November 29, 1919 – March 23, 2013
Joe Weider, the legendary fitness and publishing figure who popularized the modern conception of fitness and nutrition, and is considered the father of the sport of bodybuilding, died this morning in Los Angeles of heart failure. He was 93 years old.
Joe Weider’s influence is felt in every area of fitness and health. He created a massive fitness publishing empire, which included Muscle and Fitness, Flex, Shape, and Men’s Fitness magazines. He popularized the use of fitness equipment in people’s homes and was a leader in establishing the use of nutritional supplements. The company he founded, Weider Health and Fitness, became synonymous with fitness, nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.
A weight training pioneer, fitness crusader, and magazine publisher, Joe Weider overcame the challenges of childhood poverty and lack of education to create a sports movement that changed modern culture’s conception of physical beauty and the way athletes and everyman exercises and diets. Through the magazines he published, the sports federation (International Federation of Bodybuilders) he created, the bodybuilding contests he promoted, and his groundbreaking advocacy of fitness for women, Joe Weider created a sports legacy that has a worldwide reach and affected the lives of millions of people.
Born in 1919, Joseph Weider grew up in a tough neighborhood in Montreal, Canada during the Great Depression. An undersized child, Joe became easy prey for older and tougher teenagers, which prompted him to head off to the Montreal YMHA to request to train with their wrestling team. The coach turned him down for fear he’d be hurt.
Undaunted, Joe made his way to a local newsstand in search of inspiration. “I went to the local 5 and dime store and I bought two magazines for a few pennies,” he recalled. “One was the 1930 edition of the Milo Barbell Company’s magazine, Strength and it really opened my eyes.”
Inspired by the message and images within their pages, Joe scavenged a local train yard for an old axle and two flywheels, which he cobbled into a makeshift barbell. He lifted, pumped and pressed the scrap metal endlessly, transforming his physique from scrawny to brawny. His reputation as a powerhouse quickly began to spread throughout Montreal.
“Then somebody knocked at my parents’ door and asked for me,” he continued. “He said ‘I represent the Verdun weightlifting club. Would you like to come try out for our team?’ When I saw the gym, saw the guys working out, supporting one another, I was mesmerized. That experience changed my life.”
At 17 Joe competed in his first weightlifting contest which earned him a national ranking. Letters and calls began inundating the Weider household with requests for Joe’s advice. Realizing he hadn’t the time to attend to each query he chose to create his own magazine.
With $7 in his pocket he began to work on the first issue of Your Physique, which was published in August of 1940. Orders poured in immediately and within 18 months Joe had turned a $10,000 profit. Soon he started the Weider Barbell Co., a mail order business, using his magazine to advertise its wares.
In 1946, Joe and his younger brother Ben rented Montreal’s Monument National Theater to host the first Mr. Canada contest. They formed the International Federation of Bodybuilders that night.
In 1965 Joe created the Mr. Olympia contest, which to this day is the premier event in bodybuilding. Joe created the Ms. Olympia contest in 1980, and added the Fitness Olympia contest in 1995 and the Figure Olympia in 2003. He also mentored numerous young bodybuilders, including young Arnold Schwarzenegger. Recognizing Arnold’s potential, he said, “Every sport needs a hero and I knew that Arnold was the right man.” Joe brought Arnold to the United States from Austria, financing his trip and helped him become established in business. Joe maintained a very close relationship with Arnold for the rest of his life-they were close friends and visited frequently.
To help support his family young Joe Weider was forced to drop out of school in the seventh grade. Self educated, he was an avid student of history and a collector of art, particularly of the American West. In 2010 he oversaw the donation of money and priceless bodybuilding artifacts, photos and documents that established the Joe and Betty Weider Museum of Physical Culture at the University of Texas, Austin.
Twelve years ago Joe was diagnosed with amyloidosis, a heart condition with which he was expected to survive about three years. Doctors credit his amazing fitness and nutrition ethic—until recently he trained every morning and made frequent public appearances—for allowing him to survive an additional nine years.
He is survived by his wife, Betty Weider.
Additional information about Joe can be found on his website at JoeWeider.com.
TRIBUTES TO JOE WEIDER
On one of our many visits to California, my wife Debbie dropped me off at Joe’s house for a visit. When she returned to pick me up, Joe asked to see her. As we sat talking in the back yard, Joe asked her how I was treating her. Debbie answered jokingly, Jim’s great, but he can’t even change a lightbulb around the house Joe. In typical Joe fashion, he immediately replied: you didn’t marry him to change a lightbulb, did you. He’s a good earner isn’t him. Typical Joe, always cutting to the chase. On a serious note, those occasions with Joe at his house were some of my most cherished memories and ones I will never forget. This is a man I loved and respected. RIP my friend.
President of the NPC
Joe Weider, in Memoriam
Arabian Gulf, Saturday 23rd March, 2013
The sad news arrived. Joe Weider passed away.
A mix of emotions and memories come to my mind, putting all activities on hold. Joe Weider left behind him the legacy of an intense life , plenty of achievements, creating an inspiration for millions of people worldwide, that through his great wisdom changed their lives for the better.
His influence on the society in the 20th century, spreading fitness and active healthy habits that were a revolution for society, in the area of health, prevention and wellbeing, creating a true revolution. But I’m not going to write about it, others are doing that much better than I can.
I just to wish to remember the person, his easy smile, his passion for life, his volcanic creativity, his positive spirit and unique capacity to enjoy life to its fullest.
Even in this last period of his life with his fragile body, his eyes still conveyed his indomitable spirit. He never was a conformist. It was two years ago at the backstage at the Mr. Olympia when I met him for the last time. It was always very much looked forward to traditional meeting for many years with him and his brother Ben. He was looking at me with the great gift of his open smile, seated in his wheelchair and then he asked me for help to stand up. Immediately I tried to hold him but he swiftly corrected me and told me, “I only need your hand to pull myself up”. He carried out the exercise with the bodybuilder spirit that never left him and proudly expressed his satisfaction for his achievement, showing me with pride the correct way to do at that moment a very challenging exercise. This was Joe, the spirit of a fighter. A fighter against conventionalism, prejudice intolerance and limitations, a fighter with his ideas and principles for a better future for everyone. He never accepted barriers, a “no” for him was always a challenge to beat, like any limitation.
I met him for the first time in 1982, after many years reading and training with his methods. I was honored with his close friendship and the one of his brother Ben that was a gift from God and a life learning experience.
I was involved in all these thoughts near the Indian Ocean in Fujairah, and I was surprised at my own reaction because even within the melancholy of his loss, I was smiling recreating and remembering some of the unique moments I had the fortune to share with him, always showing optimism and creativity.
Joe Weider was a soldier, the great commander in the fight for a better world and he can close his record of services proudly saying mission accomplished. Now, no time for melancholy. Let’s follow his example and lesson. Let’s keep fighting for a better world through fitness.
God bless his soul.
Father of modern health and fitness passes!
By Rick Wayne
The man I hold most responsible for who and what I am today on Saturday morning at a Los Angeles hospital died of heart failure. I had first encountered him, at any rate spiritually, when I was a little over ten years old but already had been irrevocably influenced by his “you too can have a body like mine” advertisements at the back of one of my favorite Marvel comic books.
We were actually introduced in the early Sixties, after my London-based native-Barbadian friend Earl Maynard and I had been chosen by the UK branch of the Montreal headquartered International Federation of Bodybuilders to participate in our sport’s most prestigious annual event: the Mr. Olympia-Mr. Universe-Mr. America show at New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Soon after we’d checked in at our Manhattan hotel our host had showed up with magazine columnist and chiropractor Dr. Richard Tyler to invite Earl and me to a steak dinner at some plush Manhattan restaurant, probably now buried under the fallout from the world economic crisis.
What an unforgettable evening we had with Dick Tyler cracking us up with his blistering wit, and one of the most famous men in the world turning out to be a regular Joe who liked nothing better than telling and retelling inspiring tales about such legendary strongmen as Louis Cyr, Eugene Sandow, the Saxon Brothers, George Jowett and Sigmund Klein, to say nothing of the day’s superstars, all of whom he claimed as students, among them Clarence Ross, Jack Delinger, Leroy Colbert, Dave Draper, Harold Poole and Larry Scott. The two last mentioned were scheduled to compete the following evening in the first-ever Mr. Olympia, after which I renamed Scott “the eighth wonder of the world!”
(Now considered bodybuilding trivia: my Bajan friend had sneaked one peep inside Larry’s dressing room and decided on the spot he wanted no part of the great Scott. In his own best interests he chose instead—and quite contrary to our long-established arrangements—to forget the Olympia and compete in the Mr. Universe event. I lost to him by a mere quarter point. We continue even today to laugh about the turn of events but the lesson I learned on the remembered night remains indelibly written on my soul.
But then, this is supposed to be about Joe Weider, RIP. Suffice it didn’t take long before we were close friends. Indeed, my name eventually became synonymous with the UK branch of Weider International, until the boss in his undisputed wisdom decided I would be far more useful to his company operating nearer his elbow. His was a dream offer too good to refuse, one I’ve never regretted readily accepting: Editor-in-Chief of his flagship magazine Muscle Builder.
Many years later we relocated from a relative warehouse in Union City, New Jersey to a specially constructed plush building on Erwin Street, Woodland Hills, California. Already resident in nearby Santa Monica and taking his first baby steps to international fame was a young Austrian named Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom I had introduced to Weider several months before I transferred from the UK. (In due course I would also introduce Joe to two Saint Lucian visitors: Dave Samuels and Jeff Fedee, who were appropriately awed by all they saw first-hand at Weider Headquarters, including a life-size painting of a fellow Saint Lucian in the lobby!)
Together Joe and I traveled the world for show purposes. He was always a controversial figure, for diverse reasons I need not go into here—obits in the New York Times and other newspapers feature some of them—but everyone agreed he was among the most humble of men. At one point, after some over-muscled mindless ingrates had physically attacked him in his office and I’d had reason to call in the cops, Joe suddenly agreed to forget the whole incident, like it never happened.
Talk about feeling sheepish! Nevertheless I unforgettably learned on the particular occasion that forgiveness does more for the forgiver than the forgiven. Also never to be forgotten was Joe’s response when I bitterly complained that he had been too easy on his attackers. With a casual shrug and raised eyebrows, he said: “Look at it this way, Ricky, if I have to be our sport’s Jesus . . . “ For me, that was a helluva statement, especially coming from a Jew!
Quite obviously I will miss Joe, never mind I had not set eyes on him for the greater part of two decades. For some of those years we talked on the phone, wrote each other letters and I promised at his expense to hook up at this or that show in Vegas.
He was always generous to me, and not necessarily in monetary terms. And while many have written flatteringly about my personal contributions to bodybuilding, I have never forgotten it was Joe Weider who handed me the opportunity to hone my skills as a writer. Thanks to Joe, I had the good fortune to work closely with some of America’s most respected photographers (Zeller, Lund, Neveux, Balik) male and female physique superstars (including my wife Mae) and editors whom Joe had somehow enticed away from magazines as prestigious as Esquire. (There was a time, believe it or not, when the Weider magazines actually eclipsed Playboy sales—no mean feat!)
Often, after I’d handed in what I considered one of my better pieces and could hardly wait to hear the boss’ review, I would be disappointed to learn he’d not had time to read it. His usual excuse: “Ricky, your writing is like a gourmet meal, why don’t you allow me to sit down and enjoyeee it at the weekend, at my own pace!” I’ve never forgotten the unique sound of that word as it fell out of Joe’s mouth. Enjoyeee! Pure heaven, I tell you. What’s more, I knew he meant it.
I’m sure Arnold would have no problem acknowledging that without Joe Weider there would have been no Terminator as we know it, no California governor named Schwarzenegger. I certainly have good cause to say I have absolutely no idea what my own life might’ve been like without Joe’s lasting influence—and his unending patience.
I leave to speak for themselves the other thousands, no, millions, the world over, (his magazines were at one time translated into 36 different languages, included Arabic) whose lives were in one way or another touched by this man who, with his brother Ben (deceased) had dropped out of school at 12 to become multi-millionaire magazine publishers and pioneers in the business of health promotion.
It remains to be said that bodybuilders of color owe Joe Weider a special debt: until he and Ben started publishing their magazines and created IFBB, the winners of the AAU Mr. America contest promoted by Bob Hoffman’s outfit York Barbell Club, were all white. Without Joe Weider, I dare to say, such legendary stars as George Paine, Leroy Colbert, Sergio Oliva, Harold Poole, and Lee Haney might never have taken their rightful place at the front of the bodybuilding bus, let alone appeared on the covers of their sport’s magazines.
There is no man who could match him in contribution to the field of physical culture and no one ever did more for the sport of bodybuilding and sports publishing than Joe Weider.
Here’s a tribute that I wrote last night and my true feeling about Joe whom I loved dearly….
I’d like to say that Joe Weider had the greatest influence on my bodybuilding career more than anyone ever. First the Weider principles are what I used to train by when I first started working out. Then when I met Joe, he personally taught me a lot about dieting and working out. I spent many days at his house and we would go out for lunch every time I came to L.A. Joe would personally drive me to these lunches in his car. Even while I was eating lunch with me he was still giving me advice on digestion of food by eating real slow, I was a fast eater, especially when I was hungry. He also gave me the longest contract ever when he signed me to a 6 year deal after I won my first Mr Olympia. Not only that he signed my girlfriend to a 3 year contract just because she was my girlfriend and she happened to compete, Vickie Gates, I guess it helped she had placed 3rd in the Ms Olympia. Joe was always giving me advice on every aspect every time we were together. That’s the thing I’ll always miss about the Joe, the long talks we had about bodybuilding and the lunches we had at his house and going out to dinner. He was also one of the most receptive people I ever met, whenever I brought someone over his house to meet him, Joe was always the nicest guy in the world and always offered these guys advice on bodybuilding.
The Passing of a Legend, Joe Weider 1920-2013
It is with a heavy heart that I write this today, as we have lost the man who essentially created the bodybuilding, fitness, and sport supplement industry, Mr. Joe Weider.
The first time I became aware of who Joe Weider was and what he had contributed to the sport and industry of bodybuilding was when I was 12 years old. In my friend’s basement, we found a box of old Muscle Builder magazines from the 1970’s with stars like Arnold, Lou, Franco, and Robby Robinson in them. Joe had the best bodybuilders in the world in his magazines, and that was how I became aware that there even was a sport called bodybuilding. I was bit by the bug. From the minute I saw those old Weider magazines, I knew I wanted to be a bodybuilder. My dream, though it seemed crazy at the time, was to one day be a champion and on the cover of those magazines too!
Less than a decade later, I was living in California, managing the Gold’s Gym in Reseda, and training every day with Lee Haney. Reseda was in the San Fernando Valley near Woodland Hills, where Joe Weider had his huge offices that controlled his publishing, supplement, and equipment empire. Lee had already met with Joe several times, and I was hoping my chance to meet the Master Blaster was coming soon. And it was. In 1984, I won the NPC Nationals, then went on to win the IFBB Mr. Universe (now called the World Amateur Championships), and earned my IFBB Pro card. I was chosen to be on the cover of Muscle and Fitness with three-time Ms. Olympia Rachel McClish, and Joe Weider himself would be there to supervise the shoot! That’s the kind of passion and personal attention Joe had for everything he did. Other company owners might have been content to sit in their offices and let others handle something like a cover shoot, but Joe was always hands-on. He wanted every cover to be perfect, and he needed to be there to make sure it was.
Shortly after that shoot, I finally got my chance to visit Joe in his beautiful Woodland Hills office, decorated with some of the most impressive paintings and sculptures I’d ever seen. Joe could tell I was incredibly nervous and asked me why. “You’re a legend, Mr. Weider,” I answered. He laughed and soon put me at ease. Joe told me how proud he was of me for winning the Universe, and extended his personal invitation for me to enter that year’s Mr. Olympia contest (the event he himself had created in 1965). I was honored, but had to politely decline the offer as I simply didn’t feel I was ready yet. It ended up being Lee Haney’s first Olympia win. Joe understood. He told me to train hard, and that he believed I would be one of the very best pro’s soon.
A few months later, I made my pro debut at the Night of Champions and took second, then went on to win grand prix shows in Germany and France as well as being runner-up to Lee Haney at the 1986 Mr. Olympia, all in my rookie year. I began appearing in Flex and Muscle and Fitness regularly, and best of all I got to know Joe Weider much better. As busy as he was, we went to lunch and dinner many times and he would call me every week or every other week to see how my training was going and how he was doing. Joe genuinely cared about all his athletes, almost like they were his children. In fact, Joe was like a second father figure to me in many ways. He was even born the same year as my dad! As one of his athletes, I had the option of getting a monthly check or receiving ad space in his magazines. I chose the ad space, and through my mail-order business I sold training courses, training tapes, photographs, and clothing. “You’re an entrepreneur, Richie,” he told me. “A lot of these guys want handouts, but you want to work for it and create your own success.” Joe was proud of me for that, and I was proud that he was proud of me.
Joe used to use that phrase, “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for one day. Teach him to fish, and he’ll eat for the rest of his life.” What he meant that by giving me the tools and guidance to forge my own path in business, I would be far more successful than the athletes who only wanted a check in the mail every month for using their photos. I took what he said to heart. By putting my images on his covers and inside his magazines, Joe gave me the opportunity to really make a name and eventually a brand for myself. I found myself in demand, and I ran with it.
Those lessons and that mentorship eventually helped lead to me starting my company, Gaspari Nutrition. I stayed in touch with Joe after I retired from competition, and he followed my ventures too. A couple years ago, I went back out to Woodland Hills to interview Joe for Gaspari TV, a trip I am so glad now that I took. One thing Joe told me profoundly humbled me. He said, “out of all the bodybuilders I have worked with going back to the 1950’s, I can count on one hand the ones I am truly proud of for what they went on to do after bodybuilding – and you’re one of them.” That blew me away, and still does. To hear that from the man who started with nothing more than a dream and created an empire and an industry was just surreal.
When I talk about who inspired me to be who I am and do what I do, I can rattle off names of champions like Arnold that made me want to win the big titles and be in the magazines. But it was Joe Weider who inspired me to go beyond the stage and the muscles and do so much more. Joe was a true pioneer and an innovator. Toward the end of that visit with Joe in his office, he told me that he was done with his particular mission, but that mine was just beginning. “You have so much more to contribute,” he said. “You will go on to do great things, I know it.” To have a living legend like Joe Weider believe in me that much made me determined to prove him right and help carry on his legacy in my own way.
Joe Weider was a great man who all of us in this industry owe an enormous debt of gratitude to. Without the tireless efforts of Joe and his brother Ben over many decades, the sport of bodybuilding and the fitness industry as we know it would not exist. Joe’s vision and his passion were the foundation for everything we do today. Joe is gone now and I will miss him, but he will never be forgotten and his legacy lives on in all of us who share his passion for bodybuilding and fitness.
Joe Weider and I met at the 1985 IFBB Mr.Universe in Gothenburg , Sweden. I had just finished winning the contest, and had been awarded my first-place trophy by his brother Ben. Joe was waiting by the side of the stage, and I couldn’t wait to have my photo taken with him. I didn’t want to miss my chance to introduce myself. It all seemed surreal at the time, because Joe was a legend to all of us bodybuilders– after all, he was the “Master Blaster”– the guy who along with Ben, had painstakingly transformed the sport of bodybuilding from literally nothing into an internationally recognized and respected sport. Meeting Joe and having my photo taken with him was one of the highlights of my trip.
A couple of weeks later, Joe flew me out to Los Angeles for my first photo shoot for Muscle & Fitness magazine. I’ll never forget it. Joe always attended the cover shoots, no matter how busy he was, preferring to direct the bodybuilders, models, and photographers himself. He had an uncanny eye for detail, and would always move the bodybuilders around on the camera set until they looked just perfect. Often it was just changing an angle a little here and there, but you knew that with Joe on the set, the photos would be awesome
Joe Weider loved the bodybuiders. He was paternalistic by nature, dispensing advice to all of us. Joe wanted all of us to succeed, not only in bodybuilding, but in life. I have very fond memories of this side of Joe. I owe much to Joe for affording me the opportunity to appear in his magazines, endorse his products, and become a “Weider athlete” as we were known at that time. Joe was big on giving the bodybuilders opportunities if they were willing to work. He wasn’t big on giving bodybuilders hand-outs, much to the chagrin of the freeloaders who mistook his generosity for charity. Unfortunately, the bodybuilding culture, like humanity in general, has its share of those types.
The Los Angeles Time’s article on Joe’s passing away this weekend mentioned that “While he had staunch supporters, he also had critics, who complained about his outsized ego and bruising business style.” Joe had a healthy ego, but he wasn’t arrogant or obnoxious. In fact, he was pretty down to earth. Nor was he ever unfair to me in business. He did the things that smart business men do. Nothing more, nothing less. Without Joe Weider and his brother Ben, all of us bodybuilders might still be relegated to an afterthought at a weight lifting tournament. The Weiders created modern bodybuilding as we know it, and gave birth to the modern sports nutrition industry.
Once I retired from bodybuilding competition in 1995, I set out to grow one of the most successful sports nutrition companies in the world. Again, I have Joe to thank in part for that opportunity. The things I learned working for him, I applied to what I do every day. Joe was proud of me for successfully transitioning into my business, Labrada Nutrition, and often told me so when I saw him at the Mr.Olympia competitions, which Joe attended as long as he was physically able (he LOVED the bodybuilders!) I have a copy of Joe and Ben’s book Brothers of Iron on my desk. On the inside of the book, in Joe’s handwriting, are the words I love you, (signed) Joe Weider. I’m looking at it right now, and I’m choking back tears. I love you too, Joe. I love you too.
Like every 12 year old boy, I longed to be big, strong and have plenty of muscles. Joe Weider provided the tools. My first barbell set was purchased from Joe. It took forever to arrive. But just as important at the weights, were the wonderful illustrated instructions. All the illstrations were of very well built men and very voluptuous women, which inspired me to even train harder.
Years later, when I won the Mr. America, Joe called, out of the blue to congratulate me, to this day, I still don’t know how he tracked me down. A decade later I move to California, thus began my association and long friendship with Joe. Over the years we had many business dealings. We never had any contract or formal agreement, everything was done on a handshake. I always lived up to the agreement and so did Joe. Everything did not always go smoothly, at times we had very heated debates. I recall, telling him one time, “that he was absolutely the worse judge of character that I had ever seen.” He thought for awhile and eventually had to agree, but then added, but look at the people I have to work with!
It was interesting to watch Joe work, especially at photo shoots. No one and I mean no one was better at getting you to hit the pose just right. He saw things that would always improve the pose. I know he would drive the photographers nuts, but the photo was always a master piece. He was extremely knowledgeable on many things, and over the years I learned a great deal from him, especially about business.
I visited Joe in the hospital a few days before his passing. He was already on life support and in a coma. But nevertheless I spoke to him, telling him how grateful I was for him giving me the opportunity to pursue my love and passion for body building. And that is what he really did, he gave each and everyone of us a great opportunity and it was up to us to do something with it. As I was speaking, his eyelids fluttered a little, I can’t be sure he heard me, but I hope so.
There will never be another Joe Weider.
The greatest tribute anyone from the Bodybuilding World can give to Joe Weider is that he was the Ultimate Bodybuilding Fan. He loved the sport, he lived it 24 hours a day, it was his life. There is a void in the sport that will never be filled because there will never be another Joe Weider.
Master Blaster, rest in peace………….
–Wayne S. DeMilia
I bought my first Weider magazine in 1954. Body Beautiful with Ed Holochovnic (Ed Fury), “Prince of Bodybuilders,” on the cover. Steve Reeves, John Grimek, “everybody” was in that particular issue, which cost all of 25 cents then!
I met Joe for the first time around 1967, when I was working at Parke-Bernet Galleries in New York (now Sotheby’s). I had spotted an old Eugene Sandow trophy that was coming up for auction. I recatalogued it correctly before entering it into the sale for which it was scheduled. Joe bought it. I understand it became the prototype for the Joe Weider’s Mr. Olympia Trophy which is given out every year.
Over the years, Joe, Betty and I met numerous times in New York, London and Los Angeles. Our mutual interest was art and antiques. Joe, who never finished grade school, was exceptionally well self-educated and well-read in many fields and knew more and had more profound insights than most people who have had the advantage of a formal education.
Joe’s wisdom always helped to put things in perspective. Once, over lunch, Joe pointed out: “You and your mother might have your spats, But remember, she’s your oldest friend and your best friend.” My relationship with my mother was greatly improved after that.
Thank you very much Joe.
I will never forget him for the many positive things he did for bodybuilding and for his encouragement and fairness in promoting Night of the Champions. He loved being back stage with his photographers, setting up and positioning the bodybuilders to his liking, Always the consummate perfectionist. On a lighter note we all knew Joe’s accent was superb and all that knew him enjoyed imitating it at any chance we got. Of course not to his face. I must say when God made Joe Weider he broke the mold…”
From Tosca Reno Kennedy
Widow of Robert Kennedy
I have met Joe and his lovely wife Betty on many occasions, most recently at the late Jack LaLanne’s Celebration of Life. These gatherings, particularly for a newcomer in the fitness industry like me, were a wonderful mix of giants, legends and history. With a single glance around the room you could take in the likes of fitness icons like Joe himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, Rachel McLish, Joan Rhodes (the original strong woman who could tear a phone book in half), David Carradine and many more. I always felt completely humbled and honored to be sitting amongst these greats.
At Jack Lalanne’s Celebration of Life event held in Los Angeles in 2011, Bob and I gathered with Jack’s and friends family at a wonderful venue to share stories and see the greats of a bygone era. Bob strode across the room making a beeline for Joe. Bob had a way of looking at you with such intensity that if felt as though you were the only person in the room. He leaned down to Joe, who was seated at the table, gripped Joe’s hands firmly and made a pact to put out another magazine together. Bob challenged Joe to put up the money and Bob said he would create it. It would be a magazine about the legends. Joe gave a laugh as only Joe could and agreed that yes, they would get right on it. The two publishing icons laughed out loud for a time holding each other’s hands. Bob in fact did go on to publish three issues of that amazing LEGENDS magazine he and Joe joked about. They are all best sellers.
No one knew then that Robert would be the first to go and Joe himself would soon follow.
Consider where we all might be without Joe and Ben Weider…probably not where we are today. I believe that Joe’s greatest accomplishment was having the vision to promote bodybuilding and make the sport what it is today. This started with Larry “The Legend” Scott, then Dave “The Blond Bomber” Draper, then Sergio “The Myth” Oliva, and then the greatest of all time – Arnold.
Without Arnold, our sport would be like the AFL/NFL New York Jets without Joe Namath, the NBA without Michael Jordan, Major League Baseball without Yankees legend Babe Ruth, and boxing without Muhammad Ali. Joe brought Arnold to America – and the rest is bodybuilding history!
Remember, in Europe, Arnold was good at a young age but far from the greatest ever. Joe deserves the credit for helping Arnold get to the top, where he still is to this day.
Joe also inspired me. I’ll never forget the day he invited me to train with him in New York before he moved to California. He pushed me into doing 110 lb. dumbbell curls – a feat I never thought possible. I thank him for inspiring me to become a world champion. Much of my success I owe to Joe.
I know I speak for thousands of other athletes from around the world who followed Joe’s advice, both personally and through his magazines.
Thanks from all of us; what a great ride!
“Big Mike” Katz
What more can I add to the legacy of Joe Weider that hasn’t been repeated many times over? Has anybody in history done more to advance the world of physical fitness and nutrition? To spread the word regarding the virtues of bodybuilding? To dominate the magazine publishing world? All this, from a high school drop out who began his quest with but 7 bucks in his pocket.
Would Arnold Schwarzenegger have turned into one of the most successful men in the universe without the guidance of Joe Weider? Arnold’s recounting of how Joe helped him get his first acting gig by saying he was a Shakespearean actor is classic. I imagine I wouldn’t have had a three-decades long adventure as a journalist/emcee in the industry if not for meeting Joe in April, 1983. After years as a mainstream sports journalist, my first ever piece in “our world” ran in “Muscle & Fitness” a few months later.
How many bodybuilders had dreams become reality when Joe signed them to Weider contracts? Which, of course, led to others eventually getting lucrative deals from other companies.
Joe was an amazing “rags to riches” story, whose passion, drive and determination made him a household name all over the world. His passing being mentioned in “People Magazine” illustrates that. I just overheard a guy talking about following the “Weider Principles” at the gym the other day. Thought about how much those words would have pleased Joe. He lived to inspire people, continually urging to “exceed yourself.”
Yes, Joe touched too many people’s lives to fathom. He may be gone, but never forgotten. Hard to imagine being another like him. Thank you for all you did, Joe.