A Legacy Writ Large: A Tribute To Fitness Publishing Icon Robert Kennedy (1938–2012)
The bodybuilding and fitness world lost one of its best and brightest publishers and personalities this spring. Prolific publisher Robert Kennedy died April 12, 2012, at age 73 from complications stemming from cancer.
Robert left a legacy few can match. This vibrant, intelligent, creative man's bodybuilding and fitness publications kick-started the careers of physique champions and enriched the lives of health enthusiasts the world over.
Kennedy, born in England before moving to Canada in 1967, was one of the most-liked individuals in this competitive industry, fraught with conflicting egos. He played by his own rules, took chances and ultimately achieved major success as a publisher, writer and health-and-fitness authority.
Visionaries follow their passion and apply themselves to their calling. They shape industries and revolutionize their area of expertise. Kennedy was a man many feel is responsible, through his magazines and books, for bridging the gap between expertly-garnered training and nutritional advice and tell-it-like-it-is commentary on the real goings-on behind the scenes of the bodybuilding and fitness industry.
His tactics included no apparent sugar coating of editorial content and pandering to the corporate elite. Kennedy's publications - most notably MuscleMag International, established in 1974 and still going strong - were broad in scope and delved into controversial topics such as drug use in sports and bogus supplements.
Along the way he coined the term "hardcore bodybuilding," popularized the 'pre-exhaust' training concept, opened 26 fitness stores and helped place women's bodybuilding, and swimsuit modeling, in the spotlight of the stage and so much more.
Kennedy was also a well-respected painter. Many of his works were released under his father's name, Wolfgang Kals. His magazines (six titles) and books (a hefty 53) were expertly written and produced, and helped inspire and inform countless health and fitness devotees.
His profound and long-lasting influence on generations of healthy-living adherents and scores of hardcore bodybuilding champions is without question.
We at bodybuilding.com salute this remarkable man, whose well-earned reputation for excellence will live on and continue through the people he influenced and inspired.
To demonstrate how far-reaching Robert Kennedy's influence was, and to discover more about his personal side, we sought commentary from select high-profile fitness industry insiders and elite-level bodybuilders.
Read the tributes below to get a feel for how well-respected the iconoclastic publisher will remain. As long as there is bodybuilding, Robert Kennedy will be remembered.
Tribute To An Icon
"Bob was a great friend and a true fitness icon. He spread the gospel of health around the globe, and his impact can't be measured. I will miss Bob, but there is no question that his legacy of a fitter and healthier world will live on."
- Arnold Schwarzenegger - 6-time Mr. Olympia
"When I first met Bob in 1977, I thought he was the nicest of all the bodybuilding magazine publishers I knew. Over all these years I've had no reason to change that opinion. No matter how busy he must have been, he never failed to respond personally to my many snail mails. He will be sorely missed but never forgotten."
- Doris Barrilleaux - The "First Lady" of Bodybuilding
"Bob was a wonderful supporter of the bodybuilding industry and helped contribute so much to the sport. He will be missed and we hope his magazine will continue in the spirit he has run it for so long."
- Joe and Betty Weider - Godfather of Modern Bodybuilding
"Many people know Bob Kennedy as a visionary and pioneer for the sport of bodybuilding and fitness and although these titles are certainly befitting a man of such stature, they only scratch the surface. I was fortunate to know Bob as both an employer and a friend. As the publisher of Oxygen Magazine, he provided a platform for women that encouraged serious fitness training and created a community of women that if given the proper tools could turn their struggles with weight and body image into personal victories. His moniker of 'Tough Love Bob' was a welcomed departure from the fluffy stuff women would often read in fitness magazines. This was a man who knew that real results came from real effort."
"There are without a doubt countless people who have benefited from Bob's wisdom and encouragement (myself included). Nothing I can say can adequately express the depth of my appreciation and affection for Mr. Kennedy. His warm and generous heart will never be forgotten. He encouraged me in my life when I was struggling to make a way. His affirmation and encouragement are why I'm still pressing forward in this career. He always had the greater good in mind and truly loved to inspire, educate, encourage and entertain like no other. I will always think of Bob when the going gets tough and when I achieve victories great or small because I know in either case he would tell me to 'never give up' or that 'the best was yet to come.' I hope I can make him proud! Thank you, Bob for the impact and influence you've had on my life. I think I speak for many when I say that he will be missed but never forgotten! May his work continue to shine through the efforts of his loved ones and his devoted employees. My heart goes out to Tosca and the girls. May God bless you and comfort you!"
- Jamie Eason - Bodybuilding.com Spokesperson
"Robert Kennedy serialized my book RIPPED in the '80s. Some years later he said it was his favorite bodybuilding book. He did things his way and made it work beyond the dreams of any ordinary man. Six going-and-blowing magazines, 53 books, 26 fitness stores, and more; WOW. Good job Bob!"
- Clarence Bass - Author of the Ripped book series, Bodybuilding champion
"Mr. Robert Kennedy has always been one of the most important bodybuilding and fitness personalities and he has influenced a lot of us. I was on the cover of his magazine and it was a true honor to meet him."
- Gustavo Badell - IFBB professional bodybuilder
"Well, I'll always remember Bob as the guy who gave me my first photo shoot at my very first pro show, the Chicago pro, show back in 1992. Ever since then, Bob has always treated me with warmth and kindness and always spoke very highly of me before I won the Mr. Olympia; he always found a spot to put me in his magazine, whether it was in the "Beef It" section, or the "Real Humor" with Larry McClusky section. He always took me out to lunch or dinner when time allowed, and he was always in the greatest mood ever, with tons of humorous energy. Rest in peace, Bob, and thanks for all the great memories."
- Ronnie Coleman - 8-time IFBB Mr. Olympia
"On April 13th, I lost a friend. Bob Kennedy always had a friendly smile or a helping hand. You cannot find anyone who ever said a bad word about him. Our friendship spanned more than 35 years, starting as a business acquaintance in the late 1970s, but progressing into a true friendship as the years passed. I will always remember Bob and I will miss him dearly."
- Wayne S. DeMilia - Bodybuilding promoter
"Robert Kennedy is a pioneer and bodybuilding icon; his name is mentioned in the same breath as men like Joe Weider and Arnold Schwarzenegger. While the bodybuilding community mourns, I am personally grateful for the opportunity to have met Mr. Kennedy and seen firsthand his passion and enthusiasm. Bodybuilding suffers a great loss today, but I'm hopeful that his spirit will live on in the pages of the publications that bear his name."
- Mark Dugdale - IFBB professional bodybuilder
"In my professional days as a competitive bodybuilder my whole heart and soul were put into the sport. But just as important as the results was the sheer fun and joy I got out of it. In my view, there were only very few people in the sport for these same reasons; people who worked hard so our sport could contribute something to others, and to our own lives. Robert Kennedy was a man who understood. Thank you, Robert, for all that you gave."
- Berry de Mey - IFBB professional bodybuilding legend
"Bob loved the iron as much as did the champions he promoted and the fans he spoke to through MuscleMag International. Anyone who spent time with Bob is saddened by the loss of a good, strong and gentle man, a major contributor to the world of health and fitness, and a nice guy. We press on, none of us alone, by God."
- Dave Draper - IFBB professional bodybuilding legend
"I had the pleasure of meeting Bob at the Arnold Classic where I had a long conversation with him regarding me writing articles about him. He had several conversations with my daughter, Stephanie, regarding those articles. Therefore, my daughter and I offer our condolences to his family and readers. We'll all miss him."
- Bob Gajda - 1966 AAU Mr. America
"Bob Kennedy had been one of most influential people in bodybuilding along with others like Joe Weider and Ben Weider. Bob had a passion for bodybuilding like no other, putting his mark on the sport in his publications like MuscleMag and many of his books, like "Beef It." He greatly influenced my getting into the sport of bodybuilding through both his magazines and books that gave great information on the pros from Arnold to the present-day champs. When I was active in bodybuilding competition, Bob would contact me himself and do interviews with me on my training and nutrition. Later on, when I started my company, Gaspari Nutrition, again he would always compliment me as a businessman and on how I was inspiring other bodybuilders to seek a life after competition. Bob sent some of his recent books for me to read as well as sending me handwritten notes telling me how proud he was of me. He will be missed greatly and is a true icon and legend."
- Rich Gaspari - IFBB professional bodybuilder
"Bob was an absolute pioneer. He knew exactly how to present his inspirational content through his creative direction, which has never been matched by any other publication. His swimsuit editions were always pretty loud, much like the 'shop window front' clothes he wore - loud and exciting. Bob paved the way for companies such as Bodybuilding.com to further help people understand the health benefits of bodybuilding and to make it look fun and interesting at the same time. In his honor, I will continue to help others, because Bob has handed me the blueprint that works - it speaks to everyone. Thank you, Bob, for providing millions of people with the lighter side of a sport that can sometimes be misunderstood. You will be greatly missed."
- Kris Gethin - Writer, book author, physical transformation specialist
"Bobby Kennedy, for decades, was a far-forward-thinking, innovative, sometimes brazen and well-respected publisher in the bodybuilding and fitness space. He was fearless in his approach for blazing new arenas. He was always jovial and very positive and charismatic in his interactions with those in the field, and he encouraged countless athletes."
- Robert M. Goldman, MD, PhD, DO, FAASP - World Chairman-International Medical Commission
"Robert Kennedy was one of the most influential people in the bodybuilding industry. He published the first issue of MuscleMag International way back in 1974 and it became one of the biggest and best bodybuilding magazines in the 1980s. It was one of the first bodybuilding magazines I read back in 1976 when I started training. One of the things I loved about MuscleMag was how they would profile bodybuilders who were not featured in Weider's magazines. In fact, Bob published 3-4 MuscleMag Annuals in the late '70's that included all the top contests from federations all over the world, including the IFBB, AAU, NABBA, WBBG and others. It was refreshing to see a non-political magazine that wasn't afraid to profile any bodybuilder who had a great physique. Incredible champions like Bertil Fox, Serge Nubret, Tony Emmott and Sergio Oliva were given the respect they deserved in MuscleMag International."
"Bob had such a passion for bodybuilding and fitness. He worked so hard on MuscleMag, Oxygen, Reps and all his other magazines. He wrote countless books and articles because he really loved the sport and physique development. He didn't like the direction the sport of bodybuilding was going and he was really against the out-of-control drug use that was ruining the top physiques in the sport. His preference was for bodybuilders like Steve Reeves, Frank Zane, Serge Nubret and Lee Labrada. He had a close friendship with Arnold and admired his desire, dedication and perseverance in attaining his lofty goals."
"Rest in Peace Bob! The bodybuilding industry won't be the same without your passion and love."
- John Hansen - Natural Mr. Olympia; 2x Natural Mr. Universe
You can find John Hansen's interview with Robert Kennedy here.
"The world has lost a good man, friend and fellow Iron Warrior. Robert Kennedy was a true pioneer for the sport of bodybuilding and fitness as he encouraged and challenged many of us to achieve our ultimate goals while providing a unique platform where the world could recognize our accomplishments. I will never forget the first time Bob called me for my first MuscleMag cover shoot in 1992 with Juliette Bergmann. This was an incredible experience for me; it helped to further my career in professional bodybuilding. I was truly blessed to have the opportunity to work with Bob on many occasions over the years and to become his friend. Bob Kennedy was a superstar in my book and he will be truly missed. Thank you Bob for all you have done for me and all of us."
- Dave Hawk - IFBB professional bodybuilding legend
"I will be forever grateful for what Robert offered to bodybuilders like me around the world. I distinctly remember reading his highly informative articles in the MuscleMag International Greek edition and it was full of helpful tips and ideas on training and nutrition. Robert was a legend and his legacy will remain behind for many years to come, giving people who enjoy the bodybuilding lifestyle the right information to improve and live life to the fullest. Thank you Robert for all you've done to help me and everyone who loves bodybuilding around the world."
- Michael Kefalianos - IFBB professional bodybuilder
"Robert Kennedy's passing is truly a great loss for all of us. Reflecting on the times I conversed with him about life and my career as a bodybuilder will also be a blissful memory. It was a great honor and pleasure to be chosen on several occasions as a featured athlete in his magazine. This was indeed a dream he made come true for me. I send my condolences to his family who must endure the loss of a great man. Bob, you'll be missed."
- Leo Ingram - IFBB professional bodybuilder
"Bob Kennedy had a belief and a burning desire to change the fitness and bodybuilding industry. He called it a vision; most called it sheer gumption. Naysayers told him he was crazy; even Arnold agreed. But Bob proved that where there's passion, there's creation; and where there's creation, there's love. Bob truly loved what he did and he lived that mantra his entire life. I can only pray that one day I will be able to emulate a fraction of the impact that Bob Kennedy had on the industry that we all love dearly. He will be missed, but never forgotten."
"Bob was one of the true pioneers of the bodybuilding and fitness industry and inspired countless men and women all over the world, whether to get in shape or challenge for an Olympia title. It is truly an incredible legacy that he leaves behind, something that few can match and virtually all would be proud of. I am personally thankful beyond words for the opportunity to work with him for almost a decade at MuscleMag. Rest in peace, Bob. You will be often missed but never forgotten."
- Larry Pepe - Writer, radio host and NPC judge
"Robert was a large fighter for our sport. His approach positively affected and supported the sport of bodybuilding. We lost an original. Robert Kennedy's passing was a large loss for us all. My condolences go out to his his family."
- Ronny Rockel - IFBB professional bodybuilder
"Although I live only 45 minutes from Bob Kennedy's MuscleMag International operation, I never had the privilege to actually personally meet Bob. Nonetheless, I still anticipated the prospect of interviewing him for Volume III of Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors. Through his publishing entrepreneurial exploits within the bodybuilding and fitness industry, Bob's presence and impact on the game was undeniable. I had never come across anyone who did not like Bob Kennedy, which is assuring that he will be missed both personally and professionally in the world of physique development. Friend, editor and writer, Greg Sushinsky, said to me of Bob, "… he contributed an awful lot to bodybuilding and in many ways was a guy like we all were - passionate for the iron. He also treated me very well and I shall always be grateful to him; he was the first person to publish me professionally. A good man is gone."
- Randy Roach - Author of Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors
"I met Robert years ago while I was the manager of Gold's Gym Venice and dating Monica Brant. Monica was very new to the fitness industry and Robert was really the nicest guy you could ever meet. He was always kind, cordial and professional and had a very witty side to himself as well. He always looked after Monica and he would even hire a knucklehead like me for his photo shoots. I truly believe what Robert Kennedy did for women's fitness should be compared to what Joe Weider did for men's bodybuilding! A true pioneer and a wonderful person. He will definitely be missed."
- Mike Ryan - Celebrity personal trainer
"I am so sorry to discover Bob Kennedy is no longer with us. It's rare we find one of our leaders who has a true love for the sport of bodybuilding and the gift to articulate that passion in one of the finest muscle magazines to come along in years; not to mention his own dedication to keeping his own body in great shape and being a good friend."
- Larry Scott - IFBB professional bodybuilding legend; First Mr. Olympia winner in 1965
"I had the privilege of knowing Bob and the honor of interviewing him. When I think back to our conversations, I'm reminded of a level of class and dignity that separated him from the pack. I remember one time during an interview we asked Bob how he managed to stay clear of those divisive publishing rivalries. He responded simply that he was, 'Dedicated to not being that way.' It was a simple response, but spoke volumes for how he approached his business, his life.
- Dan Solomon - Host, writer and commentator
You can find Dan Soloman's interview with Robert Kennedy here.
"The industry lost more than a great magazine publisher when Robert Kennedy succumbed to complications from skin cancer on Thursday, April 12, much more. Sure, we all know Robert was a gifted writer and photographer; producing several successful publications and penning 53 books, several ending up on the New York Times Bestseller List."
"But, after getting to know the man in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I realized what a special fella he really was. He was always energetic and was such a witty man; don't all British folk inherit that special talent? He was devoted to physical culture and eventually opened a string of fitness stores and franchises (and a clothing line) to boot; I was at the grand opening of outlets in Northridge, CA, and Venice, CA."
"I found out we shared a common ground in the classroom; Kennedy taught Art and English in England and Canada and, when I told him I was afraid of leaving the security of teaching to get more embedded in the world of bodybuilding and fitness journalism, he laughed and said, "Hell, I quit my teaching job with less than 500 bucks in my pocket and started my first magazine!"
"Even though he taught the subject, I never realized until 2011 what a talented artist the man was. I was strolling through the Arnold Expo in Columbus, OH, and hit the MuscleMag booth, chatting with Robert and Bill Geiger. I saw a beautiful, large canvas painting of Arnold Schwarzenegger right outside the area, and found out Kennedy did the honors!"
"I dug a little deeper to comprehend just how involved Robert was in this arena as well - his canvasses are hung in the company headquarters in Mississauga, Ontario, and are in the homes of private collectors around the world. I teased Robert about purchasing the Arnold piece - if he would lower the asking price by about 80 percent."
"I knew how much it meant to him to be named the winner of the "Lifetime Achievement Award" at the 2012 Arnold Classic. Due to his illness, though, Robert's wife, Tosca Reno, had to take to the podium to accept the honor in his absence. As I stood behind the curtain watching the ceremony, I envisioned Robert and his lifelong friend, Arnold, teasing back and forth at the microphone to the delight of the packed Vets Memorial Auditorium audience. It would have been classic."
"And, can you imagine the look in his eyes when Arnold made a surprise visit to Kennedy's Ontario, Canada, abode on Easter Sunday? Tosca writes in her blog they even flexed for the camera! Yes, even with death staring him in the face, Robert Kennedy was full of life."
"We'll miss you dearly, my man. Condolences to your family and friends. But, rest in peace knowing what you brought to this world will be valued for eternity."
- Lonnie Teper - Bodybuilding MC and writer
"Robert Kennedy was an innovator and one of the leaders within bodybuilding publishing. His magazines were always crisp in photography and his articles were always up to date and inspiring. He published a no-BS magazine, which is rare in this field. He will be missed by all and I personally enjoyed working with him through the years."
- Casey Viator - AAU Mr. America -1971; IFBB professional bodybuilder
"I knew Bob Kennedy since the 1970s and appreciate what he's done for publicizing bodybuilding with his magazines. His artistic talents were reflected in the quality publications he produced. He provided a forum for my type of physique and I am grateful to him. Bob will be missed."
- Frank Zane - IFBB professional bodybuilding legend; 3-time Mr. Olympia: 1977-79
"Bob Kennedy was defined by his passion for bodybuilding and his never-ending quest to give his readers the best information to transform their dreams of muscle, strength and health into reality. Bob's passion made him a lifelong evangelist for his beliefs of the value of nutrition and exercise. Bob's legacy is the millions of people he helped to achieve their dreams. He was a man of character and passion, a friend I will always remember."
- John Balik, Publisher, Iron Man Magazine
"Robert Kennedy has for me been a most influential person. He has been a solid supporter of mine from day one. I first met Robert in Santa Monica, Calif., in 1980. I was with a mutual friend well known in the bodybuilding world, Art Zeller. We went out to eat at the well-known Santa Monica restaurant, Zukie. For me, as new kid on the block, it was a complete joy to be around them, since the two considered me to be a future star in the sport. Boy, these guys can predict! I can remember Robert saying to me before the '82 and '83 Olympia contests: "Samiro, just get super ripped and you will win." He was absolutely right! Robert is a loving person, and extremely funny. I learned so much talking with him and laughed the entire time. Robert put me on his MMI cover more than a half dozen times; I believe I'm in the top-5 for all-time MMI covers. Losing Bob is devastating to me. I spoke with him nearly 10 weeks ago. I can describe him as: smart, kind, sincere, loving, funny and caring. I will sum up by saying: RIP Robert, you will always be missed. My condolences to all of those who love him as much as I do."
- Samir Bannout - Mr. Olympia: 1983
"In the days when the polished and formulaic Weider publications threatened to corner the muscle-magazine market, Robert Kennedy's MuscleMag gave fresh, raw and honest perspective to the world of bodybuilding. It covered not just the IFBB and its affiliates, but all major federations. It was a welcome, fresh and often gritty alternative to the increasingly fluffy and airbrushed (back when there was such a thing) "mainstream" magazines. Musclemag may live on, but Kennedy will be missed.
- Gordon LaVelle - Author, Bodybuilding: Tracing the Evolution of the Ultimate Physique
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