IN THE SIMPLEST TERMS, HE OWNS BODYBUILDING. HE SPONSORS ALL THE MAIN COMPETITIONS, PUBLISHES THE MAJOR MAGAZINES, SELLS TRAINING EQUIPMENT AND FOOD SUPPLEMENTS, HAS ALL THE MAJOR BODYBUILDERS UNDER CONTRACT, AND HELPED MAKE ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER A BIG STAR.
PERHAPS THIS SHOULD ALL BE IN THE PAST TENSE FOR WEIDER, WHO IS NOW IN HIS 70S, BUILT A BODYBUILDING EMPIRE THAT HE IS NOW NO LONGER IN COMPLETE CONTROL OF (SEE DAVID DAVIS'S ARTICLE IN THE LA WEEKLY [FEBRUARY 1, 1996] FOR AN ANALYSIS OF WEIDER'S HISTORY, POWER AND DECLINING INFLUENCE).
JOE HAS A BROTHER NAMED BEN AND A WIFE NAMED BETTY BUT ALL THE OTHER WEIDERS WHO APPEAR IN THE DREAMS ARE IMAGINED BY US. THEY SEEM TO FUNCTION AS TRICKSTERS WHO APPEAR AND DISAPPEAR OR MAKE US RUN ALL AROUND SEARCHING FOR THINGS. THIS IS UNDOUBTEDLY TIED TO OUR EXPERIENCE WITH THE REAL JOE WEIDER WHO OFFERED TO PUBLISH AN ARTICLE WE WROTE BUT NEVER CARRIED THROUGH ON HIS OFFER.
WE MET JOE WEIDER IN THE AIRPORT ON THE WAY TO THE ARNOLD CLASSIC BODYBUILDING COMPETITION IN COLUMBUS OHIO. HE PROVIDED US WITH BACKSTAGE PRESS PASSES THAT ENABLED US TO GET AN INSIDE VIEW OF THE WORKINGS OF THE BODYBUILDING WORLD.
LETTER TO JOE WEIDER:
May 3, 1991
Mr. Joseph Weider
P.O. Box 864
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Dear Mr. Weider,
We talked briefly in the Los Angeles airport while waiting for the flight to Columbus, Ohio. I mentioned to you that I, along with my colleague Dr. Michael Blitz, would like to send you an article about our experiences at the Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic. I have enclosed that essay which is a subjective account of our observations and reactions to the weekend events. I know it is a bit different from the types of articles you usually publish in your magazines but we hope that you can use it.
Our research in Ohio was part of a larger project in which we are studying the significance of Arnold Schwarzenegger in American culture. We were impressed by the impact Arnold had on the audience and on everyone who came in contact with him. If you have any thoughts on this subject, we would very much like to hear them.
Thank you again for the opportunity to have this essay considered for publication in one of your magazines.
Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology
This is the article we sent to Joe Weider to publish in one of his magazines. He accepted the article for publication but it was never published.
On the Arnold Classic: Bodies, Rituals, and the Wisdom of Fitness
Michael Blitz, DA
Louise Krasniewicz, PhD
In many cultures of the world, people perform special rituals with their bodies. They do so, for example, to communicate with their ancestors or with their gods. By walking on hot coals, depriving their bodies of sleep or by undergoing extraordinary pain, the common person in these worlds could come closer to wisdom and perfection. In Columbus, Ohio, we were anthropologists witnessing another ritual quest for perfection and wisdom, this one known as the Arnold Classic.
We were still foreigners to the new world of body-building, muscle mass and iron-pumping when we embarked early in March on Columbus flight number 1492 for the Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic. We sported bodies that were decidedly less sculpted and more squishy than many of those we would encounter in the next few days. Yet we would soon be caught up in the buzz of excitement that stirs a room when superbly developed, beautifully defined, BIG bodies appear on the competition stage.
Clearly, the extraordinary athletes assembled in Ohio were concerned with winning the competition. But the backstage preparations and the onstage activities at the Arnold Classic and the Ms. International competitions looked to us like many other elaborate body rituals we had witnessed. Perhaps, we thought, this body ritual was also addressed to a higher power. It occurred to us that the ritual that included pumping up, intense silences in the pre-competition workouts, standing relaxed while fully flexed, and posing down might be addressed not only to the discerning eyes of the judges, but also to the man for whom the event was named--Arnold Schwarzenegger himself.
It was Arnold who, while no longer the biggest man on stage, was the largest figure, the being to whom all competitors and all audience members apparently directed themselves. Arnold Schwarzenegger provided an important prototype, or ideal, for many of the people gathered there. For competitors, the man often called the greatest and most famous bodybuilder of all time set a mythological standard against which the competitors could measure their success as well as their bodies.
For the audience he was an ideal of another type. One young man told us that Arnold gives you something to strive for. This young bodybuilder made a successful effort to find Arnold and shake his hand. A young woman discussed with us her desire to thank Arnold personally for the inspiration he had given her. Recovering from an automobile accident, she turned to bodybuilding to restore both her physical and emotional strength. She had come to Columbus so that some of Arnolds power would rub off on her. The rest of the huge audience likewise seemed to divide its attention between the competition and their intermittent interactions with Arnold at workshops, photosessions, dinner, or accidently in the hotel lobby.
When Arnold spoke prior to the announcement of the winner of the Arnold Classic, he talked about more than bodybuilding. The wisdom that Arnold imparted to his audience was about making your body and mind fit not only for todays world but for the new age that is coming. If the judges had the formidable task of selecting the most perfectly built bodies, Arnold, as chair of the Presidents Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, had the more complicated challenge of translating the events of the weekend into the language and the wisdom of basic fitness and health.
We had come to Columbus to witness a body ritual that we knew was impressive and exciting but thought was unrelated to our own everyday lives. We left with a sense of the larger implications of bodybuilding principles and a better understanding of the significance of the man whose name graced the bright marquee on the Veterans Memorial Auditorium.
DR. MICHAEL BLITZ is an assistant professor of English at John Jay College, CUNY.
DR. LOUISE KRASNIEWICZ is a visiting assistant professor of anthropology at UCLA.
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