It is nigh impossible to write articles on classic bodybuilders without mentioning the name, Dave Draper. Known as the Blond Bomber, Draper looked every bit the prototypical California bodybuilder of the Sixties even though he heralded from Secaucus, New Jersey.
Born in 1942, he began his weight training at the tender age of 10 and was well practiced and obsessed by the age of 12. In his book Iron On My Mind, Draper later described this experience: “The motive was survival, muscle and might and self against self prompted by wishful thinking and a kid’s hope and dream – a daring image of a well-muscled Dave-man bopping about in my morsel-sized mind.”
A true product of the harsh Yorkshire environment, in the years of the depression, Reg Park was born in Leeds in 1928. A stark environment such as pre-war Northern England of the 1930’s served to shape Reg Park into one of bodybuilding’s strongest competitors of the 50’s and through to the early 70’s. The straightforward and pragmatic mindset of the typical Yorkshireman served to implement a simple yet effective training schedule that not only served to produce his Herculean physique, but has remained a bedrock of strength training today.
A natural athlete as a schoolboy, Reg dreamed of being a footballer through his school years and devoted this time to playing the “beautiful” game. At 16, Reg was introduced to bodybuilding by a local strength enthusiast, David Cohen. Training at a mutual friend’s house, Reg started to develop his renowned physique from the simplest of training equipment – barbells, dumbbells and a chinning bar.
John Grimek was probably the greatest bodybuilder of the 30’s and 40’s – and beyond! He was the only bodybuilder to the AAU Mr. America title twice in 1940 and 1941. So complete were his victories that the organization changed the entry rules excluding previous winners.
There is some confusion about the exact date when John Carrol Grimek was born. Some documents say that he was born on June the 17th 1910, but some of the documents say that he was born of June the 18th 1911. Some even claim that he was born on June the 17th 1909. Who knows? What we do know is that a legend was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey at that time.
I often think of Bill Pearl as the best bodybuilder never to win a Mr. Olympia title. “Well,” I hear you say, “He was too old in ’65 to win the title”.
And my reply will always be, “Well he was young enough to win the NABBA Professional Mr. Universe in ’71 at age 41, beating Sergio Oliva, Frank Zane, and Chris Dickerson (both past and future Mr. Olympias). In addition there is a strong rumour that the ‘71 Mr. Olympia, Arnold Schwarzenegger was pulled from the competition after a conversation between Pearl’s mentor Leo Stern and Joe Weider because Stern thought Pearl looked good enough to beat Weider’s protégé”.
The fact of the matter was that Pearl was never part of the Weider empire, so he would never have stood a chance in that event. And to be fair it probably didn’t concern him too much.
Steve Reeves was born in Glasgow, Montana, on January 21, 1926. By the age of ten, Reeves and his mother had moved to Oakland, California. As he entered his teenage years the future Mr. Universe had become deeply immersed in bodybuilding magazines and bodybuilders became his heroes. In particular, the muscular John Grimek was his source of inspiration. Steve Reeves fate as a champion bodybuilder was assured.
Reeves became an avid trainer, training in a home garage gym. Eventually however, he outgrew the garage and joined Ed Yarick’s gym in Oakland. Yarick , a bodybuilder himself, tutored Steve on a regime of full body workouts three times a week and packed a mighty forty pounds of muscle onto his frame. By 1944 Reeves weighed a mighty 203lbs and stood at a height of 6’ 1”.
Although he would not have considered himself as such at the time, Eugen Sandow is often considered the father of modern bodybuilding. It is fair to say that he set up the foundations for the sport within the boundaries of the physical culture movement during the Victorian age.
He was born Friedrich Wilhelm Muller in Konigsberg, Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia) in 1867, the son of a jeweler. According to his own account, he ran away from home and earned his keep by being a circus strongman, wrestler and artist’s model in Belgium.