Reg Park: His Legend Lives On
His influence on bodybuilding and the men who compete at its highest level shouldn't be underestimated, nor will it cease with his passing.
There once was an ideal that was bodybuilding, and it represented all that men aspired to be. It had nothing to do with skin-popping sinew or onstage gyrations. It didn't require its participants to push their bodies past healthy limits. It was about vigorous strength, building inner confidence and the development of heroic proportions.
Although muscular size was, as it is today, at a premium, it never came at the expense of the overall look, one whose roots hark back to the days of the ancient Greeks. In fact, the goal of the bodybuilder at that time was to forge himself into a veritable Greek god.
Among these walking deities existed one man who represented bodybuilding as none had before him, and as none have since. So tall, so handsome, so perfectly developed was his physique, so confident his demeanor and gentle his soul, that he was revered by his onstage adversaries, as well as by fans of his sport. In time, movieland would cast him in sword-and-sandal flicks, capitalizing on his stunning appearance and powerful presence. In five of these films, in fact, he would portray the Greek demigod Hercules himself.
During the years in which his body had begun to make concessions to Father Time, his vitality remained strong as ever. As overused a word as is "ageless," it seemed to fit Reg Park to a tee.
That's why the bodybuilding world was stunned when he passed away on November 22 at the age of 79. Yet, as saddened as we are for our loss - and for Park's widow, Mareon, daughter, Jeunesse, and son, Jon Jon - we remain grateful for the nearly six decades we were graced by his presence and for the knowledge that, even in death, he will continue to inspire us.
In last month's FLEX, we summarized the facts and figures of Park's life: born in 1928 in Leeds, England, his body developed so quickly that within a year of serious training, he was 1949 Mr. Britain. The following year, he placed second in Mr. Universe, after Joe Weider named him bodybuilding's latest star.
In 1951, Park took the Mr. Universe title, as he would again in 1958 and 1965. He starred in a series of Hercules movies. He became Arnold Schwarzenegger's role model. And he transformed from one of the sport's all-time great competitors into its most distinguished elder statesman.
Yet, all this does little to indicate the impact he had on his peers, friends and countless fans. This month, we bring you the thoughts of those who were fortunate enough to know him. Their responses say more than a timeline ever could.