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An Interview With Pro Bodybuilding Great Boyer Coe.

In the following interview Boyer discusses his life in bodybuilding and gives his insightful and accurate thoughts on many of its major events, from the controversial 1980 and 1981 Mr. Olympia's through to the ill-fated WBBF.

By: David Robson

Boyer Coe has carved his name into the bodybuilding history books in more ways than one. Along with being one of bodybuilding's top champions of the 70's and 80's, he also achieved recognition as one of its most consistent and preserving.

Having competed in four separate eras (the '60's, '70's, '80's and '90's), Boyer, who turns 61 in August, has posed-off against most major champions and has himself won a good haul of titles (15 professional and 11 amateur).

Born on August 18, 1946, in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Boyer's first introduction to weights came at age 14, where, undecided as to what he would do with his sporting future, decided to see how far the iron game would take him. After five years of training he won the 1965 AAU Mr. Texas, followed in 1966 by winning the AAU Teen Mr. America title. He had found his calling.

One man who was to have an enduring influence on Boyer's life is Red Lerille, owner of the first serious gym Boyer trained at and a past Mr. America winner himself. Under Red's guidance, Boyer, from his early college days through to his peak as an IFBB champion, became one of the better-known and most popular competitors of his time.

Ever since he lifted is first weight Boyer has maintained a bond with the sport that would form a major part of his life. From owning a health food store and running a gym (in New Orleans) to prototyping exercise equipment and co-hosting a fitness program on ESPN, Boyer has, in one way or another, maintained links with the fitness community.

In 1994 Boyer competed at his all time best bodyweight of 224 pounds, at 5'9", to place third in the Masters Mr. Olympia. Today he is in the gym every morning at 5.00, and maintains good conditioning and size. For anyone interested in bodybuilding's history, one man we should all know of is Boyer Coe, one of its hardest working pioneers.

In the following interview Boyer discusses his life in bodybuilding and gives his insightful and accurate thoughts on many of its major events, from the controversial 1980 and 1981 Mr. Olympia's through to the ill-fated WBBF.


[ Q ] When did you first begin bodybuilding and why did you choose it initially as a sport and eventually a career?

    I suppose I became interested in bodybuilding as a way to prove myself to my family and certainly to myself. I came from a family that was outstanding in boxing and football, especially my father and my uncle. My father was good enough to turn professional, but then I came along and he had to earn a living for his family.

    My uncle was an extremely gifted athlete, good at every sport. He was the only true ambidextrous person I have ever known. He could destroy you with either hand in boxing, and as quarterback in football he could easily throw the ball accurately with either hand to totally confuse the opposing team.

    I was never very good at either sport so I was looking for something that I could potentially be good at. Once I discovered bodybuilding, it became my life-long quest to see how good I could become. I never really looked at bodybuilding as a career, as I was never lucky enough to have any kind of contract. As such, I always maintained a full time job in addition to competing.

Boyer Coe
Click Image To Enlarge.
Boyer Coe.


[ Q ] What are you doing today, both training and career-wise?

    For the past several years I have been in the insurance business, insuring classic and exotic cars. My brother-in-law started this business. When he became ill, I began helping him. When he passed away three-years-ago, I took over to keep his business going.

    Prior to that I have always been involved in the fitness industry: everything from owning a health food store to prototyping exercise equipment to co-hosting a fitness show on ESPN.


[ Q ] You had a very long bodybuilding career, from the mid-sixties through to the mid-nineties. What kept you in the sport so long?

    Bodybuilding has always been a personal journey for me, I was simply interested in seeing how hard I could push myself, challenge myself, to see how much I was able to improve. The contests were nothing more to me than a goal to attempt to measure my progress - sometimes I was able to make really good progress, other times it was not as good as I would have liked.


[ Q ] You have also won your share of pro contests. What was it about your look that the judges liked?

    I do not have a clue; honestly I never thought my physique was all that good. Bodybuilding is purely subjective by nature. Judges will always have their bias. I trained hard, did my best to be in top condition; always did what I could to improve. After that it was out of my hands.

    What I counted on the most were several people who were always honest with me about my condition. A couple of times I was fortunate enough to win a contest, but if they told me I did not look as good compared to last time out, then I knew I had not really done my job and had to be better the next time out. The judge's opinion never really mattered to me.

Boyer Coe
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Boyer Coe.


[ Q ] But clearly you were one of the best in your era and you did make a great contribution to bodybuilding.

    The funny thing is, the contests, as I said, were never a motivating factor for me. I never cared that much, but naturally, at the same time, wanted to win and do well. I was never fortunate to have a contract and I am very happy that the guys today are getting these big contracts, but I would like to think that I was one of the pioneers that led to that.

    As a competitor I always had a full-time job so going to the contests and winning was not all that important to me because at least I had a job to fall back on. And to be quite honest I never had any respect for any of the judges. If they placed me first, fine. If they didn't I just took it and went about my business because I figured those guys did not know what it was like.

    It kind of reminds me of a movie I always liked called The Natural, starring Robert Redford. There is a scene with Robert Duvall, who acted the part of a sportswriter who wanted to control baseball. I always remember Robert Redford asking Robert Duvall's character, "You know, did you ever play baseball?" And he said no, he never did.

    So if you never participated in bodybuilding, if you never went through the effort of working out and dieting, how the h*ll would you know what it is like to be up onstage? Those guys sit there in judgement of you. I remember standing there and looking down offstage and the judges are laughing and joking and looking around.

    They are not paying attention to you. And way back in the IFBB, the way you got to be a judge was to first be distributor for Weider food supplements. Then all of a sudden you showed up as an official. Well many of those guys didn't know anything about judging.

    The thing that mattered to me was what a few of my close friends said. They would be brutally honest and tell me if I looked good or not. It didn't matter if I won a contest or not. Sometimes when I actually won a contest they would say, "You know you looked like sh!t, you didn't look anywhere near as good as you did last time."

    And I knew that they were telling me the truth. I remember back in 1967, a guy who helped me tremendously and who has been my inspiration in life, Red Lerille, the 1960 Mr. America, tried to teach me how to hit a side chest pose. And after two or three weeks he said, "Forget it, just don't hit the chest pose, it just don't look worth a d@mn, you just don't know how to do it."

Boyer Coe
Click Image To Enlarge.
Boyer Coe Age 17, At Red Lerille's gym .

    So I went to the 1967 Mr. America and I decided to take his advice and did not do a chest pose. Finally they tell me that I have to hit the side chest pose. I said, "Well, I don't know how to do it." The guy said, "You have to hit the chest pose anyway." So I hit the chest pose.

    In those days you won best body parts. Well I was always fortunate enough to win best arms but on this occasion I also won best chest (laughs). But Red still didn't think my chest pose was right. It probably wasn't right but it was good enough to win the best chest award (laughs). And I had other guys like that who would tell me the truth. If they told me I had made improvements from the last contest that was all the satisfaction needed.


[ Q ] So you did after all have a good chest to go with your good arms?

    Yes (laughs). To tell you the truth Dave I was never that satisfied. I would always look at Sergio Oliva's physique and think that that is what I wanted to look like, but I also had enough intelligence to know that I just didn't have his genetics.


[ Q ] Having competed in the A.A.U. NABBA, IFBB and WBBG federations, what are your thoughts on each? What did each have to offer you as a bodybuilder?

    I actually started with the AAU, then NABBA, WBBG, and then lastly IFBB. The one thing that I will always remember about NABBA was the great integrity with which they conducted themselves. Oscar Heidenstam (sp) and George Greenwood were so fantastic. They really loved bodybuilding.

    1969 was the first time I went to London for the Mr. Universe and they made you feel welcome. They really appreciated the bodybuilders and I never forgot that.


[ Q ] Having competed against some of the greatest champions of all time, who stands out as being the consummate professional? Who among your fellow competitors did you admire most and why?


[ Q ] I have a photo of you standing alongside Arnold on the same stage back in the late 1960's. You competed against him at one point in your early years?

    I first met Arnold at the 1969 AAU Mr. America in Chicago. He was there with Sergio Oliva. I didn't compete against him the first time I met him but the first time we were onstage together was in 1969. I won the NABBA Amateur Mr. Universe and he won the professional.

Boyer Coe Boyer Coe
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Boyer Coe.

    Then the next year we competed together at the 1970 Professional Mr. Universe in London. The following day we flew back from London to Columbus Ohio and competed in the Mr. World. This was the first time that Arnold met Jim Lorimer. It was also the first time that Arnold beat Sergio.


[ Q ] What was Arnold like to compete against. What can you tell me about his personality backstage and on the posing platform?

    I never really paid any attention to anyone backstage, so I can't recall how he or anyone acted. About the only thing I can remember, after the 1970 Mr. World in Columbus was that Arnold kept saying over and over, "I can't believe I beat Sergio."


[ Q ] What other recollections do you have of Arnold?

    I always got along okay with Arnold. I never had any problems with him, but I understood his need to be always in the spotlight. And I never felt I needed to do that. I just wanted to go about my business. Nothing wrong with that, we were just different in that sense.

    I think, later on, he began to believe that he was a little more important than he actually was though. People have asked me a thousand times, "Why did Arnold go back to the Olympia and compete again?"

    I have no idea and even if you ask him today he probably couldn't even tell you why in the h*ll he ever did that. I think now he is mature enough to look back and say that it was a mistake. It certainly didn't help his popularity.

PRO BODYBUILDING WEEKLY
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[ Q ] He did say a short while back that he was training for a movie at the time and decided to take advantage of the shape he had achieved.

    You see that was his first big break, the Conan movies, and chances are had I not voiced an opinion at the 1980 Mr. Olympia I would have had a small part in the first of these movies. I remember I had a gym and was living in New Orleans at the time and he came into town for the big Muhammad Ali/Leon Spinks fight that was on at the Superdome.

    Arnold let me know he had arrived and we got together and had a great weekend and every time he would come to town we would spend time together. There is so much speculation about what happened at the 1980 Mr. Olympia and I think this is wrong.

    Everybody talks about the big confrontation between Arnold and Mike Mentzer. It never really happened like that. What happened was before the 1980 Olympia we (the contestants) decided to change the rules governing this show. We all got together and voted to change the weight classes.

Boyer Coe
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Boyer Coe.

    I kept telling Ben Weider that having two weight classes was really not fair. What happens if the guy in the under-200-pound class, for example, places second in that class? And what if he was in fact better than the guy who wins the over-200-pound class?

    Instead of just having an overall winner, why not have one winner but then have second, third and fourth and so on and eliminate the weight classes. So everyone said yes that made sense, and all the competitors agreed to it. So when we got to Australia we just assumed that that was the way it was going to be. Then the night before, Bill Pearl told me that Arnold was trying to change the rules.

    I said, "We can't change the rules, we have already voted on them." But I think Arnold's reasoning was if he only had one guy to beat and it was a guy in the under-200-pound class, he knew he could appear bigger and more dominant. But if he competed in the show and there were no weight classes, where you had six or seven guys in the contest who were actually better than he was, which is actually what happened, the result is really going to look more controversial.

    Therefore I think it was a smart move on his part to try to re-introduce the weight classes. So we all took a vote that night again. I think there were 24 guys in the contest and 23 guys voted no to weight classes. Only one voted in favor. So what happened was the next day at the meeting everybody was complaining and I said, "Look, there is only one guy who wants the weight classes. Why not give him an opportunity to voice his opinion."

    And I went to stand up to turn the floor over to Arnold. Well Arnold wasn't expecting that and he didn't know what to say. So the only thing he could come back with was the most idiotic statement I have ever heard in my life: "Why don't you quit acting like a boy and act like a man."

    That had nothing to do with what I was trying to do, which was to give him the opportunity to speak. Well by that time Mike Mentzer had become short tempered and he jumped up and tried to defend me. I didn't need anybody to defend me. And that is what most people think happened, that there was a big confrontation between Mike and Arnold. But that wasn't the case at all.

    And I want to remind you that even though Mike was in incredible condition and ended up placing fourth, he never, ever claimed that he should have won the Mr. Olympia contest. All he ever said was that it was unfair for Arnold to win.

    And I think everybody else who was a contestant in that contest, with the possible exception of Tom Platz, who idolized Arnold and wanted to be like him, didn't think Arnold deserved to win. There were a lot of good guys in that show, probably four or five who could have won.


[ Q ] There is also talk of Arnold badmouthing Mike Mentzer backstage.

    Yes, you see that is what happened also. When Arnold came back to me with his statement after I offered him the opportunity to speak, Mike jumped in. Well, Arnold did not know what to say. He wasn't expecting that.

    People don't realize that Arnold was sitting down and Mike was standing over him. And if there had of been any kind of fight, Mike would have knocked Arnold's head off - it was just the way they were positioned. The guy that prevented it from escalating, by stepping in between them, was Bill Pearl.

    And yes, Arnold did try to ridicule Mike. He said, "Everybody knows the reason you didn't win the 1979 Mr. Olympia was because your belly was too big." Which of course was certainly not the case but was probably the best Arnold could do at the time.

    I think Arnold today would probably look back and regret having said that and would have realized all these many years later, that it (the situation) certainly was not that important.

Boyer Coe
Click Image To Enlarge.
Boyer Coe.


[ Q ] Judging from the DVD coverage of the show and various reports, there seemed to be a lot of upset competitors after the 1980 Olympia.

    Yes there were. That was the most upset I have ever seen people in a contest. However, I knew right afterwards what the result would be the following year. I was smart enough to see the handwriting on the wall based on the way people were acting, that Franco was going to enter and win.

    I even told people a year in advance that Franco was going to win the 1981 Mr. Olympia. I guess it got back to Franco and he even called me and said, "Why did you say that." I said that it was obvious he was going to win and that I was not going to the contest.

    If Arnold had of been honest to me and said he needed to win the contest because it would have helped him in his movie I would have stayed home; I wouldn't have gone ten thousand miles and stayed two weeks down there in Australia.

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[ Q ] And of course Franco did go on to win the 1981 Mr. Olympia.

    Yes he did and from what I can gather it was even more controversial than the 1980 contest. The only difference between the 1980 and the 1981 Mr. Olympia was very little was written about the 1981, then and ever since. And although CBS owned the rights and paid the money, they did not even bother to show up and film it; CBS has never covered bodybuilding again since 1980.

    I know the controversy rages on about the 1980 Mr. Olympia, propagated especially by people who were never there. I will just say this again: yes, Mike Mentzer was very upset, but nowhere did he ever say that he thought he should have won the 1980 Mr. Olympia. All he ever said was that Arnold was an unworthy winner and he was correct. There could have been several worthy winners, as Arnold was far from his best.

Boyer Coe
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Boyer Coe.


[ Q ] At the 1980 Olympia how did the competitors react upon hearing the result?

    Well there was no confrontation onstage. The only person that took his trophy and smashed it to pieces offstage was Frank Zane.


[ Q ] The 1980 Mr. Olympia must be the most talked about in the history of professional bodybuilding.

    Yes people still talk about it and the sad thing is none of those people were there and 90 percent of them weren't even born when the contest took place.

    Most people are correct in saying though, that Arnold should not have won. I will give him credit for one thing though: he already knew the outcome before he ever set foot in Australia. After the 1980 Olympia I said that would have never happened had the contest been held in the USA, but I was wrong.

    It happened the very next year. Chris Dickerson, Danny Padilla, Tom Platz and Roy Callander were all in outstanding shape; anyone of them would have been a great winner that year. People have asked me many times, would the outcome of the 1981 Olympia been the same if Mike Mentzer, Frank Zane, Albert Beckles and myself had entered?

    I do think the outcome would have been the same - fortunately we chose to stay out of it. Really just as controversial was the 1972 Mr. Olympia Contest held in Essen, Germany.


[ Q ] And since you were at the 1980 Mr. Olympia we now have a clearer version of what took place.

    Well you can put it out there and I'm telling you the truth as I was there and part of it. But I'm of the opinion that you cannot change people's minds. Once people's minds are made up, even if what they believe is wrong and false, if that is what they believe, that is what they will believe to be the truth.

Boyer Coe
Click Image To Enlarge.
Boyer Coe.


[ Q ] You mentioned some controversy concerning the CBS television studios filming of the 1980 Olympia.

    Yes. CBS had been contracted for two years to film the 1980 and 1981 Olympia's. They spent a considerable amount of money sending an entire crew to Sydney to film the event; they were down there for 10 days. The gentleman in charge was Sherman Egan, who I am sure is long retired by now.

    Anyway, after everything was said and done, Sherm met with myself, Frank Zane and Mike Mentzer and just wanted to let us know that CBS could never show this. Even an untrained eye could see that Arnold did not deserve to win. The film was never even edited.

    Later in 1980, I happened to be in New York on business and went to meet with Mr. Egan and he was kind enough to show me the raw footage then - to my knowledge, the only people that ever saw it were the people present with me that Saturday afternoon: Chris Dickerson, Wayne Demilia, his then wife Karen.

    The reason there was never a film of the 1981 Olympia is because, although CBS paid for the rights, they never bothered to send a film crew to cover it. After 1980, CBS has never covered bodybuilding contests again. Paul Graham, who organized the 1980 Olympia, was a close friend of Arnold's. So it was a showcase.

    If you remember, I don't think there was a single interview after the Olympia by any contestant other than Tom Platz. Everyone else refused to have anything to do with the video.

Boyer Coe
Click Image To Enlarge.
Boyer Coe.


[ Q ] You mentioned a while back the 1972 Mr. Olympia and hinted at it as being as controversial as the 1980 and 1981 versions. Should Sergio have beaten Arnold at he 1972 Olympia?

    Again, it is my opinion and everybody has got his or her own opinion. Honestly to me, and everybody has a view of what they think the ideal physique should be, Sergio Oliva's physique in 1972 was the best I have ever seen of anybody even to date. If I could pick anybody's physique that I would like to look like it would be Sergio Oliva's physique at the 1972 Olympia.

    Now that doesn't mean that Arnold was not smarter and a lot more cunning in the way that he did it (beat Sergio) but I thought that Sergio was clearly superior from a physical standpoint.


[ Q ] What qualities did Sergio have that made him superior in your view?

    Well the true meaning of an outstanding physique is big broad shoulders and a narrow waist and hips and Sergio had that. I think Sergio was unique and he was probably the most genetically gifted bodybuilder that ever was. Not only did he have tremendous mass but also he had little bitty hips and little bitty knees and little bitty ankles, which actually accentuated all the full muscle bellies. Then he had enormous wrists and elbows, which made his arms appear even bigger.

    And no one had more phenomenal forearms than Sergio Oliva. The first time I met Sergio Oliva in person was in 1966 and we competed together in the A.A.U. Junior Mr. America in San Jose California, which he won. Now at the time he weighed only 197 pounds - I was standing right next to him when he weighed-in - and they measured his waist at 27 inches. Each of his thighs was 29 inches.

Sergio Oliva
Click Image To Enlarge.
Sergio Oliva.

    There have only really been two guys who have impressed me like that: Sergio and another guy who never really got that much recognition, a guy from Britain called Brian Buchanan. This guy had a freakishly small waist. You can develop muscle but you cannot change genetic structure and fortunately for them Sergio Oliva and Brian were just gifted genetically.

Boyer Coe
Click Image To Enlarge.
Boyer Coe.


[ Q ] So the 1972 Mr. Olympia is open to debate as far as you are concerned?

    I think so because it actually all started earlier. It started in 1971 and it wasn't Arnold that began it. I think it was Rick Wayne writing for Weider's magazines saying that everyone was afraid to compete against Arnold. And that is when Bill Pearl announced that he would compete against anyone and everyone at the 1971 NABBA Mr. Universe. And prior to that Arnold had always competed in the NABBA Universe. To me that was the Oscar of bodybuilding.

    I mean you had the Mr. Olympia but the NABBA universe had so much history. You look back and John Grimek won that contest along with Steve Reeves and Reg Park and it was an honor just to go to that contest and be part of it. So I remember when Bill (Pearl) entered and then you had the falling out he had with Arthur Jones, and that is when Jones hired Sergio Oliva because he wanted him to beat Bill Pearl and make Pearl look bad.

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    I know that Arthur knows how to make people look big but he never understood all the conditioning aspects needed to compete at the Mr. Olympia. And while I fully agree that Sergio Oliva was genetically gifted, in the 1971 Mr. NABBA Mr. Universe contest, on that day, Bill Pearl was the better man.

    I think if Arnold had been competitive enough he would have entered but I don't think Joe Weider could even afford to take that chance. That is why all of a sudden they changed the rules and no one in the IFBB could go to the NABBA Universe anymore. Then we had the 1972 Mr. Olympia where Arnold beat Sergio. Interesting.


[ Q ] What was it like competing in the 70's? Could you provide some interesting stories from that era?

    You might say this was the start of professional bodybuilding. And let me make one thing crystal clear. There would never have been professional bodybuilding as we know it today without Wayne DeMillia. He worked his @ss off getting sponsors and fighting the Weiders every step of the way to make it work.

    Everyone else gets the glory, but it was Wayne and the people he put together that made it work. And what they did to Wayne in the end was extremely wrong. I have always said, there were only two people who could write the real book on bodybuilding. Sadly one has passed on, that was Artie Zeller. The other person is Wayne DeMillia.

Boyer Coe
Click Image To Enlarge.
Boyer Coe.


[ Q ] So Wayne Demilia was really that instrumental in making the IFBB as big as it had become?

    Without a doubt: People don't really understand that. Not to take anything away from Joe Weider, because with all of his faults at least he had a passion for bodybuilding. But had it not been for Wayne Demilia, professional bodybuilding, as we know if today, would never have come about.

    In the beginning you only had one professional contest a year and that was the Mr. Olympia. Then the next pro contest was the Night of Champions that Wayne Demilia started. From there he developed all of the Grand Prix's, all the overseas tours and he was the one who went out and was capable of getting all of the sponsorships.

    And when the Mr. Olympia was at its peak - the last year it was held at the Mandalay Bay Theatre in Las Vegas - where they made the most money, it was Wayne who did all the work. All Ben and Joe really had to do was show up and collect their piece of the money. Wayne was the one who did all the work and made the show money.


[ Q ] Many feel Wayne was mistreated.

    I don't really know. I have heard so many different stories, but I think the culprit in the whole thing was this guy, David Pecker, who purchased Weider publications and then also wanted to purchase the IFBB. I am not sure if he could legally do that but he purchased a large enough portion of it, then wanted the money.

    In some way or another he got Wayne kicked out of the whole organization. And ever since then the magazines have failed and David Pecker has become about 1.6 billion dollars in debt. If the people to whom all the money is owed want their money back that will be the end of the magazines and there won't be a Mr. Olympia anymore.


[ Q ] You also talked about Art Zeller being influential in bodybuilding. Just how significant is he within the annals of bodybuilding history?

    He was a fantastic photographer and he knew everybody. Unfortunately for me, out of all the photographers I worked with over the years I never had a chance to work with Artie Zeller. By the time I came along he wasn't really working for Weider and then he got sick and eventually died of pancreatic cancer.

    Although I was a friend of his, I never had a single photograph taken by him. Besides he had known bodybuilders from back in New York, way before it even got popular on the West Coast. He trained with guys like Marvin Eder, who were incredibly strong and he had a lot of great stories about those guys. I always enjoyed listening to him.


[ Q ] Art was also himself a bodybuilder.

    That is correct, he even competed in bodybuilding.


[ Q ] When you placed third at the 1994 Masters Mr. Olympia you looked truly awesome. Why did you decide to make a comeback?

    I would have to say you're wrong. I had always continued to train hard, so there was no comeback ever planned. Once again, my goal was to see if it was possible for me, at 48, to go past my best condition ever. I honestly have to say, that was my best all-time condition.

    I was extremely pleased with the condition I achieved. Coming in third in the judge's opinion does not matter to me one bit. Funny story about this contest: since there was only $25,000 involved as prize money and no one was really doing it for the money, I suggested that, whomever the winner might be, why not give all the prize money to the him.

    Robby was very upset by this and wanted the prize money broken down. As we were the eventual winner in the end, I believe he only received $10,000; he talked himself out of $15,000. Later I heard that Louie complained so much that he did not win that Joe gave him $25,000 to keep him quiet, but I don't know if that is actually true.


[ Q ] To compete in both the 1994 and 1995 Masters, what changes did you have to make to your training and diet programs? How did they differ from the ones you used in the 70's and early 80's?

    Not much difference. I simply trained hard and put forth the effort. In 1994 I was right on the money. In 1995 I was way off, no question about it.


[ Q ] Interestingly you are known among other things for your split biceps. Have you always had this, or did you train for it?


[ Q ] One common characteristic of older bodybuilders is the youthful appearance they maintain. What do you do to stall the aging process?

    Again, I would have to say genetics; that along with always training hard on a regular basis, a good diet, and a positive outlook. I always like to use the quote by the great baseball player, Satchel Paige. "How old would you be, if you didn't know how old you were?" I never think about age.


[ Q ] Describe the type of training and diet strategies you now use to keep in shape?

    Consistency. I have been training close to 46 years. I love to workout; you have to if you are in the gym every morning at 5 A.M.


[ Q ] What do you consider to be your greatest moment as a bodybuilder and why?

    Well, it certainly wasn't winning a contest. My greatest moments were of a personal nature. I once set a goal for myself to bench-press 400 pounds before I graduated high school. I managed to do that several months before I graduated. That is not much by today's standards but back then it was pretty good, and I only weighed about 180 at the time.

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    Another goal was to do a one-arm chin, with either arm. I have always been a great admirer of Marvin Eder and how strong he was. I managed to accomplish this about the same time as I won the Mr. America Contest - then I weighed about 200. Certainly not as good as Eder, he could easily do eight reps with each arm, but I managed to do at least one in good form with each arm.

    I really like hand balancing; I was exposed to this through Ben Mouton who had been a great performer in the days of Ringling Brothers Circus. He was a great coach and I really learned a lot about true showmanship from him.


[ Q ] Who else do you admire in bodybuilding?

    As a matter of fact, the guys I always admired were Bill Pearl and Sergio Oliva. They were always my two favourites. They were also a lot of other guys, like Marvin Eder as I mentioned. I was impressed with how strong he was.

    Even today with the enormous weights these guys' lift, nobody could approach the strength level Marvin Eder had. And this was way before anabolic steroids were used. You are talking about a guy who could do ten sets of ten reps of chins with 200 pounds attached at a bodyweight of 200 pounds.


[ Q ] That has to be in a record book somewhere.

    I would have to think so and the nice thing about it is he is not all that old. Marvin Eder would only be in his early 70's. So he is still around. I have never had the opportunity to meet him. As far as I know he still lives in New York and I understand he is still in very good shape.

    Freddy Ortiz was another man with a phenomenal physique. I never knew the guy but he competed back in the late 1950's early 1960's. He had huge arms. Everybody always talked about how impressive Larry Scott's arms were, but I remember seeing pictures of Freddy and Larry posing together and Freddy's arms were, at least to me, always more impressive - he much more of a peak and more separation between the biceps and the triceps compared to Larry.

Larry Scott
Click Image To Enlarge.
Larry Scott.


[ Q ] What are some training tips you have learned over the years that you can share with the readers?

    I have always believed in complete range of motion in all exercises, full contraction and full extension. That is the best way to prevent injury. I see a lot of guys doing partial reps and really using a lot of momentum in their exercises - their joints just won't last doing it this way.


[ Q ] What have been the keys to your bodybuilding success?

    You have to understand, I never believed that I had a great physique. I just always strived to get better. To get anywhere close to where you want to be, you have to be willing to pay the price. You must be willing to put forth the effort.

    If there ever was a secret to all of this, it is effort. I looked at physique contests a little differently from most guys. It was just a means to measure my improvement from one year to the next.


[ Q ] Given bodybuilding has had so many players throughout its history, who do you feel has really pushed bodybuilding forward for it to have achieved the popularity it has today?

    There is no question about it: there are a number of main players who have helped it along the way. And certainly you cannot deny Joe Weider. But the guy, who everybody ought to bend down and kiss his @ss, because he was the one who initiated the big pro contracts, is Vince McMahon.

    Now Vince McMahon had the right idea in the beginning. And he scared the h*ll out of Joe Weider because he was the first guy who ever started giving some serious money to bodybuilders. I think had he understood bodybuilding, which he didn't, he would have taken over professional bodybuilding very easily. But he made one critical mistake.

    In early 1990, when it all started and he decided to promote professional bodybuilding, he was extremely popular with his professional wrestling on television. It was at an absolute high, everybody was watching it. But the critical mistake he made with the WBF (World Bodybuilding Federation) was applying the same rules of professional wrestling to bodybuilding and it just didn't work that way.

    He tried to make each bodybuilder a little character, a cartoon-type character, like he does with the wrestling. Well, bodybuilders don't want to be good guys or bad guys, they only want to win. All he would have had to do was just hold honest contests and it would have taken care of itself.

    But he didn't understand bodybuilding and he didn't have the right people around him, telling him how to do bodybuilding. He ran it like professional wrestling and after about 14 or 15 months he lost seven or eight million dollars and decided to pull the plug on it.


[ Q ] Does the fact he did not know much about bodybuilding as you say, explain why so many of his bodybuilders came in so far from their best conditioning?

    Now that is a very mysterious question that has never really been fully answered. Just about the time that Vince McMahon was really starting to go strong it all happened. See, he signed some great guys. Not really that big, but he was making a good start. He got Gary Strydom who was pretty popular and then, the last big guy he signed, Lou Ferrigno.

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    Now I don't know how much money was involved but knowing Louie it would have to have been more than he paid Gary Strydom. But at the same time, almost at the exact time he signed Louie, an interesting thing happened. All of a sudden there was a huge steroid investigation against Vince McMahon and this was played up heavily in the news.

    Therefore he had to institute testing for steroids and that is why all the guys looked like crap. But it sort of makes you wonder though. Who was behind all of that? Who started it all? Who had the influence and the power to cause all that to happen to Vince McMahon?


[ Q ] I guess we can only speculate at this point.

    If we were to speculate I would definitely say Joe Weider.


[ Q ] But we can't really say that definitively.

    We can't really say but it does make you wonder.


[ Q ] I suppose we could say the WBBF was a misguided experiment though.

    Exactly, and you see Joe was never really aware of what was happening. He came so close to losing everything. There was only the matter of one meeting away - it had already been arranged between Wayne Demilia and Jim Manion, who still is president of the NPC, and Vince McMahon.

    Wayne and Jim had really seriously thought about going over and throwing in with Vince McMahon. If that had happened, that would have been the end of the IFBB almost overnight.


[ Q ] You mentioned Lou Ferrigno in the context of the WBBG. Just how relevant is he in bodybuilding today in your view?

    I look at it like this: I don't think people would have known much about Lou had he not lucked out in bodybuilding and taken advantage of his role on The Incredible Hulk. That was a huge stepping-stone for him. Even though he signed a contract with McMahon he never really performed and I don't know if eventually the contract was null and void or if he had to give the money back.

    None of these things were ever mentioned. So I don't know how much he really played in the importance of bodybuilding. I know he is still very popular even to this day, but other than winning a couple of Mr. Universe titles, he hasn't achieved that significantly as a bodybuilder.


[ Q ] As far as I know Lou is still under contract to Joe Weider.

    Without a doubt, as far as I know there are only two people still under contract with the Weider Company. One is Gunter who they are paying 400,000 a year and the other I'm sure is Lou Ferrigno although I doubt they would be paying his as much as Gunter.


[ Q ] Gunter is obviously a popular bodybuilding and a very good one at that. But why is he such a popular choice for the Weider Company?

    Well, for one thing he has a lot of marketing appeal. He is a very nice looking guy, he is extremely accessible, extremely friendly to people. As big as he is, he is not intimidating. Women like him and he has an outgoing personality. I will say this though: when the opportunity comes up they will get rid of him. I really don't think Eric Weider wants to sign any bodybuilder again, ever.


[ Q ] Is it necessary do you think to have a top finisher representing Weider as opposed to Gunter who in recent years has fallen down in the placements?

    I don't think it is necessarily based on physique, I think it is based on promotional ability. I know Gunter must do a tremendous amount of appearances, not only at bodybuilding contests, but also at food supplement conventions. You don't even have to be a competitive bodybuilder to be impressive at those kinds of shows.


[ Q ] You co-hosted ESPN Flex Workout. Tell me about your time on this show.

    Shawn Ray and I did that for five years. That was the most enjoyable thing I ever did in bodybuilding although we never had a really good time-slot on television. Had we had a good time-slot then I think we would have done a whole lot better. But I really enjoyed it because we got tons and tons of positive feedback from people.

    People would get up at two o'clock in the morning and watch the show and they learned from the show. So it was good feeling actually doing something worthwhile, teaching people how to workout. The funny thing about this show is we would do 40 shows in ten days. We would do the entire season in ten days straight with no break. That was four shows a day until we did forty shows.


[ Q ] And you effectively trained on set?

    We had the set built just like a gym and naturally every bodybuilder we had on was trying to kill us, so every workout was brutal. You did that for ten days straight and after those ten days you were just beat into the ground. We did not feel like training after that because we had to be on the set at seven o'clock every morning and we never left until at least seven o'clock at night.

Boyer Coe
Click Image To Enlarge.
Boyer Coe.


[ Q ] Who were some of the standout people you worked with on the show?

    We had so many and they were all pretty good. We had Frank Zane on one time and he was very good. Ed Corney was another. Then we had most of the current bodybuilders of the time - Kevin Levrone, Achim Albrecht.

    Actually Achim was the hardest guy to work with because he wouldn't talk at all. With him you had to almost do your conversation and his conversation. He would just give you a one-word answer and would not elaborate on anything. You would have to fill in for him otherwise there would be just dead space.

    You have to remember that you not only have to work out but you have to get some kind of verbalisation going. Of course Shawn Ray had no trouble talking - he was really good.

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[ Q ] What was it like working with Shawn Ray?

    Oh, I always got along well with Shawn Ray. He was very enthusiastic and that is what you had to be on a show like that to make it work. You had to do it every day and even if you didn't feel like doing it you still had to show that you were enthusiastic so the audience would believe you.

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[ Q ] How did you decide upon what to teach the audience?

    When we started out we didn't really know what we were doing. But by the second year we were producing the show ourselves. We wrote the scripts, we lined up the talent. The producer would show up the first day and the last day. The rest of the time he was on vacation. So we virtually did everything.


[ Q ] How would you structure the show?

    What we would do is ask one of the guests we had on, what they would like to train for that day. And we had enough equipment in the place to do a variety of exercises. For example we might let a guy do his favorite bicep routine and we would follow him or we might make some suggestions, but we would always do enough to keep it interesting.

    The funny thing about it is, although we designed one, you didn't really need a script. It just comes up. And everybody who has trained a while knows a million different funny stories you could tell as one normally would do in a gym, and we would work this into the conversation as well.


[ Q ] I understand you spent several years competing in Dan Lurie's World Body Building Guild Federation. Tell me more about this.

    I usually used Dan's Pro World Contest and the NABBA Mr. Universe in London to measure my improvement. I would do my best to get in shape and then have someone I really respected observe my condition. I always found Dan Lurie to be a very likeable and down to earth guy.

    He was a family man and his family always came first. He had a wonderful lady that worked for him. His office and desk was always a mess, but she knew where everything was at and was able to keep the whole operation running smoothly. You could tell that he had great respect for her.

    Dan likes to tell the story that there were only two bodybuilders whom he ever invited to stay at his home, that being Bill Pearl and myself. I did spend the night at Dan's house. I slept in a room where Dan had a large collection of antique clocks. Every hour on the hour the chimes would go off and wake me up.

    Finally, at about two in the morning, I got up and stopped all the clocks so that I could get some sleep. The next morning, I meant to tell Dan, but in the haste of getting ready for the competition I forgot to tell him. All these years later I am sure he realized what I did. Sorry Dan.

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[ Q ] I am sure he will forgive you. What are your views on the current state of bodybuilding? Do you think it is going in a good direction?

    Bodybuilding has always progressed. The guys of my era could not even stand on stage with the guys of today. Everyone my height weighs close to 300 pounds. You have better-gifted athletes getting into bodybuilding, and I am sure that accounts for some of it. They have better drugs too.

    They have HGH and insulin available to them and I am sure that accounts for a lot of the extra muscle mass. But there is always a trade off with using HGH and insulin: it causes everything to grow. The pros of today carry so much muscle but also have huge waists and distention of their bellies.

    I was always fan of the look of a bodybuilder with broad shoulders, wide back and trim waist and hips - the typical V-taper. Give me the physique of a 1972 Sergio Oliva. I would take that over any physique of today. But again, who is to say that we would not have used the same thing if they (a wider range of drugs) had been available to us.


[ Q ] What changes could be made to bodybuilding to make it a better sport in your view?

    I don't see the sport ever-becoming mainstream. It will always remain a sub-culture, and perhaps that is all it was ever supposed to be.

Boyer Coe
Click Image To Enlarge.
Boyer Coe.


[ Q ] Thank you for this interview Boyer, your insights have been great. Is there anyone you would like to thank for helping you throughout your career?

    Yes, I will always be indebted to my parents, both now deceased, for giving me the greatest gift: life, and for teaching me to always believe in myself and always to do the right thing. Also big thanks would go to Ken Guilbeaux who believed in me from the very beginning and gave me good advice.

    To Bill Pearl and Sergio Oliva for inspiration. And especially to Red Lerille, who has been my inspiration in not only bodybuilding but also life. A man I am truly proud to call a friend.

Be sure to listen to Pro Bodybuilding Weekly for a chance to hear Boyer on the radio in the coming months. Check out the Radio Show Listening Page for more info.

Boyer

An Interview With Pro Bodybuilding Great Boyer Coe.
davidrobson19@hotmail.co.nz

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