| Article Summary:
It all started when I was about 12 and saw my first issue of Muscle Builder Magazine. I kept reading these articles that Joe Weider stated that you could pack on 20 lbs of muscle in a month.
My first visual was grabbing a pack of hamburger meat and slapping it on my arms, chest, and shoulders and then shaping it with a putty knife. It was just the way the article was written that intrigued me to try it. I saw pictures of twins; The Brunet brothers from Canada. They were huge for that time in late 50's. Of course there was Steve Reeves too. What an awesome sight.
Joining My First Gym
I joined a World Health Club - not to be confused with World gym. It was like a Jack La Lanne Pulley Palace, with everything: chrome, carpets, machines and instructors. I knew one of the instructors who was about 8 years older than me and a boxer. He was a friend of my sisters and got me started on a weight program.
There wasn't much in the way of supplements then, only vanilla or chocolate protein pills. They were kind of chalky but somewhat addicting - I would carry plenty in my pockets and chewed them up like chips at a Mexican restaurant.
I didn't last too long in the gym. Maybe a few months and then lost a little interest and laid off. After all, I was only 12. I continued going to school and was playing guitar a lot and formed a rock band with a few friends.
It wasn't long and we were playing at high school dances all over town and actually getting paid for it. I was around 15 then and still not back to working out yet. About 140 lbs maybe, with shoes on. Heavy ones! I'd even fill my pockets with coins and marbles to be heavier on the scale.
I attended a pretty rough high school. I was a little more creative than most and that accounts for the bodybuilding side of me. Or maybe a different 'mind set' than them but got along with everyone pretty well. Being in a rock band of course increases your popularity over night. But as I said, it was a tough town.
All this inspired me to start training again, so I joined the YMCA. I started working out 3 times a week there, writing up my own workout program which wasn't bad. I ate a ton of protein from any source that I could find and downed at least 3 quarts of milk a day. I definitely gained size.
I did a lot of powerlifting; bench press, squats, deadlifts, along with curls, triceps extensions, some presses and laterals. But all in all it was a pretty basic routine. It seems like the basics really gave me the good foundation for muscle growth.
I was always concerned about having a small waist, as my structure tends to be wide waisted but narrow hips. So I did sit ups and leg raises at a very young age on the living room floor. Because of that, I've always had good abs at any bodyweight. In fact they tend to get larger as I work them so I can't use weight resistance on them.
Getting Respect From The Neighborhood
I was in my third year of high school when this training started and had a girlfriend that was a senior. She was homecoming queen, straight 'A' student, cheerleader and captain of the swim team. So I really had to try to get in shape to measure up. Plus she lived with her two cousins who were football stars. I had to wonder why she even liked me?
Well, I worked out with her cousins for a while but surpassed them quickly. She thought I was getting 'too lumpy', whatever that meant. Personally, I liked the lumps. It attracted lots of attention and within the year everyone in town recognized the fact that I was involved in bodybuilding and was very supportive.
It's amazing how much respect it brought. But, you always had those who would say that I'd turn to fat by 25. I wish they could see me now at 64 and still cut.
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Everyone In Town Recognized The Fact That I Was
Involved In Bodybuilding And Was Very Supportive.
I started some powerlifting competitions and did pretty well. So, I figured I may as well try a bodybuilding show and went to Fresno for Mr. Central California. I won 2nd place and the following year took first. I guess I was on my way to bigger and better things.
The YMCA offered me a job giving classes in nutrition and exercise 2 nights a week. I took it and had about 15 people to start. I really enjoyed doing it and helping them get their desired results. I also cleaned up the weight room a lot.
I don't know if you've ever stepped into a YMCA, but it used to be that their weight rooms were a disaster area. Not a lot of equipment - dumbbells, bars, squat rack, 1 calf machine, and a pulldown machine with a cable that would swing side to side about 2 feet out. You had to duck every time you pulled down on it.
But you could still get results. Once the cable snapped as I was doing triceps pushdowns and it hit me in the chest and sliced me all the way down to my stomach. Those wires from the cables stick out in every direction and can really do a number on your skin. I can remember nights training at midnight and as early as 5:00 AM before they turned the lights on.
This YMCA had its share of the gym regulars. One older bodybuilder that didn't talk much, did a lot of bench presses. Another was an elementary school teacher who was caught up in powerlifting and a little bodybuilding but wouldn't diet to drop his stomach down because of the fear of losing strength.
A few kids, a few older men who didn't know what to do, and then a little group of loud mouths that thought they knew it all but never made any progress. I wonder where they are today? Off in their little fat world somewhere.
It's funny how you can go from gym to gym and see the very same character types at each one. Over the past 45 years I've seen plenty of these types come and go in gyms all over the world that I went to on my wrestling tours.
Moving On To A Better Gym
The YMCA thing worked out for a while but I needed to move to a better facility. There was another gym in town called "Babe's Gym" owned by a former bodybuilder, probably 25 years older than me. It was much better but also a more mature group and some pretty strong guys there.
It was a little intimidating as all new gyms are when you walk in. I went over one day and met Babe (the owner) and asked if he could give me a job in exchange for membership. He did and had me sweep up 3 times a week and a little cleaning. We became good friends and had a lot of laughs together.
It wasn't more than a week and I knew everyone there, got my name put on the board for a 300 lb bench press and soon moved up to the 400 lb. Club. This was a good move for me. I began helping people with routines and helping Babe on his days off.
I trained there for a couple of years then I was offered a job across town at 'Joseph's Gym. This was a chain like Holiday Health Clubs today.
The owner was Joseph Baratta, a 5'1" bodybuilder about 40 years old in fantastic shape. He was from the old school with Jack La Lanne, Arlin Marshall, Erwin Paris, Vic and Armand Tanny and so on.
He had me work 3 days a week running the place on Men's day. Yes, that's right, separate days for men and women. They had the standard routine form to fill out for everyone's workouts, which I quickly got rid of.
How could you possibly give everyone the same routine? The Dr. doesn't give everyone the same medicine. So I tailored each routine individually. Baratta didn't really like that but the clients were getting results and that's all that mattered to me.
He had a woman running the gym from the office but did nothing but sit on the phone and talk to her boyfriends all day and shout orders to me to clean in-between the weights. I was ready to plant a weight between her butt cheeks if she continued to haunt me.
I told Baratta that I was going to quit as he would phone in daily from his other gym or his airplane and ask me to get the gross up so that he could have more money to blow on whims. I said, what do you want me to do, put up detour signs and roadblocks to sell memberships?
I was doing all that I could. In fact the members thought it was my gym since he was never there. So I said, I've had it. I'm working my @ss off for you, and this crazy lady is in the office filing her nails shouting orders, so take the job and shove it.
He was upset and asked me to come back 3 days later, taking her job at twice the money. I told him that I'd think about it. Well, I did but only for a short time as I wanted to escape from the fading metropolis of Bakersfield and it's Zombie inhabitants. It's not a city to stay in for any length of time as you would become like those from Stepford.
The jobs are either farming or oil. That's real thrilling and of no interest to me as I needed something much more creative. There is no mental growth at all and most people die at 25 and are buried at 80.
Getting Into Pro Wrestling
I had always had the desire to become a Pro wrestler. Just how do you go about it? Well I found a way. Every Thursday night when wrestlers would come to town to work at the local arena, they would go to the YMCA and work out.
I went over there one day and met a few of them and told them that I was interested in getting into Pro Wrestling. They suggested that I come down to the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles and talk to the booking office.
I took the time to drive 95 miles down there and walked in to the vacant auditorium. You could smell the cleaning supplies as they mopped the floors and then I looked down an isle between the seats and saw this 25-foot ring in the shadows. This is where they held the big wrestling shows.
I thought, maybe someday I'll be in that ring. This was my first thought that entered my mind. The dressing rooms were downstairs like a cellar. It had a certain smell of liniment, soap, clogged toilet and deodorant. This was quite a combination, but today it's nostalgic.
Anyway, I found my way upstairs to the Booking Office. I knocked, walked in, and saw 'Buddy Killer Austin', Mr. Moto, Jules Strongbow (the promoter) and some office boys. I told them I was interested in becoming a wrestler.
They had a standoffish attitude as most do in that business until they get to know you. At that time wrestling was considered a mystery. Was it fake? Did you really fall? Do you really get hurt? No one knew for sure except the wrestlers themselves. I wasn't even sure. But I grew up in a hick town as a street fighter and nothing could be worse than that.
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I Grew Up In A Hick Town As A Street Fighter
And Nothing Could Be Worse Than That.
Well they took me across the hall to a small room with a makeshift ring and a canvas pad on the floor. There was a lady wrestler there. A lady's champion 'Johnnie Mae Young' and she could kick any guy's @ss.
She was probably in her 40's at that time. She had me put on my gym clothes and get in the ring. First thing she did was pulling my feet out from underneath me to see if I could fall backwards. The first inclination is to put your hands back... Nope, keep them forward and slap the mat to break the fall. This takes a lot of practice since you tend to want to protect yourself.
I finally got it after several mat burns on my elbows and hitting my head 50 times. I decided to make the commitment and go ahead and break in. I trained 4 days a week and drove in from Bakersfield sometimes at 6:00 AM and sometimes at 8:00 PM.
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Either way it was almost 2 hours one-way and then workout in the ring for about 2 or 3 hours, drive back home 2 hours, and go to the gym and hit the weights.
This was very exhausting. But, I wanted it that bad that I did it for 6 months. I learned every hold in the book. They taught me all the way from collegiate style to pro style.
I guess they wanted me to be well rounded. Not like today with Hulk Hogan where you run around the ring punch, kick, do a leg drop and it's over. We learned real holds that could be used for self-defense if need be.
Gaining My Wrestling Personality
I basically had to know all the wrestling holds and moves, American style and Mexican style before I could get booked on a show. Since there were a lot of Mexican wrestlers at the time, I had to know how to work on the right side whereas American style is the left side. It just made me that much better, sort of ambi-wrestlerish.
I started wrestling at that point at the Olympic Auditorium as 'The All-American Boy', you know, blonde curly hair, stars and striped trunks. The kid that every mother wanted for her daughter. I wanted to work 'Heel' (bad guy) but was stuck with a "Baby Face" look (good guy) through those years.
I went to Hawaii, Alaska, the South, and then to AWA in Minnesota to work for Verne Gagne who had the top territory at that time. I met him at a show here in Los Angeles through a friend and he promised me a good spot back there and kept his word.
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I Had To Know All The Wrestling Holds And
Moves, American Style And Mexican Style.
The money was great and the weather was below freezing. This was not conducive for a California boy! My ears were purple! However I stayed for a while and then decided to go back to California where I could pursue my acting career and still wrestle locally.
This was better for me as I was extremely bored traveling from city to city sitting in hotel rooms without my guitar and all my hobbies around me. I wanted to do much more than just wrestle.
I did go back to the beach, wrestled locally and started to get TV commercials and some film work. This was the life. The beach and auditions during the day and wrestling at night. This is the life in 'Sunny California'.
At that point my acting career moved forward, I was able to train at Gold's, wrestle at night and fulfill my dreams of what I wanted to become.
I don't regret a thing that I did. I have accomplished to this point all that I've set out to do. I've done close to 100 TV commercials, worked in 50 films, many print ads and not only still wrestle, train wrestlers, become the owner of AWF (American Wrestling Federation), and run my own shows with my own stable of wrestlers here in California.
I have reality shows in development, consult on films and have a lot of offers from TV networks now filming at my house in my ring at least once or twice a month.
What more could I ask for? I have 3 kids now and one of them was my Tag Team Partner for a few years. These are times he will never forget with his dad. Looking back, I wouldn't have changed a thing. Watch out! Duck that punch!