Although it’s more than two weeks since we came home from the Olympia, I have to admit, the big weekend is still on my mind. For one thing, I returned from bodybuilding’s big honeymoon in Vegas and promptly got sick; so it really was the last interesting thing that happened as far as I’m concerned. For another, I’ve been going through my notes, preparing to write about it for my column IRON MAN; so it’s all coming back fresh in my mind.
Thanks to the magical marriage of digital technology and the Internet, the physique reporter’s job has morphed beyond anything I could have imagined back when I covered my first show for IRON MAN. For the record, it was the ’88 Men’s Nationals, held in Atlanta. Vince Taylor won the overall, and my new bosses, John Balik and Michael Neveux, shot film. Lots of film. Afterward, I interviewed Vince with my microcassette recorder, and I wrote it all up when we got back to L.A.
It was a nice little system, and I had a comfortably low-key presence. Now, thanks to cheap video cameras and talking Web sites, the key’s gone up a few notes, and while it’s not unpleasant, it does take a bit of getting used to.
Imagine my shock after the Team Universe/Figure Nationals/New York Pro Figure weekend to find the top half of IRON MAN contest homepage was all me, all the time—stills from the various videos I had shot during that busy weekend filled the computer screen, plus there were several pages of candids that IM photog Roland Balik had shot of me with the athletes. Even my family doesn’t have that many pictures of me. There were so many, some of them by the law of averages were bound to be cute, heady stuff for someone who’s never exactly been photogenic. Here’s one of me watching the Fig Nat’s judging with pro bodybuilders Dexter Jackson and Yohnnie Shaumbourger. I call it, “At the Symphony.”
The same thing happened after the USA and now the Olympia. A day spent shooting some neat videos at the expo, and there I am front and center again—with Jen Hendershott; Iris Kyle; Adela Garcia plus Julie Palmer, Heidi Fletcher and Tracey Greenwood; physique honchos Jim Manion and Steve Weinberger (interesting body language there); Nicole Ball; and Betty Pariso, not to mention the shots of me with NPC bodybuilder Carolyn Bryant and the honorable Matt Crane, NPC-IFBB judge from New York, who provided excellent analysis in the Ms. and Fitness O wrap-up video.
Then there’s the recognition factor. I love it when readers come up and say hello—proof positive that people are actually reading Pump & Circumstance. It happens more frequently these days. Again, not unpleasant, just different—and flattering.
Take, for example, what happened at the Olympia after party sponsored by BSN and Bodybuilding.com. No sooner did we arrive at Risqué, a nightclub in the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino—Carolyn and I hitched a ride with Debbie Kruck and Z-man Mike Zeltzer—than I was approached in the crowded crush of fans trying to get near BSN stars Monica Brant and Ronnie Coleman: “You write for IRON MAN, don’t you?”
Cool, I thought. People are actually recognizing me in the dark. The next day it happened at McCarran International Airport. Waiting in the C line for my Southwest Airlines flight to Burbank, I only half-noticed a rather shapely, fit lass standing behind me. She, however, noticed me: “You were at the BSN party.” Wow, I thought, my editors are going to love this.
Obviously, it’s great P.R. for the magazine and Web site. Mr. Balik and Co. take a USA Network approach to IRON MAN’s contest team—characters welcome—so they let us loose, and I can’t deny that it’s fun. I can’t help wondering, though, about the way it shapes the coverage. I’ve always believed that for the most part the athletes are the story, not us. I still do, but sometimes it’s really hard not to think, Forget how good the ladies were—do I actually look thin in that video?
Several close advisers have made suggestions as to how I should handle my newfound physique-world semifame. The staff here at the IM Hollywood office urged me to, “Lie back and think of England,” while editor in chief Steve Holman, the father of two teenage girls, declared, “Just don’t shave your head—and keep your underwear on.”
All I can do is pledge to not let it all go to my head, at least not too much (and the part about the underwear). Behind all the photos of me, me, me are characters found—fascinating interviews with some of the top bodybuilders and fitness athletes in the world. A few are posted in the blog, or you can click on “My Audio & Video” in the top-left corner of this page to check them out.
Final note. The lass at the Vegas airport turned out to be figure competitor Farinaz Tavakoli, a chiropractor from San Jose and a good companion to be stuck at the airport with. Look for more on Farinaz and various topics mentioned above, including the Olympia and West Palm Beach competitions, in the January ’08 IRON MAN.
To see all the photos from Olympia Weekend, click here:
Photos (from top): with Yohnnie and Dexter at the Figure Nationals; interviewing pro-bodybuilding sensation Nicole Ball; chewing the lowfat with Julie, Adela, Heidi and Tracey; and congratulating Iris after her Ms. Olympia win.