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Showtime at Joe and Betty Weider Museum of Physical Culture
Clarence Featured in “Transformation” Gallery
We want to tell you about a once-in-a-lifetime experience—a major highpoint in a long and winding journey than began about 60 years ago when Clarence picked up a barbell for the first time.
On July 21, 2011, Clarence and Carol flew to Austin, Texas, for the formal opening of The Joe and Betty Weider Museum of Physical Culture, a division of The Stark Center for Physical Culture & Sports. Stark is a research center within the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education at The University of Texas. The Center is located inside the North End Zone Building attached to the football stadium. (See below for the Stark Center website )
Joe and Betty Weider and The Stark Center are a perfect complement. The Center is devoted to preserving the history of physical culture and sport and the stories of the men and women who changed North America and the world. When the Weider brothers, Joe and Ben, came on the scene in 1940, progressive resistance exercise was frowned upon. (Clarence’s high school coach cautioned him that lifting weights would make him muscle bound and slow.) Over 60 years later, when the Weider brothers passed the torch to the next generation, a complete reversal had occurred. Resistance exercise had become universal in fitness centers, athletic training facilities, and sports science labs.
The Joe Weider Foundation has donated $2 million in support of the Stark Center and the Weider Museum.
To highlight the opening of The Weider Museum, directors Jan and Terry Todd drew on The Stark Center’s rich photographic collections. They mounted an exhibit of more than 650 photographs, which are arranged thematically in ten distinct galleries. The galleries include photos of the golden era of Muscle Beach, photos depicting weightlifters who inspired Joe Weider in his early days and shots of bodybuilders in Arnold era, along with photos of a wide variety of other sports, including golf and track and field. Also included are images of film and TV stars and politicians playing golf, and a final gallery exploring the sports and fitness legacy of Lutcher and Nelda Stark through a series of images from their Orange, Texas Foundation.
We have a special interest in gallery number four, which includes a series of photos of Clarence from ages 15 to 70. (We were seeing it for the first time.) Beginning with a physique photo taken by his father shortly after he began training, the exhibit shows Clarence as an Olympic weightlifter, VO2max testing on the bike at the Lovelace Medical Center, making a PR on the rower, being tested on the treadmill at the Cooper Clinic, training in the gym with weights and outside with Heavy Hands, and posing for photos by some of the finest physique photographers in the world. (See the photos below)
The Museum introduced the exhibit as follows: “Gallery four
is entitled Transformation and explores through photography the body’s
capacity to adapt and change through training. A particular focus of the gallery
is a series of photographs of Clarence Bass taken over the passage of 55 years;
they demonstrate how effectively Bass has used exercise to resist the
physiological effects of aging.”
This photo, provided by Terry Todd, shows the “Bass wall.”
The adjoining wall, shown below, shows
Clarence’s physique from age 15 to 70. This photo was taken by Carol.
That’s the nuts and bolts of the Stark Center and the inaugural exhibit of the Weider Museum. Equally exciting was the “invitation only” group that gathered to celebrate the opening of the Joe and Betty Weider Museum.
Who’s Who of the Iron Game
The fireworks started when we walked into the hotel and didn’t stop until we headed home. Famous Iron Game personalities, male and female, big and not so big, popped up everywhere we turned. The atmosphere was super-charged.
“Hey Kaz; great to see you.” Those were the first words out of Clarence’s mouth as we checked in at the new AT&T Hotel and Conference Center on the UT campus. Bill Kazmaier, former World power lifting champion, 3-time winner of the World’s Strongest Man title, and now TV commentator, was standing by the check-in desk as we walked up. We’d seen him many times on TV, but had never met him. He’s as friendly as he is big.
Lee Haney was talking to one of the hotel clerks as we walked up. Lee won the Mr. Olympia title eight times between 1984 and 1991, beating Arnold’s record by one. (Ronnie Coleman, who we met that evening, has also won the title eight times.) Lee (now 51), dressed all in black, looked lean and healthy—almost as good as his daughter Olympia (now in college), who was with him. Lee’s face lit up when he saw Clarence; they’re old friends. He and his wife live in Fayette County, Georgia, where they owned and operated a fitness center until recently. A devoted born again Christian, Lee gave us an autographed copy of his booklet Beyond the Pump. Bill Clinton appointed Lee Chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. He’s a superstar on all fronts and a really great guy.
Richard Sorin was also standing nearby, with his son Bert. “Gripasaurus,” Clarence blurted on greeting Richard, who is famous for his gripping and overall body strength. Bert, at 6’ 3’’ and about 250 pounds is a slightly smaller and leaner version of his dad. The Sorinex Company sells an impressive line of training equipment. It was wonderful meeting them both.
As we headed down the hall, we spotted Boyer Coe and Chris Dickerson coming our way. Boyer has probably won more bodybuilding championships than any other person; everything but Mr. Olympia. Chris was the first black Mr. America and later won Mr. Olympia. It was good to see both of them again.
We had lunch with Britt Freund. Dr. Freund is Assistant Dean and Director of the Project Management Consortium at the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas. He’s also an extremely fit and dedicated muscle head. He read every word in Bill Pearl’s three-volume Legends of the Iron Game. We became acquainted when he invited Clarence to speak to his MBA students in Austin and San Antonio. Former students still tease him about giving them copies of our book Lean For Life—which they describe as the book with the naked guy on the cover. (Clarence is wearing posing briefs.) Britt is a fantastic guy and a wonderful friend.
At 6 that evening we hopped on a shuttle bus provided by Jan and Terry to take their guests to The Stark Center for “Cocktails, Museum Viewing, Dinner and Remarks.” Sitting in the first row of seats was John Balik, publisher of Iron Man magazine and physique photographer par excellence. A few rows back was Frank Zane, Mr. Olympia 1977, 1978 and 1979. Frank publishes a quarterly magazine called Building the Body. You can see how he looks at 64 on page 5 of our book Great Expectations. The bus was packed with people eager to see the new Weider Museum in the Stark Center.
As you approach the building housing the Stark Center you are treated to a full size reproduction of the Farnese Hercules lighted and slowly rotating in an upper level window. It’s a magnificent sight. Visit Terry Todd’s blog to see Mark Henry, at 6’3” and 430 pounds dwarfed by the 1800 year old, 10 foot 6 inch, 2000 pound Farnese Hercules: http://www.starkcenter.org/blog/2009/10/visitors/
The Evening Celebration
We can’t tell you about all of the 145 people who attended, but we can give you a sampling of the star-studded crowd.
David P. Webster flew in from Scotland. You can’t miss him. He’s the guy wearing a kilt. DPW, as he’s known in his home country, is a world renowned historian on Weightlifting, Strength Sports and Highland Games, and has been involved in the industry since the 1940s. He is author of over 40 books, still holds world records in Strand Pulling and received the OBE for services to sport from Her Majesty the Queen at a ceremony in Buckingham Palace in 1995. Everyone knows and loves him. To learn more, watch the documentary on his life: http://beyondstrong.typepad.com/my_weblog/2009/02/david-webster-obe.html
Recognize the name Dave Goodin? If you don’t, you’re probably a stranger to Iron Man magazine. He’s the 52-year-old guy who’s in the magazine every month; recently on the cover. Google “Dave Goodin Bodybuilder” and you’ll see why. He makes 20-somethings green with envy. Dave is from Austin.
Old and older. Clarence (73) and Dave Goodin ( 52) meet for the first time. Photo by Carol
Jill Mills was one of the first women to compete in strongwomen competition. She won the first two World’s Strongest Women contests, in 2001 and 2002. She’s married, a licensed nurse, and has one daughter. She looks lean and fit, has a beautiful face. It was fun talking to her. She also lives in Texas.
Ellington Darden has written more than 40 books, mostly about brief high-intensity resistance training. He was associated with Arthur Jones, inventor of the Nautilus line of equipment, for many years. We’ve known Ell for a long time. He’s a perceptive guy with his own way of thinking about things. You can get a good sense of his training philosophy (and personality) in a 5-minute video on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kw9-F0Ix_vA
Doris Barrilleaux is often called the First Lady of Women’s Bodybuilding. She’s 5 foot 3 and still a powerhouse at 79. Doris began weight training on the 1950s and won her first bodybuilding competition in the 1970s. Before Doris came along, competitions for women were basically a beauty contest. Doris put muscle into the equation. We’ve known Doris for a long time. She’s a good person. To learn more, read the no-holds-barred interview she did recently on the Iron Man forum: http://www.ironmagazineforums.com/bodybuilding-gossip/124859-anyone-remember-doris-barrilleaux.html
Finally, Boyd Epley was the first full time strength and conditioning coach at an American university. We’ve know about Coach Epley for a long time, but this was our first opportunity to meet and talk with him. It was fascinating to hear how he looks for and developed “freaks” with unique abilities to excel in specific sports. He told us about spotting an athlete with unusually long arms and coaching him to a record in the deadlift. Unlike many coaches, Boyd is lean and fit; he’s a handsome man. You can learn about the history of his program at The University of Nebraska online: http://www.boydepley.com/ .
The finale of the evening celebration was “remarks” by Jan and Terry Todd, University of Texas President Bill Powers—and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Todds and President Powers are excellent speakers, but Arnold was spectacular, giving what many in a position to know called his best speech. He brought the audience to life with just the right balance of history and humor. He told how Joe Weider brought him to this country and gave him the opportunity to do all the things he has done in bodybuilding, motion pictures, and politics. The crowd rose to its feet as one and gave him a thunderous ovation. Arnold has had his troubles recently, but it didn’t stop him from giving Joe Weider his due in loving detail. Joe was clearly moved. He blew Arnold a kiss at the end. It was a magic moment, the perfect cap for a wonderful evening. (Arnold's 15 minute speech is on the Stark Center website; see below.)
This group photo was taken by Carol near the end of the evening. Front row, left to right: Frank Zane, Joe Weider, and Boyer Coe. Middle row: Larry Scott, Chris Dickerson, Betty Weider, Lee Haney, and Arnold. Back row: Mark Henry, Terry Todd, and Bill Kazmaier.
Breakfast with Bill and Judy Pearl
Joe and Betty Weider treated all who stayed at the AT&T Center to breakfast the next morning, although they did not appear in person. Joe looked frail at over 90 years of age and needed help getting around. He was no doubt tired from the events of the previous evening.
We shared a table with Bill and Judy Pearl. Bill has been Clarence’s role model for many years and Judy and Carol have become good friends. Carol and Judy are in regular contact by telephone, but we rarely see each other in person. Clarence and his dad saw Bill win the Mr. America title in 1953 and followed his career as he moved on to become the best bodybuilder of his time. When Bill stopped competing, Arnold took over. As Clarence wrote in his first book Ripped, Bill is a great man. Everyone loves and respects him.
Bill Pearl being interviewed the night before. Photo by Carol
As we were finishing breakfast, professional strongman Dennis Rogers came over and demonstrated his amazing hand and arm strength. He bent a horseshoe into the shape of a heart and presented it to Bill. He then tore a miniature deck of cards in two and gave it to Clarence. A mini-deck of cards is more difficult to tear than a full size deck, because you can’t get as much leverage on the cards. (See photo below)
It was an amazing demonstration of concentration and strength. Tests have shown that Dennis has a unique ability to call on a very high percentage of his muscle fibers all at once. Having had a strongman act of his own, Bill Pearl could appreciate what was involved. Clarence was honored to share in the fun. Come see us in Albuquerque and you can see the torn deck of cards displayed in Clarence’s office. To learn more about Dennis Rogers, visit his website: http://www.dennisrogers.net/products.php
Carol snapped this photo as Dennis Rogers ripped the mini-deck in two.
One more thing we’d like to share with you. We also met up with Frank Zane at the Weider breakfast. After talking for awhile, Frank checked out Clarence from head to toe—he was wearing a black T-shirt and cargo pants—and asked if he would mind doing an interview for a documentary. Clarence, of course, agreed.
They walked over to an empty table and set up for the interview. Frank had a snazzy little device that allowed him to see Clarence on camera and record the conversation at the same time.
Frank Zane interviews Clarence; Frank is the one with the hair. Photo by Carol
In the course of the interview, Clarence remarked that it was hard to believe that Frank was interviewing him. It didn’t seem possible that he went from admiring and reading about Zane forever to being interviewed by him.
Afterward, Clarence repeated to Bill Pearl that he was surprised that Zane would want to interview him. Pearl replied, “Who would be better than you?”
It was a memorable climax to an amazing two days in Austin.
Later in the day, Jan Todd gave a group of us a guided tour of the Stark Center's secure research area where the photos and papers, and antiquarian exercise paraphernalia are kept. It's a most impressive collection. Recent acquisitions include accounting ledgers from the York Barbell Company; if you want to know John Grimek's salary in a particular year, they have the records.
In closing, we want to commend and congratulate Jan and Terry Todd for their years-long labor of love in making the Stark Center a wonderful reality.
A tip of the hat to Joe and Betty Weider as well. Thanks to their contributions, the Todds now have a staff to help them preserve the history of physical culture and sports.
Many of us would not be where we are today without Joe Weider.
Carol captured Terry Todd making a very important point to Clarence (not shown).
Jan and Terry are a dynamic duo if ever there was one.
* * *
For a complete report on the event, read Terry Todd's account on the Stark Center website. Terry, as only he can, tells the whole story of the formal opening, including the many notables in attendance, with photos by John Balik, Brian Birzer, and Robert Gardner. You see Arnold's speech and others in their entirety.
Terry gives a full account of the many items on display at the opening. He also sketches the contents of the non-public areas of the center, where 30,000+ books, tens of thousands of magazines, and photography collections are housed, along with other treasures.
Click on "Full photo album links" by John Balik at the very end of Terry's report and you'll find a photo of Carol greeting Joe Weider.
Go to www.starkcenter.org and follow the links.
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