But the more bodybuilding and fitness spanned the globe, the more people became nostalgic for their Muscle Beach and Venice origins. Today, these gyms and beaches are viewed by competitive bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts alike as sacred ground, giving “the mecca of bodybuilding” a more literal meaning. In 1991, Howard finally saw his beloved Muscle Beach restored when the city of Venice allowed him to refurbish and reopen the weight pit under the official name of “Muscle Beach.” He now hosts contests and shows there that are akin to what he first saw 50 years ago in Santa Monica.
Weight training today is bigger than ever, and it’s the No. 1 fitness activity among regular folks. Nutritional-supplement sales are a multibillion-dollar industry, and diet books sell millions. “Every diet you see—whether it’s the Zone or anything else—is all the same,” says Drasin. “Everything is a bodybuilder diet. It’s all about high protein and low carbs to build muscle and lose fat.” Even Gold’s Gym has worldwide appeal, with gyms in 26 countries and a membership that numbers more than three million. Ferrigno, who still trains in Venice, has come to grips with the expansion while also carrying the torch of yesteryear. “Nowadays, we have actors and rock stars and regular people working out here,” he says. “But everybody respects the bodybuilders because this is our home. We got here first.”
Muscle Memories: The men who forged iron history look back with golden-era gossip
Coed Showers. According to bodybuilder Ric Drasin (visit him at ricdrasin.com), there were three women training at Gold’s in the early ’70s—but they weren’t exactly gym bunnies. “We showered together sometimes, but you wouldn’t want to check them out,” he says. “One was 6'2" with purple hair, and she handed me the soap.”
Arnold Is a Girly Man. The world’s biggest action star can’t throw a punch. “I saw Arnold get in a fight once,” says Drasin. “Some bodybuilder came into Gold’s, and they went at it—they were scratching each other like women. Neither one of them knew how to fight. . . . Arnold’s a great guy, though.”
The Tuna-and-water diet. Think low-carb granola bars are bad? That’s kids’ stuff. Dave Draper’s tuna-and-water diet was the most hardcore cutting plan of the day. “I still use it today,” says Draper. “It helps you put your disciplines in place.”
Jake the Snake. Jake Steinfeld, creator of the Body-by-Jake equipment line, trained at Gold’s, but not for long. “Joe Gold kicked him out of the gym for dropping weights,” says Drasin. “He was a loudmouth.”