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.
Make 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.