Recently, I was reflecting on the number of well known figures in the industry I’ve known or met over the years, and it struck me that it might make a fun article. I’ve been in the “biz” a long time now, and it occurred to me that I’ve probably met just about every major figure in the industry at one time or another. Some of them are gone now, while others are still alive; some have names readers will recognize right away, and some don’t.
Although I can’t possibly cover all the figures I’ve encountered over the years, some stand out in my mind, and I thought a few anecdotes about them would be entertaining.
Now, these stories aren’t going to expose some sordid secrets about these people that will have readers saying “wow, I didn’t know he was a cross dresser!” or something like that. Even if I could (and yes, I know where the skeletons are…), I would not. Nor are they in any particular order—I just wrote them down as they came to mind.
I met Arnold Schwarzenegger when I was fairly new to the bodybuilding industry, and Arnold was “just” a movie star. We were both in Columbus, Ohio for the “Arnold Classic” – the show he promotes. I always stayed at the same hotel he did: the Hyatt on Capitol Square. Back then, he was pretty much a regular guy. Sure, he had some security around, but it was fairly minimal while he was in the hotel, and not very invasive. One morning, I was having breakfast in the main dining room, when someone behind me tapped me on my shoulder and in a strong Austrian accent said, “excuse me, can you pass the salt?” I looked around, and it’s Arnold! He was looking at me with a “you gonna pass that salt or just think about it?” look on his face. I passed the salt!
He was having breakfast with his old friend Franco Columbo and a few other people I didn’t recognize. After that, I used to bump into him in the elevator and around the hotel in general. One year, I was sitting in the lobby waiting for a cab to take me to the airport. Like everyone else, I was tired, hung over, and ready to go home. I looked over at the couch next to me, and there’s Arnold, looking how I felt! There was no security, no wife, or anyone else around—he was just sitting there by himself, waiting for something. I said “you look tired Arnold, long show?” He looked at the media badge I was still wearing and says, “Ah Musclemag, my old stomping ground!”
We had a conversation about the show: what a great turn out it had that year; what he thought of the winner; and a lot of stuff that showed me Arnold was still a regular guy who had a passion for the sport and the industry. My cab showed up, I shook his hand, thanked him for the great talk, and left. That was the last time I had such an opportunity with Arnold.
As the years went by and Arnold became a bigger movie star, and then, of course, Governor of California, he was no longer approachable—the security and general barriers between him and the public prevented him from acting like a regular guy. This last year at the hotel, there was a lot of security of all kinds, and no Arnold to be seen, unfortunately, though he still made his usual appearances at the shows…I can’t claim to have ever been a friend of his, but I can say that my numerous, casual experiences with him “back in the day” showed me he’s a very genuine man. I suspect he’s still a regular guy in his own way.
Dan Duchaine (The Guru)
If you’ve been in the iron game as long as I have, you need no introduction to Dan Duchaine. Sad to say, Dan has been gone long enough now, that I’m sure some younger readers don’t know who he was, or are vague on the name.
Wikipedia has Dan listed as a:
“former American bodybuilder, author, two time convicted felon and philosopher.”*
If Dan were alive today, he would have loved being called a philosopher… Dan was best known for writing “The Underground Steroid Handbook” back in the 80s. He went on to become a very well known writer for many of the magazines. His accomplishments, for better or worse, changed bodybuilding forever. There were no real “guru” types before Dan, and he probably had more influence on bodybuilding than any other single person can claim. He also had a huge influence on all the big name guru types that followed, including yours truly.
I met Dan Duchaine, the original – and some would say, only – steroid guru early on in my career, just after he had gotten out of jail. His research assistant while he was incarcerated was Bruce Kneller, a man who went on to make his own name** in the industry, but was an unknown at the time. Like me, Bruce was a local guy from Massachusetts. Dan came to visit Bruce after he got out of the slammer, and Bruce set up a lunch for the three of us to meet up.
At that time, I had written a good number of articles for magazines such as MuscleMag and a few others, but was still developing a reputation for myself. That first lunch with Dan was a trip—if you had been a fly on the wall, you’d have heard some amazing conversation between Dan, Bruce, and me. Dan informed me he read all of my articles while in jail, and encouraged me to continue. He said: “Will, let the personality I am meeting now in person come through your articles, and your writing will get even better.”
I took that advice to heart. Getting advice from the “The Guru” to be myself in my writing was invaluable to me at the time…after that day, Dan and I became close friends.
Dan had a habit of calling up at all times of the day or night, and launching into some thought or crazy idea he was working on.
“Will, I am thinking of using DNP, T3 thyroid, and Clen with this bodybuilder I am getting ready for a show, what do you think?”
I would say something like “I think you will fry his brain in his skull and don’t recommend it, Dan”
He would laugh and tell me I was too conservative and to break new ground you had to take chances. I would tell him I was generally allergic to prison and didn’t mind taking chances with my own life, but not with others—and so the conversations would often go. I like to think I saved a few lives….
Regardless, Dan was a brilliant man and had many interests outside of bodybuilding, such as designing and building bicycles and audio equipment. People who want to hear a bit more about Dan, can read the tribute I wrote for him after he died. ***
I miss Dan…people can read my dedication to Dan after he passed away HERE
Mr. “Body for Life” Bill Phillips
The general public knows Bill Phillips for his best selling diet book “Body for Life.” Way before that, Bill was well known in bodybuilding circles for writing his own steroid book,**** owning the supplement company EAS, and starting the magazine Muscle Media 2000. Before I met Dan, and had only a few articles in MuscleMag, I sent an article to Bill Phillips’ magazine, Muscle Media 2000. MM2K, as it was called, was “the” magazine to be in at the time, and all the big names like Dan wrote for it. The first article I submitted was on the use of omega 3 fats for fat loss (in particular flax oil) and the many health benefits of adding omega 3 rich oils to the diets of active people. I was the first to write about this in the major bodybuilding magazines and it was not a well-accepted idea—at all—at the time.
In fact, I got a rejection letter back from the editor of MM2K,***** more or less telling me the idea of using fat for fat loss was crazy and handing me a polite “thanks, but no thanks” for the article. I figured ‘that was that’—I’d crashed and burned with MM2K and would never get an article in there.
At the same time, Dan had been telling Bill about me (and at that time, Dan’s word was gospel), and insisted I was one of the writers he should get for MM2K. So at the following Arnold Classic, Bill came up to me while I was saying hello to Dan, and asked why I hadn’t submitted an article to MM2K. I informed him I had, and it had been rejected! The look on his face was classic!
Then, he told me to submit all my articles directly to him using his personal fax machine, so there would be no more issues with rejections and such. Even though my ego was bruised from the initial rejection, his offer of direct access to him for article submissions, plus the fact he paid considerably more money per article than any other magazine, made it easy for me to say “you have a deal Bill!”
So that’s how I first met Bill and started writing for MM2K.
Although I can’t claim to have ever been a close friend of Bill’s, I did hang out with him over the years, at various shows and such, and always had a good time. We used to communicate back and forth by that fax machine of his…never by phone or email. In fact, we would have entire conversations—including a few fights—going back and forth by fax. Never could figure out what that was about…
“Yo Adrian!” Sylvester ..
Everyone knows the name Sylvester Stallone, of course, so he needs no introductions from me. Some of you also know he started a supplement company a few years back, called Instone Nutrition. He had a small industry party to launch the company, and I was lucky enough to get an invite. After everyone settled down, had a drink, and said their hellos and all that, I decided to go formally introduce myself. I said “Sylvester, I’m Will Brink, thanks for inviting me.”
He says “Ah, Will Brink, I have read many of your articles. Good stuff there.”
I said “you read the muscle mags?” He responded with something like “sure, when I get the chance” or something like that. We talked a bit about working out, his new company, and other topics, and I wished him luck on his new venture.
On thinking about it, it made perfect sense that he reads the mags, or at least it did at the time. Of course, Sylvester is big into working out and staying in shape, but he was also friends with Bill Phillips who owned MM2K, one of the publications I wrote for. That he read my articles specifically was great…
What I can say about Sylvester, is that the rumors you always hear that he’s super short are simply not true. I’m a tad under 5’7” (yes, I’m short, so sue me…) and he was easily the 5’10” that’s claimed. And yes, I did look for heels on his shoes and such, but he was wearing normal shoes! He was also in great shape and seemed like a very nice guy, at least from my limited experience with him.
Dorian “The Shadow” Yates is hot sh&%. We met through mutual friends and have hung out together many times. Even though it’s been over a decade since he was Mr. Olympia, he’s well recognized wherever he goes and his fans are still everywhere. One time we were entering what people in polite company call a “gentlemen’s club” and out of nowhere, someone yells “holy sh%$, it’s The Shadow!” It was an awkward, if not funny, moment that stuck in my head.
Dorian is also one of the most intelligent bodybuilders around, and has a wicked sense of humor, albeit in a dry, Brit kind of way which I appreciate…
Pat “Andro Boy” Arnold
I met Pat Arnold, owner of the supplement company ErgoPharm, through Dan Duchaine—who thought very highly of Pat—and we have been friendly ever since. Pat is credited with introducing the first “andro” products to the market, as well as producing the non-detectable steroids that Victor Conte (see below) gave to the various athletes he worked with. Pat’s a brilliant man, and in his area of expertise, he’s leagues past everyone else. He got the short end of the stick in the “Balco scandal” but has rebounded well and seems to have taken the experience in stride. Pat’s problem is he’s too nice and too honest, and was naive in many respects about how fast people in the industry will throw you under the bus when the SHTF, and will scatter like roaches—leaving you holding the bag. Pat is no longer the naive genius he was when I met him, which is a good thing in my view. Pat is one of the “good guys” in an industry full of con artists and scum bags.
The “Admiral” Bob Kennedy:
Bob is the founder and owner of the well known magazines Musclemag International, Oxygen, and others. I was invited to have lunch with him when I first started writing for MMI at the Ms. Olympia in NY City many moons ago. He said he liked my stuff and encouraged me to keep writing. Someone gave him the nickname “The Admiral” but he hated that, so I tried to write that into every article and column I could! I used to tease him about the Admiral thing when I saw him at the MMI booth at the shows, which is probably why he seemed to avoid me! At least he continued to publish my many articles and monthly column over the years…
Sadly, Bob passed away not long ago and you can read my dedication to Bob HERE
Victor “catch me if you can” Conte:
I met Victor when he was brand new to the bodybuilding/fitness industry—well before anyone else knew who he was. I was doing consulting work for a company at the time. As it was my job to look at new products, I got a call from someone in the company, who said,
“Will, there’s some guy named Victor Conte contacting us who has this ZMA product he wants to pitch to us.”
So, I booked a flight for the meeting to hear Victor pitch ZMA and give the company my opinion on the product. My first impression of him was he was clearly a smart person, but also a slick salesman who had developed a great story for ZMA—minus what I considered solid support for the effects he claimed. Still, as bodybuilding-type supplements go, it was better than most, as it actually had some data to support the concept.
Of course, Victor later became famous for his involvement in the various steroid scandals and his association with steroid-using athletes in professional baseball, Olympic track and field, etc. He did several months in Club Fed for that.******
I haven’t seen Victor since he was released from jail, but I have had many a drink or dinner with him at various shows/conferences, prior to that. He’s a charming person and quite smart, but perhaps more of a salesman than a guru type. Regardless, Victor is one of those people who always lands on his feet. He’s more famous than ever now, and is having the last laugh—considering the amount of public money used to try and take him down. I suspect that’s just fine with him…
Lee “Mr. Nice Guy” Haney
8-time Mr. Olympia Lee Haney is probably the nicest person in all of bodybuilding. A devout Christian—and I believe a minister—Lee is one of the few highly religious people I can talk religion with and not want to strangle them. He and I used to both have a contract with the same company, so we would often have breakfast together, and have interesting talks about the nature of God and such. I appreciated his rare ability to lead by example as a Christian, vs. trying to convert me or convince me it was the only right/correct way to be a complete and decent human being.
Lee “Class Act” Labrada
Lee was regarded as one of the most symmetrical pro bodybuilders “back in the day” and currently runs his own successful supplement company, Labrada Nutrition. Lee is a class act all the way. He’s one of the more honest and professional supplement company owners, and is a stickler for producing high quality products. He’s always been friendly and professional with me, although I have had limited personal time with him. His booth is always on my short list of places to stop by at the shows—to say “hello” to Lee and his crew.
Joe really is the founder of bodybuilding as we know it today, even if he did have a habit of taking credit for things he didn’t invent… He founded the IFBB, owned magazines such as “Muscle & Fitness” and “Flex,” and created the supplement company Weider Nutrition. He was always pretty friendly to me, but since I was only an occasional freelance writer for his mags, I didn’t have much contact with him over the years. He died not long ago in 2013.
These are just a few of the people and experiences that I recall from over the years I’ve been involved in the industry. Many more come to mind, but I’ll save those for another time. I hope you enjoyed my short walk down memory lane as much as I enjoyed turning on the time machine and jotting some of my history down on paper.
**= currently serving several years in jail on steroid and firearms related charges.
****= The Anabolic Reference Guide by Bill Phillips
***** = TC Luoma, now found at the popular web site www.Testosterone.net
****** = People that want to know the details behind the Balco Steroid Scandal, Victor Conte, as well as additional comments from me on the issue, should read the book Game of Shadows by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams: http://www.gameofshadows.com