Musclebuilding is as Old as the Hills

by Dave Draper
Foreword to West Coast Bodybuilding Scene

Musclebuilding is as old as the hills. When man first realized women were attracted to a slick, muscular body and discovered that rocks, prey, mischievous cave dwellers and monsters were lifted more easily with a mighty back and strong arms, he put his genius to work, and thus his body, to improve his sinewy assets. The Dinosaur Championships held in 10,000 BC surely crowned the original Mr. World when records were established in rock snatches and boulder clean-and-jerks.

The movement had begun and the next thing you know John Grimek is Mr. America and Steve Reeves is making Hercules films. This muscle stuff is becoming popular; there’s a subculture budding in the grungy YMCAs and garages across the states—it’s spreading to the sunny beaches of California and before long it will be mainstream.

And so the stage is set for the West Coast bodybuilding scene, that time in the history of weightlifting when bodybuilding neared critical mass, swirled in its growing energy and attracted its grand external source of power: the spectators. It was the Golden Era of Bodybuilding—new, young, alive, untainted, unworn, unexploited… and adored. Those spectators became fans.

West Coast Bodybuilding Scene is about a particular group of people with a special interest who inhabited a small region of California during a short period of time. Dick Tyler experienced, observed and recorded this golden stretch of bodybuilding history between ’65 and ’71 as a journalist, as a participant and as a weight-lifting devotee. His eyes and ears were acute and his love for the sport was wrapped in an affectionate sense of humor, the most accurate and appealing conduit of delivery for this unique physical expression.

You see, bodybuilding is a sport, an art form, a diversion, a hobby, an obsession, a competition, a love affair and a lifestyle.

Things heated up around the world in the ’60s. Life became restless. Emotions and passions of the sensitive and few picked up the current, responded to the eddies and felt the vibe. Men, and pretty soon a few women, looked for something to hold onto, to keep them ready and balanced, directed yet entertained—iron and steel, muscle and might. Muscle Beach, too wonderful to endure, sadly unraveled. Individuals surfaced in its place and what simmered for years was ready to erupt in slow motion.

Along with Dick’s storytelling, you’ll enjoy the passionate explosion of events from the lens of the cameras whose shutters were triggered at the perfect instant by artists Russ Warner and Artie Zeller, Jimmy Caruso and Gene Mozee. Only a few photographers witnessed in their viewfinders the vivid story that is about to unfold. Those same picture takers engendered the events, stimulated bodybuilding’s progress, universally popularized physical fitness and recorded the stunning occasions now known as history.

There were only a handful of weightlifters, powerlifters and bodybuilders during this natural period of muscle-building development. And in the U.S. three men and their magazines—Peary Rader with Ironman, Bob Hoffman with Strength and Health and Joe Weider with Mr. America and Muscle Builder—sought to expand the sport and popularize its participants.

Popularize soon became capitalize. It was during the Golden Era when the machinery of competition and marketing magnified and amplified the activities of muscle and might, iron and steel, and went on to create the large pool of spectators and participants of all shapes and sizes we know today.

Bodybuilding, once a puppy with a wagging tail, is now a monster. I do not say this without affection. Monsters can be cute.

My name is Dave Draper and I had the precious advantage (graced by God, actually) of being in the middle of it all. And I’m in the middle of it all again. The years have come and gone and tons of weights have moved up and down. I, as you, love this stuff and can’t put it aside.

Dick’s story is accompanied by 160 pictures worth a thousand words, and I slip in my two cents to comment on the black and white portrayals to keep you apprised of names, dates, places and events.

This is not a history from which to learn, but a memory to share and delight in, and the stiff and factual account gives way to loose continuity. There was a marriage in the minds and souls of Dick and photographer Artie Zeller that cannot be duplicated, and their synergy provides an insight into a beautiful past that no historian or scholar could ever understand.

Life happens once, only here may it happen again.

Dave Draper

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Care to read another excerpt? Here are a couple of sweet memories:

Golden Impressions

Dick Tyler remembers the 1965 Mr. America