If you don’t already subscribe to Dave Draper’s Iron Online Newsletter, you’re missing out, but it’s certainly not too late. Printed below is his textual eulogy for the late, great Joe Weider. If you don’t know Joe, all I can say is start here with the Bomber and work your way back. This article is reprinted without permission, but with all the respect of an aspiring muscle writer (me) for a solid muscle writer (Dave, and yes, pun intended.) Rest in ever loving peace, Joe. Everyone else, enjoy!
The day is Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 4:43 AM. Joe Weider, Master Blaster,
Trainer of Champions, dies at 93. Betty, his wife of 52 years, mourns by
Everyone heard the word. It rang a bell around the world. The words
scrolled along the bottom of the TV during Fox News, emails were exchanged
and messages of condolence were being prepared by writers and editors
across various wavelengths.
But, wait, you think, some people don’t just die; they’re bigger than that.
I first met Joe some 50 years ago during one of my treks to Weider Barbell
Company to buy weights. It took two buses and a six-block hike from my
Secaucus home to Joe’s Union City office and warehouse. A small entry room
at the front of the 3,000-square-foot brick edifice offered a set of
upholstered chairs and a curious buzzer beside a sliding opaque glass
I hesitantly engaged the buzzer, heard it’s ring in the not-too-distant
‘back room,’ and within a few minutes Leroy Colbert appeared, arms and all.
“Can I get a six-foot bar, please?”
“Sure. Wait here.”
I had singles and the exact change I’d saved from my weekend job delivering
groceries in Hoboken. Way to go, Dave. I was 13. See ya, and I was on my
Seasons passed. Buzz buzzzzz…
“Can I get a pair of 20-pound plates, please?”
“Sure. Wait here.”
Leroy was wearing a bulging light-blue short-sleeve shirt… sheeezz.
I said “Thanks, Leroy,” as I handed him the precise amount from my
now-five-year-old grocery store job. I was 14 and was on my way.
A few more visits and a few years older, a few pounds heavier and a few
inches taller, I gathered the courage and wits to bypass the buzzer and go
directly to the unloading dock at the rear of the building. That’s where I
met Joe. He stepped into the stockroom from the front offices to advise
Leroy about tasks at hand, nodded and disappeared. His sleeves were rolled
up, but the tie was seriously knotted.
It seems a truckload of weights was on the way from the foundry and needed
unloading before the day’s end. What? Are you kidding me? A truckload of
weights? Seriously? From the foundry? What could be more exciting to a
grocery delivery boy? Do you guys need help? Surprise, surprise! They did.
Before you know it, I was married, a dad, 22 and on my way to California to
participate in Joe’s fledgling operation in the once-golden state, Weider
Barbell, Santa Monica.
I shipped and received vitamins at Weider’s with George Eiferman, and
pushed and pulled iron in the Dungeon with Muscle Beach leftovers. Joe came
and went, timely monthly visits, to manage and observe the comings and
goings of goods and funds on the west coast, the left coast.
Something was happening and Joe knew it. There were drums in the distance
and Joe could hear them. He put his left hand to his forehead and reached
his right hand skyward: Joe had a vision. Where some saw a glow, Joe saw
brightly lit marquees and spotlights; what some heard as an echo of muscle
consent, Joe heard as raging cheers and a swell of admiration and
Joe’s muscle magazines gushed.
What some considered physical culture, the Trainer of Champs embraced as
baseball biceps and horseshoe triceps, barndoor lats and washboard abs. The
magazines of Weider Publications became ripped and veiny and zany. Bright
and dazzling issues of Mr. America and All-American Athlete and Muscle &
Fitness and Miss Americana splashed on the scene each month, engaging the
readers and vying for position.
What’s what and who’s who in muscle and might grew in excited response. I
think it was Jackie Robinson or Jackie Kennedy or Jake Petrowski, my next
door neighbor, who said with candid insight, “Bodybuilding has leaped
forward like a hunky bullfrog at the sight of a svelte lady frog in short
shorts.” Right on, J!
Joe Weider attended the birth of bodybuilding and physical fitness in the
’40s. During the ’50s, he was there to watch it take its first steps and
prevent it from falling. “What you need is a 110-pound dumbbell set and a
But in the ’60s he put Plan A into operation.
The promotion of big-time national bodybuilding competition attracted the
Master of Iron and he prepared the podium: Mr. America contest with
flourish, Mr. Universe with pizzazz, Mr. Olympia with the very best bodies
in the world — big venues, stupendous stages, superior contenders,
overflowing audiences, matching enthusiasm, significant trophies and the
beginnings of prize money.
Think about it, if you’re old enough or care enough:The mid-’60s was the
age of rage, the unmatched period of the great bodybuilding launch. Scott
and Howorth, Zane and Katz, Franco and Arnold, Sergio and Yorton were the
first in orbit. Neil and Apollo followed in ’69. One small step, one giant
The ’70s and ’80s brought muscle and power advancement, changes, directions
and volumes of aficionados. Joe was there, the leader of the surge. “Flex
your calves, stand upright, throw your shoulders back, tense your thighs.”
He was always giving advice.
You could say the sport was becoming crowded. Fitness and wellness took
hold, and gyms in chains sprawled from coast to coast, border to border.
And the story goes on and on.
You were there front row center, behind the camera, under the lights, on
the beach, throughout a champ’s workout, side by side with the man who
explored, spawned and imagined, introduced, expanded and electrified,
invented, magnified and mystified the arenas of musclebuilding and might.
Through it all, to this day and tomorrow too, JW stands in his perch above
the iron masses and observes and reminisces, remarks and directs, flexes
and hits an occasional most muscular shot. He can’t help himself. It feels
good and it’s good for you.
May we all rest in peace… God’s Speed… The Bomber