Dave Draper: The Blond Bomber

DaveDraper-FLX-ArtZeller-947It 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.”



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Initially training with aid of a Weider published wallchart, Draper’s workouts evolved into a “feeling out” process of progressive resistance. Even after first leaving home the workout were predominantly bedroom based although he eventually did try out some gyms briefly in New Jersey.

At the age of 21 years, Dave grabbed his first bodybuilding win by securing the Mr. New Jersey title. Gaining work as a welder, he was spotted by bodybuilding entrepreneur Joe Weider and offered a job at the Santa Monica branch of the Weider Barbell Company. Draper moved his family out and his bodybuilding career was seriously underway.

Training at a gym aptly called “The Dungeon,” from his descriptions of it in his book Brother Iron and Sister Steel, and later at the original Gold’s gym in Santa Monica, Dave took the bodybuilding world by storm in the Sixties. He began his climb to bodybuilding stardom, in the process capturing the 1965 IFBB Mr. America, 1966 IFBB Mr. Universe, and 1970 IFBB Mr. World titles.

He also made some significant acting appearances in the Sixties the most successful of which was a role in the film “Dont Make Waves” (1970) that starred the ill-fate actress, Sharon Tate. Dave also had a regular spot as “David the Gladiator” on a local TV channel introducing Sword and Sandal films

After a legal suit with Joe Weider and disenchantment with competitiveDave Draper bodybuilding in general, Dave Draper retired from the sport in the 1970’s although he continued to train.

Dave's story is not a linear tale of success and light. Along the way he battled the bottle and drugs which led him down a dark path. This path eventually led to a serious hear attack and he turned back to the road that had given him his success – bodybuilding and fitness.

Eventually becoming a gym owner in the Eighties, Draper married his present wife Laree in 1988. He has authored a number of bodybuilding tomes and his unique writing style is both inspirational and humorous at the same time. This infectious writing style and lifelong passion for the iron game has led Dave and Laree to starting a great online venture.

Together they run one of the best bodybuilding websites available online today. If you have not visited Dave’s Iron Online then I strongly suggest you do so.  Surfing these pages reminds me of the joy of reading bodybuilding magazines growing up – there is just a hint of the California surf in the prose. Still training, Dave is now in his seventies and does not seem to be slowing down.

Here is pretty rare footage of Dave's posing routine at the IFFB 1970 Mr. Universe:

Two of my favorite books by Dave Draper are Iron on my Mind and Brother Iron and Sister Steel. Click on the links below to buy them:

iron mind









iron on my mind



Brother sister