Check Out This Exclusive Physique Bodyware Article: Gold’s Gym. A look at Bodybuilding’s Golden Era Through the eyes of those who were there. By David Robson.
Over the years many have speculated over exactly what was bodybuilding’s true Golden Age. For the 60s and 70s iron champions of Venice Beach, Southern California, bodybuilding’s Golden Age was unquestionably their era. Looking back you can see their point. For one thing: this was a time where the great Arnold Schwarzenegger was in full flight, establishing himself as the best bodybuilder ever to set foot onstage. Just training shoulder to shoulder with the Austrian Oak was enough to add a few more reps or a little more weight to your total on a given day. Then you had the mystique. Bodybuilding as far as the public awareness it had achieved and the level to which it had risen was catching on. Although far from mainstream – and chances are it never will be – bodybuilding was a popular spectacle and attracted its own unique subculture of groupies and those who were simply drawn to it through its melding of art, performance and sport. From its dank, dark, basement days of the 40s and 50s, where it was considered more of an oddity rather than a form of artistic expression or sport in its own right, bodybuilding was now new, fresh and something very much alive. And the legendary Gold’s Gym, Venice Beach, California, known among bodybuilding’s devout as the Mecca, was the place to go. It had an aura all of its own. In fact it could be said that bodybuilding’s Golden Age took place in and around this hallowed place of bodybuilding worship.
Many thousands from all over the world – bodybuilders who would arrive there specifically to train for a show, and those who would simply come to watch the physique artists in action – made their way to Gold’s annually. This was when Gold’s was the place to be, when any professional bodybuilder worth his weight in protein powder would journey there to make the best gains of his life. And gain he would. Top champions of the day variously report the place as being: electrifying, inspiring, full of top of the line equipment, one of a kind and the only place to be if muscle building was your aim. Back then an elite bodybuilder’s life was simple: you trained, ate, rested, tanned and did it all again and again until you were contest ready. You competed, were awarded in line with what the judges thought of your physique, then went out for dinner with fellow competitors and laughed about the result. Then it was back to business at Gold’s. End of story. But it is the in between times that often more precisely define what it meant to be a competitive bodybuilder in the 60s and 70s, the fun times, the camaraderie.
Today bodybuilding is big business, increasingly cutthroat and comparatively devoid of the kinds of personalities that existed “back in the day”. In the 70s especially did bodybuilding made a complete transformation. Back then professional bodybuilding as it is known today was in its infancy and, despite the infighting and fragmentation among federations and the lack of money and support afforded the bodybuilders themselves, the guys got along well, like a family, a brotherhood of iron. Whether they were Gold’s regulars or those who travelled many miles to complete their training season there, if you were serious about training, there would always be a willing hand to help you. Competitors, who were all business come contest day, would train together and actually help one other – a situation that is virtually unheard of in today’s world of million-dollar supplement company contacts and one-hundred-thousand-dollar prize money checks. It seems back then bodybuilders trained more for the love of the sport, for the intrinsic rewards associated with reaching their full potential and arriving onstage in supreme condition.
The lifestyle was an end in itself and the guys would often fit other pursuits around their training endeavours to maintain such an existence. Regular work was a necessary inconvenience. The real, meaningful work took place in the gym. At a time when freaks and misfits would cruise the Venice Beach area and dreamers and wannabes could be found seeking some kind of misguided glory, bodybuilding, at Gold’s Gym in particular, was one of the only pure channels for self-expression. The pain was real as was the sweat, which flowed freely, and strength that was exerted always. Thousands of pounds of Iron was pumped daily for the express purpose of challenging the body and mind, to better oneself and build the body to where it resembled living sculpture.
The original Gold’s Gym in its golden days was itself an unassuming one-story high box of a building, situated at 1006 Pacific Avenue, Venice Beach, a literal hop step and a jump from the heavy traffic that whooshed by only metres from the front entrance as the guys trained, oblivious to the noise. Red, white and blue block letters forcefully spelling out Gold’s Gym adorned the front of the building, directly above a set of double doors. Inside the 40-by-65-foot training space you would find on any given day up to 20 men training with – courtesy of owner Joe Gold – some of the best equipment ever manufactured. Among them only a handful would be top-level bodybuilders. Of these elite lifters you might find guys like Ed Corney, Danny Padilla, Bill Grant, Frank Zane, Mike Katz, Ken Waller, Chris Dickerson and, of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger pounding the iron. The atmosphere was often fun and always serious. The general feeling among the champions of the day was, “if you weren’t there to build muscle you had no business being there, period.” This sentiment, along with fact bodybuilding was in many respects uncharted territory back in the 60s and 70s and relied upon men like Arnold to establish an unforgettable benchmark for future lifters to follow, could explain why it will continue to be remembered as the first, and in the eyes of many, only, real bodybuilding gym. In a series of exclusive feature profiles, Gold’s gym and the bodybuilding culture of the Golden Era will be examined through the eyes of those who were there. Find out how the champions of the day ate and trained, what they did in their spare time, how they view bodybuilding then and now – even what kind of clothing they wore and the experiences they had training, and socialising with Arnold. In the first instalment Frank Zane, Dave Draper, Danny Padilla, Ed Corney and Bill Grant speak candidly about their days at The Mecca.
David Robson: Okay guys: describe a typical day at Gold’s in the 1970’s, if in fact there was such a thing.
Ed Corney: It was like you couldn’t wait to get there. The excitement of training with Arnold – training with him and all the other guys were there also. Padilla, Mike Katz, Ken Waller, Bill Grant, Frank Zane and Columbu. And here I am amongst all these guys I used to read about in the magazines. Yes, it was electrifying.
Frank Zane: I don’t really know because I wasn’t there all day. For me I would be there in the morning usually, depending on the time of the year. And for me the training season was summertime because I finally didn’t have to work. I didn’t have to teach in the summer so I trained. I trained so hard that I don’t think I could have worked because I was just so tired from all that working out. I would go in the morning and sometimes I would go back in the afternoon. And that was pretty much it. I did most of my training alone, by myself. In the early 70s I trained with Arnold and a lot and with Dave Draper. In 69, 70 and 72 I trained with Arnold a lot and after that not so much. That was because we were on different time tracks. He was training full time and I was working full time.
Bill Grant: A typical day at Gold’s? Well at about 10:00am all of the guys started arriving at Gold’s to start a day that to some would be a day of torture but for us at Gold’s was a day of pleasure. Arnold, Kent Kuehn, Frank Zane, Denny Gable, Roger Callard, Robby Robinson, Mike Katz when he was in town during the summer, Ken Waller, Eddie Giuliani, Ed Corney, Danny Padilla and of course yours truly. The workouts would last about two hours but the intensity was just unbelievable and like I said in the new addition of Pumping Iron (the 25th Anniversary edition) there was so much energy coming out of that gym that it could light up the city of Los Angeles. After the workout we would all go to our favourite restaurant called The Germans, which was located just down the street from Gold’s. We would all gather to have lunch and then it was off to Muscle Beach for some fun in the sun. Of course now, some of us did have regular jobs remembering that there was not a lot of money back then. I worked at United Airlines at the time. It was like one big happy family back then.
Danny Padilla: Basically everybody got up and we all ate at this restaurant together and then we would all walk to the gym. At about 7.00 or 7.30am we would eat breakfast and then walk to Gold’s and workout. At that time we were training each body part twice a day. For instance we would train chest and back in the morning and legs at night. We would workout and leave to go and have lunch and believe it or not we would relax, go on the beach and get some sun. That was the lifestyle we lived, we lived in the Golden Age.
Dave Draper: It was in the shadows of the Muscle Beach Dungeon’s spare lighting that I learned all I know about building muscle and power. There the seed I brought from the streets of Jersey in 63 took root, grew deep and bore a decent yield. I won Mr. America and Mr. Universe. I joined Joe Gold’s gym in Venice in 1966 and continued to lift the weights with quiet passion. But for an occasional burst of training when a special occasion prompted me to work out twice a day (posing exhibition, inner urges, the 1970 Mr. World), I was in and out of the gym by 8 AM. Those two hours, six days a week, were major events internally, but on the outside they were as ordinary as toast.
In the middle-late 60s Frank Zane made his home in Venice and our workouts conveniently overlapped. Arnold appeared in California, with Franco close behind him, and made his way to Joe’s original Gold’s in 68. Ken Waller joined the group at a corresponding time, and various seasons of the year brought champs from the corners of the world for a plunge in the West Coast bodybuilding scene. Rick Drasin, Denny Gable, Bill Howard, Dan Howard, Chet Yorton, Bill Grant and Superstar Wayne Coleman are some of the tanned and sand-dusted faces I see fondly in my memory.
Zabo ran the place and became known as the Chief. Eventually, Eddie Giuliani headed the gym’s secret service dept.
David Robson: And Dave, could you give me a little background on how you got started and bodybuilding’s evolution as it occurred around you?
Dave Draper: The early ‘60s were a mild time in bodybuilding. I trained hard in the Dungeon and worked regularly for Weider in his pint-sized office and shipping department. I had a young wife and daughter, no dough, lots of promise and promises and was busy with daily survival. There was some TV, a few side jobs to pay the bills and I had some friends in both Vince’s gym (Howorth, Scott, McArdle) and the Dungeon (Zabo and some neat local lifters). We had lifting in common, it was the bond, but we didn’t talk about training or nutrition or muscles – shoptalk – when we hung out and played and explored.
At the same time there was a sharpening rise in bodybuilding interest as the 60s progressed. Three or four big Weider shows in New York smack in the middle of the ‘60s set things off: the Mr. Americas, Mr. Universe shows and the Mr. Olympia. The zealous NY audience started a stampede. Sergio arrived on the bodybuilding scene, Arnold was in California toward the end of the decade and the launching pads were ready.
In the 70s we saw bigger mags, more coverage, and greater participation in the gyms, contests and audiences worldwide. Musclebuilding became an industry overnight. Hello, Pumping Iron. At the stir of this phenomenon I resisted and returned to lifting for the same reasons I began 15 years earlier as a snotnose kid: for its calm truth and simplicity, pain and fulfilment, muscle and might. I was not the star type, nor a muscleman groupie. Thus, I did not submerge myself in the developing bodybuilding world of the 70s. I performed my delicious musclebuilding out of sight of crowd and crowd-pleasers.
David Robson: Judging by the footage shown in Pumping Iron and in various photos from back in the day, you guys all seemed to train immensely hard. What were the popular training methods used back then?
Danny Padilla: Well most of the guys were doing chest, back, shoulders, arms and legs by themselves. That’s what we were doing six days on. And then Mike Mentzer came out with the Heavy Duty principal but even he did multiple sets I believe because you just couldn’t get enough out of one set.
David Robson: Did Mike have much of an impact when he came on the scene?
Danny Padilla: Well you had the old school. A lot of these guys just wouldn’t do the Heavy Duty because really that was just a lot of the Nautilus Principal and we had already tried that stuff years back. But Mike kind of brought a new itch to it so he made it happen. He was a pretty smart kid. And he basically had a lot of scientific data behind his stuff but the thing was back then it was all about winning, not principals. When you win they listen to you, when you don’t win they don’t listen to you no matter how good you are.
David Robson: So bodybuilders at your level stuck to the “old school” methods mostly back then.
Danny Padilla: Absolutely.
David Robson: Please elaborate on your training Danny. Exactly how would you structure your sessions?
Danny Padilla: If you were in the off-season – and we trained each body part twice a week in the off-season – you trained eight to ten reps. Before a contest we would change things around – lets say off-season Monday we will do chest and back, Tuesday shoulders and arms, Wednesday Legs and Thursday we would start all over. Pre contest we would double split so many weeks out: Back in the morning, legs at night and so on.
Bill Grant: The training methods back then where simple, basic exercises, split routines and, of course, I think we all liked the idea of volume training, along with supersets. In other words we didn’t try and reinvent the wheel because it wasn’t broke. I trained with a four-day-split, which worked well for me, while some of the other guys worked out on a five-or-six-day-split. I found that the four-day-split worked well for me though. Back in the day and to this day I still follow a similar program. Here is how it worked: on Monday I did Chest, Back, and Shoulders. On Tuesday I trained Arms and legs with Wednesday off and on Thursday I repeated Mondays workout and of Friday I repeated Tuesdays Workout.
David Robson: As far as you could tell Bill how long would bodybuilders typically train for back then?
Bill Grant: I can tell you us guys at Gold’s would train from 10:00am to 12:00noon but that is not counting the time that some of the guys like Arnold trained on the double split meaning on certain days they would train in the morning and then come back at night to train as well.
Dave Draper: The basic movements were applied with good order, repetition, force, and regularity. The methods were not yet analysed, over-intellectualized and named. I guess the popular training MO among the original Gold’s champs was volume training: three exercises a muscle group, reps in the 12, 10, 8, 6 range, with max-power reps thrown in when the urge was unstoppable; each muscle group was trained compatibly twice a week and the gym visited at least five of the seven days. Squats and deadlifts counted big time, and supersets were plentiful. Heavy dumbbells had a special place in our hearts. One generally amped his training in the spring and summer, and powered it in the fall and winter.
David Robson: how long did you train for Dave?
Dave Draper: There was a season for hard training and a season for harder training. The average time in the gym was 90 to 120 minutes, five days a week. When contest preparation loomed (spring, summer and early fall), training twice a day was a common practice for the guys. This added another hour to the total.
Frank Zane: What we used to do early on is we pretty much would do the same workout. Monday and Thursday was chest and back, Tuesday and Friday legs and Wednesday and Saturday shoulders and arms. And I did this up until the mid-70s, before I won my first Olympia. I did this because I just found it was too tiring to train six consecutive days. In 1978 I got onto the three on/one off program and trained pretty much like I do now: chest, shoulders and triceps on day one, legs day two, back, biceps and forearms on day three, rest day four. Then repeat.
David Robson: How did you approach your training Ed?
Ed Corney: Right into the training because everybody else was training, there was no time to talk.
David Robson: Any specific methods used?
Ed Corney: We would lift weights. Simple as that; it was very basic. A lot of training was involved though. Twice a day, six days a week – we would train two to two and a half hours at the most.
David Robson: Today people say you will risk overtraining if you train beyond one or so hours, but back then guys routinely lifted for two hours or more, yet got amazing results with only half of the drugs that are used today. How would you explain the progress that was made under such circumstances?
Bill Grant: First of all I don’t think that training for two hours is overtraining. I do think once you venture over the two-hour mark than you could run into some problems as far as overtraining. I can only speak for myself, but for me my four-day-split and two hour workouts worked fine for me and my body type. It was just the right amount of training for me but on the other hand I did try training on a six-day-split-routine but it didn’t work well. I really didn’t recover well from it, but guys like Arnold, Kent, Ed, and Denny Gable thrived on that program. So you see it doesn’t matter what you take, any program must be compatible with your body type, genetics and recovery time otherwise it is not going to work. That’s why we all had to figure out what worked best for us.
Dave Draper: I don’t see how one can make progress with much less. Overtraining can be a problem, and it must be monitored closely. Training to the edge is not the healthiest method of training, but it is the only method for superior championship.
Frank Zane: I don’t really know and I don’t care. It all comes down to the fact that a lot of things work. I think if guys today trained like we did they would have more quality, better lines, better definition and better proportion instead of the big monstrous, freaky bodies you see. But they are rewarded for that so why shouldn’t they do it. That is how you get someone to continue their behaviour: you reward them. If you have to weigh 275 pounds to win, you have to do this. It doesn’t matter if you have a 40-inch waist so long as you look freaky. If you have 22-inch arms and a 70-inch chest with your guts hanging out from the side it doesn’t matter. What happened to the small waist?
Ed Corney: Well it was kind of a lifestyle and to be a bodybuilder you were a special person because you just got in there and lifted the weights and got bigger and better, stronger all with the aim of competing. It wasn’t anything personal. You would all train on the same days, eat in the same way, and help each other out and then you would get up onstage and they would pick the winner.
David Robson: It seems from what has been said here that the guys would often train in similar ways?
Ed Corney: Very similar, and we would all help each other.
David Robson: What is your take on the notion that the work you men put forth might be viewed as overtraining, Danny?
Danny Padilla: Well people just worked and worked and thought the more labor they did the better they would be. Sometimes that wasn’t the right thing. But the guys who trained like that as they aged still looked great. This new generation of bodybuilder: I hate to see what these guys will look like at 60, if they make it. When you got a guy who trained pretty hard for a long time, once he was done he would go down to his base and still look pretty good. I’m 56 years old. I’m nothing like I used to be but people look at me and say, “Do you work out?” But I don’t even touch weights any more. I just do a little aerobics, run around and they say, “Wow, your arms look big. How are you doing it?” Well I don’t know – I’m not doing anything. I’m down to my basic muscle and it is still there. You can tell that I used to be as weightlifter.
David Robson: Just what do you weigh and what kind of shape are you in now?
Danny Padilla: Right now I weigh 174 pounds. I’m in decent condition; my body fat is always under 20 percent.
Danny Padilla: Another thing, what these guys have discovered today is that with the combination of certain drugs they are using they have basically taken the Mike Mentzer principal to another level. Yeah you can do less work but the quality of the physique is different. That’s what they are telling me though (that they are doing less work) but as I look at some of the films of these guys and the ways they are training, they are doing the same things we did: hard labor. They are lifting heavy weights, doing multiple sets. So it’s all about getting the body the best it can be in minimal time. It’s not about how long you can train, but how right you train for your physique. So everybody is different. I think they (bodybuilders of today) need to take a more scientific approach.
David Robson: Danny; I understand you used to train with Ed Corney.
Danny Padilla: Well for a guy of his age even back then he was phenomenal in the sense that he had a huge heart. He trained no matter what. He was a hard trainer and ready to go at all times. Went very hard on his diet. If he had started training even younger I think he could have won the Olympia.
David Robson: How did Ed’s style of training help you?
Danny Padilla: Well what helped me was he was very quiet; I would do my set and he would do his set. There was no cheering, like “hey, hey”. It was like, “get it done kid.” I have to respect him for that. The guy was strong, very, very strong. He was the man.
David Robson: Ed, what was it like training with Danny. Do you have any stories to share concerning your time training with the original Giant killer?
Ed Corney: I went down for a second time to live and train with Dan Padilla (in New York). So we are doing bench press, three sets of 15. We started- Danny did three sets and I did three sets. In the meantime there was this guy just sitting on the incline (bench press). He just told us, “I want to be sitting there.” So Danny said, “We are coming over there next.” So we did each of our three sets of 15 and we go over to the guy who was sitting on the incline and we started putting our weights on and he said, “Hey I am using it.” Danny says: “I told you we were coming over here and you haven’t done anything during the time we completed our three sets.” So we just took over. It was bit pushy but that was how serious we were. If you weren’t serious you had no business being in there.
David Robson: Was cardio used as often as it is today Bill?
Bill Grant: No it wasn’t. We relied on our training and diet techniques to achieve a more leaner and ripped look. And I do think that cardio training is overused by most bodybuilders of today. I think that all of that cardio time could be well spent on recovery. My take is if you are following a good diet all of this cardio is unnecessary. I notice that most of the guys today don’t want to adhere to such a strict diet like us guys of old so they can eat more junk foods, figuring that the cardio will get the job done. I am not saying that cardio is useless I just think it is relied on to much for getting into good condition whereas training and proper dieting techniques will get the job done just as well, and save you a lot of time and energy.
Ed Corney: There was no such thing as cardio. We used more reps, a faster pace and heavier weights, and, of course, the diet.
David Robson: What other factors did you use to get in shape Ed?
Ed Corney: The mirror. You paid attention to the mirror because that is what the judges would look at. So either you cut out the calories or increased them. You didn’t want to get too lean, but then you don’t want to get too big as well.
Frank Zane: I didn’t do much cardio. I think the reason I was able to get away with that was the huge amount of volume training I did. I think the more sets you do, it doesn’t make you bigger necessarily, but it does really develop and define the muscle more.
David Robson: Possibly that is why bodybuilder’s require more cardio today? Less volume training.
Frank Zane: Yes, I think so.
Danny Padilla: Well I always did cardio because in my family there have, for generations, always been heart problems. So I always used to ride bikes and go to Santa Monica College and run a mile or two every day. That was part of my curriculum. I think even Arnold used to jog on the beach every once in a while. I was an athletic type of an individual. As a kid I played basketball and football and was very active. Now a problem with a lot of the other guys was they couldn’t do cardio because they were on such a low carbohydrate diet they had no energy. I never really did that. Only a couple of times did I try to do the low carb stuff. In fact in 1981 (Danny placed a controversial 5th the at the 1981 Mr. Olympia – many say he should have won) I was on a high carb diet and in the last two weeks went on a low carb calorie controlled diet. Eventually I was on between 900 to 1200 calories a day but still had carbs in there. I was tired though and was working at the time, but I got in what I feel was one if the best shapes of my life. But I always used cardio. Guys like Ken Waller used to jog also but I can’t speak too much for the others.
Dave Draper: You hardly saw cardio training in our neighbourhood. There was no stationary bike to mount at the gym, no treadmill for miles and miles and the other swell gadgets (ellipticals, stair masters, goofy gofers) were yet to be invented.
David Robson: Ed mentioned a moment ago that diet, in addition to hard training, was a major factor in achieving top shape. What were the prevailing nutritional philosophies of the time guys?
Danny Padilla: I was basically controlling my carbs too. Don’t get me wrong, I ate basically anything I wanted but in moderation. But the closer it got to the show the more I would control my carbohydrate intake.
David Robson: How many weeks out would this have been Danny?
Danny Padilla: 12 weeks out I would start controlling that. Then about eight weeks out I would definitely concentrate on more high protein, low carbs. But never zero carbs, I did not believe in that. I would start at about 300 carbs and keep lowering them until I found a niche for me where I could train comfortably and not be so weak.
Frank Zane: I don’t go by what other people think. I go by my own experience. I don’t even go by theory. I have a master’s degree in experimental psychology and can perform experiments and understand, and read research and I don’t put any stock in it (theory) whatsoever unless it works for me. It may be an idea to test but I basically have accumulated 50 years of training experience of things that I know work for me and they are what I resort to. So it doesn’t matter what other people say. If it is not my experience, I won’t practice it. When I first came to California Rheo Blair was the nutritional expert and the top guys took his products. I took them for a while and after a while he died and his stuff disappeared. I started doing research and finding other sources. I relied a great deal on amino acids in free form throughout my career and still do. That is one reason I am able to consume less calories today is because I am able to make my diet more nutritionally dense while eating less – because I take a lot of supplements.
Bill Grant: As far as diet is concerned I have to say that I had a very high metabolism so during the off season I pretty much ate whatever I wanted but keep in mind I did try and eat fairly good, but I really could eat almost anything I wanted and never had to worry about putting on a lot of excess fat. Lucky I would say. Before an upcoming show though I would start to clean up my diet to where I was eating pretty good, cutting out all of the useless foods such as hamburgers, fries, ice cream and basically all of those empty calories.
Dave Draper: If you sat down with us after a workout at our favourite Marina cafe you’d see us order hamburger patties and eggs, home fries and whole-wheat toast. Our diets were high protein with an accent on meat and milk products, medium carbs with plenty of salad and fresh fruits and medium fats with no fried food or junk. With me, some things never change.
Ed Corney: Well everyone had their own way of dieting and trying to get better. We didn’t know that much about dieting. You have to be a rocket scientist nowadays but in those days you just had to be a bodybuilder. And you were gullible. Somebody would say, “Peanut butter is a good carbohydrate.” So what do you do? You walk around with a bottle of peanut butter in your bag. Somebody else would say, “Tuna in a can, man that’s good protein.” So you got six cans of tuna in your bag.
David Robson: A complete learning process.
Ed Corney: It was trial and error.
David Robson: What would generally happen straight after training back in the day?
Ed Corney: You trained twice a day so after the first session you would go home, get cleaned up, have your food, have your rest and get ready for the second session. That’s the lifestyle that consumes you completely. But it was the lifestyle that we chose; we all enjoyed it.
David Robson: What about tanning on the beach?
Ed Corney: Every Sunday. There would be no training on Sundays. Everybody would be down on the beach sun tanning and this or that. Conversations.
David Robson: Were there any other methods of tanning?
Ed Corney: No. That was it. Get yourself in the sun.
David Robson: As most who follow the history of bodybuilding would know, Arnold Schwarzenegger was back then, and is arguably even to this day, bodybuilding’s greatest champion. When he first arrived at Gold’s how did its clientele respond?
Ed Corney: (Laughs) It was funny – when he got there the place lit up. Now it was time to train. He brought that with him. You are upstairs changing into your clothes and you can’t wait to get out there and right into the mainstream of top training.
David Robson: Prior to Arnold’s arrival, what was the atmosphere like at Gold’s?
Ed Corney: It was kind of basic, meagre. But when he got there everyone started training hard.
David Robson: We all know Gold’s had a large number of big guys training there. Was Arnold the biggest guy to come along?
Ed Corney: Yes he was. He was a big man then, but not only was he big he also had a mystique about him. He walked into a room and all eyes were drawn to him.
Dave Draper: People in Venice in the ‘60s were not easily excited. The kicked-back nature of the stony beach community in a time of questioning and doubts influenced our reception of Arnold. And bodybuilding was yet a novelty, an anomaly, remember, a half-pint in a rolled-up brown paper bag.
“Arnold, he’s the big kid with muscles and an odd accent from Europe. He won bodybuilding contests over there, Germany, I think, and dresses funny. Looks like he learned to lift at Camp Munich.” We liked him, helped him, taught him by not teaching him, and watched him grow and grow. The rumble you heard in the background was bodybuilding in its early stages of take-off… Five, Four, Three, Two, One …
Frank Zane: Well I wasn’t there when he first arrived. He got there around September of 68 and I arrived there in May of 69 but one thing about Arnold is he never let little things bother him. He was very goal driven and basically would do anything to win. Not the kind of guy you want to compete against because he will do whatever it takes to win.
David Robson: Arnold could completely change his approach depending on the situation.
Frank Zane: Yes, he basically was able to display the appropriate behaviour when it was required for winning a competition. Plus he was really the first big guy in that era. He is not big by today’s standards but he was a big guy with a small waist. And when he was in shape he was really in shape.
David Robson: And Bill, what do you feel Arnold brought to Gold’s?
Bill Grant: I really can’t tell you that because when Arnold got to Gold’s I was still in Jersey. I didn’t get back to LA until 1972 although I met Arnold in 69 when a lot of the guys where training at the famous Vince’s Gym in Studio City. From all that I have heard they where very intrigued but took to him right away. He immediately was a hit, but remember when he arrived at Gold’s Dave Draper was one of the staples there. But Arnold and Dave hit off very well. They even became training partners.
David Robson: I have seen some impressive photos of you and Arnold training together. How influential was Arnold on your training and bodybuilding progress?
Bill Grant: Arnold was a great influence on my training but also on the rest of the crew at Gold’s. He had a great attitude about everything. This was a guy who never let up and was one the most competitive bodybuilders I have ever met. This was a guy that never had a losing attitude – he hated to lose at anything. He trained with great intensity and it rubbed off on everyone around him. Arnold was always encouraging and if he sensed there was something wrong he would try and help you through it. I can clearly remember one of our photo shoots. One of those pictures is still running today, matter of fact it is in the recent article in Muscle and Fitness: It is the photo of me and Franco sitting on Arnold’s back while he is doing donkey calf raises.
Danny Padilla: Arnold had a special charisma. You know, Arnold was a smart man and a hard working guy. One thing: he would set goals and set time in which these goals would have to be done. So when I first met Arnold what I saw was a hard working guy who had goals and he would basically get almost everything he was after. Arnold was the kind of guy who would train and do his thing and take a school class on the side that nobody knew about. He was a hard working guy who would surround himself with winners. You didn’t hear about Arnold getting drunk and drugging out- he wasn’t one of those guys. He was a hard working guy.
David Robson: Arnold seemed to have had two sides: the relaxed side where he would joke around and the serious side where he was all business.
Danny Padilla: Yes he was a very serious guy, absolutely. Arnold had everything planned and he went after it. He did everything possible, there was no such thing as failure for Arnold. That’s what made him special. When Arnold walked into the gym you knew he was there because he brought charisma with him. He was a special guy.
David Robson: There are some great photos of you and Arnold training together Dave. The one where you are going to the “basement” on the squats rack is especially memorable. How influential was Arnold on your training and bodybuilding progress?
Dave Draper: Arnold was impressive then, almost as impressive as now. I was a loner who, like a wolf, knew and trusted and attended his own territory. I could live beside a good man without doubt, envy or antagonism. Arnold was a strong force and his energy and drive were infectious. His training at first was clumsy – nothing to emulate – and gained grace and meaning day by day. He and I and the rest of the small mob fed upon each other generously. Our unity was evident as were our developing training styles and individuality. Intensity begets intensity and our wills to win rose to the surface like helium-filled life preservers.
David Robson: How did you personally find Arnold like to train with Frank?
Frank Zane: He was an incredible training partner. I really have to say that he was probably the best training partner that I ever had. There was another good one too – and this might sound strange – and this was my wife (Christine). But it was more about me when I trained with her. And she worked right along with me and was really good at it. With Arnold it was just the aura he had when you trained with him. He was so focused on everything. When he did a set he put everything into it. Just when he was there you would do better.
David Robson: So he would inspire people to work much harder than they otherwise would.
Frank Zane: Just his presence would do this.
David Robson: Describe some of the training sessions you would have with Arnold. What strategies would you use to push one another past you previous bests?
Frank Zane: We never really challenged one another. Basically when we did a set it was all about working up in weight for every set and we would do about four or five sets. We just did what we thought we could do on that set. If we were training with somebody else they would spot us. Actually I was a better squatter than Arnold. We had a squatting showdown. It was 1972, five weeks before the Professional London Mr. Universe, which I was competing in, and it was also five weeks before the Mr. Olympia in Essen, Germany, which I ended up going in too (Arnold beat Sergio Oliva to win this show). So we squatted and we worked our way up to about eight sets. We worked up to 405 pounds. I did ten reps with the 405 and Arnold did eight. And the next day my lower back went out and I couldn’t bend forward for a week and that year Arnold dislocated his knee and I think it all traces back to that session (laughs).
David Robson: Did Arnold dislocate his knee before or after the Essen Olympia?
Frank Zane: It happened after the show during a guest posing he did in South Africa.
David Robson: What are your thoughts on Arnold beating Sergio at the 1972 Olympia?
Frank Zane: I think maybe Sergio had the edge on him in the contest itself. Arnold didn’t quite reach his peak for that show. He maybe needed two weeks. The thing is you have to reach your peak on the day of the contest, not before or after. But Arnold was so popular and it was in Essen, Germany, so they gave it to him anyway.
David Robson: Were your workouts as long as Arnold’s?
Frank Zane: Yes. Each workout was about an hour and a half.
David Robson: But it is thought that Arnold often trained up to five hours a day.
Frank Zane: Maybe, if you consider he often trained twice a day. But I don’t think it was that long. Maybe three and a half to four hours, total.
David Robson: We hear all these stories about Arnold being somewhat of a practical joker who would also often use different tactics to psych people out before competing against them. As far as you could tell to what extent is this true, Frank?
Frank Zane: Oh he fooled around a lot. We had some good times. But I told him once: “Arnold, you have a good sense of humour, but only when the joke’s not on you.” And that is true. He does have a good sense of humour and loved to play practical jokes. But to him it is really funny when the joke is on someone else, not on him. We had a bit of a falling out over that at one point. But the thing with Arnold is you can get mad at him when he does something to turn the wheels against you but you can’t stay mad at him. That is pretty much his history. A lot of people get mad at him but he wins them over. He charms them back, gets them back under his spell. He is good at it. Look at him now he is Governor. The same thing he did in bodybuilding and acting he is doing it in politics now. It just goes on and on – the same strategy.
David Robson: A master manipulator even.
Frank Zane: That is true.
Danny Padilla: Well Arnold was a fun guy. He never really hurt anybody but Arnold was the kind of guy who liked to have fun. So sure he would play a joke here and there but it was nothing somebody would get suicidal over. From what I saw it was just funny stuff we would all laugh at. It was no big deal.
David Robson: It seems that everybody who knew him has their own Arnold story. Any interesting Oak accounts?
Ed Corney: One time we were down at the beach getting some sun and there are always female groupies around. This one girl goes, “Arnold, Arnold.” He looked at her and said, “Vat is it.” She says, “I can’t take my eyes off you.” He looked at her and he said: “I don’t blame you.” And that was just the way he was.
Danny Padilla: I can tell you one thing. I will never forget Arnold was training with some guy and he would do his reps whether it was 12 or 15. The other guy didn’t do his and Arnold got annoyed. Like in the seated row, if he did his 15 reps and you didn’t do you 15 reps he would get pissed off. It was like, “what’s wrong, I got to do your reps now, what’s up with that, if you can’t hang go back to something else.” He was a hard working guy. Arnold never messed around that way. The gym was business, especially before any of his big shows.
David Robson: He didn’t except anything but the best from either himself or others.
Danny Padilla: Right. Once Arnold chose you to train with him you had to keep your mouth shut and train. That’s what Arnold was about. Just do your workout, do another set.
David Robson: Ed; I understand you had a bit part in the film Stay Hungry alongside Arnold.
Ed Corney: We did the movie Stay Hungry in Birmingham and a bunch of us had bit parts. We did the movie then came back to California. Sally Field had a major part with Jeff Bridges and Arnold, of course. She (Sally) threw a party at her Bel-Air home. So Arnold and I went to this party and those kinds of parties usually don’t start until after 11.00 o’clock. Everybody was there. At ten o’clock Arnold said: “Eddie, ve go home now. Ve harf to train tomorrow.” So we left. The focus was always there. I enjoyed training with him. It was tremendous. I learned a lot from the man.
David Robson: And this perfectly illustrates the discipline you guys had back then. You would train regardless?
Ed Corney: And still do.
David Robson: What were some of the things you learned from Arnold Ed?
Ed Corney: I learned about his focus and determination, which was very similar to mine. He wanted to get better and I wanted to get better so we trained, we dieted. The diet was really funny. We would order a hamburger steak and get the napkins and pat the top to get the grease off. At home we would have tuna with eggs whites mashed up. No other food in the house, because then you can’t get to it.
David Robson: It must have been easier to become a champion with that level of support.
Ed Corney: Yes, because you are getting better. And that really motivates you. You look in the mirror and you look at yourself and you go, “Oh my God.” “Ed’s really coming in good because he is doing all the right things.”
David Robson: The movie Pumping Iron is said to have done more to popularise bodybuilding than anything else? What was your involvement in this movie Danny and what kind of impact do you think it ultimately made?
Danny Padilla: I was flown out when they first started filming it so when it got out there it was in the middle of filming. Joe Weider had flown me out as I had won the rights to be on the American Mr. Universe team. So I was sent there to train and I got to watch a lot of the filming. I was in a lot of the Pumping Iron in South Africa but a lot of this was cut because I was basically not allowed to participate on the American team. What had happened was they had too many bodybuilders. I was supposed to be short class, Robbie medium and they ended up with two heavyweights (Mike Katz and Ken Waller) and instead of picking one they decided to let me go. So I got on Portugal’s team and if you look on my website you will see where I am carrying the Portuguese banner and it looks kind of silly. Then all of a sudden I got onstage and participated in a couple of rounds and it looked pretty much like I was going to whip some behind. Then basically there was a protest and I was taken out again. I trained so hard and I think had I of had not loved bodybuilding so much I would have sued. I would have easily won. In my case I cared so much for the sport and wanted to be involved and that was it. I really wanted to participate and basically my love for the sport blinded me and I just said, “To hell with it.” Very little was written about how I was cheated and I ate it because I wanted to compete. The following year (1976) I competed in Toronto and the Egyptian champion beat me and then I beat him the following year. Everything these guys have today is because of that freakin movie. It brought bodybuilding out to the top. All of a sudden everybody wanted to be a bodybuilder. What it did was show that bodybuilders were human and how they weren’t just guys who looked in the mirror all the time. That was the perception: they were all dummies looking in the mirror, homosexuals. What it showed was the hard work that goes behind getting in shape and how there were mind games; it was almost like a freakin game, like a basketball or football game, except we were using iron. And people really got to see the dedication it took to be the best in the world at that sport.
David Robson: It was also very entertaining.
Danny Padilla: It was entertaining and what it did was show you how different every guy was from the other. It helped all of us because we became so popular: I was the Giant Killer; Arnold was the Austrian Oak; Franco was the Powerhouse; Eddie was the Master Poser; Frank Zane was The Chemist with an incredible physique; Bill Grant was the Man of Steel and on and on. You picked one and that was your hero. Today it is different I think, you don’t see that.
David Robson: There was a memorable scene in Pumping Iron where you are sitting in the crowd with Arnold at the 1975 Mr. Olympia. Tell me more about this scene.
Danny Padilla: What had happened was, when I was sitting there I had just been kicked off the stage. I had gone one or two rounds and was kicking ass. There was a protest from someone from one of the other teams who said there was no way I could be on Portugal’s team so I was asked to leave. So they stopped the show. The actually stopped the prejudging and made me step off the stage. And as I stepped off I went to the front and sat down and said, “You know to hell with it I will watch the Olympia.” And right before the camera came that way, Arnold who was sitting next to me was asking me if I was okay. I said, “What can I do.” And then he said it is a terrible thing to happen. And then we started talking about the Olympia itself and he said, “Well who do you think is going to win.” I said, “I don’t know, Franco looks great but Eddies upper body looks phenomenal too and he is such a great poser,” and then Franco turned around and did a lat spread and I said, “Oh my God look at those lats, he could fly.” In my heart I was saying, “I could have won the Universe and next year I would have been in the Olympia.” So that demise there set me back as I had to wait two more years until I won the Universe, so I started losing interest in the sport.
David Robson: So it didn’t give you any extra motivation to really prove any kind of point?
Danny Padilla: No, not at all. To me it was if they could treat me the way they could and get away with it, I got to be stupid to give all my marbles to a game of that nature. And that was the beginning of the end for me. You know how hard that was to explain. You come home and say what happened and the say, “No way, that can’t happen. Why don’t you sue them?” Nobody could believe it. The only thing that proved me right was when Pumping Iron came along. I didn’t know it was coming out; I was back in New York at the time. And there it was. All my friends were telling me, “Arnold looks incredible and you are in there too.” I said, “I am not in there, I was taken out of all that.” But there it was: that one little scene. That proved the point that I was in Africa and did not make it up.
David Robson: Ed – you played like a big role in Pumping Iron as the Master Poser and as Arnold’s training partner. What recollections do you have of this film’s production?
Ed Corney: Nothing was personal. We were all competitors. Of course when we got to South Africa for the Olympia Frank was in it, Franco Columbu was in it, Albert Beckles, Bill Grant. They had the over and under-200 pound classes. And the winner of one went up against the winner of the other. Arnold won the over 200 and Franco won the under 200. He beat me by five points.
David Robson: How disappointing was this for you?
Ed Corney: I came close a couple of times but those ones don’t count.
David Robson: But you still enjoyed the process.
Ed Corney: Definitely.
David Robson: We all recall the footage of your stunning posing routine, which apparently put shivers down Arnold’s spine. Were there any standout moments for you competing in South Africa?
Ed Corney: Well when Arnold was pumping up and waiting for his class to go on I went by him and said, “Arnold, you got dem by da neck.” And he says, “I know.” So he had Serge Nubret and, of course, the Hulk. Serge was too lean and the hulk was too fat. Arnold came in the middle just right and he just took over.
David Robson: What impact did Pumping Iron make in your view Ed?
Ed Corney: It educated the public. It made them begin to understand that it wasn’t just muscles, it went beyond that. Columbu was chiropractor, Frank Zane was a schoolteacher, myself a bar owner, Mike Katz owned a World Gym and was schoolteacher as well in Connecticut. So we all had private lives.
David Robson: And the movie highlighted the different personalities as well. Did it improve bodybuilding’s image?
Ed Corney: It sure did, it improved the image of bodybuilding. And even today when I do the Arnold Classic Expo and the Olympia I sell the Pumping Iron books. A 30-year-old Pumping Iron book in great condition. (Ed is on the cover of the original Pumping Iron book).
David Robson: How did the competitors respond to being filmed at Gold’s? Were there any problems associated with having a film crew following you around?
Danny Padilla: Not at all. The film crew understood what was going on so they set up the cameras and said, “Train the way you want to train.” And they were in no one’s way and they did an incredible job.
Ed Corney: I didn’t matter. They had the gym all lit up. They had the camera on a boom. Arnold said, “Ve are doing chest today and ve vill do this exercise.” So we did flat bench, incline bench and flies. And all they (the film crew) did was just follow us around. None of this, “Now can you guys hold that, can you guys do that again?” We actually trained. We had no time for all the bullshit. And if they wanted some sort of an interview, Arnold would say, “After we were through with training. We are going to eat at the restaurant, come down there.”
David Robson: Did it increase the motivation among the guys knowing there was a film crew there?
Ed Corney: Yes and no. I mean, “you want to put me in the movie, fine. If I can do it okay, if I can’t I’m training.” The movie was always in the background.
David Robson: There was a memorable scene of Arnold and yourself squatting with an enormous weight, Ed. Can you describe that experience for me? And exactly how much weight did you use in that scene?
Ed Corney: It was just awesome. We were doing 15 reps; we started at 135, put a quarter on and did 15 more reps, a quarter off and another 45 on, 15 more reps, another quarter on. We just kept going until we got to 315, 345. Now we are doing five sets of 15. Your legs are like rubber.
David Robson: And Arnold walked over you and lifted you after you had fallen to the ground. That was cool.
Ed Corney: Yeah, I got 13 and he said, “Come on Eddie. Time to get serious now. More, no matter what.” He pissed me off and that is when I said, “God Damn!” You know how an automobile responds when it goes uphill – that chug, chug, chug slowing down. And that is exactly what I did. You do or you don’t. I did.
David Robson: And with Arnold standing behind you urging you on, chances are you will get that extra rep “no matter what”.
Ed Corney: I’m going to get it no matter what. We motivated each other because you know whatever you are going to do he will do. Whatever he does you are going to do.
David Robson: Was the training ever very competitive?
Ed Corney: It never entered our minds. No such thing. Even when you got onstage it was not competition. The judges come to judge you and they have their own preferences, what they are looking at and what they want to look at. They would pick a winner and it would be: “okay, now lets go and have dinner.”
David Robson: Danny; Obviously Pumping Iron had a major impact. People were drawn to you guys with your massive physiques. Why was there such a fascination with bodybuilding back then?
Danny Padilla: I think every man in the back of his head wants to be this big, powerful figure. It is like the child in us that never goes away. Even though a lot of people say, “Oh my God it looks terrible”, in their hearts the are thinking I wonder what it would be like to be like this guy for just a week. But they will never tell you that. You feel power and if you are a guy who is balanced (physique wise) you feel unbeatable. It’s a great feeling to be the best. To be the best in anything is hard. Whether it is picking your nose, basketball, football or bodybuilding. So it is an honor. In the NFL and NBA these guys are constantly exposed by TV – we are not. All we have are the magazines. I think the fact that there are so many chemicals involved we just don’t get the publicity we deserve.
David Robson: Was it harder to be a top bodybuilder back in the Gold’s era compared with today, Frank?
Frank Zane: I don’t know. I don’t compete today. You see I had my goals and was determined to win Mr. Olympia no matter how long it took and it took a while. I had been training nearly 20 years by the time I won it.
David Robson: Back in the 70s it is understood that bodybuilders typically had to hold down jobs, so would this have made it harder to prepare for a show or were you all just more determined?
Frank Zane: Sure, there were no sponsorships. I had to work. The only guy that did not have to work was Arnold and even he was only getter a meagre salary from Weider. It was hardly anything but it was enough to make ends meet while he was training. Nobody else had a deal like that.
Bill Grant: When I returned to LA in 1972 I was working for United Airlines where I continued to work for the next 10 years. I had great hours so it really worked out well for me and complimented my training schedule. That is why I was able to work out a 10:00am because I didn’t start work at the airport until 2:30pm and I often had days off during the week which really was helpful. Most of the guys had jobs that had flexible schedules.
Danny Padilla: Well basically we were trying to train and some of us had jobs or exhibitions and seminars so we were always trying to put programs together and that is the way we did it right before a show.
David Robson: What did you personally do outside they gym to support yourself financially, Danny?
Danny Padilla: I was working at the Pritikin Center. I was a personal one-on-one trainer there and that is how I made ends meet. And of course I had mail order going on and courses, so we were able to make a living. Nothing like today but we did all right.
David Robson: Were there many seminars and guest posing’s, like there are today?
Danny Padilla: Yes that was going on also and most of the guys did that. I didn’t really have as many as some of these guys but I did okay. There were always exhibitions and seminars because they were hot at the time. It was the thing to do and it was happening. We had just started all that so it was hot to go and it lasted for a while.
David Robson: Was there much of a demand for them back then?
Danny Padilla: Back then it was very much in demand. Whereas today I don’t know how much it is in demand but I’m pretty sure with the top guys today, people would like to see them at a seminar and to learn of how they train, so I guess it would still be pretty popular.
David Robson: So you were all, in a sense, creating something new back then.
Danny Padilla: Well we were the first group to create that avenue because we just decided to do it and it became very popular. Arnold started it and Mike Mentzer had a great impact, as did Franco, Zane and myself. So we kicked that off and since we started it is has kept going. If you were not one of the top guys you weren’t really making that much money. Back in the days of Arnold he was only getting 1000 dollars from winning the Mr. Olympia. It has changed. A lot of these guys were training for the love of the sport and if you made a couple of dollars then that was okay, you know, wow it was cool. But not until later did the money really start rolling for the guys.
David Robson: How much later?
Danny Padilla: I would say by 1975, when I got out there, it had just started to go. So the guys were starting to make decent money. Again it wasn’t like any other sport because the other sports were still making mega bucks compared to us but I believe in the early to late 70s it really kicked off.
Dave Draper: Not very well, sir. Making a buck was as hit and miss as claming off the shoals of Nova Scotia. There were rare jobs in the film industry, cheapie jobs in the sparse neighbourhood gyms, promises from pushy musclebuilding magazine tycoons and occasional miracles. I resorted to crafting furniture (beats starving), Frank Zane taught high school science (serves intelligently), some guys delivered mail (gotta eat) and some guys had real jobs (engineer) or slept in their cars. Some guys had mysterious financiers.
Ed Corney: There were seminars, exhibitions, training courses, photos in the mail and part time jobs. I was a bouncer for five years to supplement my income. Yet I won the America and the Universe while I bounced. I trained every day and night.
David Robson: Were there any problems associated with having to bounce while trying to maintain your bodybuilding lifestyle?
Ed Corney: Well, nothing really goes along well with the lifestyle and there are certain problems that come up but you take care of them. You make sure that you can train. And that was really the primary purpose. Instead of going to the office with a briefcase you would go to the gym with a bag.
David Robson: What were some of the things that motivated you to become a better bodybuilder Ed?
Ed Corney: I learned how to motivate myself. The challenge was always there. Can I get better? People kept telling me, “Ed, you are over the hill, forget it.” I kept training. They tried to stop me a few times but it never happened.
David Robson: You yourself were pretty competitive Ed. Assuming you lost a show, what would you do to come back better next time? What would competitors in general do?
Ed Corney: You would get back to the gym. Then you start putting things together: “what did I do? Should I have done , little bit more? Should I tighten up on my diet?” You keep asking yourself all of these questions. “Okay, how am I going to adjust things? Do I need to get bigger, better?”
David Robson: With all competitors being in good shape and many of similar development there must have been a fine line separating one from the next?
Ed Corney: Oh there was.
David Robson: So you would have to focus on you.
Ed Corney: Yes on you. Forget about them, they have got their own problems and you got yours. You know you got to get good. Every time you get onstage you have three choices: look the same, look better or look worse. Very simple.
David Robson: What was life like , , in genera, l for bodybu,, il, , , ders back then?
Bill Grant: Life was good and being a bodybuilder to me was even better. As bodybuilders our bodies really helped us make friends. I think that people where intrigued about us because the average person did not look like we did. In other words our bodies where a topic of conversation for people so it made it easier for people to come to us and start up a conversation. Personally I found it easy to make new friends.
Dave Draper: I never thought of myself as a bodybuilder, as if that was something to be. The term never rolled off my lips with affection. The early lifters from Muscle Beach were no fonder of the term than I. We were, we are, weight lifters – people who lift weights. Bodybuilder has a connotation as likeable as mercenary when speaking of soldiers, or camper when referring to explorers or stargazing when discussing astronomy. Who knows? Maybe they hung at the beach and waited for life to happen. You’d have to be one to know. I trained hard and slipped out the back door, applied myself to forming wood and lived a simple life. Arnold would know better than I. He was engaged as a bodybuilder and, sought it professionally and positioned himself advantageously amid its simultaneously occurring crescendo.
Ed Corney: You would find it hard every now and then and you would go somewhere else and make a few bucks and come back. Mail order businesses helped. I went to South Africa under the invitation of Reg Park and lived here for a month, came, back with five grand and that kept me going. And of course the mail order business. There is always something in the mail, people asking questions. , You would open the envelope, look at it and may see some decent money in there.
David Robson: You would get good at coming up with new ideas to make money.
Ed Corney: Always. And of course at the Olympia itself the only vendors were the competitors themselves. Eight or ten of us would be selling photographs, autographs, T-shirts, courses and things of that nature. It would keep you going.
David Robson: Would it be fair to say that bodybuilding was more of a lifestyle as opposed to a career back in those times?
Ed Corney: It was a lifestyle; you looked at it differently. It wasn’t a money thing like it is today.
Danny Padilla: I remember back in our day we tried to start a union. The reason for the union was to make sure that everybody got paid because there were some guys who were making money and some guys that did not. And basically some of the guys that were making the money were not interested in a union and that was a good example of some of the difficulties we had. I think Arnold was for the union.
David Robson: A union? Quite radical for those times?
Danny Padilla: Oh yeah. We were saying, “Why can’t we have a union were everyone is protected.” Everyone should get paid for their work. Those were the thoughts we had but it just never happened. The thing is: the guys were not protected so the photos of the guys were used forever and they made no money from them.
David Robson: Any other problems associated with bodybuilding in the 70s that you can think of Danny?
Danny Padilla: To be a top bodybuilder back in those times required you to put your own money in so that affected relationships. If you had a wife and kids something had to give so I personally think back in the day a lot of the relationships suffered. Because guys would think, “this is my big year, this is my big chance.” But it just never happened. You were putting bodybuilding before your family sometimes without even realising you were doing that. That was one of the big problems. And it was tough.
Bill Grant: Well first of all I think the general perception of bodybuilders was quite negative. We were often thought of as being musclebound, not too smart, conceited and non-caring individuals. Also I can recall how the movie business did perceive us as just guys who could play muscle-head roles although those jobs paid well, we didn’t like that perception. A lot of the guys in bodybuilding are quite intelligent. Ken Waller for instance was a college grad and he played some Football in the Canadian League, Frank Zane was a schoolteacher at Venice High where sometimes Ken Waller would substitute. Mike Katz was a School Principal and also played for the New York Jets (football team) for a while. The Public perception at the time was all brawn and no brains. So it was really a great breakthrough for us when Arnold became the biggest star in Hollywood and then went on to become the Governor of California. I think people had a better appreciation about bodybuilding and bodybuilders. As far as becoming a top bodybuilder you have to remember there where not as many top guys at that time so the field of competition was not as difficult but the quality was great. The thing that you had to do was be in California if you really expected to get the publicity in the major magazines such as Muscle Builder and get noticed by the Guru Joe Weider. That is just the way it was back then and that was reality. So the guys who ventured to California to rest their hat usually were the guys that got noticed first and really got great coverage in the magazine which transferred into great PR which meant your chances of wining a big title was greater than the ones who where not at the famous Gold’s and Muscle Beach.
David Robson: Any problems you can think of in terms of being a top level bodybuilder in the 60s and 70s Dave?
Dave Draper: There was no problem in identity. I was impervious to the misunderstandings from the average folks around me. I, in fact, enjoyed the distinction from those to my right and left. There were so few top names in the ‘60s, you knew them all: Howorth, Pearl, Scott, Gironda, Zane, Yorton, Zabo, the local guys and Ortiz, Poole, Ferrigno, Abbenda, Boyer. Each was a mystery, each an inspiration, each a friend. Being a top bodybuilder was easier, once you got past discovering the sport, becoming fascinated with it, and engaging it with passion and zeal long enough to understand it and achieve some muscle and might. The rest was hard work, sacrifice, perseverance, time, patience, commonsense and luck.
David Robson: On the positive side, bodybuilders training at Gold’s back then seemed to encourage one another more and camaraderie between the athletes was more evident then it is today.
Dave Draper: The activity has become extraordinarily popular and busy, the sport sharply competitive and crowded, the diversion commercialized and usurped and the world swifter and tighter, more jaded and impersonal. Today, it’s not who you are; it’s who you are compared to him or her. It’s not who you are; it’s what you’re worth.
Ed Corney: Well money wasn’t a factor at all. You know, Arnold won the Olympia six times in a row and all he got was a thousand dollars.
David Robson: So you trained because you loved to train?
Ed Corney: We loved it. We all loved to be stronger and we all got good. One guy would stop to pose and we would all stop to look at him and we would say, “Yeah, he is getting good, getting better.”
David Robson: do you think bodybuilding today has become more competitive compared to back in the 70s?
Ed Corney: Oh yeah, because of the prize money. It definitely is.
David Robson: Ed; I understand you also trained with Mike Katz – what was he like as a training partner?
Ed Corney: Mike Katz, oh that guy was awesome. Trained real hard. They all were awesome. I can’t say anything bad about any of these guys. Back then training was the ultimate and, of course, it still is. We have all moved on but I believe I am the only one who is still training very hard.
Frank Zane: I don’t really have a lot to compare it to because I am not around gyms anymore. I think that the fact that there wasn’t any money in it early on made it like that. Now there is a great deal of money involved so not only that everybody in those days came to the Santa Monica/Venice area to train. They don’t anymore. They are all over the county. Maybe Las Vegas is now a bigger center for bodybuilding than Southern California is. I think we got a lot of wannabes in Venice California. I just saw something on CBS where 1976 was called the “year of love” when all the hippies were in San Francisco and Haight Ashbury California and they were the true lovers of peace, they were the real thing. And after that it just got loaded with bums and imitators and drug addicts. And I think that is pretty much what happened to Venice. There is nothing authentic about it anymore; it is just full of wannabes. None of the original people are there anymore. Everybody has gone their own way and is in different parts of the country. So bodybuilding now is more spread out so you have people all over the place.
David Robson: Would this geographical spread explain the different training mentality seen in the bodybuilder’s competing today?
Frank Zane: Yes that is true. I think we have a tendency to see people in the same gym training relatively the same way. I know that is how it was in Gold’s Gym in the early 70s. People training in similar ways. I can’t say they all did but I know Arnold and me did. Then there was Dave Draper who basically had no routine, just totally instinctive. I asked him about this and he said, “Well if I don’t have a routine, then I can’t get a bad workout because I have nothing to compare it to.”
David Robson: And you on the other hand were more structured.
Frank Zane: I think Dave’s approach could work for some people but I think you need some kind of routine.
David Robson: Was there a particular bodybuilder back at Gold’s who, in your view, just had the complete package Frank?
Frank Zane: Not really. There were not that many great guys training there to tell you the truth. There were just a few. People would pay their regular membership then you had the guys who were training for competition. There were about half a dozen of us that were there (high level competitive bodybuilders).
David Robson: Were there guys other than Arnold who would immediately light the place up.
Frank Zane: Not really. There weren’t that many. People would come from out of town. In those days and up until recently even, people coming to Southern California to train for competitions that were all held in August, September and October. Even through the 80s people would go there to train for competitions. I don’t think they do anymore.
Bill Grant: I think that we where more of a family back then because it was such a small sport and we were looked upon as some sort of freaks and thought of as outsiders to rest of the sports world to such an extent that we just bonded well together. Because actually we only had each other to rely on for everything that we did, such as eating together training together, going to the beach as a group and hanging out on the weekends together. I think another factor probably played into it as well and that is money. There was not a lot a money available back then in the sport so it wasn’t that thing of who is going to get the biggest pay day and how am I going to screw the next guy from getting more than me. Although right after Pumping Iron things got a lot better financially for a lot of us, such as getting lucrative commercials, movie parts, and even television roles. Even with that we still had that great sense of camaraderie – we would even help each other get some of these great jobs. I can clearly remember when Kent Kuehn worked the front desk at Gold’s when it moved to 2nd street in Santa Monica. The Studios and commercial agents would call all of the time and Kent would dole out the work to all of us at the gym. I also remember how Ken Sprague helped me get my Union Cards for the Television and Movie Unions. He was very helpful to all of us and showed great concern for the future of bodybuilding. I can remember also when Roger Callard used to work for a security agency, from which he also got jobs for a lot of the guys at the gym. They did work as security for rock concerts, movie awards such as the People’s Choice Awards and even Paul McCartney’s Wings, which I did and had the task of guarding Paul McCartney’s kids. What a job that was but that was the level of friendship we had and how we stuck together as a community. But as soon as money becomes a part of the equation things sometimes change and not in a favourable way.
Danny Padilla: Back then we had a few wars but at the end if you needed help somebody would help you. Probably because there was not that much money involved. Today there is a lot more money involved so it has to be a little more cut throat. That is the nature of the business – the more money there is the more everybody wants to be in your spot. So back in our day, sure it was a little cutthroat but not like now. Back in the day we won a trophy and a couple of bucks. I just remember the guys being a lot closer than now. I mean we used to go to the gym and laugh; we would have a ball. And as we all got ready for a show it became a lot tougher but still the guys were a unit and no matter what happened somebody would help somebody if they needed it. I guess now because there is so much money it is a different ball game. I remember the kindness of the guys. Some guy would come in there out of nowhere and people would help him, help him to settle in and try to make it much easier for him. But what I remember most about back in the day was the strength of these guys. These guys were strong. Sergio Oliva was pretty strong; Bertil Fox and Mike Mentzer were strong. Arnold was also very strong. I don’t know if I see it any more. I know the magazines say so but I see some of the guys in my own facility: they are huge but they are doing leg curls with quarters; they don’t do any squats or dead lifts like they used to, none of that stuff. And they are telling me it is old school so what do I know.
David Robson: So old school means strength and power movements, and a give it everything mentality?
Danny Padilla: Exactly. Old school meant give it all you got. And don’t train to be second or third, train to win and you might get second. If you aim for number one you might be number five but if you aim for number five you might be number ten.
David Robson: What else was good about being a pro bodybuilder back then Danny?
Danny Padilla: Being a top bodybuilder you made a little money and everybody all over the world knew who you were. It was incredible. And because the IFBB was so strong and you were doing exhibitions you got to see the whole world and they paid you to go see it, so that was pretty good thing. And supplements were given to you, so there were some positives.
David Robson: Did you guys get to travel much?
Danny Padilla: I did travel a lot and I know the top guns did double what I did – Arnold and even Robbie and Mike Mentzer and Boyer Coe, Frank Zane, Franco. So they did a lot of travel
David Robson: Dave, Gold’s was known for its interesting personalities. Could you shed some light on some of these “one of a kind’ people?
Dave Draper: Each lifter was a character upon which a book could be written. That includes the mild nutsos no one ever heard about, the Joe, Bob ‘n Amys. Zabo, his workout complete by dawn, sat in his shorts and flip flops with the sun on his back as he read an important paperback. “What’s it all mean?” was his philosophy and answer to all questions. No one got past the Chief without a terse comment that summarized the day. Shut up and train. Superstar Wayne Coleman strode into the gym with no bones to pick or bodies to toss. He specialized in heavy bench presses, dumbbell presses at the far end of the rack and an attitude as soothing a Tupelo honey. He was like quiet, distant thunder.
Arnold and Franco were a pair, two restless race horses in the starting block with an absolutely fundamental approach to training and life. They seemed to ride their own wave, the crest I might add, and they a pair of middle European decent. Come on in, that water’s fine. In fact, it’s fantastic. Frank Zane slipped in at daybreak and we supported each other with pullovers and presses and endless gut work. We spoke silently and incessantly, and the communication was ideal. What went on between our ears and minds is anyone’s guess. We never missed a workout, seldom a set or rep.
Joe Gold cruised the gym — his creation, his humble palace, his emerging empire – and spoke little and said a lot. He observed the muscleheads in their passionate and aimless activities devising ways to make them more productive and palpable. Bigger pulleys, deeper racks, thicker handles… whadaya think?
David Robson: Did Gold’s have a unique atmosphere, something that might never again be witnessed? It is said to have had a special aura.
Frank Zane: There was at first. When I first got there in 69 it was great. That was when Joe Gold owned it, but it got progressively worse. The equipment was always good but it was like 60 dollars a year to train there and it was just very basic, great equipment that Joe made. But I think Joe sort of got disillusioned with the whole thing because there was never any money in it. He actually sold Gold’s gym – the building, the equipment and his name – for practically nothing. Then bodybuilding became popular after that because of Pumping Iron. When he really realised he wanted to be in the gym business he opened up World Gyms. And that ran its course until he died and now there are no more World Gyms. They have been bought up. Now Gold’s are basically just a big chain of gyms – 500 gyms. Bought by some big corporation.
David Robson: Gold’s in Venice is still quite popular though.
Frank Zane: It is not the same. It is not the original Gold’s. It is just a big area – they must have over 8000 members, they have over 20 thousand workouts a day. I think it is like a pit, like a slum. I never liked that facility. I trained there a little bit even into the 80s because basically they had some of the original machinery that Joe designed. But I did a lot of my training at World Gym. I would define Gold’s Gym atmosphere by the people who were there, by the people who were serious about training? The equipment was good and the people were serious about it.
Bill Grant: To sum that up in a sentence, it (Gold’s in the 70s) was electrifying. I can tell you I looked forward to working out and meeting all of the guys at the gym at 10:00am in the morning getting a great workout in the greatest gym in the world. I guess you could cover the experience in one word: priceless. We had great times when we lived in California. Those were the days. I tell the young guys today if I had a time machine I would love to take them back because they would really see what bodybuilding was all about and how we had the camaraderie. Today these guys don’t have that – they don’t hang out together, they don’t workout together. There was backstabbing. We were like one big family though. We had people who never even worked out come and watch because they like what they saw.
Ed Corney: And we would all stop and look and say, “Yeah Frank you are getting good.” Up on the wall they had 120 days before the Universe and before the Olympia – countdown time. And of course everybody would be saying to each other, “hey, you are getting better, getting good, getting good.” There was always encouragement. Never this “what’s he trying to prove” type thing. But we supported each other.
Dave Draper: I offer a narrow picture of “training at Gold’s” during the ‘70s. For all intents and purposes competitive bodybuilding was behind me. In fact, I resumed the role I never left — lifting weights for muscle and might and the fulfilment and pleasure it offered. In ‘n out, like the hamburger, and off to make odd, oversized furniture from pier wood. That’s me. The best times I recall at the original Gold’s were the summer days of 1970. There were a series of competitions in the fall and five of us were preparing for the shows: Frank, Franco, Arnold, Katz, Zabo, Holland’s Serge Jacobs and me. We trained twice a day and at least one of those daily sessions were together. The days were exciting, yet serene. The workouts were focused and intense, yet loose and easy. The gym floor was some 2,000 square feet of benches and platforms, pulleys and racks, iron and bars. No radio. The sounds came from moving bodies, shuffling benches, jangling weights, groaning lifters and muted thuds. We conversed, no one chattered; we laughed, no one snivelled; we barked, no one bit. The weights moved in the direction they were urged, and we grew.
One July evening stands out above the rest. Artie Zeller, one beautiful guy, carried his camera around the gym like a stealth pilot. He was there, but under the radar, silently exposing film at just the right moment. The gym was simmering, each of us off in different directions. Frank was benching, Mike Katz was doing pulldowns, Franco was doing barbell rows, and Arnold and I were squatting. Not a false move was made. We appeared like moths around a nightlight, we moved tons of iron like cranes, and we encouraged each other with authentic and wilful persuasion, and a strong arm when needed. And the best part — beside the fact that it’s in black and white — we never viewed each other as competitors, challengers or rivals. No revolting egos. No one wore designer gear, carefully torn sweatshirts and look-at-me low slung tank tops. We were all unique with strengths and weaknesses to overcome, aches and pains to endure, and hopes and dreams to realize. We were friends of an unusual cut. Not that we considered it a very special thing, but we were a rare breed of musclebuilders yet to be displayed, yet to be archived and yet to be imitated.
Time moved on, the gym’s location and ownership changed and the core dispersed, lost cohesion and became diluted by the crowd. That’s what time, people and things do.
David Robson: What would you bodybuilders do for fun after training? What was the social life like back then?
Bill Grant: After the workouts we would normally go to the restaurant down the street, eat and then go to the Beach, Muscle Beach of course. We would hang out, get some sun and of course meet a few girls. The Social Life in LA I thought was incredible. Some of us would bounce on the weekends for extra money. Remember it was the famous Disco Era back then with John Travolta, Saturday Night Fever and all of those things – we had a lot of fun. There were lots of girls, free love and all of the above. I think if you took a census you would find this was probably the best time not only during the 70s but in the 20th and 21st century.
Danny Padilla: Well I was the kind of guy who did a little bit of everything. I would like to play pool, go bowling. And I would also play touch football, go hunting and fishing, do a lot of reading. So I always did a lot of other things besides bodybuilding. In fact I used to like getting away from the game.
David Robson: So you would separate your bodybuilding life from your private life.
Danny Padilla: Absolutely because you are not the Giant Killer, you are Danny Padilla. I never took the sport real serious and I believe that was one of my biggest downfalls. But the main reason for that was after that Mr. Universe I decided that I could never be let down like that again. I was embarrassed and devastating. I loved bodybuilding; it was my world. And my world got shattered that day.
David Robson: I understand Sunday was a universal rest day Danny?
Danny Padilla: Well believe it or not all the guys got along pretty good so we would go to the beach and everybody would see everybody down there. And if you were dieting real hard you even ate up a little bit. Back then everybody was trying to control their carbs so you tried to stay away from the junk. We would have a bit of fun and looking at al the good-looking girls. We would talk about the show and how we were going to do this or that. So the guys were pretty good that way. They got along well.
David Robson: And what was the groupie scene like?
Danny Padilla: Well back then we were the highest echelon of bodybuilding and Arnold was the king and that was it. So women gravitated to the gym. People came from all over the world. Typically what you would see is people coming from all over the world taking vacations to came and watch us train. That was one thing I will always remember: Thousands of people would come from all over the world on a weekly basis day after day, you would see new faces – from Australia, England, Germany, Holland, all over. South America, Africa. Gold’s Gym was the Mecca.
David Robson: Why do you think this was the case?
Danny Padilla: It (bodybuilding) was big news at the time. People just wanted to see how we trained. People wanted to see the guys and ask for autographs and stuff of that nature.
Dave Draper: Though there were a dozen parties that brought us together over a two- or three-year period – fun occasions with laughter, promise and cheer, good food and no drink – we mostly went our own way. I was married, Frank was married and busy, Arnold and Franco had their interests and enjoyed the bodybuilding life as Joe Weider provided for their basic needs. We crossed paths for lunch and breakfast or trips abroad for competition or exhibition and promotion. Life’s a blur as you recall it 40 years later. It was fun, tough, heart-breaking, alive, fulfilling, energizing and exhausting. Some things never change.
Ed Corney: Occasionally after training I would have a date. But that had to fit in with my plans – usually on a Saturday night because on Sunday I didn’t have to train. During the week forget it. That was my choosing.
David Robson: From what you could see, what did the other guys do for entertainment?
Ed Corney: Take for instance the movie Pumping Iron, which was showing at one of the theatres. Saturday night I took a girl there and you got the whole gym there and they all had their dates. Or after training we would go to a restaurant. Guess what? The whole gym is there; everybody is eating at the same place.
David Robson: Did you attend the premier of Pumping Iron in New York?
Ed Corney: Yes. So they drew everyone in and everyone gave their exhibition and left, but they kept me there an additional eight weeks – to keep on promoting Pumping Iron.
David Robson: I understand you also posed at the Whitney Museum.
Ed Corney: Yes they had me pose at the Whitney; we made some extra money doing this. They had myself, Frank Zane and Arnold pose on a rotating dais. The crowd sat on pillows on the floor. It was great because some poses where you showed certain muscles like the side back pose and double bicep from the front it looked just as good and it looked good from all angles.
David Robson: Has posing lost its artistic side?
Ed Corney: It is very brutal now. It is robotic, its brutal, its massiveness.
David Robson: What are your views on the current state of bodybuilding, Ed?
Ed Corney: It has progressed- gyms, magazines, articles, diets, everything. The equipment we had then was ancient, but it worked; we made it work.
David Robson: What was gym owner Joe Gold like? What impact did he make?
Bill Grant: Joe Gold once you got to know him was a very good guy but he had strict rules for his gym. You had to make sure you put all of the weights back in their proper place when you where done. The one thing that always struck me as being a little strange was, he didn’t allow any music in the gym. Music to me and I think to others was a great motivator for training, it actually inspired me to train harder. I really don’t know whether any of us had any influence on Joe Gold but I can tell you this: he had a great impact on Bodybuilding and I think if you asked him if he thought bodybuilding would ever get this big he probably would tell you, “no!” I think that was one of the motivating factors in selling his gym back in the 70s. I was told that he didn’t think bodybuilding was going anywhere and he was no longer interested in the business.
Ed Corney: Joe Gold was an excellent man. He loved bodybuilding and he loved people who trained. And usually you get a lot of the guys there who are wannabes, wishful thinkers and they just don’t have that type of mindset to really put up and go beyond. You have to separate yourself from yourself in order to become a champion. Wannabes take up oxygen the take up nitrogen and they take up space. They are a pain in the butt (laughs).
Danny Padilla: Joe Gold was a very eccentric old man in the sense that he was a perfectionist. His equipment was perfect. He didn’t want you banging on anything, tapping on anything. He was a sweetheart. That guy helped a lot of the guys with financial help when they were doing bad. He was a big loss to bodybuilding.
Dave Draper: Joe was 20 years my senior and the odd combo of hard work and the beach-life styled his activities. He lifted and played volleyball in the sun, and went out to sea as a merchant marine first-mate when too much fun was too much fun. He was a leader in Speedos, an engineer in sandals and a solver of problems, personal and mechanical, wherever they sprang. The Gold was not a social hound; he stuck by his true friends and didn’t take crap from anyone. He watched and listened, scored and toured, improvised and learned. Joe was smart and authentic and tough.
David Robson: Were there any limitations to training at Gold’s Frank?
Frank Zane: The people. There were a lot of crazies there, a lot of typical Venice Beach people. For example I was in there one day and there was this guy who had no body doing incline bench presses on the Smith Machine. And I wanted to use the Smith Machine. So I asked him, “How many more sets do you have left.” He says, “Ten.” I mean why don’t you just stop now, you don’t have any body and you never will. Why don’t you just go do something else? It doesn’t matter because nothing is going to happen. And those were the types of people that were there. People who would get in your way – it got to the point where there wasn’t any atmosphere anymore. I don’t think there is any atmosphere there anymore. I think that the atmosphere at Gold’s Gym was in the early 70s and after that there wasn’t any.
David Robson: What was the training equipment like at Gold’s? Did it have many limitations compared to what is on offer today?
Bill Grant: In all honesty Joe Gold had built equipment that still rivals any equipment today. Even the old Nautilus equipment was very functional. There was a pullover machine, plate loading of course. Everyone loved that machine. None of the equipment that we trained on had any limitations; again they worked just as good or better than some of the equipment today.
Ed Corney: I enjoyed using all of the equipment. For myself, though, I am a short man with short arms so to find a piece of equipment that fits me is very difficult. So I stick with the basic dumbbells and barbells. Of course I used machines for legs, you can’t go wrong there. You have to use the machines for legs and then there were the free squats.
Dave Draper: Joe Gold did a great deal to improve the then-current musclebuilding equipment: designing, engineering, enlarging, beefing up, broadening and thickening. Barbells and dumbbells did the trick and various improvisations of the basic benches and racks filled our needs. Necessity is the mother of invention and where there’s a will there’s a way. The earnest lifter will get where he’s going, especially when it’s over, around and through the limitations before him. Nothing like small obstacles to overcome the mountain. We could do with less nonsense and more guts and hard work and spontaneous invention
Dave Robson: Did you sometimes have to improvise to get the most out of a piece of equipment, Dave?
Dave Draper: I find myself modifying my training groove and exercise performance regularly to accommodate age and injury or specific muscle engagement. If I’m not adjusting my set and rep, I’m not focused and in tune.
David Robson: And Joe Gold was the man who made it all happen – equipment-wise – for the bodybuilders.
Ed Corney: Well he was the provider. He made sure the equipment was in good working condition. And, of course you had Dan Howard who was the welder. He put the equipment together and made it work for the guys upstairs (the management).
David Robson: Did any athletes, you included Bill, ever make suggestions on how a piece of training equipment should be made?
Bill Grant: I can remember Dan Howard making gym equipment back in the day. He even sold some of his equipment to Clint Eastwood. I can remember him coming into Gold’s one day asking for Dan. I couldn’t believe my eyes when he walked into Gold’s that day. There where a few guys who had some suggestions but I for one liked most of the equipment that Joe Gold personally made.
David Robson: Did you sometimes have to improvise to get the most out of a piece of equipment?
Bill Grant: No because most of the equipment was very functional and you could do what you needed to do to get the job done.
Danny Padilla: It was the best of all time. No one will match it. It was hand made, he balanced it, checked it. You could hardly hear it, you couldn’t hear a squeak of any kind or he would rip it all apart. He put all that stuff together with a man named Dan Howard and it was incredible. It truly was the Meca. I had never seen nothing like it in all my travels. He (Joe Gold) was an incredible guy. And like I said when a lot of the guys were doing bad he helped them. That I know.
Writers note: Joe Gold, founder of the Gold’s Gym chain, died at 82 on July 12, 2004.
David Robson: What supplements were available back in those days?
Frank Zane: Pretty much the same kinds we have now. I really specialised I what I called “precursor loading”. Each individual amino acid has a specific function in the body and if it is an amino acid you want more of –for example Glutamine, which has become very popular in recent years – you use it specifically. Actually in the 1970s I was using massive amounts of Glutamine. I knew all that stuff 30 years ago. The only thing that we didn’t do then was take large amounts of creatine and I don’t believe in that anyway. I think anything that requires a large amount of insulin secretion in your body to be potentially life shortening. I really don’t push the insulin pathway very much because it is a destructive hormone. So I basically came up with something that works for me during my experimentation with training. The whole thing is I approach training as a science because I have a science background. I have three baccalaureate-degrees, two bachelors-degrees and a masters-degree all from Universities I attended full time, in three different subjects. So I have an extensive education. And it is largely in science and mathematics so basically I have a pretty structured approach to my training as far as keeping notes of what I do and keeping records. And also the other thing that I did, although I was a mathematician I never relied on numbers because I realised early on that when you go onstage numbers don’t matter. It is what you look like that matters. So why not just focus on what matters. So what I did was I took thousands of photographs. To prepare for a show I would take color slides: my wife is a really good photographer and I took a lot of photos with Artie Zeller who was one of the greatest photographers when he was alive. I took thousands and thousands of color and black and white slides. They would be taken every two weeks to see how my body was developing. This was done before competition and that is how I used to monitor my training when getting in shape. You really have to know what you look like before you go onstage. If you don’t you will find out when you get onstage and by then it will be too late.
Dave Draper: Quality supplements were important then and are important now. Nutrition plays a significant role in health, performance and development, but you don’t want to go broke. Stick to the basics: a good protein powder, a good vitamin mineral, extra C, antioxidants and EFAs. Glandular proteins were my favourite. Blair’s supplements were popular. Weider and Hoffman shared a large percentage of the market.
Bill Grant: I think supplements played a big part as they do today. Some of the supplements we used back in the day have been completely forgotten about today but really were the most efficient. Amino aci, ds, liver tablets, milk and egg protein, choline and inositol and of course your basic vitamin and mineral supplements. I used all of these and all but for one, which we did not have back in the day, and that is creatine and creatine blends. We also took digestive enzymes because, of course, you want to be able to utilize the food and supplements you are taking; digestive enzymes provided that for us. They worked, as did protein for recovery, liver for endurance and lots of B complex, which the body needs to convert all of the foods into energy that the body can use to train harder and build new muscle. Liver tablets where a favourite I think for most of the guys. These were a very complete supplement, which had all of the things in it that you needed for energy and endurance and recovery from gruelling workouts.
David Robson: What were some popular supplements brands?
Bill Grant: Weider, TwinLab, Beverly international, Rheo H Blair, Hoffmans and Dan Lurie.
Danny Padilla: We used to use glutamine and the protein powders. And back in my day when I was a kid everyone was chewing those desiccated liver tablets. Blair (Rheo Blair protein) was very popular in California but I got most of my micronutrients from food. I was always a food believer. I used the aminos once in a while and basically took what I thought I needed like calcium of course and some C and some E but most of the time getting ready for a show I was more into the food. Off-season I took some of the powders. You had Blair, which is now Beverly. Then you had Joe Weider supplements, Bob Hoffman. Then in the late 70s everything just exploded. In the 80s everybody came out with all this other stuff. Food was the key though.
Ed Corney: We had liver tablets then. Then you had Natural Source, which came out with the packet containing all the different vitamins and you would take a packet a day. And of course you had Blair protein (Rheo. H Blair), which you would make like a pudding. Mike Katz and I took a can over to Bagdad to the Mr. Universe (1972) and all we did was mix it with water and it come out like a pudding. Because they had all those strange foods over there and you didn’t know what you were eating so we stayed away from it. You also had the MLO protein by Williams. And of course there was Natural Source, which had everything in one packet: vitamin E, B complex, C and so on. And you would take a packet a day otherwise you were travelling with over a dozen different bottles.
David Robson: Did you have any way of gauging the results you made while taking these supplements, Ed?
Ed Corney: You know, you are using yourself as a guinea pig. If it works and you can see that it is working, fine you stay on it. If not you are just going to urinate it out: no side effects. If you find it is not working you forget it and move onto something else. The mirror will tell you if it is working.
David Robson: There are so many more bodybuilding supplements on the market today yet back in your day you still achieved a very well developed, ripped look? How would you explain this? People are always looking for The secret.
Ed Corney: There are no secrets. Arnold said: “if there were any (bodybuilding) secrets I would have found them by now.” Hard work, very hard work is what worked best. That is how you separated yourself from yourself.
David Robson: What kind of clothing did you guys wear in the gym and on the street back then? Was there a specific dress style for bodybuilders?
Dave Draper: Few of us were fancy dressers on the street and certainly not in the gym. Think t-shirt, tanktops,sweatshirts and flannel shirt and jeans. We wore our clothes hard and adjusted them to fit as needed and for comfort. The gear came later as the industry expanded.
Bill Grant: We wore a lot of sweat clothes and designer training clothes. Baggy pants were in as well. If we were going to go out on the town well then the dress was different. Back then, bell-bottoms where in as were polyester shirts and who can forget those platform shoes.
Ed Corney: We wore a lot of sweaters. We weren’t into styles in those days but now you have all kinds of clothing lines like Physique Bodyware.
David Robson: So style wasn’t a factor for you Ed?
Ed Corney: No it never was, but it is today for many others.
David Robson: Nowadays many commercial clients gyms seem to spend more time focusing on their appearance and what they are wearing. Was this the case to any extent at Gold’s in the 1970’s? How important was image?
Bill Grant: No we didn’t really focus on what we wore to the gym back then, just take a look at some of the old photos from the 70’s and you will see guys training with torn t-shirts beat up sweat pants and head bands. Basically we dressed for comfort rather for fashion.
Dave Draper: We wore layers in the winter and shed them as the workouts warmed up; sweatshirts and t-shirts often lost their sleeves in the middle of a workout if needed. It was cool to see the bulk and muscle bulging through the well-worn clothes, but it was not the main source of entertainment. There was work to do.
Ed Corney: It was not like that then. It is now. And forget women. Women are not going to help you train. They are not gonna spot for you not gonna lift your weights. A woman is a woman period. When you train your train. When I went to the gym I would say, “No phone calls. I don’t want to be bothered until after I’m done.”
David Robson: For you it was simply about getting the job done.
Ed Corney: Yes. You are there for a purpose and you make it work for you. It is logical.
David Robson: Was buying clothing that fit right ever an issue?
Danny Padilla: I couldn’t buy anything because I was five foot two and huge. So I had to either go in the children’s fat boy section or the grown men triple X department. In the triple X men’s department the shirts would fit across the top but were down to my knees. I had to buy jeans a little bigger and have them all sewed up. It was not easy. For me I couldn’t even imagine but even Arnold had to have special stuff made because he was so big. Everything has changed. Just like bodybuilding has changed the clothing lines have changed. Today they can make anything for you no matter how big or small you are. To me I still have to respect these new champions because they are giving what the people want. They want the biggest guy possible. The biggest, strongest, cut guy possible. So you can’t blame them. They are just doing what we always dreamed about. When I was younger that is what I dreamed about: being this big, huge cut guy. Well now they have achieved that so why should we get mad at them for that.
Bill Grant: Buying clothes was an issue back then as is today. We had to buy clothes that were to big especially the pants because our thighs where to big and we would have to have them altered to fit us properly
Ed Corney: Someone would say, “Ed, buy women’s jeans. Smaller in the waist, bigger in the thighs.” There you go.
David Robson: What was the best clothing to train in?
Ed Corney: As little as possible. You want to expose the body part you are working so you can see what is happening. A string-type tank top and shorts was common and Arnold was training without shoes in those days.
David Robson: What was it with training in bare feet? It seems Arnold might have started a trend here.
Ed Corney: It was a preference thing. Nowadays they have boots to be more stable. Arnold just loved training without shoes.
David Robson: Did anyone else train without shoes?
Ed Corney: Not really, but Arnold would do donkey calf raises in bare feet with twin sisters on his back. Anything to add resistance.
Danny Padilla: Arnold did train in bare feet because he was a beach guy – he used to believe in comfort. This is not war this is comfort. So he just didn’t care. But he still got great workouts.
David Robson: How rampant was steroid use back in those times? Was there an underground drug culture like there is today?
Bill Grant: I don’t think that it was as rampant as it is today because it was not available to everyone remembering a lot of times if you wanted anything you would have to go to a doctor but I am not saying that you couldn’t get it through the black market. I think what there was available to us back then was safer because you knew basically where it came from. Today you have all of these underground labs so who knows how safe most of this stuff is, seeing most of these so-called labs are probably very unsanitary.
David Robson: As with the experimentation of recreational drugs by the general public back in the 70’s, were bodybuilders, and athletes in general, beginning to experiment more with performance enhancing drugs as far as you could tell?
Bill Grant: I would have to say yes but it still was not as rampant as it is today but what you also have to understand is that steroids where not illegal at the time and yes mostly everyone was monitored by a doctor.
David Robson: What was the drugs scene like back then Danny?
Danny Padilla: Most of the guys relied of genetic disposition and hard labor. Everybody was trying to manipulate their diet, trying to get the perfect diet to get the perfect body. Of course they used chemicals but nothing like today. Today they are suicidal.
David Robson: Thank you so much guys, this has been an enlightening discussion.
Writers note: Dave Draper refers to several men who, while not widely mentioned in this discussion, were an integral part of the Venice Beach, Gold’s Gym scene.
-Superstar Wayne Coleman (AKA Billy Graham): probably the greatest professional wrestler of all time due to his impressive physique, great strength and unique style. Many followed the superstar but none have overtaken the benchmark he set in the 70s and 80s. Superstar trained with Arnold and was known to be probably the strongest man at Gold’s when he trained there.
-Irvin “Zabo” Koszewski: won the Mr. California title in 1953 and 54. Zabo managed Gold’s Gym for many years and was known for staying in great shape year round. His abdominal develop was thought to be the best seen anywhere in the 60s and 70s, a result of thousands of Roman Chair sit-ups.
-Chet Yorton: born in 1940, Chet, a lifetime natural bodybuilder, became one of the sport’s greatest after just four years of training. He won the 1966 NABBA Mr. Universe, placing ahead of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
-Rick Drasin: another popular wrestler, Rick Drasin was also a regular Gold’s lifter. He designed the Gold’s Gym guy! He also wrestled Superstar Billy Graham and was also one of the strongest men at Gold’s back in the 70s.
Keep a look out for part two of this feature, coming soon!