I have been a part of Muscle Beach Venice since competing there in the mid ’60s. Much has changed in the bodybuilding scene, just as Venice has evolved from a beat generation and hippy backwater to the funky tourist attraction it is today. In the ’60s, 15 contestants at a muscle competition would have been considered a healthy turnout, with maybe a hundred people watching the event. The contests back then were a lot of fun to be part of. They were what the “dream of bodybuilding” was meant to be.
Working out in the perpetual sunshine of California, literally on the beach and surrounded by people who shared your joy—what could be better for anyone enraptured by the barbell? Venice Beach was a part of my dream and I think the dream of every barbell enthusiast who ever worked out in an unheated garage “back East.”
Muscle Beach Venice has experienced a resurgence, and it is the result of several factors. Nobody has been more central to its growth and what makes it special than Joe Wheatley, the promoter of bodybuilding at Muscle Beach Venice, who has brought his vision and energy to the shows. There are now three contests each summer—on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day—each one attracting 150-plus contestants. And the mood is the mood of Venice—free-wheeling fun! The crowd bubbles with the energy of a sunny day and good times.
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