by Marty Gallagher
“Joe had access to an inexhaustible talent pool. The world’s best bodies were available locally and he used them like the conductor of an orchestra. His over-the-top ads had flair and zest, and he created a myth, a vision: the reader could transform himself physically using Joe’s products and Joe’s methods.”
Joe Weider relocated himself, his trophy wife Betty, Dave “The Blond Bomber” Draper and his entire business organization to Los Angeles just in time for the tumult and turmoil that accompanied the countercultural revolution of the 1960s. The mid-to-late sixties was a golden time for the Weider Empire. Joe gained traction. He had always been an outsider and he naturally developed a kinship with the youthful counterculture and its antiestablishment stance. Joe had always been shunned by the same WASP establishment these kids were railing against: the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Joe’s youthful mindset and preferences put him in far greater touch with the demographic he was seeking to sell product to. He spoke the language of the young. His arch-rival Bob Hoffman had zero interest in speaking the language of the young. Further, in magazine editorials, Joe’s nemesis warned against communism and Weider in the same breath. He told the young to “grow up” and “start acting right.” The entire nation was splitting apart over values, old and new, and while Hoffman and his York/AAU axis-of-evil effortlessly aligned itself with the Nixon establishment and “traditional American values” (as defined by old white men), Weider, always an outsider, effortlessly aligned himself and his fledgling empire with the antiestablishment counterculture.
Bob Hoffman had made millions in business, and despite his innumerable quirks and flaws, he was no dummy. Bob was not someone to be trifled with and was a serious enemy to have. Both men were intent on winning the hearts and minds of America’s young men. Hoffman would appeal to the young by telling them to respect their elders and practice Olympic weightlifting. Hoffman’s Aryan ideal was patriotic, disciplined, clean-cut, honest and forthright. His American Man went to church and practiced Olympic weightlifting, a true man’s sport. Joe Weider simply staked out the exact opposite position on anything and everything that Hoffman said or did. Joe appealed to the hearts and minds of American youth with a message of sex, surf, rock n’ roll, and bodybuilding. In the end, it was a rout; but for many years Hoffman and his allies battled Weider and his allies tooth and nail. At stake was the lion’s share of a single key demographic group: males between the ages of 12 and 29.
Both camps believed that there was a finite universe of potential customers. The commercial “pie” included magazine sales, supplement sales, fitness gear sales, barbell and dumbbell sales and bodybuilding show revenue. Joe and Bob would contest one another in each of these arenas. Joe was now located at the epicenter of the bodybuilding universe and this enabled him instant access to the world’s best bodybuilders. Weider thrived and grew and gained traction in a wide variety of bodybuilding-related pursuits. The Weider brothers seemed schooled in the PT Barnum carnival barker school of business, the one that proclaimed, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Yet Weider was no bumpkin; he was a well-read sophisticate – a highly-informed individual capable of conducting complex simultaneous undertakings in a wide variety of ongoing business ventures.
Yet despite his sophistication, his marketing approach was unethical and flabbergasting: lie your ass off about results, and promise the buyers impossible results easily obtainable just by using Joe’s latest magical product. Joe created and micro-managed every aspect of his empire; his various magazines pushed product and generated newsstand sales and ad revenue; he created a nutritional and supplement division and began making equipment and fitness gear. Joe invested heavily and wisely in California real estate when it was cheap. His antique collection was deemed priceless and heralded internationally. His overflow of priceless antiques was stored in a massive warehouse. Joe was into art and had an artist’s eye. He used that artist eye as he personally supervised the never-ending photo shoots for his ever-growing fleet of magazines.
Joe established a stable of “contract” bodybuilders. He purchased their exclusivity, and this ensured steady access to the world’s best bodies for his magazines and ads. Joe was smart enough and insightful enough to take a chance on an unintelligible, slightly brutish 19-year-old Austrian man/boy named Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold had won his division at the NABBA Mr. Universe and Joe fronted the dough Arnold needed to relocate to LA. Once there, Joe hired Arnold and in short order Arnold had convinced Joe to fund the relocation of another non-English speaking European bodybuilder: the short and stocky Sardinian, Franco Columbo.
Between Draper, Arnold, Franco, Betty and a revolving cast of local bodybuilders and buxom beach bunnies, Joe had access to an inexhaustible talent pool. The world’s best bodies were available locally and he used them like the conductor of an orchestra. His over-the-top ads had flair and zest, and he created a myth, a vision: the reader could transform himself physically using Joe’s products and Joe’s methods. The “Weider Principles” were proclaimed in articles with titles such as, “Bomb and blitz your biceps into total submission using Weider drop-set cheating Principle #53!!” Joe made bodybuilding synonymous with the southern California beach culture and surfer scene.
Needless to say there was considerable resistance from many sides towards what appeared to be a Weider takeover of organized bodybuilding. The entrenched establishment was run by unsmiling, humorless older white men – men that wore suits and ties every day of the week. The Amateur Athletic Union, the AAU, had a virtual stranglehold on bodybuilding competitions run in America until Weider appeared. Not that any other organization wanted or was fighting for bodybuilding anyway. The AAU was comprised of all the governing bodies of all the Olympic sports. Bodybuilding was the red-headed stepchild of weightlifting and only tolerated because it generated cash money. For that reason bodybuilding was joined at the hip to its uglier, older stepsister, Olympic weightlifting.
There was an odd love/hate relationship between the weightlifting and bodybuilding communities. The weightlifting power brokers hated bodybuilding and bodybuilders, but they needed the cash they were able to generate by making bodybuilding an integral part of all weightlifting competitions. The bodybuilding show would be conducted whenever the final lift had been pulled, and in my regional hotbed of lifting back in the 60s, often the last clean and jerk wouldn’t hit the platform until 11 pm. It was nothing for bodybuilding shows scheduled to start at 9 pm to start at midnight.
Weider’s message was seductive: Bodybuilders of the World, Unite! Stop groveling! Stop belonging to organizations that offer you, The Bodybuilder, second class citizenship and sneer at you behind your back. Who needs the weightlifter’s snide remarks? Who needs the AAU and their uptight old-man set of values?! Join the Weider Bodybuilding Organization dedicated to bodybuilding, bodybuilders and nothing else! Joe put on contests that blew away anything the AAU could come up with. There was a very real economic war, a hot war of nasty words; charges and countercharges flew back and forth between Hoffman and Weider and their surrogates and allies. At stake was control of the magazine/supplement/equipment market: both sought the same demographic and they fought each other ruthlessly on all fronts.
May 19 Training Camp (Deadlift & Clean) : Atlanta, GA
May 17-19 Starting Strength Seminar : Newport, NC
May 25 Training Camp (The Squat) : Chicago, IL
June 7-9 Starting Strength Seminar : Wichita Falls, TX
July 12-14 Starting Strength Seminar : Denver, CO
August 9-11 Starting Strength Seminar : Springfield, MO
September 6-8 Starting Strength Seminar : Brooklyn, NY