From his teenage years on, my dad was interested in weightlifting and body building (along with outdoorsy stuff, music, science fiction, and darned near anything else you could imagine. He never stopped, either — his fascination with virtually every field of human endeavor was one of the things I most admired about him.) I think I’ve told this story before, but when Dad’s best friend met him in junior high school, Dad had a muscle magazine rolled up in his back pocket, and was holding a copy of Swedenborg’s Heaven, Its Wonders and Hell. Later, Dad would put a small tattoo on his calf (along with one on the back of his hand — he always regretted both), because Reg Park had one like it.
When I was a kid in Nashville, a part of the basement was sporadically dedicated to workout gear, specifically free weights. After a while, life would get in the way, and he’d ignore the gear for a few years, returning to it every so often until age and arthritic shoulders got him to hang it up for good. But along with the weights, I remember that he had diagrams of all the standard weight training exercises on the wall, and that the diagrams were labeled as the “Joe Weider Training Course.” Likewise, he’d pick up a copy of Weider’s Muscle and Fitness magazine every now and then through the years, although he became less interested as performance-enhancing drugs became more common and more obvious. Joe Weider was a part of my childhood, although you certainly wouldn’t know it if you looked at me.
I was reminded of all that a few minutes ago, when I learned that the exercise magnate died today at the age of 93. Although the obit dwells on Weider’s publishing empire and his promotion of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and although it includes a 2006 picture in which Weider looks amazing for a man in his 80s, for me he’ll always be a name on my family’s basement wall and an inspiration to my dad. Thanks for that, and so long, Mr. Weider.