In a video made a few years ago with Dave Draper, Bill Pearl says that most people today believe that fitness began with Arnold and Jane Fonda sometime in the 1970s. With the Internet and Facebook, one thing’s for sure: Long-standing myths about the personalities shaping bodybuilding gain a life of their own simply from being repeated thousands of times. Several recent videos have begun eroding long-held myths. Now Randy Roach’s second volume of Muscle, Smoke and Mirrors gives you a penetrating behind-the-scenes introduction to a load of long-hidden secrets.
In 1977 the film “Pumping Iron” filled movie houses across the country, for the first time dispelling old myths about bodybuilding, establishing its stars as real athletes engaged in intense training. It spawned the growth of gyms filled with young men training to build muscle as never before. Soon after that “Pumping Iron II, The Women” inspired women to begin training in greater volumes than ever before. An unprecedented tsunami of bodybuilding has built up in America with no signs of slowing down.
“Pumping Iron” taught us who the stars were. Muscle magazines flourished in the wake of the film, keeping us abreast of new generations of stars. Thirty-five years later most everybody knows who Arnold, Louie, Franco, Zane and others are.
Then came disillusioning news. A 25th-anniversary edition of “Pumping Iron” was released on DVD, packaged with a new video: “Raw Iron: The Making of ‘Pumping Iron.’” Just imagine first watching “Pumping Iron” again, passionately reliving all the lore of the cast of characters we all knew so well as heroes, villains and in between, and then having “Raw Iron” permanently shatter what we believed as gospel for 25 years. “Pumping Iron,” it turns out, wasn’t a documentary—it was fiction, a crafted drama for entertainment. No doubt it had massive impact on building Arnold’s career. Ken Waller, on the other hand, was stigmatized by the film as its arch villain, which brought him unpleasant personal experiences for years afterward. Only with “Raw Iron” did we learn we’d been tricked!
You won’t be tricked with Roach’s new book—it’s all fact; and fact can be stranger and more interesting than fiction. This nearly 700-page book offers an in-depth revelation of the 1970s growth of bodybuilding—entertainingly discussing everything from the early anabolic-fueled athletes to the building of immense empires, including major cash-prize physique titles, supplements, magazines, gyms and much more.
It’s fair to say that bodybuilding was a marginal, almost mom-and-pop business prior to the ’70s. By the end of that tumultuous decade those who had survived had amassed multimillion-dollar enterprises.
The book’s cover points us to its two main themes: Arnold and the late Arthur Jones. Arnold is the subject of the first half of the book, which covers the emergence of professional bodybuilding; its sanctioning organizations; the big, moneymaking competitions with ever-growing cash prizes; and the Weider organization, for whom Arnold was the fortune-making poster boy.
The late Arthur Jones is lesser known today despite having single-handedly created a revolution in training equipment and gym outlets. Any serious gym today is filled with machines, and Jones invented Nautilus machines, which he advertised as important advances beyond barbells, even claiming that the use of his machines would create optimal, drug-free physique development with just three 30-minute workouts per week. His claims were heretical to those who adhered to the generally accepted standards of 1970; worse still, they threatened the barbell and bodybuilding empires of the time. Only Peary and Mabel Rader’s Iron Man, forever the voice of independent, open forums, would publish Jones’ articles and advertisements. By the 1980s Nautilus succeeded in becoming its own huge empire.
Muscle, Smoke and Mirrors, Volume 2 takes you behind the scenes. Instead of a simple story of the stars and their training, you’re introduced to corporate empire building, open warfare between rival organizations, huge amounts of time and money spent on lawsuits, corporate espionage and much more.
The value of the book lies not so much as the history of those times but as a revelation of a continuation to this very day of smoke-and-mirrors myths that prevent you from optimizing your true potential. What’s more, you’ll no longer be vulnerable to the repetition of untruths spread in social media! One word of warning: Muscle, Smoke and Mirrors, Volume 2 is a page turner, a fun read that’s apt to take over your spare time until it’s finished.
Editor’s note: Ken O’Neill’s Web site is www.LongLife