Training at Gold’s Gym in Venice, California during the 80’s was an unforgettable experience. The atmosphere was electrifying and hard-core times 10,000. The cast of characters was never-ending… names, which could have been included in the Who’s-Who of bodybuilding, Sports, Wrestling, Power-lifting and even Hollywood.
Contest season brought World class athletes vying for the Nationals as well as Pro-level IFBB competitors. You’d come across Casey Viator, Mike and Ray Mentzer, Tom Platz, David and Peter Paul (the famous Barbarian brothers), Samir Bannout, Larry Jackson, Don Ross, the late Lyle Alzado, Victor Richards, Gary Leonard, Lou Ferrigno and others during any given workout.
You’d also get people coming from around the county, Europe and Asia just to get ready for a competition. There was an old school bus parked down the street. It was the living quarters of a guy named Magic Swartz and his girlfriend Reggie Bennet––two of the more colorful personalities of the famous muscle laboratory. Reggie may have been one of the first of Pro wrestling’s Diva’s.
Let’s not leave out the ladies of Gold’s like Rachel McLish, Stacy Bentley, Lori Bowen, the late Annie Rowe, Rita Brown, the late Kay Baxter, Shelly Beatie, Janice Ragain and many more.
Then we’d get normal street people lining up in the front of the gym just to watch. Owners Pete Grymkowski, Tim Kimber and Ed Connors with the help of Paul Grmkowski, Derrik Barton and Rich Minzer were getting the Gold’s Gym name out creating public awareness. The place was like no other Gym on planet earth. The magazine photographers and their equipment was part of the daily furniture, in fact I’m not even sure why they bothered to pack it up and take it home.
Even famous actors and entertainers were regulars… David Lee Roth, Tony Franciosa, Bonson Pichot, Tommy Chong, Morgan Fairchild, Jane Fonda and many character actors whose names escape me.
There was a common thread that connected everyone. Gold’s was a place where dreams were pursued and hard heavy training was the mandate. Over the dim or the heavy metal music were the sounds of iron being pushed, pulled, lifted, dropped, plates clanking. There were grunts of agony, pleasure, pain, the pungent smell of sweat and cheers of victory over metal. Most importantly there was laughter and a camaraderie that has yet to be matched.
These clips were posted by, Ric Drasen (a former training partner of Arnold) on his blog. Wow these really brought back some memories of my days training there with Mr. Olympia Samir Bannout. Today the Gym is still there but the true Gold’s of the eighties lies only in the heart and souls of those of us lucky enough to have lived it.