In mid-July I had the pleasure of being part of the celebration of the opening of the Joe and Betty Weider Museum at the Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports on the spectacular campus of the University of Texas, Austin. Part of the pleasure of the event was being able to share the passion of the process that is bodybuilding. Some personalities express their passion in measured terms, but others simply can’t contain themselves. That leads me to Rich Gaspari, who is on this month’s cover.
I first met Rich when he was Lee Haney’s training partner. They were working out together at World Gym on Main Street in Santa Monica, and I was there to photograph the action. I didn’t know too much about Rich, but I did know a lot about Lee, whom I’d photographed many times. I was amazed at the chemistry between them. Here was someone who was training for the NPC Nationals partnered with the reigning IFBB Mr. Olympia—a measure of both Rich’s confidence and Lee’s openness. I found them to be the perfect team—Lee taught Rich what he knew about training and nutrition, and Rich drove Lee the way no one had ever driven him. They took each other to new places, and Rich went on to a spectacular pro career himself.
Fast-forward to 2011 and a crazy idea. While interviewing Rich at Muscle Beach on Memorial Day 2011—before he was inducted into the Muscle Beach Bodybuilding Hall of Fame—I noticed the vascularity in his forearms and commented on it. He explained that he was training as hard as he could, given the time constraints of running Gaspari Nutrition. I asked if he was interested in doing a cover. Rich is a perfectionist, driven by passion and an iron will, but could he possibly get into good enough shape to satisfy him? He would have to make it a priority, not easy when you’re the hands-on businessman that he is. “Let me think about it,” he said.
Two days later he sent me some casual gym photos to get my opinion of his present condition. He would do the cover only if he could do it “his way,” he said, which meant a classic contest-prep diet and laser-intensity focus on the photo shoot as if it were the Olympia. You can judge the results for yourself. It’s been 19 1/2 years since Rich appeared on the cover of IRON MAN, and now at 48 he’s doing it again in the only way he knows.
He said that revisiting this degree of intensity literally brought tears to his eyes because it rekindled memories of the many workouts with Lee. While I wasn’t in the gym this time to photograph Rich’s workouts, Mike Neveux did a masterful job of creating some memorable images. To go along with those photos, the inimitable Lonnie Teper got to the core of what makes Rich Gaspari what he is (see the interview on page 104). This month’s cover and interview are landmark efforts all around. IM