So Long, Joe, It Was a Great Ride

/ Posted 03.28.2013

Stubborn. Stupid stubborn. And, because I was cursed with such behavior, I nearly blew my chance to meet—and work– for Joe Weider.

It was nearly 30 years ago—April 1983—to be exact. I had been a professional sportswriter right out of college and, after the newspaper closed its doors, I moved on as Sports Information Director at Cal State L.A for the next five years. I also taught in both the Journalism and PE Departments. When the SID job was eliminated, I stayed on another 12 years as a member of the Department of Physical Education faculty.

A buddy I’d met at the gym several years earlier would always push me to contact Joe. “You’d be perfect for his magazines,” the friend quipped. “You have the combination of being a professional journalist, and a professional in the field of physical education.”

Finally, I relented, and made the call. And, to my surprise, a lunch meeting with Joe was quickly set up by his secretary, for the following Friday. More than a bit nervous, I hit the road for my 45-minute drive to the Weider Headquarters in Woodland Hills. I arrived 30 minutes early (it’s called Type A personality, fans) to make sure I wasn’t a minute late. No matter—Joe didn’t show.

The secretary apologized, but I was too ticked—and immature—to pay heed. I sped home, calling my buddy immediately, and told him what transpired. Soon after the phone rang; it was Joe’s secretary. She apologized, and asked if we could reschedule for the following Friday. Stubborn, stupid stubborn set it. I said no!

Minutes later the phone rings again. It was Joe’s secretary calling back. “Mr. Teper, Joe would like to speak with you.” This time around “honored” replaced stupid stubborn, and here I was, talking to the Master Blaster himself! The godfather of fitness. The guy who played such a major role in popularizing weight training, the use of supplements and vitamins, and workout equipment. The creator of the Mr. Olympia, for gosh sakes! He was apologetic for the mix-up, and asked to meet for lunch next Friday.

Those were among the longest seven days of my life. I have to admit, a part of me wondered if Joe forgets about me again. Like he wasn’t a dude with a lot on his plate. No worries…he was there, right on time. He was well dressed, complete with dress slacks, white shirt and tie, and was very courteous as he reached for my hand and said, “Very glad to meet you, Lonnie.”

Joe drove me to his favorite eatery, noted for its fish, not too far from the office (don’t remember the name of the place). Stubborn no longer, I didn’t let on what I thought of the choices, and ordered halibut. It was good; if I order fish these days, halibut it is.

We got down to business; I went over my writing background, and told Joe I thought I’d be a good fit for his publications. Had a great idea for a story for Muscle & Fitness: how so many athletes in the 1950s and 1960s had to lift weights in secret so their coaches wouldn’t find out. You know, the old, erroneous muscle-bound theory. He agreed it would be a promising piece—BUT wanted me to turn in a sample of my work to see if my writing could strike a chord with his target audience.

Stubborn makes a comeback. “I don’t ‘audition’ at this point of my career, Joe,” I said. “You don’t have to worry, I know who your audience is…I’ve been part of it for years.”

To be honest, I don’t recall what was said next, but we finished an enjoyable lunch, talked about what I liked—and didn’t find so appealing—about his magazines. Needless to say, I was very careful not to spend much time on the latter.

I went ahead with my article, titled it “Can’t Weight to Train” (featuring Otis Chandler, former Publisher of the Los Angeles Times and a premier collegiate shot putter and weight lifter), and it ran a few months later. That started a string of stories I wrote for Muscle & Fitness, Flex and eventually Sports Fitness over the next three of years.

However, I wasn’t getting consistent assignments, so I took the opportunity to join the staff at IRON MAN when John Balik and Michael Neveux bought the publication in 1986. But I would see Joe at various events, particularly the Mr. Olympia that he created back in 1965.

I emceed my first Olympia in 1993 in Atlanta. In Chicago in 1996, Joe saw me at the hotel and said, “Lonnie, no time for jokes this weekend, since you are emceeing all four shows (Mr. Olympia, Ms. Olympia, Fitness Olympia and the Masters Olympia.” During intermission, Joe approached me and said, “Lonnie, where are your jokes?…we need to make this more entertaining.”

Yes, we lost quite quite a man when Joe Weider passed away from heart failure on Saturday, March 23, at 93 years of age. Joe had been in very poor health for some time, so his passing was not a surprise to those who knew him. But, that doesn’t change the fact that people are having trouble dealing with the death of a true icon that influenced so many lives in the world of fitness and nutrition.

And, of course, perhaps Weider’s greatest achievement was having the insight to invite a young bodybuilder from Austria named Arnold Schwarzenegger to move to the United States, where he financed the move and helped Schwarzenegger boost his career in bodybuilding, business and acting.

“Joe became a father figure to me,” said Schwarzenegger in an article by Greg Botehlo of CNN.” He advised me on my training, on my business ventures, and once, bizarrely, claimed I was a German Shakespearean actor to get me my first acting role in “Hercules in New York, even though I barely spoke English.”

Despite being diagnosed with a heart condition, amyloidosis, 12 years ago, Weider never slowed down, according to his publicist, Charlotte Parker. “He was generous, loving, full of life,” Parker says in the CNN article. “He was a great man.”

Gone, but never forgotten. Thanks for all you did, Joe Weider. It was a great ride. R.I.P.

Filed Under: News, People, Reflections
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Former Bodybuilding Great Jackie Paisley’s Tough Road to Recovery

/ Posted 01.16.2013


[photos courtesy of Jackie Paisley]

I was in the seats at the San Jose Civic Auditorium, circa 1987, when 25-year-old Jackie Paisley dominated the women’s bodybuilding division en route to winning the overall crown. And, I was there the following day when Paisley displayed her award winning physique for the lenses of IRON MAN photog Michael Neveux in an outside shoot.

The elegant Paisley, a graduate of the prestigious Carnegie Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, went on to shine in the pro ranks: in 1989 she won top honors at the Ms International in Columbus, Ohio, followed that up with a fourth place finish in the Ms Olympia and added a runner-up medal at the World Pro Championships (losing by a single digut to Diana Dennis) to her sparkling resume.

Paisley retired from competition in 1991, and began a very successful training business in Phoenix, Arizona, as well as also teaching choreography. But, choosing to get silicone breast implants to enhance her appearance during her time on stage planted the seeds of what Jackie calls a seven-year nightmare.

“After retiring from competition, despite maintaining a fitness lifestyle and career as a personal trainer, I started experiencing fatigue and head pain, and was subsequently diagosed with “Silicone Toxicity” due to implant leakage….I learned I only had months to live,” says the now 50-year-old Paisley. “But, after undergoing two surgeries, including a seven-hour procedure to remove adhesions and eight lymph nodes (February, 2011), I’m getting close to full recovery.”

But Jackie, mother to eight-year-old Neo, obviously wasn’t able to work consistently, resulting in a landslide of outstanding bills. Thanks to good friend Derwin White, Paisley is fighting back, both physically and financially. White started an online fundraising campaign on Paisley’s behalf a week before Thanksgiving, and the few donations she received helped her make it through the holidays. Though Jackie has been “out of the loop” for so long, she was able to get some support from folks like Rachel McLish, Collin Rhodes, Shawn and Laura Boiscaq, Debbie Bramwell, Autumn Spencer and some contributions from kind folks in England and Australia.

She’s rounding into the home stretch, but still needs some help in making to the finish line. If anyone could spare some change for Jackie and her son, it would be greatly appreciated. To make a donation to the “Jackie Paisley Fund, using PayPal, credit, debit or checking, go to http://www.jackiepaisley.com/Welcome_.html. Please use “Personal”, then “Other”, when donating.

Jackie provided many wonderful moments on stage for her fans; now’s a time to lend a helping hand so she can help herself.

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Lucien Demeilles Passes Away

/ Posted 10.08.2012

Lucien Demeille, former publisher of French magazines Pleine Forme and Le monde du Muscle, died in August, according to his wife Josette. Lucien was 85. I never met the man, but heard a lot good things about this extremely talented fella. “Lucien’s magazines reflected the elegance of the man, ” said IRON MAN Publisher John Balik. “Lucien was driven by the aesthetics of French culture–he felt, as so many of us still do today, that Steve Reeves was the ultimate physique. Both Lucien and Bob Kennedy expressed themselves through their artistic talents.” Talented indeed–Doris Barrilleaux told me Sunday night Demeille actually did all of the art work that appeared in his publications.

“Lucien was instrumental in developing Culturisme–the term used for bodybuilding in those days–from the 1940s on,” said his wife, Josette, in an email. “His anatomical drawings are well known in Europe and beyond for more than half a century. He never ceased drawing…he authored several books, including the best seller, Exercise de musculation.”

Josette says Lucien was an outstanding athlete all of his life (swimming and rowing were two of his passions) and had to hit the weights behind his rowing trainer’s back because it was considered taboo during those times. She also revealed that, up to 1956, Lucien was a singer in the famous jazz orientated group Les 4 de Paris. Most of his friends were musicians.

“First and foremost Lucien was a cultured individual, a gentleman who, in spite of his multiple talents, remained level-headed, modest and friendly,” Josette writes. “Even-mooded, with a strong sense of humor, kind and gregarious. It was a pleasure to share his life. Our common venture lasted over 25 years when he passed away…our only regret: that we had not met much earlier in life!”

I wish I could have met him, too, Josette. Special. Real special. R.I.P.

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Remembering Dan Block

/ Posted 04.18.2012

A crowd of around 200 people, including many of the industry’s biggest names, showed up to honor Dan Block on Sunday, April 15, in Aliso Viejo, California. Block died at the age of 58 in March at his Temecula, CA home.

Eric Sternlicht, Pd.D, longtime IRON MAN contributor/advisory board member and close friend, gave the eulogy to the group, which included Jay Cutler, Boyer Coe, Tom Platz, Shawn Ray, Kal Szkalak, John Brown, and Troy Zuccolotto, among others. "Throughout the ceremony a video montage was displayed for all to view," said Sternlicht. "Towards the end of the ceremony, and prior to asking anyone in the audience if they would like to share some memories about Dan, a video and audio recording of industry leaders was played."

Thanks to Mark Nalley, former owner of Flex Equipment Company, where Dan was employed for many years as head of sales, for providing photos from the special day. Sorry I was unable to attend; Ray told me it was a wonderful tribute. One that would bring a smile to Dan’s face, I’m sure.

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So Long, Robert Kennedy, We’ll Miss You

/ Posted 04.13.2012

It is with great sadness that we, the staff of Robert Kennedy Publishing in Mississauga, Ontario, announce the passing of Robert Kennedy, our company’s founder.

Bob passed on April 13 at home from cancer. He was 73 years old. Bob was surrounded by family and friends. He is survived by his beloved wife, Tosca Reno and their four daughters: Chelsea Kennedy, Rachel Corradetti, Kiersten Corradetti and Kelsey-Lynn Corradetti. Bob’s only son Braden Robert James Kennedy passed away last year due to pneumonia complications at the age of 23.

Bob leaves behind a legacy as an pioneer in the field of bodybuilding and physical wellness.

He was born in 1938, the son of an Austrian father and an English mother, both school teachers. He attended Culford private school and Norwich art school in Norfolk, England. Bob was, by his own self-admission, a slender lad. But with the resolve and determination that would mark his future endeavors, he set about transforming himself into a physical specimen. This choice would come to define Bob’s career and friendships and marriage — in essence, his entire life.

Bob and his schoolboy chum Gino (aka MuscleMag’s “Johnny Fitness”) trained in their early teens with jury-rigged weights. At first, they lifted parts of an old candy machine; later they constructed homemade weights from broomsticks and cement-filled biscuit tins. By the time he hit 17, Bob would’ve been nearly unrecognizable to his old friends. Gone was the stringy beanpole — in his place stood a highly muscled young man who had built a remarkable physique using a routine that put his inexhaustible energy to good use. As Gino would say, Bob spent half his young life upside-down, performing endless handstands.

Always a lover of muscle, the two teens would hitchhike the 200-plus miles round trip to London, sleeping in haystacks along the way, to take in the early Mr. Universe shows. Every spare shilling was funneled into the purchase of ultra-rare bodybuilding magazines with titles like Health and Strength and Mr. America — these, too, had to be bought in London, seeing as they weren’t carried in the local shops.

After living in London for eight years and teaching art at the Tottenham Technical College, Bob moved to Canada in 1967, where he taught art and English for five years in Brampton, Ontario. But Bob decided he needed to share his love of bodybuilding with the masses, and to do so required a big risk on his part.

He quit his job, took his $480 in savings and decided to start a magazine.

The first person he called? His old buddy Gino. Despite the fact that Gino still lived in England, was married with a baby, he believed so fully in Bob that he and his family were on the next flight over the pond.

The first issue of Bob’s flagship publication, MuscleMag International, was cut and pasted together on a kitchen table in Brampton. The magazine — envisioned as “A New Concept Magazine Dedicated to the Survival of the Fittest” — battled early setbacks (including a 110,000-copy order of the first issue … with no means of distribution!!) to become one of the premier bodybuilding publications in the industry.

Bob spent much of the ’80s writing books. Of the 53 books he wrote, several were New York Times bestsellers. Whenever he wasn’t writing, Bob could often be found in the studio — photography and painting were lifelong passions. His canvases are hung in the company headquarters in Mississauga, Ontario, and in the homes of private collectors around the world.

Not content to rest on his laurels, Bob branched out. He opened a string of 26 fitness stores and franchises and a fitness clothing line; all were eventually sold to concentrate on the core business of book and magazine publishing.

Spotting a need for publications dedicated to women’s fitness, he built Oxygen into a category leader. Reps!, Clean Eating and American Curves are other popular titles under the Robert Kennedy Publishing banner. His book imprint publishes the best-selling Eat-Clean Diet books, written by Tosca Reno.

Bob and Tosca, along with their children and pets, maintained a quiet residence in the Caledon Hills of Ontario, just north of Toronto. A tireless worker, he maintained regular hours in the office (and the gym) into his 70s. Bob could often be found at the light table going over magazine pages, or snapping photos down in the studio. Always a hands-on boss he penned the publisher’s page for every magazine in his chain and trained his keen visual eye on each page of every publication; Bob made sure to put his personal “stamp” on every issue.

For his efforts just last month Bob was honored in Ohio at the Arnold Classic by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger with the Lifetime Achievement Award, one of the sport’s highest honors. A beloved fixture in the bodybuilding and fitness scene, Bob had thousands of friends and supporters. His love and devotion will be sorely missed.

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Bob Kennedy in Late Stages of Lung Cancer

/ Posted 04.10.2012

www.ironmanmagazine.comThe following information about Robert Kennedy’s health comes directly from his wife, Tosca Reno. Everyone say a prayer for Robert, a true legend in the industry and one of the sport’s greatest contributors in a variety of facets.

“This is a sad, sad time for our family, and for all of us, but I wanted to let you know about Bob’s health. Despite his and all of our greatest efforts to fight lung cancer, it now appears that he will not be successful with his treatments, and unfortunately his condition is terminal. At this point, we do not know how long he has, but we don’t think it is very long. He was able to meet with Arnold yesterday for a couple of hours, which was an inspiration to Bob in this difficult time. It was nice to see the sparkle in Bob’s blue eyes once again. The two legends even flexed!

“We will soon be losing a wonderful person, father, great leader and inspiration for both the Company and this industry at large. However, Bob’s life’s work, dedication and impact on bodybuilding, fitness and health and the support and inspiration to 10’s of millions of people will continue through all of you.

“Your continued thoughts and prayers are appreciated beyond words.”

Tosca Reno

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Remembering Dan Block

/ Posted 03.18.2012

www.ironmanmagazine.comThe shocking news came a week ago; Dan Block, who had suffered from health issues the past few years, passed away at his Temecula, California home on Sunday, March 12. Block was 58 years old, and left a wife, Karen, his brother, Tim, of San Clemente, CA, and sons Ryan, 27, and Riley, 17.

I knew Dan for nearly 30 years; I saw him compete as a bodybuilder, knew he was a high school and college cross-country star, and eventually ordered Flex equipment through him for the weight room at Cal State University, Los Angeles in the mid to late 1980s.    But, I wasn’t nearly as close to Dan as IRON MAN contributing author Dr. Eric Sternlicht, who first met Dan back in 1979 through Tom Platz at Block’s Gym in Santa Ana, CA.

“Dan was an industry leader and an innovator,” says Dr. Sternlicht, “and was the face of Flex at trade shows and within the business. Dan was highly respected and sought after for his knowledge and expertise. He had a knack for remembering people’s faces and names, and made everyone feel at ease, and to trust his word.

“As a person, Dan was principled, honest and well respected by both his clients and by his competitors in the industry. Dan was profiled on the cover and in a feature article in the National Fitness Trade Journal’s spring, 2003 publication, and received the Journal’s Distinguished Service Award in 2004.

“Dan’s athletic prowess ranged from being a competitive high school and college runner, amateur bodybuilder and, even for a time, a competitive road cyclist. We raced together many times. He introduced many friends to each sport he was involved in, and quickly became close with those already involved in each sport.  He always moved to the top level in each activity he pursued.

“Dan loved to train as much as compete…he had an incredible drive and determination, and the ability to dedicate the time and energy necessary to come into a competition knowing he had done more than any of his foes.

“In recent years Dan had suffered from health issues; due to circumstances from a failed back surgery in 2003, Dan had permanent nerve damage that continued to worsen and limit the quality of his life. He fought long and hard to overcome it, but it became more and more difficult to deal with the pain and deteriorating muscles.

“Dan’s strong character and personality won’t be forgotten, and his spirit will live on through his sons, and with his friends, for years to come.”

For further information regarding the trust fund set up for Dan’s sons, and the remembrance celebration, to be held in Orange County in mid-April, write to DANIELPBLOCK@aol.com.

Condolences to all of Dan’s family and friends. To Dan, R.I.P.

 

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Yogi Gets Honored by PBW

/ Posted 12.15.2011

Cheers for Ron “Yogi” Avidan, who was honored by the Pro Bodybuilding Weekly trio of Dan Solomon, Lee Thompson and Chad Nicholls on their internet radio show this week with an “Achievement in Bodybuilding Media” award. The honor cites Yogi for his contribution in “new media” to provide fans with more ways to follow the sport.

Although Avidan is widely known for his creation of Getbig.com back in 1995, his outstanding photography, and his partnership with Isaac Hinds on the “Hardbody.com“, and “Ripped.com” websites, the man also has another life as a husband, father of two and a 40+ hour a week job as V-P of Sales, Marketing and Purchasing for DNA Nutrition in the San Fernando Valley.

His great accomplish to date, however, is making me look 10 to 15 years younger with his magic lenses. Now, THAT is deserving of an award!

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Kuclo Makes Swami Proud at USA

/ Posted 07.31.2011

Yes, Steve “Kid” Kuclo finally became the man at the USA Championships over the weekend, winning the Superheavyweight and Overall titles a couple of weeks before his 26th birthday. And, making me look good in the process, since I picked the Plano, TX firefighter to come out on top at the annual event held on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

To refute what Dave “Jumbo” Palumbo said about my selection in our wrap-up video (which can be seen at both this site and Rx-Muscle.com), I did NOT pick the favorite when Kuclo’s 6’0′, 260-pound bod showed up in my crystal ball. Shoot, the guy didn’t even get to pose last year at the finals after finishing sixth! Didn’t win at the Nationals, either, landing in third last October in Atlanta, GA, so this wasn’t an “automatic” as Jumbo claimed.

Anyway, the Jon Lindsay promoted bodyfest produced a record 691 contestants–nearly 200 more than last year! Of course, there were two new additions to the game, men’s and women’s physique. I hosted the show for the 19th year; thanks to the tremendous backstage assistance I always receive, another record was also set–the show ended at 10:05 pm, something I thought was as likely as Charlie Sheen giving a “no comment” to the media.

On the subject of receiving, three other class winners also get to receive their initial IFBB card: Jonathan Delarosa (HW); Tamer El Guindy (LHW) and Luis Santa (MW). Congrats to the remaining class winners, Victor Del Campo (WW); Ori Atkins (LW) and Heath Warren.

I haven’t seen the scoring for the Overall yet, but some, including Jumbo and fellow wrap-up commentator Chris Cormier, felt Santa got an early Christmas gift with the fourth pro card; they deemed Del Campo as the rightful recipient. But, as I say on camera, I think the decisions were just. Even though Victor did remind me of a mini-Dorian Yates! On second thought….

Back to men’s physique. Frankly Shredded (yes, that’s the name listed, and that’s the name I called out!), won Class A. It wasn’t the first time I saw Shredded; he won the Overall at the NPC San Jose Championships that I emceed two weeks earlier. Deniz (pronounced “Dennis”) took Class B, with Nick Garton topping Class C. When all three did their turns in front of the judges, Deniz was the menace for his two opponents, and walked off with the first-ever USA MP crown.

Check out all of Roland Balik’s contest photos from Sin City and let me know if you agree, or disagree, with how things turned out.

‘Til then, I’m out.

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Nguyen for the Win?

/ Posted 06.03.2011

Was chatting with Paul Finn earlier today, and he was telling me how sublime one of his clients, An Nguyen, is looking. Nguyen, last year’s Lightheavyweight champ at the ‘Cal, went on to finish fourth in the division at the USA. And, although most of the pre-contest hype in that class has centered around Pistol Pete Ciccone, runner-up to Al Auguste in 2010, and Tamer “The Razor” El Guindy, the division winner in 2009, I felt Nguyen could battle for the win this season.

Well, as Finn pointed out, no need to discuss that point anymore; Nguyen hit the scale at 230 this morning and, with eight weeks to go, Paul says An will be headed for the Heavyweight division when the prejudging starts on July 29 on the Artemus Ham Auditorium stage at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“I’m having An drop weight very slowly,” says Finn. “With his roundness, he should come in right on the button in the Heavyweight class, but look like a Superheavyweight…everything is going very well, I expect big changes in the next 10 days.”

I asked Paul to get a shot of An after we spoke, and he obliged. Here’s how Nguyen looked on June 2. Your thoughts?

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