Categorized | Body Building, Health, Sports

Joe Weider, Creator of Bodybuilding Empire, Dies at 93 – New York Times

Joe Weider, a scrawny youngster who sculptured himself with bodybuilding during the Great Depression and created an empire of muscle magazines, fitness equipment, doubtful dietary supplements and Olympic-style contests featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, died on Saturday in Los Angeles. He was 93.

His death, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, was announced by Charlotte Parker, his longtime publicist.

Mr. Weider may not have been the 97-pound weakling of the comic books who got tired of having sand kicked in his face. But as a teenager in Montreal, he hated being roughed up by neighborhood hooligans, discovered bodybuilding in a magazine and bought into it for life. He developed a V-shaped torso with bulging biceps and abs like Michelangelo’s David, and he was still muscular and jut-jawed in his 70s and 80s.

In the intervening decades, Mr. Weider (pronounced WEE-dur), who moved to the United States as a young man, founded many of the world’s most popular bodybuilding magazines, including Muscle and Fitness, Flex, Men’s Fitness and, for women, Shape. They had 25 million readers at their peak and were crammed with photos of greased bodybuilders and Hollywood stars like Sylvester Stallone, Cher and Mr. Schwarzenegger.

Riding waves of postwar fascination with bodybuilding, Mr. Weider and his brother Ben founded the International Federation of Body Builders, which sponsored the Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia contests and other competitions for men and women featuring gibbous thighs and sugar-loaf pectorals. Ben Weider, who was the federation’s president from 1946 to 2006, established affiliates in some 170 countries.

With Joe Weider focusing on publications and products, the brothers promoted fitness as a lifestyle and bodybuilding as an international sport with Olympic aspirations (distinct from weight lifting), and sought to combat popular images of bodybuilders as muscle-bound oddballs.

In 1968, Mr. Weider recruited Mr. Schwarzenegger, an Austrian bodybuilding champion, moved him to Los Angeles and gave him $100 a week to write articles for his magazines that endorsed Weider products. Mr. Schwarzenegger also repeatedly won Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia titles. There were complaints that Weider athletes won his federation’s contests with suspicious regularity, but no proof of fixes was forthcoming.

Mr. Schwarzenegger said Mr. Weider was a constant through every stage of his career.

“He advised me on my training, on my business ventures, and once, bizarrely, claimed I was a German Shakespearean actor to get me my first acting role in ‘Hercules in New York,’ even though I barely spoke English,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said in a statement. “He was there for me constantly throughout my life, and I will miss him dearly.”

Mr. Weider had a knack for pseudoscientific, muscular-sounding names. He became “the Master Blaster” and developed fitness equipment like the Solid Steel Tricep Bomber and food supplements like Dynamic Muscle Builder protein powder, Carbo Energizer Chewables, Performance Foods and Anabolic Mega-Paks, which featured an ingredient that he said had been scraped from the floor of the Pacific.

“Nowadays, people want what a professional athlete would eat,” Mr. Weider told The New York Times in 1989. “So we developed these booster pancakes that give you extra amino acids, which are important in protein synthesis and the building of muscle tissue.”

He looked like the King of Bodybuilders, even in his later years. He had a Los Angeles tan that set off a mane of silver hair, a rakish silver mustache and the physique of a narcissistic gladiator. In photos that lined his office, he fit right in with his iron-pumping protégés like Mr. Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno, television’s Incredible Hulk.

Mr. Weider sold his equipment and dietary supplements through advertisements and feature articles that were unapologetically juxtaposed in his cataloglike magazines, which featured exotic pieces like “Bulgarian Leg Training Secrets.” The magazines circulated to millions around the world, many of whom were not fitness fanatics but just wanted to get in better shape.

While Mr. Weider began as a mail-order entrepreneur, his company by the 1980s was marketing his equipment in 6,000 retail outlets and nutritional products in 12,000 stores in the United States alone. By the 1990s, he was selling in at least 60 countries and grossing hundreds of millions of dollars annually for Weider America’s Total Fitness Company, based in Los Angeles.

Michael Schwirtz contributed reporting.


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Joe Weider, Creator of Bodybuilding Empire, Dies at 93 – New York Times
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