In 1977, the promise of the Giant Killer, Danny Padilla, was beginning to come to fruition. After several years of being overlooked (at a height of only 5’2”, not an uncommon occurrence), young Danny Padilla was getting no respect in the AAU so he decided to jump ship to the growing IFBB organization.
His unheralded appearance at the 1975 IFBB Mr. USA was met with enthusiastic acclaim in the pages of Muscle Builder/Power Magazine. Padilla, bursting with muscle thickness and size throughout his compact physique, easily defeated such IFBB luminaries as Roger Callard and Denny Gable. Soon, training articles about this new genetic freak filled the pages of Muscle Builder and Danny was becoming known as the next Weider superstar.
Unfortunately, Padilla’s hopes of winning his class at the Mr. Universe were dashed that year because of the movie “Pumping Iron”. Each competing country was limited to three bodybuilders for the competition. Danny, representing the lightweight class, was on the American team along with middleweight Robin (Robby) Robinson and heavyweight Ken Waller.
However, due to the developing plot line in the upcoming documentary about the sport of bodybuilding, the producers of “Pumping Iron” needed to include Mike Katz into the contest in order to film the rivalry between Katz and Waller. If Katz was excluded from the competition, there could be no celluloid drama for the film. Someone from Team USA had to be sacrificed.
As a result, Danny was the odd man out and was forced to watch the contest from the audience as England’s Wilf Sylvester easily took home the first place trophy in the lightweight class. Feeling like a victim of bodybuilding politics, Padilla went back home to Rochester, New York, to lick his wounds and prepare for the next year.
In 1976, Danny was the early favorite for the IFBB Mr. America. He easily won the lightweight class over such contenders as Carlos Rodriquez and Dave Mastorakis. However, any hopes of winning the overall Mr. America title that year were dashed when Danny ran into the muscular brick wall that was Mike Mentzer. Mentzer had miraculously transformed his physique in one year and dominated the 1976 IFBB Mr. America title with a thick, muscular body that steamrolled over the competition.
Traveling to Montreal a few months later, Danny was confident of victory in the lightweight class at the 1976 IFBB Mr. Universe. Knowing that he would have been an easy victor one year earlier, Padilla cruised into the Montreal Universe carrying a few extra inches of adipose tissue around his midsection. With his incredible muscle mass and proportions, who would stand a chance against the Giant Killer?
Danny was in for the second shock of his bodybuilding life when he got a good look at the magnificent Mohamed Makkawy from Egypt. With a physique that looked like it was carved out of mahogany stone, Makkawy dominated the contest and received the highest score ever given in an IFBB international competition. His rock hard abdominals glistened under the stage lights, displaying what a ripped, finished physique should look like. Danny looked like a fat amateur in comparison. He finished a distant second place.
In 1977, Danny Padilla was ready to take bodybuilding seriously. Although blessed with God given genetics that most of his competition would kill for, Padilla had lacked that killer instinct and hunger for success so aptly demonstrated by Mentzer and Makkawy one year earlier. This was now his time and he was ready to fulfill his destiny.
Competing in the 1977 IFBB Mr. America, Danny arrived in Los Angeles full of confidence. Promoted by bodybuilding legend and the current Mr. Olympia, Franco Columbu, this year’s Mr. America contest would feature a who’s who of bodybuilding and movie superstars in attendance. What a great opportunity to show the bodybuilding world that you have arrived!
Although Danny stepped onstage with no tan (those New York winters and long hours working in his Dad’s grocery store didn’t allow much time in the sun) and an unkempt hairstyle, his physique could not be denied. Showing more muscular development than in Montreal, Padilla was rock hard and defined. Sharing the same physique characteristics as Schwarzenegger, Danny’s round, full muscle bellies and amazing proportions may have lacked the hardness of a Makkawy but his size and shape overwhelmed the competition.
At the evening show, the sold out bodybuilding audience was treated to trophy presenters such as John Saxon (from “Enter the Dragon”) and Burt Reynolds (fresh off “Smokey and the Bandit”) as well as Arnold Schwarzenegger himself. After an impressive guest posing appearance from Mike Mentzer, Franco Columbu took a break from his promotional duties to give a deadlifting demonstration like only he could do. Warming up with 500 pounds, Franco continued to add more weight until he stood over a bar weighing a prodigious 700 pounds. As the 185 pound Sardinian Strongman quickly adjusted his grip on the bar, he grunted and grimaced as he easily lifted the weight not once, not twice but three times off the floor. The appreciative bodybuilding crowd stood up and cheered.
When it was time to hand out the trophies, Danny Padilla again received the first place award in the lightweight class over old friend Eddie Giuliani and thick Dave Mastorakis. Although Giuliani and Mastorakis looked better than ever, neither was ever a threat to the genetically superior Padilla.
In the middleweight division, Roger Callard sported a shapely and aesthetic physique to finally nail down first place. After two consecutive runner-up placings over the last couple of years to incredible bodybuilders such as Robby Robinson and Mentzer, Callard had left nothing to chance this year. Callard’s golden bronze tan highlighted his impressive definition and his excellent posing presentation revealed the coaching he must have received from his good friend Arnold. Schwarzenegger was called from his seat in the audience to hand out trophies for this class, hoping that his good friend Roger would finally have his night.
In the heavyweight class, a truly monstrous Pete Grymkowski rolled over the competition, including Mike Mentzer’s younger brother Ray, ending the dream of a Mentzer double win at the Mr. America. Although a little thick in the waist, Grymkowski sported massive deltoids and a shoulder girdle that looked wider than a 747. His massive size and thickness was unparalleled in the competition and the judges awarded him with the first place victory.
Now it was time for the overall decision. As the three class winners filed back out onstage, a relaxed and confident Padilla calmly chewed gum as he took his position onstage. Callard looked tense but self-assured as he focused on taking home that elusive Mr. America title. Grymkowski smiled to his Gold’s Gym buddies in the audience, hoping his massive physique would allow him to finally win the Mr. America title.
As the competitors went through the mandatory poses, it was soon apparent that the 5’2” inch physique of Danny Padilla was too perfect to be defeated. Each muscle group was full and developed, including the incredible Padilla legs, sweeping and fully separated quads and massive, diamond shaped calves. It was just too much genetic superiority to be overcome by the likes of Callard and Grymkowski.
As the emcee announced that the 1977 IFBB Mr. America overall winner was Danny Padilla, Roger Callard failed to hide the disappointment on his handsome face and Pete Grymkowski good-naturedly smiled and congratulated his gym buddy. Padilla smiled from ear to ear as he accepted the massive trophy from Franco Columbu and Joe Weider.
After the contest, it was time to celebrate. With Gold’s Gym manager and Mr. Universe Ken Waller leading the way, the Danny Padilla entourage headed to a local restaurant for a victory meal. With both Waller and Padilla renowned for their eating exploits as much as their physiques, the merry duo ate their way through several entrees before finally deciding enough was enough.
Now that their stomachs were full, Waller decided that they need to move on to the local discotheque. Making their way to Marina del Rey, Waller and Padilla and the rest of their group gathered at the bar for some drinks. Danny was in fine spirits, basking in the joy of victory with a stomach full of food that he had been denying himself for months. He was content to just lean into the bar and enjoy the moment.
But Ken Waller was not satisfied with a quiet night out. Approaching the DJ, Waller confided that the new Mr. America winner was in the house. Within minutes, the DJ stopped the song he was playing and made an announcement to the packed bar that they had a special guest star in the house tonight who was going to make an appearance. As Danny listened with the rest of the bar, he suddenly heard his name across the loudspeakers and saw Waller looking directly at him, waving him over to the dance floor.
Padilla stumbled over to the DJ booth as Waller grabbed him and pulled him to the center of the dance floor. “Ladies and gentlemen,” Waller shouted, “we have the new Mr. America in the house tonight. How many of you would like to see him take his shirt off and hit some poses?” Padilla gave Waller a sheepish look but the Freckled Heckler was not about to take no for an answer.
Padilla took his place in the middle of the dance floor as the disco crowd looked on with a combination of curiosity and support. Waller was now goading the mostly inebriated crowd into cheering for Padilla to strip down. Danny smirked and pulled off his tight t-shirt, shocking the skinny disco attendees with his massive physique. Thin, gold chain-wearing males looked on in discomfort as the ladies in the house loudly cheered and whistled at the manly physique in full display for their viewing pleasure.
Now in his element again, Padilla fired off a front double biceps, a side chest, back to a front lat spread and finally, his coup de grâce, a magnificent most muscular, the same poses that wiped out the some of the best amateur bodybuilders in the country only a few hours ago.Waller leaned back against the wall, smiling and loudly cheering for his friend. Danny gave him a look like he was going to have to pay him back for this one day and smirked as he slipped his shirt back on. He accepted the slaps on his back from his friend and headed back to the bar where several gorgeous females were eyeing him up. It felt pretty damn good to be Mr. America!