2014 marks the 26th year for the Arnold Classic in Columbus, Ohio. However, the bodybuilding production team of Schwarzenegger-Lorimer goes back much farther than that. Arnold and Jim produced their first bodybuilding event with the 1976 Mr. Olympia at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium. They went on produce eight more international bodybuilding competitions before finally starting the Arnold Classic in 1989.
This year also sadly marks the final year that the bodybuilding competitions will take place at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium. Although the Arnold Classic will remain in Columbus, Ohio (the hometown of Jim Lorimer), the Veterans Memorial will no longer be the site for the Arnold Classic. As this was the venue in which Arnold Schwarzenegger first defeated the incredible Sergio Oliva at the 1970 AAU Mr. World contest, there are obviously a lot of great memories associated with this classic auditorium.
I began going to Columbus, Ohio in 1977 at the young age of 14. I talked my parents into driving from Chicago to Columbus so I could see the famous Mr. Olympia competition in person. I have walked up those stairs of the Veterans Memorial Auditorium many times over the last 37 years to see some of the best bodybuilding competitions in the history of bodybuilding. Here are some of my fondest memories of those times.
1977 Mr. Olympia - I was a skinny 14-year-old kid when my parents dropped off my brother Don and me at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium on October 1st, 1977 to see the prejudging of the Mr. Olympia contest. As we walked in, the auditorium was completely sold out and the energy was electric as soon as we entered. I remember standing in the doorway taking in the sights and looking for an empty seat to watch the show. As my eyes became accustomed to the darkness, I saw a huge guy over to my right drop into his seat, literally knocking the auditorium chair off its hinges with his massive bulk. I thought to myself, “Wow, this is like a whole new world.”
We watched the prejudging of the Mr. International contest first. A small Egyptian bodybuilder who looked like he was carved out of marble, Mohamed Makkawy, easily dominated the lightweight class. A symmetrical marvel of muscle named Samir Bannout looked awesome in the middleweight class and Roy Callendar from Canada, a thick, massive bodybuilder whose muscles seemed to be bursting from his ebony skin, was the easy winner in the heavyweight class.
IFBB Secretary Oscar State stepped to the podium to address the audience before the Mr. Olympia competitors were brought out onstage. He said that Lou Ferrigno was not competing because he was making “a monster movie.” That monster movie turned out to be the pilot episode for “The Incredible Hulk”.
When the bodybuilders were finally brought out onstage, the auditorium exploded into pandemonium! I thought for a moment that I was at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York and the Beatles had just arrived. Fans were literally standing up and screaming like a bunch of crazed school girls.
Frank Zane was clearly the crowd favorite in the Under 200 Pound Class and he commanded the stage like he knew his time had come. He looked to be ahead of the other bodybuilders in his class who included Boyer Coe, Ed Corney, Bill Grant and Albert Beckles.
In the Over 200 Pound Class, I was eagerly anticipating seeing what Robby Robinson looked like. He had been promoted very heavily in Joe Weider’s Muscle Builder magazine all year and I thought he would win this show easily. Unfortunately, Robby wasn’t at his best. He was sporting a huge afro which took away from his massive size and he didn’t seem to be as ripped as Zane. He also was more withdrawn onstage than the charismatic Zane.
After the prejudging ended, Arnold came to the microphone and announced that he would be in the lobby signing copies of his new book Education of a Bodybuilder. As he stepped behind the table, a massive crowd gathered to get an autograph from the King of Bodybuilding. Arnold was smiling and charming as he asked everyone, “Did you read it? Did you like the book?”
Beautiful women were almost throwing themselves at him, hoping for a kiss (on the lips too, this was the Seventies!). Being one of the smallest guys in the room, I snuck up to the front and had Arnold autograph my copy. We returned for the evening show with my Dad in attendance. Because we bought our tickets late, we ended up sitting in the balcony. The crowd was even more crazy at night, loudly cheering and standing up screaming for their favorite bodybuilders.
The cameras from ABC’s Wide World of Sports were there and every time they wanted to shoot some footage, these massive lights that were set up on the side of the stage would illuminate and the crowd would go crazy, booing and screaming for them to turn the lights off.
Just before the final six bodybuilders came out for the posedown, Arnold came to the microphone and made a short speech. Before he finished, he mentioned that ABC Television was filming this contest for Wide World of Sports. Arnold advised the crowd to really go crazy when the lights came on to show the world how great bodybuilding was. “The more noise you make and the louder you scream, the better you will make Bodybuilding look,” he said. Of course, the crowd did as they were told and they went absolutely nuts during the posedown. Everyone was standing up with many fans literally jumping up and down, screaming from the top of their lungs. I had never seen such chaos at a bodybuilding show!
One sight I will never forget that evening was when Ed Corney came out to pose. The crowd was transfixed at the smooth and powerful transitions that Corney used during his posing routine and they rose to their feet to give him a standing ovation. Watching from the balcony, I was amazed at the sea of flashbulbs dancing beneath me as the fans took pictures of this master of posing. Corney would go on to receive two more standing ovations that evening. It had to be one of the best nights of his life.
The emcee for the contest was the legendary Reg Park. He did something unusual by announcing the first place winner first instead of counting down from sixth place to first. The crowd was on the edges of their seats when Park announced Frank Zane as the winner. Zane punched his fist into the air and ran across the stage as his fans went absolutely ballistic! Reg Park then announced Ed Corney in second place before correcting himself by placing Robby Robinson in the runner up position. Corney smiled as he walked over to Robby and placed his arm around his shoulders while handing him the second place check. What a great night!
1978 Mr. Olympia - The next year, I returned to the Mr. Olympia in Columbus, Ohio. The stakes were even higher in 1978 as Frank Zane would be returning to defend his title. Because Zane was not the biggest bodybuilder, there was always doubt each year on whether he could keep the mass monsters at bay and win again. Ricky Wayne, the excellent writer from Muscle Builder magazine, openly criticized Zane’s physique for not being massive enough to win the Mr. Olympia title. Referring to previous winners like Sergio Oliva and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Wayne argued that Zane was like an antelope trying to fit in with the lions and bears.
Kal Szkalak, one of my favorite bodybuilders, was competing in the Mr. Olympia that year and I was really looking forward to seeing him. Before the prejudging for the Mr. International contest started, Kal was calmly sitting up near the front of the auditorium signing autographs for his fans. He was wearing a dark brown track suit and he had that confident look on his face like he knew something that no one else did. When someone asked him how he looked, he smiled and said, “You’ll see, you’ll see.”
When the competitors finally walked onstage for the Under 200 Pound Class, Frank Zane was remarkably improved over a year ago. Wearing wine colored posing trunks that were custom made to fit his physique, Zane was RIPPED! His face was dramatically sunken in revealing a protruding set of cheekbones. When he hit his patented hands on hips most muscular pose, his chest exploded into striations.
There were some new competitors in the Mr. Olympia that year including Mohamed Makkawy, Danny Padilla and Tony Emmott from England. Makkawy was a little too smooth but Padilla really stood out as a genetic marvel. Danny had full, round muscles in each bodypart. He was a little smooth, especially compared to Zane, but he was still impressive.
Ed Corney tried a new posing move in which he put one arm straight over his head and his other arm was held straight in front of him and then he held this position and slowly moved his torso in a circle. He would then pose really slow and graceful before slamming down into a series of most muscular poses. Corney was a master poser and he was trying to outdo himself from his amazing posing routine from a year ago. Unfortunately, the judges weren’t impressed and they placed him only fourth in his class, behind Frank Zane, Boyer Coe and Danny Padilla.
Boyer Coe looked much better than a year ago. I was always amazed at how Boyer would compete in every Grand Prix contest throughout the year and he never looked that impressive but he would always peak for the Mr. Olympia. His physique was both bigger and harder and he would choose poses that really accentuated his body and made him look great. At one point in his routine, he would stick his arm out straight and flex his biceps until the muscle split. The audience always loved this!
In the Over 200 Pound Class, I was really excited to see Kal Szkalak in person for the first time. He was not a disappointment! Kal was super thick with massive pecs and arms. His legs were a little out of proportion to his huge upper body but I was hoping he would still do really well. I wasn’t the only Szkalak fan in the audience as Kal got a huge ovation every time he posed onstage.
Playing to his strong points, Szkalak hit one most muscular pose after another toward the end of his routine, driving the audience crazy. MuscleMag International even commented that the “decibel noise level of the crowd threatened to blow the roof off of the Veterans Memorial Auditorium” whenever Szkalak hit his crazy most muscular poses.
After the prejudging was over, everyone was hanging out outside the auditorium. It was a beautiful fall day in Columbus so lots of people were just standing around in the sunshine. I was looking at all the bodybuilders I recognized from the magazines. It was like seeing a celebrity in person for the first time.
Larry Scott, who was scheduled to guest pose at the evening show, was shaking hands with some of his fans outside. Robert Kennedy, publisher of MuscleMag International, was sitting down writing some notes into his small notebook. Popular bodybuilder Mike Mentzer was there also, looking very large and no doubt checking out the competition.
At the evening show, the crowd was eagerly anticipating who would make the top six and be included in the posedown. Frank Zane seemed to be leading the pack as the crowd responded very well to his posing routine. Boyer Coe also got a lot of applause because he was an excellent poser. Robby Robinson looked so much better than a year ago. Not as bulky, Robby had a tiny waist and a huge upper body. He won the Over 200 Pound Class over Roy Callendar. Roy was even bigger than last year and was really ripped and in good condition.
My favorite in the contest, Kal Szkalak, brought the house down again when he did his posing routine at night. The bodybuilding fans loved his massive, ripped physique. Kal’s biceps and chest were huge and he hit the poses that really showed off his strong points. By the time he finished, the audience was on their feet, giving more applause for Szkalak than any other competitor that night.
After the posedown was completed, the six final competitors stood onstage to receive their placings. After Danny Padilla was called out for sixth place, Kal Szkalak was surprisingly placed all the way down in fifth. The audience reacted by booing the decision and the judges. Kal, in a surprise move, held out his massive arms, bent one knee and let his head fall over on his shoulder. Crucified! Szkalak was letting his bodybuilding fans know that he had just been screwed over by the IFBB judges. It was one of the most unique reactions to a low contest placing I had ever seen.
It finally came down to the last two bodybuilders, Frank Zane and Robby Robinson. Gone was the brooding Robby with a chip on his shoulder from a year ago. This Robby was smiling, flashing his gold tooth and displaying a whole new physique and attitude. In a surprise gesture, Robby wrapped his arms around Zane and lifted him off the ground. He seemed to be declaring Frank Zane the winner before the emcee announced the decision.
After Frank Zane was declared Mr. Olympia for 1978, he went to the microphone to make his speech to the audience. He thanked Joe Weider and his loyal wife Christine. He also gave special thanks to Rick Wayne for writing so many derogatory comments about his physique in the magazines as this motivated him to train even harder. Ricky Wayne sat in the front row with a smile on his face.
1979 Mr. Universe/ Mr. Olympia - In 1979, the IFBB Amateur World Championships (Mr. Universe) was held in conjunction with the Mr. Olympia contest. Saturday was devoted to the Mr. Universe and the Mr. Olympia was held on Sunday. It was a muscle extravaganza!
I never had the chance to see the Mr. Universe competition in person before so it was a real treat seeing so many quality bodybuilders from all over the world competing on one stage. The contest was held in four weight divisions (lightweight, middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight) and the United States was right at the top in each class.
In the lightweight class, Franco Columbu’s good friend Renato Bertagna from Italy won the division with a good combination of size and definition.
Heinz Sallmayer from Austria was super ripped but only took second place. The USA competitor, James Gaubert, landed in sixth place.
In the middleweight division, veteran competitor Roy Duval from England was the easy winner. Even though I was still a teenager when I watched this competition and had only been involved in bodybuilding for a couple of years, it was obvious to me who would win each class just by the quality of their physiques. Roy had the size and shape to dominate the class. The USA’s Richard Baldwin looked great in second place with his awesome arms and ripped abs. He was just lacking the leg development to place ahead of Roy.
The light heavyweight class was a classic confrontation between shape and conditioning. The incredible Samir Bannout, who was already a legend in the bodybuilding world for his incredible shape and symmetry, had the size and proportions to easily win the whole show. However, Ron Teufel from the U.S.A. was hard as granite and more ripped than Samir. It was tough call with Ron’s rock hard abs and great conditioning but Samir’s fantastic shape and symmetry could not be denied.
The heavyweight division featured Arnold’s good friend, Jusup Wilkosz from Germany, going head to head against Mike Mentzer’s younger brother Ray. Jusup was second to Mike Mentzer one year earlier at the 1978 Mr. Universe contest in Acapulco and he was able to exact his revenge by beating Ray Mentzer in Columbus. Jusup was big and ripped and very impressive. The younger Mentzer brother just came off his best ever condition winning the Mr. America contest but he couldn’t beat Wilcosz on this night.
On Sunday, the event that everyone was waiting for finally took place. After the full day of judging plus the evening show on Saturday, the audience looked a little tired as they filed in for the prejudging on Sunday morning. However, it didn’t take long for the excitement to build as the Mr. International prejudging came to a close. The Mr. Olympia was about to begin and the crowd was psyched!
As the Under 200 Pound Class took the stage, Frank Zane again stood out as the winner. Noticeably bigger than he was the year before, Zane glowed onstage with his perfect tan and incredible shape and symmetry. Boyer Coe was also improved over the last year looking bigger and harder than the year before.
In the Over 200 Pound Class, popular Mike Mentzer made his Mr. Olympia debut. Mentzer looked fantastic, hitting his all-time peak and totally dominating the class. Poor Roy Callendar, who looked so incredible one year ago, was suffering a severe back strain and had trouble even walking onstage. Robby had dropped down to the Under 200 Pound Class to try and beat Zane at his own game but it was a big mistake. Robby lost too much size by bringing his bodyweight down that low.
During the evening show, Zane brought the house down with his confident performance. Having had the opportunity to witness Frank Zane winning all of his Mr. Olympia titles, I always felt that he was one of the most prepared Mr. Olympia winners ever. He was so mentally and physically ready to win and he didn’t leave one detail out. From his tan to his posing trunks to his posing and the way he hit the mandatory poses, Frank Zane was 100% ready to win. He radiated confidence without appearing cocky and he seemed assured that he would win every year.
When the top six bodybuilders were brought out for the exciting posedown, the battle was between Mike Mentzer and Frank Zane. Although Mentzer was the bigger man, Zane showed his professionalism and poise by holding his poses during the important posedown. Mentzer was rushing his posing and letting his stomach protrude when he relaxed. The cameras from CBS Television were honing in on Zane as the posedown reached its climax.
Arnold was on hand all weekend as usual. He appeared to be thinner than usual and he had grown his hair much longer in anticipation of appearing in the “Conan the Barbarian” film. When Arnold came onstage to present the Mr. Olympia winner the coveted Sandow Trophy, it was to three-time winner Frank Zane. Zane had defeated Mentzer by one point in the posedown to win the title.
As my brother and I walked out of the Veterans Memorial Auditorium, our butts were hurting from all the sitting down we did over the weekend watching two major international bodybuilding competitions. My brother made the comment that he didn’t want to see another bodybuilder for a long time after seeing so much muscle in two days.
1981 Mr. Olympia - The Mr. Olympia moved away from Columbus in 1980 to be held in Sydney, Australia but it returned to Ohio under a cloud of controversy in 1981. After Arnold’s very debatable win at the 1980 Mr. Olympia, many fans feared that the same thing would happen one year later in Columbus. Franco Columbu, 1976 Mr. Olympia and Arnold’s best friend, was planning on making his comeback in the 1981 Mr. Olympia and many people smelled another controversial victory in the works.
In fact, many of the top bodybuilding stars staged a boycott of the 1981 Mr. Olympia and tried to convince the other pro bodybuilders to do the same. Mike Mentzer, Boyer Coe and three-time Mr. Olympia Frank Zane all decided not to compete in the Mr. Olympia in 1981. Convinced that Franco would win no matter who else showed up, the third, fourth and fifth place competitors from one year ago knew better than to make the trip to Columbus.
I bought my tickets for the 1981 Mr. Olympia at least six months in advance so I had great seats for both the prejudging and evening shows. The atmosphere in the Veterans Memorial Auditorium as everyone waited for the prejudging to start was pregnant with apprehension and suspicion. Would this contest be judged fairly or were we all chumps for paying money to see the Mr. Olympia this year?
Those fears were soon put to rest when the line-up for the 1981 Mr. Olympia took the stage. No longer judged in two separate weight classes, the Mr. Olympia was now just one big class. As I scanned the line-up, the first thing I noticed was the absence of Zane, Mentzer and Coe who had all kept their word and stayed away from the Mr. Olympia contest this year.
Franco was there and he looked great! Thick and ripped, Franco was tanned golden brown and he definitely was ready for this contest. His thick pecs were striated as he stayed flexed in the line-up, showcasing his rock hard abdominals. Franco had the attitude that he was the winner of the Mr. Olympia and no one was going to beat him!
As I looked down the row of competitors, I almost passed up Danny Padilla. Holy shit was he ripped! Danny’s normally jovial face was replaced by a hollowed out, emaciated skeleton. For years, everyone in the bodybuilding community had been telling Danny that, despite his short 5’2” stature, he could WIN the Mr. Olympia if he would only get ripped. Padilla’s perfect proportions and full, round muscle bellies were a genetic gift that few could defeat if Danny only showed up in shape. Well, this year, Padilla was more than ready. He was ripped to the Bone!
Big Roy Callendar was also much better than I had ever seen him. The last time I saw Roy compete was at the 1979 Mr. Olympia when he could hardly walk onstage because he had severely strained his lower back. What a difference two years makes! This Roy Callendar was big, thick and ripped! The normally withdrawn Canadian was now aggressive and joyful.
Positioned right next to Franco, Roy couldn’t resist sticking out his massive thigh, clearly showing the separation and mass in his lower body. Franco replied by baring his teeth and contorting his upper body into a series of most muscular poses that highlighted his incredible thickness and density. Wow, this contest was going to be a war!
When my eyes got to Tom Platz, my jaw dropped to the floor. Always a thickly developed competitor, Tom’s legs were known to be spectacular but his upper body was pitifully overshadowed. This Tom Platz was a whole other version! Tom’s upper body was now incredibly massive as his thick lats jutted his arms away from his huge torso. His abdominals were deep and looked like a set of bricks were implanted into his stomach. Platz now had a massive, barrel chest and even his normally thin arms were thick and massive. I had never seen ANY bodybuilder make such a dramatic transformation in only one short year!
As IFBB Secretary Oscar State tried to restore order to the line-up, the crowd roared their approval at the impressive group of bodybuilders before them. The relief was palpable in the auditorium as the fans took in the sight of one of the best Mr. Olympia line-ups in the history of the sport. Who cares if Zane, Mentzer and Coe didn’t show up? We had Franco, Callendar, Padilla and Platz to replace them!
As each bodybuilder took their turns going through their individual posing routines (now posing to their own music selections, a new addition to the Mr. Olympia contest!), I was able to pick out who the top contenders would be for the title. As I watched Franco, I could see his legs were really out of proportion to his upper body. Although showing signs of thickness, his quadriceps were completely lacking any separation or definition. I thought his upper body looked better than ever, even better than when he won the Mr. Olympia five years ago, but his legs immediately took him out of contention of winning another title.
Padilla got a tremendous reception from the audience as they acknowledged his incredible condition with their generous applause. No one had ever seen Danny this ripped before and the sold out crowd of hard core bodybuilders knew the torture that Padilla must have undertaken in order to achieve this extreme level of definition.
Roy Callendar really lit up the stage! Big, ripped and full of energy, Callendar couldn’t stop smiling as he lunged into position and hit one spectacular most muscular pose after another. Roy knew he was in the best condition of his life and, with so many of the biggest names in bodybuilding absent, he also knew that this would be his best opportunity to win the coveted Mr. Olympia contest!
The crowd exploded when Tom Platz went through his posing routine. With each succeeding pose, Platz blew away the audience with his incredibly massive and ripped physique. His legendary legs were remarkably even bigger and more developed. However, it was his fantastic upper body that really brought up the decibel level in the auditorium. Tom’s arms, chest, deltoids and back were now packed with inches of new beef and the audience couldn’t believe what they were seeing! If the fans of bodybuilding could relate to the torture Padilla went through to achieve his shredded condition, they could similarly only imagine the tons of poundages that Platz must have lifted over the last twelve months to add so much muscle mass to his already impressive physique.
As the judges called for the comparisons in the next round of the prejudging, it was obvious to me and everyone else in attendance that the top three bodybuilders in the contest would be Tom Platz, Roy Callendar and Danny Padilla. Chris Dickerson, last year’s runner-up to Arnold at the 1980 Mr. Olympia, was also impressive but he didn’t seem to have the thick muscle mass that the top three possessed. Franco, for all his confident bravado and thick upper body, just didn’t have the legs to be at the top. I had him in a solid fifth place.
This was evident to everyone watching the prejudging during one of the final comparisons. The judges called Franco, Tom Platz and Danny Padilla to the stage to go through the mandatory poses. Platz, standing in the middle of the group, was several inches taller and more massive than either Columbu or Padilla. The last pose called for was the overhead abdominal pose flexing one leg. As Franco crunched down on his muscular and rock hard abs, he looked down at his right leg, twisting it this way and that but to no avail. Not one cut or line of separation was anywhere in sight. The crowd was laughing and getting louder as they watched Platz. With a Cheshire cat grin on his face, Tom placed his arms behind his head and flexed his thickly developed abdominals.
Teasing the audience and waiting for just the right moment, he finally straightened out his gigantic right thigh, exploding the set of muscles into a sea of gnarly striations and separations! Game, set and match! Tom Platz was the new Mr. Olympia as far as the audience was concerned!!
The evening show started off with some unexpected vocal frustration from the audience. Still stinging from the apparent raw deal of the Sydney Affair one year earlier, many of the devoted fans were ready to express their dissatisfaction to the powers that be. When IFBB President Ben Weider took to the podium to address the audience, he was interrupted by outbursts from the audience. “Where’s Zane?”, “Why isn’t Mentzer here?”
Weider did his best to ignore the vocal fans and stick to his speech.
Arnold was brought to the stage next and he was met with an even more vocal response. Normally given deity treatment by the rabid bodybuilding fans, it was an unusual sight to see the King of Bodybuilding actually being booed by his most devoted fan base. “I hear da boos,” Arnold acknowledged, as he began his speech.
Ignoring the subject of the 1980 Mr. Olympia, Arnold began to talk about the future of the sport of Bodybuilding. Referring to all those in attendance, he advised how important it was that “we” all stand together in order to make Bodybuilding grow in popularity so that one day, the bodybuilders on the Mr. Olympia stage will be able to command prize money commensurate with other sports like baseball and football. Creating the vision of “us against the world”, Arnold slowly but surely turned this angry crowd into a cheering audience of Bodybuilding Fans! It was an amazing sight to witness in person.
Arnold then had a surprise for the Mr. Olympia audience. He had difficulty containing his excitement at the upcoming debut of his first big movie role, “Conan the Barbarian”. Revealing that this movie was going to be a spectacular blockbuster on the same scale as “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Star Wars”, Arnold pumped the audience up before showing several minutes of footage from the soon to be released extravaganza.
After the opening speeches, everyone was ready to see some muscle! Each bodybuilder competing in the Mr. Olympia that year would be allowed to pose to their own music, a new concept that began one year earlier at the 1980 Mr. Olympia.
Even though the Master Poser himself, (now a grey haired) Ed Corney, was competing in the 1981 Mr. Olympia, he surprisingly was not the most popular poser of the night. That distinction went to great physique of Samir Bannout. Although missing his peak for this contest, Samir still got the best response of the night to his posing routine by picking the best music. His musical selection featured no lyrics, only a succession of loud chimes spaced several seconds apart. Choreographing his poses perfectly with the beat of the music, the audience quickly got into the act and were soon loudly cheering him on with each pose he hit. Samir nailed it!
As for the top contenders in the contest, Franco did an offbeat posing routine to an Italian opera song. Turning in a circle with his arms stretched overhead, a l à Frank Zane, Franco did not do his physique justice until he started hitting the traditional crunching poses he is known for as well as his patented rear lat spread. Chris Dickerson gave a very elegant and artistic routine that featured many lunging and squatting poses. A great poser, Dickerson showed off his aesthetics while the monsters waited to take over the stage.
When favorite Roy Callendar started posing, his music suddenly stopped. Many fans in the audience immediately suspected a conspiracy to prevent the massive Roy from winning. At first, Callendar looked like he was going to exit the podium but, instead, he began posing to the delight of the crowd. Smiling from ear to ear, Roy hit one spectacular most muscular pose after another. Callendar was always one of the most thickly muscled bodybuilders on the planet but he had never been this ripped before. Everyone watching knew this could be his night for a big upset!
Danny Padilla was physical perfection. His shredded condition combined with perfect proportions and full, round muscle bellies allowed Padilla to finally display the physique that we all knew he had in him. Unfortunately, Danny looked like he might have taken his dedication too far. He appeared gaunt and tired, lacking the fire and desire that Franco, Platz and Callendar exhibited in spades. By himself, Padilla looked unbeatable. Next to some of the other mass monsters onstage, he appeared vulnerable and in need of a cookie.
When Tom Platz took the stage, the audience erupted into a cacophony of exuberant enthusiasm! Posing to the Christopher Cross song, “Ride Like the Wind”, Platz radiated charisma and magic with each pose he hit. The discerning audience was shocked at the raw size and razor sharp definition throughout his physique. In addition to the now famous thighs, Platz displayed enormous calves that appeared alive with striations and moving fibers. His thickly muscled back brought to mind the detail displayed by the Great Frank Zane. His massive pecs writhed with striations and his once maligned arms now shocked the audience with horseshoe thick triceps and full, peaked biceps. The sacrifice, dedication and improvement that Tom Platz demonstrated to the 1981 Mr. Olympia audience made him a Superstar!
When the top six bodybuilders were brought onstage for the final posedown, the audience held their breath in anticipation of the final verdict. Would the right decision be handed down or would there be another controversial ending to the biggest contest in Bodybuilding?
The emcee announced sixth place to Jusup Wilcosz. This was no surprise. The bearded German was a good friend of Arnold Schwarzenegger so there was no doubt that he would take part in the contest this year and avoid the proposed boycott. Besides, Jusup had won his last two competitions at this same venue (the 1979 Heavyweight Mr. Universe and the 1980 Pro Mr. Universe) so why not compete again in Columbus, hoping for more good luck.
Okay, this was it. The bodybuilding fans patiently waited to hear the name of the fifth place competitor. You could have heard a pin drop in the silence before Danny Padilla’s name was called out. WHAT?? How is this possible??
The audience immediately erupted into a massive storm of boos! Padilla sacrifices himself like he never has ever before and he’s given FIFTH PLACE? Many could have seen Danny winning the whole thing and he is placed below Franco who didn’t have any leg development whatsoever??
The fans were still yelling and booing as Padilla accepted his fifth place check with a disbelieving smirk on his face. The noise was so loud, it almost drowned out the voice of the emcee as he tried to continue with the placings.
“In fourth place,” he hesitatingly said, “Roy Callendar!” The yelling and boos got even louder! The fans were so upset, they were on the verge of rebellion and violence. First Padilla and now Callendar. Poor Roy shook his head and accepted his check and trophy from the trophy presenter, knowing in his heart this should have been his night.
As the emcee prepared to announce third place, the audience grew silent, waiting for the walls to fall in. With only three men remaining, was there any way Franco and Dickerson were going to place ahead of Tom Platz? A man who had worked so hard and brought his body to physical perfection could not go unnoticed by the judges, could he?
The sold out crowd was coiled in suspense, waiting to jump to their feet in either anger or joy at the next few words from the now reviled emcee. “In third place,” he announced, “goes to Tom Platz!” Pandaemonium! Everyone in the Veterans Memorial Auditorium leapt to their feet, screaming bloody murder at the judges for the capital crime they had just committed! This was unbelievable! We were seeing it but we couldn’t process that it was really happening.
Platz, ever the gentleman, remained onstage, quietly waiting for the final placings to be announced. Most of the audience was now out of control. No one really cared who was in first place or second. We all sensed that Franco was going to be the ordained winner but, at this point, what did it really matter? The damage had been done and there was no turning back.
When Chris Dickerson was announced in the runner-up position for the second year in a row, the boos reached a crescendo. Joe Weider and Arnold wisely choose not to go onstage to present Franco with his Sandow Trophy.
I watched in amazement as some of the audience members were literally throwing pennies at the stage. I had never seen a more unpopular decision at a bodybuilding contest in my whole life.
Franco smiled as he accepted the trophy, not showing one iota of concern over the audience’s reaction. Tom Platz graciously shook his hand before walking off stage. The new Mr. Olympia held his coveted Sandow Trophy overhead. He had overcome the critics by doing the impossible. Not only had he successfully rehabbed his severely injured knee over the last few years but Franco had pulled off the most controversial Mr. Olympia contest in history by winning a title that very few people thought he deserved.
1986 Mr. Olympia - The last Mr. Olympia contest that was held in Columbus, Ohio was the 1986 Mr. Olympia. Earlier in the year, Arnold and Jim Lorimer also staged the Pro World Championships in March, a contest that would become the Arnold Classic three years later.
In that Pro World Championships event, 22-year-old Rich Gaspari achieved his lifetime physical peak and edged ahead of perennial rival Mike Christian. In the post contest interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gaspari told his boyhood idol that he planned to follow in his footsteps and win the Mr. Olympia later in the year at 23 years old, the same age that Schwarzenegger was when he first annexed the title.
Unfortunately for Rich Gaspari, he had to face the physical phenomenon that was Lee Haney in order to reach his goal. In 1986, Haney was big and hungry and ready to win his third Mr. Olympia title. It would be a case of grit vs. genetics with the “do or die” Gaspari trying to knock off his former training partner to fulfill his destiny.
At 23 years old, it had been 9 years since I saw my first Mr. Olympia contest. Now an experienced competitor myself (I won the Illinois State and Mid-America contests earlier in the year), I loaded up my Dad’s van with four of my gym buddies and headed off to Columbus from Chicago to see the biggest contest of the year and ramp up more enthusiasm for my own personal workouts.
As the prejudging got underway for the 1986 Olympia, there were many new faces in the line-up compared to the last Mr. Olympia I saw in 1981. In fact, the only two bodybuilders competing in that year’s Olympia who werealso on stage in ’81 were the legendary Tom Platz and Jusup Wilkosz from Germany.
Platz did not make the same impact on this night that he did five years ago at the Mr. Olympia and it was, in fact, the very last time he would ever compete in this coveted event. He was given a heartfelt exit, however, as the audience showed a lot of love to this hardcore champion when he posed at the evening show. The connection between the “bodybuilder’s bodybuilder” and his adoring fans was palpable as Platz gave them everything he had during his routine, hitting leg shots with the same intensity and desire that he gave to his legendary leg workouts.
Twice, Platz tried to walk off the stage at the conclusion of his routine but he wasn’t quite ready to leave yet as his rabid fans urged him on to stay a little longer. It’s hard to leave the place that’s closest to your heart.
Wilcosz, like Platz, was also past his prime. His rugged, massive physique was no longer one of the biggest onstage and he had lost a lot of ground in the last two years since placing third behind Lee Haney and Mohamed Makkawy at the 1984 Mr. Olympia. His torn right biceps muscle did not help his chances and Jusup, also competing in his last Mr. Olympia contest, dropped down to 12th place.
This Mr. Olympia was dominated by the young bodybuilders who had all come up in the last few years. Bodybuilders like Gaspari, Christian, Berry DeMey, Peter Hensel and Haney himself. However, there was one veteran bodybuilder who wasn’t ready to be put out to pasture yet. Albert Beckles, with over two decades of contest experience behind him, was still ready to take on the best in the world. Only one year earlier, Beckles had placed right behind Lee Haney at the Olympia, beating all the young guns like Gaspari, Christian, DeMey and Paris in the process. Albert, not quite at his best on this night, was still able to place fourth in the 1986 Mr. Olympia at almost 50 years old.
Berry DeMey was a huge crowd favorite. The “Flexing Dutchman” was another rising star in the bodybuilding world with his tall, aesthetic physique, good looks and impressive muscle mass. Posing to the popular song, “The Final Countdown” (at least three bodybuilders that night chose this same song for their posing routine), DeMey gracefully transitioned from pose to pose, concluding his routine by “shaking” his massive quad for his appreciative fans.
The charismatic and massive “Iron Warrior”, Mike Christian, was competing in his second Mr. Olympia and he was hungry for redemption. After losing to the young upstart, Rich Gaspari, at both the 1985 Mr. Olympia and the Pro World Championships earlier in the year, Christian was looking forward to moving up to the top rung of the competitive ladder and challenging Haney himself for the title. Much taller and wider than Gaspari, Mike Christian believed that he, more than anyone, was the greatest threat to Lee Haney.
Rich Gaspari was not about to let anyone take away his dream. Displaying more drive and desire than any bodybuilder currently competing, Rich was willing to do ANYTHING to win! Pushing himself harder to train twice a day, six days a week, Gaspari burned out training partners just like his idol Arnold Schwarzenegger used to do in his prime. Fanatical and driven to the extreme, he had increased his body weight by several pounds in the sixth months since winning the Pro World Championships in March while still retaining his characteristic extreme conditioning and hardness. One year earlier, Gaspari had created shockwaves through the bodybuilding world when he displayed striated glutes along with the rest of his vascular, rock hard physique.
Gaspari knew that he possessed better leg development and a more dense look to his physique than the reigning champ. However, his weakness was his structure. While Haney was blessed with ultra wide shoulders and tiny hips, Gaspari had struggled to create that coveted V-taper look that came naturally to his rival. Eschewing squats and other heavy movements that might add thickness to his waist and focusing more on developing wider lats and bigger side deltoids, Rich Gaspari had transformed his physique dramatically in the last three years. At only 23 years old, he was threatening to knock the King of Bodybuilding off his throne.
If Lee Haney was worried about Rich Gaspari or Mike Christian taking away his Sandow Trophy, he certainly didn’t show it. With an easy going, gentle manner, Haney was supremely confident that he would win his third Mr. Olympia as easily as he had his last two. Not since the days of Schwarzenegger had a bodybuilder presented such a dominating package of a superior structure, huge muscle mass and a winning persona. When the competitors for the Mr. Olympia contest would line up onstage, Haney stood head and shoulders above his competition with his tall, wide frame tapering down to that tiny waist. Even a novice observer could pick out Haney as the obvious winner.
After the impressive posing routines by DeMey, Beckles, Christian and Gaspari, Haney displayed the air of a champion as he took the stage to begin his routine. Posing to the soundtrack from the movie “Rocky”, Lee chose heroic, dominating poses to display his winning physique. Expertly choreographing his music to his individual posing routine, Haney had the sold out crowd screaming for him as he showcased his thick, massive back development perfectly to the powerful song. No one could match that Lee Haney back and he was wise to use his dominating bodypart in his posing routine to cement another unanimous win.
As Christian, Gaspari and Haney stood onstage as the final three remaining bodybuilders in the 1986 Mr. Olympia, emcee Len Bosland announced Mike Christian in the third place position. Christian, competing in the best condition of his life, was noticeably disappointed but his long legs and weak calves ended up being the Achilles Heel in his battle with the shorter and thicker Gaspari.
Now it was down to two! Bosland took his time in the announcement of the second place competitor. Lee Haney smiled confidently while Rich Gaspari squeezed his eyes tightly shut and looked toward the heavens for a final prayer. “In second place,” the emcee declared, “Rich Gaspari!” It was over! Gaspari’s hope of being another Arnold and knocking the current champ off his throne had been derailed by the awesome physique of Lee Haney.
As Haney raised his arm to the cheering audience, his devoted wife Shirley made her way to the stage to congratulate her winning husband on THEIR victory. Childhood sweethearts, the Lee and Shirley marriage was a deep bond that not even the pressure of being Mr. Olympia or the strains of pre-contest dieting could sever.
Haney was a Champion who was firmly grounded in his beliefs and values. After every victory at the Mr. Olympia, Lee would drop to one knee to thank his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the victory. There could be no pressure when He was on their side. Haney was unbeatable because he had Faith. That celestial belief, combined with amazing genetics, a hardcore work ethic and a strong family life, made Lee Haney a man who was set to dominate the Mr. Olympia all the way into the history books!