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Muscle Beach Memories

I first met Zabo Koszewski in 1965 at the original Gold’s Gym on Pacific Avenue in Venice, California. By then the golden age of Muscle Beach was over the original Santa Monica location was gone and we’d soon be seeing the arrival of the Arnold era. Zabo was and is one of the originals, along with Joe Gold and others, who were the nucleus of bodybuilding on the beach.

The stories and photos of that beach that appeared in the bodybuilding magazines were like a beacon for all of us who saw them. It was a fantasy world of endless summer, bodybuilding and, of course, girls. The apparent freedom and fun of those guys and girls became a powerful draw to the susceptible, me in particular. In the late ’50s, as I worked out in my unheated garage with the inside temperature below freezing, I saw photos of Zabo on the beach working out – in January. I promised myself that I’d somehow get to experience it. I was too late for the golden age, but I made it in time to be a charter member of Gold’s in 1965.

In early 2008 I was talking to Zabo about my odyssey to Muscle Beach, and he mentioned that he’d kept some scrapbooks. I asked to see them, and the result is the pictorial of Zabo’s Muscle Beach memories that starts on page 192. I want to thank him for sharing his personal vintage photos with me and with the many thousands who will get to see them. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Randall Strossen, Ph.D., is a recognized expert on the worlds of Olympic weightlifting and feats of strength. He travels the globe covering the sports for his magazine Milo, and for many years he also penned a column, IronMind, for this magazine. While we no longer cover those sports in depth, I like to feature Randy’s work from time to time. He combines a deep knowledge of the sports with the photographic skill it takes to capture them at their best. Randy’s photos express the superhuman athleticism that is the hallmark of the Olympic lifter. No other sport requires the raw explosive power, unbelievable flexibility and fearlessness of Olympic weightlifting. See page 284 for Randy’s highlight coverage of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

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