The more things change, the more they stay the same. In 2012, Iris Kyle won her eighth title, Adela Garcia earned her seventh crown, Erin Stern upset reigning champ Nicole Wilkins, again, and bikini got its third queen in three years. And that was just what happened at the Olympia. Men’s and women’s physique made their debuts in the IFBB Pro Division, the NPC national shows posted record numbers of athletes, graduating dozens (and dozens) into the pro ranks, and from the FitExpo and IRON MAN Naturally in January to the Masters O and Miami Pro shows in early December, it was difficult to find an weekend when there wasn’t at least one national- or pro-level show taking place.
My correspondent’s journal reveals a kaleidoscope of good times and misdemeanors experienced while covering the physique sports in 2012. Here are a few of my favorites, in chronological order, including an exclusive chat with Ms. Olympia as you’ve never seen her.
1) Interviewing Cory Everson on the fly at the Arnold Sports Festival in March.
Little did I know when I left my hotel room on Saturday morning, headed for the Arnold Classic judging, that I’d soon be on camera with a bodybuilding legend. Turns out the International Sports Hall of Fame do that Dr. Bob Goldman had been telling me about all weekend was a BFD, and the judging had been scheduled later than in previous years (teach me not to check the schedule—or leave the room without makeup on). Next thing I knew, Roland Balik was pulling out the videocamera and I was holding a mike in front of my old friend Cory, who was being inducted into the prestigious group, along with Mark Henry, Randy Coture, Elaine LaLanne and ASF promoters Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Lorimer.
Photo: A happy reunion at the International Sports Hall of Fame ceremony (from left: Steve Weinberger, Cory Everson, Bev Francis, Lenda Murray and Urel McGill).
2) Also at the Arnold, wrapping up the Bikini International with L.T.
My IRON MAN colleague Lonnie Teper has been saving my butt since that Mike Christian interview he did for me at another major newsstand muscle magazine way back in the day. When my frequent partner-in-crime Nancy DiNino couldn’t make it for our bikini wrap-up on Saturday night, L.T., came through once again. Also once again: The outer lobby at the Columbus, Ohio, Veterans Memorial Auditorium gets my vote as having the most flattering lighting in which to shoot a contest wrap.
3) Wrapping my first pro men’s and women’s physique contests, at the L.A. Grand Prix, in April.
I love working with Dave Palumbo and the guys from RxMuscle.com. They’re sharp, they’re tough, and they’re such, well, such East Coast–type guys. So I was totally not prepared for the detailed commentary regarding the men’s physique contestants’ hair coming from Dave and P.J. Braun at the L.A. Grand Prix. We are all evolving.
4) Setting a fashion trend in Pittsburgh, in May.
Jim Manion gave me the T-shirt shown in the accompanying photo when I first got into the industry. Soft from many washings and worn with age, it is still one of my favorites. I decided to wear it at the NPC/IFBB Pittsburgh last May because I thought everyone would get a kick out of it, and because I had reason to believe it still looked good. In fact, everyone who was around back in the day’s of Manion’s Gym, circa 1979–’85, did indeed get a kick out of it. So much so that they were inspired to bring back that retro look from “the original East Coast Mecca,” and the T-shirts are now available again. For info call @NPCRico at 1-800-783-8447.
Photo: In my favorite T-shirt at the Pittsburgh. Thanks to Barry Brooks for the pic.
4) Interviewing Iris Kyle at West Coast Classic, in June.
Speaking of people who are evolving, I’ve interviewed eight-time Ms. Olympia Iris Kyle many times over the years, usually after one of her big wins at the O or the Ms. International, and I’ve seen her grow in confidence as an athlete and a person in the public eye. At L.T.’s NPC West Coast Classic last summer we talked about the success she’s found in business with Visalus’s Body by Vi Challenge. Watching the public relate to the world’s most celebrated female bodybuilder standing behind an expo table—and vice versa—was a wonder to behold.
Photo: Iris at the West Coast Classic.
5) Working with the great Lee Haney at the NPC Johnny Stewart Fitness in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in September.
Cory Everson and Lee Haney were the king and queen of bodybuilding back when I started covering the sport, so I was jazzed to get to interview both of them this year. My Total-Lee Awesome encounter with Mr. Haney came courtesy of my friends at BODTv, who asked me to handicap the upcoming Mr. Olympia competition. As God is my witness, I will never wear those dirndl sleeves again.
6) At the Olympia in September, wrapping the Friday-night women’s, fitness and bikini finals with the Red Storm, Nancy DiNino.
Wonderful working with my gal Nancy DiNino again and also the Great Rolando. We couldn’t have done it without you—and we brought it in at well under seven minutes. Thanks also to the amazing Brad Seng. Question of the evening: “Is Candice Keene going to be the perennial Heather French?”
Photo: “Red Storm” DiNino gives me a lesson in posing at the O.
7) Also at the Olympia, wrapping the shows with the RxMuscle gang.
Funny how it’s a completely different conversation when you have different people to converse with. In this case the gang was Palumbo, Aaron Singerman and Chris Aceto, and the conversation that two chicks would never have occurred when Aaron and Chris explained that Nathalia Melo was the correct Bikini O winner because if you put all 32 women in that contest on the beach in Miami, Nathalia is the only one who’d get any attention. Can’t argue with that logic.
8) Interviewing Dexter Jackson for Muscle Insider magazine in December.
It’s good to be getting back into the men. Now, don’t misunderstand that. I’m talking about getting back into covering the men’s side of the bodybuilding equation, which I used to do lot before there were five women’s sports to keep track of. I was tickled pink when M.I. honcho Scott Welch offered me an assignment to write a cover story on Dexter Jackson. Heading out to Gold’s, Venice, for the interview, I was a little nervous—Dex knows me only as a fitness and figure reporter—but it went okay, I thought. (Guess it’s just like riding a bicycle.) The issue is due out soon.
Photo: Dexter famously trains with Charles Glass at Gold’s Venice.
In the meantime, 2013 is looking pretty snappy, and it starts in just a couple of weeks at the Los Angeles FitExpo. New memories coming up—see you there.