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.


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.


Jersey Shore Audition; Mandy Tanny, R.I.P.

/ Posted 08.17.2010

2010 New Jersey State ChampionshipsFor the first time in several years, will be heading to the Big Apple this weekend. Or at least close to it. Have an audition on the reality smash, “Jersey Shore” as “The Situation’s” uncle Lenny. I was guaranteed by the producers of the show I would NOT have to show my abs at any point during the try-out. Not ever being arrested will probably hurt my chances, but it’s worth a shot none the less. Can’t wait to show Snooki my dance moves. Just hope someone doesn’t belt her at the bar if we get a chance to party a bit.

Okay, am sure you know I’m joshin’, but I AM taking the big bird from LAX to Newark, New Jersey on Friday. Dwayne McDaniel, who purchased the legendary Diamond Gym in Maplewood from John Kemper a while back, hired me to emcee his inagural production of the New Jersey State Championships.

Although I’m not scheduled to arrive in Newark until around 8:30 pm Friday, hopefully I’ll get a chance to get into New York city for at least a couple of hours. Haven’t been there since 2003 or 2004, if my memory serves me well. Which is a big “if.”

The contest is being held at the Wilkins Theater on the campus of Kean University in Union. Hope to see a lot of fans show up to support the contest. The featured guest poser is Cedric McMillan (others guest performers are Vince Galanti, Drew Jemmott and Guy Cisterino), the cat I picked to win the Europa Super Show in Dallas last weekend. As we all know by now, Big Mac was relegated to a fourth place finish. I wasn’t there, but from the pictures I saw on line, Ced was not conditioned enough, but still should have landed a top three slot. Now, the guy I picked seventh in the upcoming Mr. Olympia (see “Experts” video at the site soon) doesn’t even qualify. Will have to give him the Swami pep talk to ensure a tremendous comeback in 2011.

Sadly, have to conclude this blog on a unfortunate note. Mandy Tanny, daughter of the late Armand Tanny, died last Saturday morning at a Southern California hospital after losing her five-year battle with breast cancer. She was 60. I met Mandy on a couple of occasions, and thought she was a class act. Just like her Dad.

Mandy was a huge pioneer in the women’s fitness movement, managing several Holiday Health Spas while promoting women’s bodybuilding and lecturing on exercise and nutrition. Mandy also was a writer for Muscle & Fitness for nearly 10 years before penning two health food cook books.

She married George Naum and together, developed their own chain of gyms called “Tanny’s Personal Fitness” between 1990 and 2003. She is survived by George, son Mario and beloved pooch, Nutmeg.

Condolances to the Tanny family and friends.


Tony Nowak, RIP

/ Posted 04.07.2010

LT and Tony Nowak

As I often say, tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone.

I got the shocking news moments after arriving home from teaching my three Health lecture classes at East Los Angeles College; Tony Nowak, one of the nicest, and most generous human beings you could ever meet, passed away while on vacationing with his son in Italy. Initial reports list a heart attack as the cause of death.

Attached is a photo that Dave Liberman took of Tony and I moments after the Arnold Classic last month in Columbus, Ohio. During the weekend, I brought Tony to the stage as he presented his signature “Arnold Classic” jackets to all the top finishers in the various events throughout the weekend.

We talked about getting together soon at his El Segundo, CA office, just like we had done the previous years after he insisted on giving me (another) new jacket. Not heeding my own advice, I failed to set up a specific time, assuming we could hook up in the near future. Another example of how today is a blessing, tomorrow is luck. My bad, Tony.

We’ll miss you dearly. To the Nowak family, our sincerest condolances.


LT Chases Down Cormier

/ Posted 08.26.2009


Joe Weider Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

/ Posted 07.16.2009

Joe Weider will be receiving the “Health Advocate Lifetime Achievement Award” for his contributions to the world of bodybuilding and  efforts in eradicating the epidemic of obesity in America.  Celebrity trainer, Michael Torchia’s, proclamation to make August 1st an Annual Holiday called “Health and Fitness Day” in Los Angeles will also be announced at this monumental event.

Los Angeles, CA – July 13, 2009Michael Torchia, founder of Operation Fitness is hosting a free health and fitness event for adults, children, seniors and pet owners at the Westwood Park in Los Angeles on August 1, 2009 from 10:00 am – 3:00pm.  This event will offer free advice, classes and products for everyone in attendance.  At the event, Torchia will be launching his Shape Up America Campaign designed to help adults, children and even pets get healthy for their own benefit and for the lasting benefits that will strengthen the entire nation for generations to come.  Torchia will be traveling across America with his team of health experts to inspire Americans to pursue healthier lives and encourage people to end the epidemic obesity in our Country.

Joe Weider will be receiving the “Health Advocate Lifetime Achievement Award” for his major impact on the Health and Fitness Industry at this monumental event.  Joe Weider is the co-founder of the International Federation of BodyBuilders (IFBB), he has published several bodybuilding and fitness related books and magazines including such notable publications as Men’s Fitness, Shape and Flex.  He is also the manufacturer of a line of fitness equipment and nutritional supplements.

Torchia says “As a 14-year-old boy, the Weider publications and exercise products helped turn my life around and have made me want to become the man I am today.  I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this Lifetime Achievement Award than Joe Weider”.  The event will be held at Westwood Park located at 1350 South Sepulveda Boulevard in Los Angeles.

For additional information on the Shape Up America Campaign, Operation Fitness or the event launching in Los Angeles, please call 800.933.8633 or visit www.operationfitness.com For press opportunities, contact Rachelle Brehm/LRB Publicity 310-704-1357 or RachelleBrehm1@aol.com.

Health_and_Fitness_E_CardAbout Operation Fitness:

Operation Fitness is a health organization that was created in 1985.  It was designed to teach people of all ages how to properly exercise and eat right, culminating in a healthier lifestyle.  The all-around effect is an equal balance of feeling good mentally, emotionally and physically.

Filed Under: Legends, News, People

Good-Bye, Zabo

/ Posted 03.31.2009

albumopenr_00049_zaboAnother legend has passed on, with the sad news that Irvin “Zabo” Koszewski died Sunday at age of 84. Zabo, according to my sources, came down with pneumonia, which led to a staph infection; eventually renal failure resulted in his death.

I first met Zabo at Joe Gold’s World Gym in 1983. Known for his tremendous mid-section-he dominated the “Best Abs” competition whenever he stepped on stage-during his illustrious 20 year career, Koszewski struck me more for his laid back persona, and wit, than for his championship physique.

He worked the front desk at the gym, but most of the time he was either reading a book, or sleeping, while members and guests alike, after failing to get his attention, would just enter the facility, train, and leave-while Zabo continued to dream away. Sometimes he would take the phone off the hook, and when an irate Gold came back from a break and asked why the phone was busy for hours, Zabo would innocently say the receiver must have been knocked off accidentally. Honest injun!

Eventually I did a couple of in-depth pieces on him in IRON MAN, and found out so much more about this understated gentleman.  He was born August 24, 1924, in Camden, New Jersey. His quest for the perfect midsection began at the age of seven, after seeing photos of Eugene Sandow’s beautifully sculpted abs. Zabo was a standout high school athlete, where he was captain of the football team, earning all-state honors as an offensive guard; he also lettered in track, swimming and wrestling. In 1943 he enlisted in the Army infantry; during his time in the service Zabo served in New Zealand and Australia, and fought in three combat landings.

albumjgold_00041_zaboAfter returning stateside, Zabo won the Mr. New Jersey title in 1948; in 1951 he made his first appearance at Muscle Beach and immediately fell in love with the location; Zabo had found a new home. At the 1965 Mr. America, held in conjunction with the inaugural Mr. Olympia, Koszewski finished third in the Medium class-he won, natch, “Best Abs” as well.

Two years later he won his class at the Mr. International and his success on a posing dais eventually led to mainstream notoriety as he landed a part in the television series “Combat”, for five years. He also worked in movies, and toured with the Mae West Show.

In 1970, while Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sergio Oliva faced off in the Tall division at the Pro World competition, Zabo landed in fourth in the Short class. In May, 2007, Zabo was inducted into the Joe Weider Hall of Fame; he was honored at last year’s Independence Day show at Muscle Beach.

The last time I saw Zabo was at the Reg Park Memorial in December of 2007. I tried to get him to open up on camera but, as expected, he wanted to shed the limelight.  A modest, funny man indeed, who epitomizes the “actions speak louder than words” credo.

Plans for a memorial service are in the making; check back at this site for updates. In the meantime, the IRON MAN staff sends out deepest condolences to the Koszewski family.


Ray Routledge Tribute

/ Posted 11.17.2008

Paul Larocco of the Press-Enterprise featured a loving tribute to Ray Routledge.

Mr. America muscleman, Ray Routledge

The Press-Enterprise

When coroner’s officials found Ray Routledge on Wednesday, there was no one to claim him and nothing but his subsidized senior apartment in San Bernardino.

But by the time a son surfaced in Colorado on Friday afternoon, there was a rich story to be told of the 77-year-old who once took the world’s biggest muscleman titles in the same year.

He was a young airman who flew from a base in Germany to win Mr. America in 1961. He was a pitchman and actor who once appeared in “The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant” alongside Oscar-nominee Bruce Dern. He owned a gym and even found time to become a prison guard and travel the United States — alone — for 17 years.

“Everyone I ever met, I always made mention of Ray Routledge,” said Dan Watson, a 68-year-old Moreno Valley resident who served with him at Rhein-Main Air Force base outside Frankfurt in the early 1960s. “So many times, nobody knew who he was and it was very hard for me to deal with.

“And to learn that he was just up the road,” Watson continued, a choke in his voice. “If I would have known he was there, you betcha I would have gone there.”

Watson spotted Routledge while he bench pressed at the base gym, just before he became Mr. America and amateur Mr. Universe. He said the gentlemanly bodybuilder wanted to be even stronger to compensate for the half-point he was docked in a prior competition for his tattoo.

Years earlier, Jim Simmons met Routledge at Air Base Defense School in Northern California. In 1953, Routledge was already eating protein pills “by the handful,” and getting all the stares from women as they walked the beaches, Simmons said.

“Ray was our guy for disagreements,” Simmons, now 73 and living in Yucca Valley, said with a laugh.

“The other (unit’s) guys picked this giant, he had to be 240-pounds. But Ray lifted him right up and threw him against the barracks, and boom, everything was over!”

In the 1960s, Routledge appeared on the cover of no less than eight muscle magazines. By the early 1970s he owned the San Bernardino Health Club at 10th and D streets.

That’s where Tim Goddard met him. Routledge took the teen under his wing for several regional youth competitions. They kept in touch through the years of Routledge’s marriage, move to Running Springs, divorce, sale of the gym, corrections job and decision to travel the country.

“He really loved it,” Goddard said.

“It’s kind of a sad ending, him coming back here and being in the place he was at.”

When Routledge returned, he had no more money, Goddard said, and no longer talked to his sons. But he’d still visit the 48-year-old Goddard, and sit for dinner — with dessert of a quarter of an apple pie and almost a half-gallon of ice cream.

Routledge gave Goddard all his prized bodybuilding trophies, medals and film reels. In 2003, the Old Fire burned Goddard’s home and took the irreplaceable items with it.

“He was very, very saddened but his words were, ‘You know, they’re only possessions,'” Goddard said, his words halted by tears.

“He said, ‘Your health is the main thing.'”

Reach Paul LaRocco at 909-806-3064 or plarocco@PE.com

Filed Under: Legends, People

Smokin’ Joe, Lights Out Toney, Memorial Day Fly Over

/ Posted 05.31.2008

Because the ‘Cal’s numbers went through the roof this year (read previous blog), I didn’t get home from Culver City until midnight last Saturday. Thus, I just didn’t have the energy to get up early and drive back to the westside of town for the first day of action at the latest Memorial Day festivities at Muscle Beach.
Normally I just go to the event on Monday, but with the addition of the “Rumble in Venice”, 12 bouts of amateur boxing, held for the first time at world famous Venice Beach venue, I was giving the early trip strong consideration. The fights featured boxers from the Venice Boys and Girls Club, Venice High School, UCLA and USC and four bouts between military personnel. The event, which was sponsored by Abbas Moussauwi’s Pro Fight Nutrition, concluded with some good ‘ol female boxing.

What could have been the featured fight not only of the weekend, though, but of the year–or the decade, actually–was a near match between Muscle Beach promoter Smokin’ Joe Wheatley and James “Lights Out” Toney. Yes, THAT James Toney. Seems like Toney thought that it was a bunch of baloney that Wheatley hired Bill Grant, not Lights Out, to be the ring announcer. And, when he told Smokin’ Joe how he felt about the slight, Wheatley showed Toney what lights out might look like from an opposing view.
Okay, am just joshin; Toney, who has held several World Championship belts in different divisions, just stopped by to see the action, which drew a huge crowd. Of course, Joe knew I’d smack him upside the top of his head if he DIDN’T get a snapshot of him and the man who actually portrayed Smokin’ Joe Frazier in the flick, “Ali.” And, Kent Kuehnn told me Grant did a fine job as the ring announcer, as I knew he would.
Another reason I decided on the Monday trip–Isaac “Lifter” Hinds, who had been on a nationwide tour in previous weeks covering events for Bodybuilding.com and the NPC News, flew in from Las Vegas where he shot the UFC bouts at the MDM Grand the night before. Previously, Hinds was in South Carolina for the Junior USA, in the Big Apple for the New York Pro and in Pittsburgh for the annual Jim Manion NPC show that includes a Pro Figure division. I thought, with Ron “Yogi” Avidan in the house as well, “The Experts” could get some great video from the state’s second largest tourist attraction. I was wrong, since Yogi was more interested in getting several pieces of pizza before shooting the show for BB.com But, at least I got some great interviews from the event, so look for it on our website.
For the second year in a row, March Air Force base, out of Riverside, California, supported the Muscle Beach International Classic with another spectacular C-17A Globemaster III fly over. Additionally, IRON MAN’s talented Art Director, Terry Bratcher, was on hand to present Jon Jon Park with the Muscle Beach Hall of Fame award in honor of Jon Jon’s late father, Reg, who passed away last November.
Congrats to Overall bodyuilding champions James Scott and Dawn Michael Thomas, and Figure champ Laura Bailey. Unfortunately, it rained like cats and dogs on Friday, and moisture was still in the air as the Sunday event opened to unsually chilly weather. Both Joe and I agree that the lack of usual warm climate contributed to a drop in the usual number of contestants in the show (check out the results on the site) but, overall, even Mother Nature couldn’t put a damper on this one.


Governor Hosts Reg Park Tribute

/ Posted 12.17.2007

Just got back from a very wonderful—and emotional—evening. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and California’s First Lady, Maria Schriver, hosted a tribute, celebrating the life of Reg Park, at the Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica. As you know from my blog a couple of weeks back, Park passed away from melanoma at his home in South Africa last month. Park was 79.

Many of the industry’s biggest stars were there, and the IRON MAN staff was well represented, with Publisher John Balik, Jerry Brainum and Jerry Fredrick on hand to support the event.

www.ironmanmagazine.comMake sure to check out the video of the affair we shot, and my individual interviews with luminaries like Lou Ferrigno, Samir Bannout, Franco Columbu, Boyer Coe, Zabo Kazewski, Steve Strong, Peter McGough, Balik and Brainum. Jerry had some great anecdotes; the taping with Park’s son, Jon Jon, was the one that touched me the most. Jon Jon had the audience in tears as he relayed some of that information when he followed the Governator as the final speaker of the evening.

What I didn’t know was that Reg was diagnosed with the fatal cancer after his return home from the Arnold Classic last March; I sat at the same post-contest banquet table with Reg and wife Mareon in Columbus. Reg seemed in pretty good spirits at the time, although he did look like he was losing a bit of weight. As Jon Jon said, he fought a great battle in his final eight months on earth, living “four times as long as he was supposed to”, and never once uttered a word of self-pity.

Rabbi Jeffrey Mark, from the Santa Monica Synagogue, was the Emcee for the evening, and several tributes were given in honor of the late star, including two from Columbu and Schwarzenegger.

Those who have followed Arnold’s career know that as a 15-year-old in Graz, Austria, he saw a muscle magazine with Park on the cover, hitting an awe inspiring front lat spread. That hooked the future Mr. Olympia; Schwarzenegger followed all of Park’s training regimes, and eventually got to spend three weeks at his idol’s home, training with Park twice a day (including an unheard of 5 am squat sessions, preceded by a daily ritual of corn flakes, sprinkled with protein, for breakfast) and seeing what a wonderful husband and father Park was.

“I never had that type of atmosphere at home when I was a kid,” Schwarzenegger told the audience.

“When I saw how special Reg treated Mareon and the kids, how they did everything together as a family, I decided I wanted to find a wonderful person like Mareon to be my wife and mother of my children someday.” At that moment, Arnold looked at his wife, seated at the front table, and said “And I was lucky enough to find one in Maria.”

Jon Jon said Park’s site (www.regpark.org) is getting about 5,000 hits a day, and that he has changed the name of his one on one training studio in West Los Angeles to “Legacy” in honor of his dad. Check out the site and leave a post in his memory, if you haven’t already done so.

Thanks for setting up such a special night, Governator. I know Reg was watching from above, and appreciating every single moment.

Filed Under: Celebrities, Legends, People