejudging at the NPC Orange County Classic Saturday am; couldn’t view the finals because I had to head back home to attend a buddy of mine’s wedding reception at 3 pm.

Still, had time to shoot the breeze with a lot of familiar faces as well as check out the contest talent. Congrats to men’s champ, Hannes Fritsch, who made it back to back victories after winning the initial MuscleContest Championships a month earlier in Culver City. Got a look at both Phannary Pen and Khay Rosemond backstage at the OC, and am not surprised a bit that both lovely ladies took home the Overall trophy in the Figure and Bikini divisions, respectively. For complete results and photos, go to promoter Jon Lindsay’s site at musclecontest.com.

I congratulated Jerome (Hollywood) Ferguson, working hard at the Bodybuilding.com booth, on his upcoming marriage, which will take place on July 4 on stage at–you got it–Muscle Beach! Jerome’s leaning out these days, and it may be for more than just his wedding. Can Hollywood be traveling to Las Vegas, Nevada, a couple of weeks after he ties the knot to enter the USA? Hmmm…you know, what better wedding present could the guy get than the long sought after pro card Jerome’s been chasing for longer than he wants to remember.

Right next to Jerome was Sonia Gonzales, working in her usual slot at the GNC booth. The lovely lady from Temecula is two for two in 2010 after switching from figure to bikini (New Zealand and the MuscleContest), and was looking forward to taking on a tough field at the Pittsburgh Pro Bikini Championships this coming weekend. Can’t wait for Hardbody Hinds to give me his front row report on that battle come Saturday.

Yogi Avidan was there at Anaheim High, shooting for Bodybuilding.com and Hardbody.com; ditto for Alex and Nga Azarian and Bill Comstock, who were signing up competitors who wished to purchase a disk featuring their sublime stage photos. Lionel (the L Train) Brown was at Pete Ciccone’s MusclePharm booth, and told me he’s planning to get back on stage at the Europa in Dallas later this summer.

Hany Rambod was in town for most than just checking in on his clients; I was told Rambod, accompanied by his gal, Farinaz Tavakoli, was going to make his emcee debut, co-hosting the show with veteran Mike Stolle. Oh, by the way, Pistol Pete will be doing likewise with me at the ‘Cal next month before going from behind the podium to on stage in posing briefs at the USA at the end of July. Ciccone made top five last year–can he move up a notch or two this season? Time will tell.

Okay, time out. But, come back soon, ‘ya hear?


1. Winners
2. Alex and Nga Azarian
3. Bill Comstock, Tonya Moore
4. Hollywood Ferguson
5. Yogi Avidan and Ernie  Garza
6. Hany Rambod and Farinaz Tavakoli
7. Sonia Gonzales

Filed Under: Celebrities, Contests, News

Stan the Man, Eli’s Coming

/ Posted 02.03.2010

Got a lot done in my trip to Gold’s, Venice today. Did several video interviews, with Bill Comstock behind the lens, including one with Hidetada Yamagishi, who looks right on track a little over two weeks before the 2010 season opener, the Phoenix Pro. Check back soon to see the Asian Sensation posing at 225 pounds . Naturally, he’s bit flat at this stage, but I think the guy will be sharp as a tack come game day, and is a definite top three contender.

LT & Eli Blahut

I did an up close and personal taped interview with Stan McQuay, who is tentatively scheduled to be on the June cover of IRON MAN; think you’ll be as surprised as I was to find out some of the "interesting" things about Stan the Man’s background. Also, finally met 22-year-old wundkerkind Eli Blahut, who is featured as one of my Rising Stars in the current issue (March). Eli and brother Mike, who recently spent over two years in the Peace Corp, ventured west in the past two weeks, all the way from Queens, New York, in their VW van. As luck would have it, they arrived just as I was about to make the hour trek back to Pasadena; make sure to view the video we did with the Blahut brothers, coming soon . Ain’t exactly a version of MTV Cribs, let’s put it that way. By the way, make sure to read the segment I wrote on Eli in my "News and Views" column in the April issue, which should be out before the end of the month..

Stan McQuay

Filed Under: Celebrities, Contests

The Ray Family Donation

/ Posted 01.29.2010

Thanks to the entire Ray familyShawn, Kristie, Asia Monet and Bella BluJon Lindsay and I had a great dinner Thursday night at the Cheesecake Factory in Brentwood. Courtesy of the $50 gift card they presented me with for Christmas.

If Jag didn’t end the evening with two scoops of vanilla ice cream, the contribution would have covered both of our lemon herb chicken dinners and a drink (coffee and water for Lindsay; diet Pepsi for me). But, certainly close enough, and for that we are thankful. “First time in 20 years I got money out of Shawn Ray,” Lindsay joked. At least, I think he was kidding. Shawn didn’t get my moniker of “Jack Benny” for his spending habits. At least on me.

And, with my birthday less than 3 weeks away (February 16, the same day as Shawn’s mom, Yvonne Stribling) there’s certainly more to come. Last year it was a $75 gift card for the Yard House; Shawn, Kristie and Asia Money came out my way (Bella was Blu because she was too young to come, too), and we dined at the celebrated eatery at the Paseo Colorado in Pasadena.

Don’t know about you, but a meal always feels better to me when somebody else is paying for it. At least that’s the credo Shawn has gone by for the 25 years I’ve known him.

On the subject of Yvonne, the 71-year-old had a stoke two weeks ago, and spent 12 days in the hospital. Fortunately, she’s back recuperating at her Walnut home and, Shawn reports, has given up smoking as well as incorporating a new, sound nutritional diet regimen. Now, if she can get Shawn to follow the same eating format.

Filed Under: Celebrities

West Coast Classic Gets (Ami) Lean

/ Posted 01.13.2010

LT and Vince Kandis

Drove out to DNA Nutrition last Friday in Northridge, the work place of Ron "Yogi" Avidan. About a 35-mile trek, but it was well worth it. No, it wasn’t in honor of Elvis’ birth date (the King would have turned 75), I was meeting Vince Kandis there so Yogi could snap the picture of Vince signing on as the new Title Sponsor for my June contest.

Tylene Marie

Yes, I lost Bodybuilding.com after a six-year run, but Vince (and brother Spiro ) came through, and the show is now offically called the 2010 NPC AmiLean West Coast Classic. AmiLean is the new "Tighten, Tone & Define" solution the former owners of VyoTech have produced.

Vince, his pretty young lady, Tylene Marie, Yogi and I celebrated the new venture by venturing to a nearby IHOP. As the other three tried to eat clean, I gobbled up a plage of whole grain pancakes–with plenty of syrup, thank you. Tylene was by far the best looking body at that table (or any other table, for that matter), but I have to admit Yogi is slimming down these days. He’s about 20 pounds lighter than he was at ‘Olympia time.

Still, we both have a ways to go to steal the show, so we pondered rubbing some AmiLean up, down and ’round our bellies. But, we decided even this product can’t help us at this point. Another two months, Vince, and we’ll give it a go.

Hell, by the time the West Coast Classic rolls around on June 26, you may want to consider both of us as models for the product. Love my sense of humor, eh Vince? And, breakfast on me next time.

Filed Under: Celebrities, Contests, News

Jag’s Birthday Dinner; Turkey at the Rays

/ Posted 12.01.2009

Jon Lindsay and LT

Met Jaguar Jon Lindsay at Houston’s in Century City Sunday night (about 25 miles away from my place) night for his annual birthday meal, courtesy of yours truly. We both passed on steak this time around, feasting on chicken instead—so we had less guilt, natch, for the ice cream and cheesecake desserts that put a fitting end to a nice evening. In February, Jag returns the favor, driving to Pasadena’s version of the renowned eatery for my treat.

It’s been a great year for Jon; he’s had a record number of competitors at most of his shows this year, including the 467 at the USA last summer. And, the season will end on a familiar note at the Excalibur on Saturday.

As of Monday night, Lindsay had 189 signed up for the show, and by game day he’ll easily surpass the all-time record of 190, set last year. The contest should be a dandy; it’s always produced a high number of major caliber winners in the past–Curtis Bryant, Trey Brewer and Isabel Turrell are three that immediately come to mind.

I’ll be meeting Yogi Avidan, Bill Comstock, Alex and Nga Azarian and the gang at the prejudging Saturday morn at Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium in Culver City. Not sure at this point if I’ll come back for the finals, but will have the crew keep an eye on potential “Rising Stars” stepping on stage.

Also had a nice Thanksgiving, making the 45-mile trip to Corona to grub at Shawn and Kristi Ray’s impressive abode. Kristi extended the invitation a week earlier; I had to make sure Sugar Shawn wasn’t making me pick up part of the tab.

Only moments after entering the house, it was time for the Asia Monet Diva Ray show. Asia is quite the showman–4, going on 14. Has the old man’s muscular wheels, and her mother’s rhythm. Inherited my sublime singing voice somehow. Asia put on quite an impressive display of cartwheels, splits and dance moves…for the next 5 hours. Although I loved watching the kid perform, I welcomed the chance to tackle the turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie that provided a wonderful intermission. If only I could have been given a shot at a second round. Guess Shawn wanted to get his money’s worth out of the meal, which lasted throughout the weekend, he admitted.

Xmas card with Asia Monet and Bella Blu

Oh, can’t forget Bella Blu, Asia’s kid sister. I hadn’t seen Bella since her first birthday party at the end of April; she’s a real cutie, and is now trying to imitate Asia on the dance floor.  She’s getting there, although the balance is a little off at this point. And, Shawn showed me he can do a lot more than play by play on his trusted computer; I really enjoyed his movie slide show, Meet the Rays. If I wasn’t allowed to watch football on the big screen, this was a good second choice.

Hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving; as far as Christmas goes, I’ll accept gift cards and cash. Damn, been hanging around Sugar Shawn too much!

Filed Under: Celebrities, People