Two Bodybuilding Icons Remembered
Last weekend, two giants in the Bodybuilding world were remembered for their incredible contributions to the Fitness industry. Robert Kennedy, the publisher and founder of Muscle Mag International, passed away exactly one year ago on April 13th, 2012. On Sunday, April 14th, 2013, a Memorial service was held in memory of Joe Weider, the publisher of the Weider empire. Joe passed away on March 23rd, 2013 at the age of 93.
These two amazing gentleman opened a lot of doors for thousands of individuals in the bodybuilding industry. They both started with nothing and created
their own industries by following their passion and dreams. It took a lot of courage and strength to even take the leap of faith they did but we should all be grateful for their incredible contributions.
Robert Kennedy was born in England in 1938 and he moved to Canada in 1967. Bob was an art student and he taught art for five years in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. His initial interest in bodybuilding began when his Austrian father, never one to mince words, took a look at his teenage son one day and told him, “You skinny!”.
Although Kennedy fell in love with bodybuilding, he soon found out he didn’t have the genetics to be a bodybuilding champion. Because of his difficulty in building massive size, Bob soon began to admire the more aesthetic physiques such as Steve Reeves and Frank Zane.
Kennedy began writing articles about bodybuilding contests and submitting them to Joe Weider himself for Joe’s magazine Muscle Builder/Power as well as Peary Rader’s Ironman Magazine. He also went into business for himself in 1972, starting a mail order business selling bodybuilding and nutrition courses.
In 1974, Bob took a big chance and started his own bodybuilding magazine titled MuscleMag International. With no experience in magazine publishing, Kennedy ordered an initial print run of 110,000 magazines. He had the numerous issues stacked up all over his house as he attempted to distribute the magazine and get the issues sold.
Although Kennedy lost money on his big business venture in the beginning, MuscleMag International eventually found an audience. Bob started off by focusing on articles on how to shape the body and most of the physique athletes featured in the magazine were more aesthetic and lean like Zane. However, Bob also had a gossip column in the magazine that was very popular.
Bob was friends with Arnold Schwarzenegger and he convinced the Austrian Oak to write his own question and answer column in MuscleMag for a short period of time. One of the early articles in the magazine detailed a trip Kennedy took to California to celebrate New Years Eve with Arnold. Apparently, Bob drank so much that he felt hungover and sick the next morning. Arnold’s advice to him was to go into the bathroom and stick his finger down his throat in order to vomit and get it over with.
Eventually, Bob started to include the major bodybuilding competitions in the magazine. He hired ace photographer Chris Lund from England to shoot the 1979 Mr. Olympia and acquired lots of new subscribers to the magazine. The honest reporting along with the incredible photographs in the magazine was a breath of fresh air in the bodybuilding magazine world.
Kennedy also started publishing the MuscleMag International Annual in 1976. This once a year publication would cover all that happened in the year of bodybuilding. It became enormously popular among bodybuilding fans, not only because it was the only “Annual” issue published in the bodybuilding industry but also due to the objective reporting. The Weider magazines would only cover the IFBB competitions while the Bob Hoffman magazines (Muscular Development and Strength and Health) would only cover the AAU and the NABBA contests. Only MuscleMag International would give contest coverage to ALL the bodybuilding organizations throughout the world.
MuscleMag International also gave lots of press to bodybuilders outside the United States. Bodybuilders such as Bertil Fox, Serge Nubret and Mohammed Makkawy were featured in training articles and lots of great photos so the fans were made aware of these incredible bodybuilders who were not featured in the Weider magazines.
Robert Kennedy started writing books in the 1970’s, starting with Hardcore Bodybuilding. He eventually wrote an incredible 53 books including Beef It!, Reps! and Pumping Up! Kennedy eventually started his own book publishing company and hundreds of books were published through Robert Kennedy Publishing.
Kennedy was also innovative in other ways. He started the Muscle Mag Stores and began opening them up all over the United States and Canada. The stores would sell old issues of Muscle Mag International as well as all his books, weight training equipment, posters, etc. Bob would always have Grand Openings at the store, featuring the hottest bikini babes and massive pro bodybuilders.
Speaking of women, Kennedy knew that the readers of his magazine (mostly men) would like to see more sexy ladies so he started doing Special Issues like the Bikini Issue, the Glutes Issue, etc. In a time before the NPC and IFBB started Figure and Bikini competitions, Robert Kennedy knew the appeal of T&A and he used it to attract more readers to his magazine.
Bob also promoted his own team of hot women in his magazine. These ladies included Trish Stratus, Vicky Pratt and Amy Fadli, among others. Kennedy made Swimsuit videos, featured them extensively in his magazines and had them make appearances at his MuscleMag Stores and at big shows like the Arnold Classic and the Olympia, where they appeared at the MuscleMag booth with him.
Robert Kennedy also started other magazines in addition to Muscle Mag International. He started Oxygen Magazine, a magazine devoted to fitness training for the ladies, at a time when many women were not into weight training. He also came out with American Curves, Clean Eating and Reps! Magazine.
An incredibly ambitious man, Robert Kennedy passed away at the age of 73. In February of 2012, Kennedy was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lung cancer and he died only two months later.
Joe Weider was even more of an influence on Bodybuilding and Fitness than Robert Kennedy was. Kennedy himself would admit that Joe Weider was a great inspiration for him in his career. In fact, Joe and Bob pushed each other to put out a better magazine in response to what each of them were doing. For example, when Weider saw the Muscle Mag Annual that Kennedy published, he responded by making his magazine, Muscle Builder, a bigger magazine with more articles and better pictures.
Joe Weider was born in Montreal, Canada in 1919. He was the son of Jewish immigrants parents from Poland. Life was very difficult growing up during the Great Depression. Joe had to leave school at only 12 years old to start working ten hours a day to help make money for his family. At only 5’5” and weighing 115 pounds, Joe was picked on a lot from the tough kids in his neighborhood.
Joe was inspired to begin weight lifting when he saw a 1930 issue of Strength magazine on the newsstand. Because gyms and fitness centers did not exist back then, Joe had to construct his own weight lifting equipment by using an old axle and two flywheels, materials he had found at a local train yard. Joe made good progress and he even entered a weight lifting contest two years later, lifting 70 more pounds than any other competitor in his weight class.
Joe continued working menial labor jobs but his dream was to publish his own magazine so he could spread information about how to build the physique. With a starting investment of $7, Joe put together his first magazine called Your Physique, published in August of 1940. He sold subscriptions to the magazine and, within 18 months, made a profit of $10,000, an amazing sum at that time.
Because weight training equipment was difficult to obtain in those years, Joe expanded his business to include equipment as well as some vitamin and mineral supplements. In 1942, the Weider Barbell Company began.
In 1946, Joe and his brother Ben began promoting bodybuilding competitions, starting with the Mr. Canada contest. This was the beginning of the International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB), an organization that would eventually grow to include an astounding 170 countries affiliated with them.
The IFBB was also the beginning of the Mr. Olympia contest in 1965 and the eventual rise of professional bodybuilding. When the Weider brothers began promoting bodybuilding contests, the sport was still relegated to the back end of weight lifting events and given very little consideration or respect.
The industry that Joe Weider started so many years ago gave rise not only to a whole industry but also to a change in lifestyle for so many millions of people. When Joe began preaching the wonders of bodybuilding, very few people lifted weights or followed a nutritious diet. It was Joe’s passion that helped to lead the way for a different future, the health and fitness lifestyle.
Joe also made the sport of bodybuilding fun and exciting. He was a marketing genius by showing muscular bodybuilders posing on the beach with beautiful, bikini-clad girls hanging all over them. The message was clear to his growing audience. If you want to get the girls, start lifting weights and build your muscles.
Joe helped to build the IFBB by writing articles about the individual bodybuilding stars. He made these bodybuilders superstars by promoting them in his magazines through both training articles and excellent photographs (taken by such ace photographers as Artie Zeller, Jimmy Caruso and John Balik). It wasn’t long before bodybuilding fans started to go to the contests to support their new heroes.
One thing I will always appreciate about the life work of Robert Kennedy and Joe Weider is the incredible PASSION they had for the sport of bodybuilding. Both men started with nothing and both built empires solely through their hard work and desire. Of course, it was a business and they each made an incredible amount of money doing what they did. However, it wasn’t the money that motivated them to work so hard and do so much throughout their lives. That kind of dedication only comes from inside, from the heart. They both truly loved Bodybuilding and the changes it could make in the lives of everyone else.
I join millions of others in saluting the lives of both Joe Weider and Robert Kennedy. They inspired us with the magazines they published, they motivated us, taught us and entertained us. The world that we live in today has been forever changed for the better because of their passion and incredible dedication. Thanks Joe and Thanks Bob, may you both Rest in Peace!