Steve and Marc discuss:
- (01:34) - Marc's background in bodybuilding
- (05:36) - Reflections on bodybuilding in Southern California
- (26:03) - Setting the record straight on steroid use
- (33:52) - Frank Zane
- (38:33) - Robby Robinson
- (40:32) - Butler, Gaines, and Arnold
- (42:46) - "Dream Big"
- (48:18) - Pumping Iron
- (59:44) - Hypersexuality in bodybuilding
- (01:10:56) - What's next for Marc
- Watch Dream Big on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Dream-Big-Ken-Sprague/dp/B0B8ST5LNL/
- Dream Big documentary: https://dreambigdoc.com/
- Dream Big trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X22ISDn083A
- Pumping Iron: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lCCk6rgn84
Creators & Guests
What is Manifold?
Steve Hsu is Professor of Theoretical Physics and Computational Mathematics, Science, and Engineering at Michigan State University. Join him for wide-ranging conversations with leading writers, scientists, technologists, academics, entrepreneurs, investors, and more.
Welcome to Manifold. Today, my guest is Marc Martinez. He is the director of a new documentary called Dream Big. The documentary is a love note to the 1970s in Southern California to the golden age of bodybuilding and to Gold's Gym in particular.
Marc, welcome to the podcast.
Marc Martinez: Thank you, Stephen. Thanks for having me.
Steve Hsu: Now I just want to start by saying everyone should watch this documentary because it is a beautiful insight into a long-gone era in Southern California, which was very unique. It's a window into a particular subculture that has become mainstream now in America, but at the time was a very fringe subculture, bodybuilding. I do want to say to all the viewers that before you watch Dream Big, I was able to watch it on Amazon Prime, and I think I only paid 49 cents. It was very inexpensive just to rent it for a week. But before you do that, honestly, you should watch another documentary called Pumping Iron, which came out in 1977 and played a big role in transforming America and, and making Americans aware of what bodybuilding was all about. So watch Pumping Iron and then watch Dream Big.
Marc, sorry for that long monologue. I want to start by just asking you about your childhood and what got you interested in bodybuilding.
Marc Martinez: Yeah, you know, I think when I got to, to high school, well, you know, e entering high school, you, you, you know, you're, you're licking the wounds from a first love gone bad, you know, and at, at that age when we're constructing, who we are as a person, you know, the default for many, and, and Joe Wheater just, you know, knew this, is that most guys will think, oh, I'm not enough. You know, and, and, and it's human nature. We don't look inward, we look outward, you know, and outward into the mirror and you're like, ah, you know what, I don't look like those guys in the back of the magazine, in the ads, in the muscle courses. So, I know that that was a large impetus for me.
Also my freshman year, a teammate had brought the book Pumping Iron to school. And when I saw that, and that was the, that was the year the book was released. This was like 70 school years, 74, 75. And, the photos in that one, I, I, you know, grew up in Southern California, we were not that far from where those photos were taken. When you grew up as a native Southern California, and, you know, Venice, Venice, California is, is, is, you know, not a safe place. , kinda you know, had a reputation for, for a lot of odd balls, back then anyway.
And, but it, it really, attracted, you know, attracted me to, to at least, you know, start lifting a bit, you know, put on a little bit of weight. And, it was kind of like in the back of my mind for a couple more years before I made the journey to Gold.
But I think that was it, you know, just like, ah, you know, scrawny kid. You know, let me add some muscle, you know, may, maybe, maybe that'll cure everything, you know.
Steve Hsu: I want to dwell on this just a little bit now. At the beginning of the documentary, I think it's a little autobiographical, right? So I think there's a shot of you with the teenage girl who broke your heart.
Marc Martinez: Yeah. Yeah. Just as, oh, by, by the way, a wonderful person.
Steve Hsu: But, but sort of led you to feel like, oh man, I gotta do some self-improvement or something.
Marc Martinez: Yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. And, and, you know, to, to be semi, you know, autobiographical, the owner of the Jim Ken Sprague, when, we had reconnected and I was going to do this documentary and, there was like five guys over, well, I was interviewing at, at the studio up here in Northern California, and, and he says, you know, I don't know what your structure's going to be, but you should tell your story.
And I was, I was really hesitant too. I said, I just kind of want to do an almost, you know, archeological type of overview. And he's like, I just think documentaries are much more interesting when there's a personal Handle you could grip onto, so to speak. So, yeah, I kind of did it begrudgingly, but I did, yeah.
Steve Hsu: I'm glad you did because I think your story is every kid's story and, you know, something about the seventies is that, cause I'm a little bit younger than you, but I did live through the seventies and , one of the things was people in our generation, you never really saw a big muscular guy in person. You saw it first maybe in the comics themselves like Captain America or Superman. That was like the first like an actual muscular, well-developed man that you ever saw. And then in the back of the comic book where the ads were, where all these weird ads teach you, try to tell you things that would make you look like that.
Remember, remember all that? I think you even referenced it.
Marc Martinez: Absolutely.
Steve Hsu: And so when a beautiful book of photography like Pumping Iron comes out and we're, I'm going to show stills throughout our discussion. Sorry for the people that are listening to this as audio only. You might want to switch over and watch the YouTube version of this podcast, just this once, because Marc and I are going to discuss some of these photos, some that appear in his film, and some which appear in the movie docu, the movie Pumping Iron and in the book Pumping Iron.
But when I first saw those photos, and maybe you as well, some, some of those images were the very first time I had seen an anatomically fully developed, you know, latissimus dorsi or a rector spina, you know, the, the, the anatomical muscles that just normally you don't really realize what they're supposed to look like when they're fully developed.
Um, so it, it was very, had a very big impact on me when I first saw the book Pumping Iron.
Marc Martinez: Yeah. Yeah. I agree. A hundred percent. I was, just, just flabbergasted because, you know, I think, you know, growing up in Southern California, we were kind of, now it doesn't matter what the internet, a fad hits anywhere. It can hit, you know, in Dubai or Kenya or New York on the same day.
But, you know, it's like, I was listening to, I'm trying to think. What musician it was, I think it was Danny Elman from Mogo Boingo. And he was on a podcast and he said back, he said like back in the early eighties, you know, he goes, when I was, he goes, when we were playing in California and then we would go to the Midwest, you know, you know, we would see a difference in clothing styles because some of the styles hadn't hit yet. , which was common.
I mean, I was around, I mean, one yeah, top level professional bodybuilders, no one saw. So yeah, that blew my mind. But in Southern California being a hotbed for, you know, developing athletes into the N F L or Major League baseball or whatnot, you saw more than your fair share of guys that picked up iron.
But definitely nowhere near the level of, of, you know, Arnold DeFranco or Bill Grant or Frank Zane. And, those photos, you know, I mean, George Butler's photos just captured, I mean, not only the guy's physiques, but also that time and place, you know, the beach, you know, just fantastic.
Steve Hsu: Yeah. Phenomenal. So I'm going to, you already mentioned some famous names. Now most of my listeners are, you know, science guys and startup founders and professors. So they're not going to know these names. We're going to go through a few photos now to just acquaint them with the young men at the time who are now older, that you're talking about, who are giants from the era of the golden age of bodybuilding.
Now you mentioned Ken Sprague. He's the tall guy in the back
Marc Martinez: Yeah, Ken is on the far, far right behind, left to right. , and this is the second Street Golds. This is the Santa Monica location. And on the far left, the gentleman with his head turned sideways was a guy we all knew was Frenchie. He obviously was from France and we just knew him as Frenchie then.
Then there's Robby Robinson, the first bodybuilder you see, and I think Robby was the first pro bodybuilder I saw up close when I walked into golds in Santa Monica. And, you know, just seeing not only the size of the muscle, but the cross gyrations that you get from really advanced development, was just freakish.
And then you see in the middle there, the gentleman with the mustache and the glasses. That's publisher Joe Wheater. , and then next you'll see Bill Grant, who's, who's in my documentary. And, a wonderful gentleman still training hard, in New Jersey. , and, and then Ken, who saved gold, who bought Golds, when it was going to go under back in 1971.
And. saved it from closing down and, so yeah, that's, left to right
Steve Hsu: So for, so for those of you who are just catching the audio, we're talking about a picture from the seventies in the front are two very famous bodybuilders, Robby Robinson. and Bill Grant, who is both African American and this guy Ken Sprague, who saved Golds when it got into financial trouble, is in the background.
And Joe Wheater, I think has even liked, maybe received his own biopic at this point. Like he's the, the business mind that really, grew bodybuilding from nothing into a, a, a multimillion-dollar empire.
Marc Martinez: Yeah.
You know, George, George Butler, when he was making Pumping Iron had said, you know, Arnold was famous within his world, but it was a very small world and, and, and I mean, one Joe. I deeply loved bodybuilding, I'm sure. But he could only grow it so much. I think the conduit that helped Joe access a much wider audience was the writer Charles Gaines and the filmmaker George Butler.
I think without those guys, you know, we wouldn't even be having these discussions today. I mean, who knows, right? You can only guess.
Steve Hsu: I totally agree with you. , the photos, you know, the, the, if you think of photography as an art, the book, Pumping Iron is a work of art. And the prose. The prose in that book is actually phenomenal. So those are two super talented guys. We'll show you a photo of them in just a second, who somehow got the tip that this was a cool thing happening and they just went and explored it and helped to blow it up.
Marc Martinez: Yeah, I'm sorry.
Steve Hsu: oh, I was just going to say before we leave this photo, for the people that are watching who can see it. But probably you're familiar with what people mean when they say he has a six pack or he has an eight pack. They're talking about the abs. But both of these guys are so defined. You can see their serratus, which is a small set of muscles on either side of the abs, which most people will never know they have. But if you look at the bodybuilder, you can see that. And it's an example of something about human anatomy that, like when I was growing up in the seventies, I first saw these pictures. I was like, what is that?
So let me, let me just, let me just jump through a couple of these photos and we will talk some more.
This is from the book Pumping Iron. This is Arnold working out. , he's doing incline presses in one picture and he's doing pullovers with a barbell in another photo. And, maybe you can say a little bit, was this the original golds?
Marc Martinez: That was, that was the original gold on, on Pacific Avenue. And that was, you know, obviously these are the George Butler photos and. What's great about one, because it's taken, this is photography from an artist. So, you know, like a bodybuilding magazine or probably a how-to book, you know, the, the, the, the camera angle, you know, is going to show something totally different, like how to properly perform this exercise or whatever.
And here it's great. He's just that overhead shot, where you know, Arnold is laying on the bench and it's just a totally different perspective. And then also the incline breast shots. This, the incline press shots. This series of 'em, it's, it's more of a, I have, you know, I have, you know, eye in the sky type of look down that I think is really, really, interesting.
Um, just wonderful photos.
Steve Hsu: What hit me when I, as a kid and I saw these photos, was number one, you can see the pain that Arnold is the, the, the concentration and the pain that he's enduring and in, in the incline press, which was actually my favorite movement, upper body movement when I was growing up. , you can see his eyes on the bar and they're bugging out when he tries to get the last few reps.
His, his, his eyes look like they're about to explode out of his head.
Marc Martinez: Yeah.
Steve Hsu: Really, these are black and white photos and they just really give you a sense of what it's like to train with weights.
Marc Martinez: Yeah. Yeah. His kind, you know, they said he, he spoke a lot about, mind muscle connection and. I, I, you know, you kind of just kinda like blow it off when you're young and you don't really, don't think about it all that much. You're just worried about hoisting the weight. But I think it's really true. I think when some people, you know, if they decide to exercise and, and any sort of exercise, if the results kind of slow down, then we have to think, oh, we have to be mindful and present in the moment of what we're actually doing.
And that's probably, you know, what helps any sort of results, right? Rather than just going through the motions.
Steve Hsu: Absolutely. I think this level of intensity people just were not prepared for. Like, I think in the seventies, like what? What did anyone do? They jogged around the block or something. Maybe if they played some really serious competitive sport like wrestling or something, they could be familiar with this level of intensity, but most people weren't.
Marc Martinez: Oh yeah, for sure. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, yeah, the people that were lifting weights in gyms was such a small percentage of the population. This is another photo from, from Pumping Iron, and you could see the light coming through the front windows. , of course here the contrast, it just looks like it's, like a white wall, but it's actually the, the foggy morning and , you could see Arnold flexing his legs behind, you know, the reflection in the mirror from the dumbbell rack.
Um, yeah, great. Yeah, great stuff. And you know, back then, you know, when Ken, you know, Kent Break said, he goes, there were barely any more than 10 people in the gym. , you know, during that time. I mean, that's why Arnold walked around barefoot. You know, there was no one's going to drop a weight on anybody.
There weren't a whole lot of people there.
Steve Hsu: Oh, it's insane. Yeah, they were so casual. They were just wearing crappy clothes and you know, the Pacific Ocean was not very far away. And yeah, Arnold's barefoot in the Behind him is Ken Waller, I think, who plays a big role. Yeah, go.
Marc Martinez: Yeah. Yeah. That's Ken to the camera. Camera. Right. And then to the left of him is, he was a European bodybuilder. He's mentioned in the book, I think that's Pierre Vaneen. Yeah. Oh yeah, that's right. He's from Belgium. Yes. , as Pier Pierre. ,
Steve Hsu: Pier Vanden something.
Marc Martinez: Yeah, I thought it was Vaneen and I, yeah.
I can't recall right off the top of my head, but ripped to the bone. Muscularity as, as they call it, just, you know, very, very low body fat level. He was known for.
Steve Hsu: Yep. Now, for those of you that can't see the photo, Arnold is in the front. This is shot through. The mirror is behind the dumbbell rack, and the photographer has got the camera pointed at the mirror. So he is, looking at Arnold's reflection and Arnold's pulling up his gym shorts to reveal the development of his upper quads, the striations or the, the, the, the distinguished muscles of the different heads of the quads.
And, you know, it's called check posing, which bodybuilders would do, or just inspecting their muscle. I think to most Americans at that time, you would, if, for a man to do that, you would be considered just narcissistic. It would be considered just wrong and kind of, I think at the time people would've said, it's kind of gay for you to be looking at your muscles like that.
But everything changed, I think, culturally because of this book and subsequent things.
Marc Martinez: Oh, absolutely.
Steve Hsu: Okay, here's a full-blown picture of Arnold. Straight on. You can see just how massively developed he is. He's in contest shape here. I think this is from the book Pumping Iron. You can correct me if I'm wrong, maybe the second edition or
Marc Martinez: It probably does, does, did come from the second edition. , I, I had the fir, I had the, obviously the original and I think that's from a contest in New York. And the only reason I, which would be pre 75, but, or, or this could be from 19 eight. No, it's not from 1980, it's from 74. And I think if you could see, the gentleman between, where Arnold's right arm would be framed, left.
There's a gentleman sitting there like a large. A large guy in a blazer with a judge's badge. I think that's a professional wrestler. Brun Bernard Samino. So there's some getting in the weeds trivia.
Steve Hsu: Marc, you, you, you are a pro. Because just getting into the weeds here, I was looking at this photo and I was thinking, this is not Sydney, this is not Arnold in. When he came back in 1980 and he wasn't really in peak form, this looks like Arnold in peak form. So I was trying to place it, and it's not the competition that's in the movie Pumping Iron where he's in South Africa.
So I couldn't quite figure out where this was taken.
Marc Martinez: Yeah. I mean, and I had to, I comb through so many photos and then also, When I was interviewing Charles Gaines at his home in Alabama, and I spent a few days with him and, you know, and it was time to say goodbye and, and I brought several of his books for him to sign, for me, you know, being, being the fanboy, you know, he's, he's written, several non-fiction books in a novel and, yeah, he said, yeah.
He goes, oh, I'm glad you brought the original. He goes, I never liked any of the reissues. You know, they changed the cover of the book. They changed , some photos within, and I've never even looked at 'em. I look at the cover and I don't even open the book, of the newer reissues, but he said, yeah, they changed quite a few things in the, the newer ones, I guess kind of update 'em, but he goes, it just to me just, he goes, I never cared for much
Steve Hsu: I think I have a second edition. So it has some of the 1980 competition in it, for example.
Marc Martinez: , is that done with Tom Platz on the cover and not
Steve Hsu: Yes, yes. It's got Tom Platz in color on the cover.
Marc Martinez: Yeah, well that's, I'm sure also a publishing decision. They're like, Hey, look guys, let's put a color photo on it and get someone more contemporary and we gotta move some units. So,
Steve Hsu: Yep. No, that's understandable.
This photo I love, and this is in the book, it caught my eye when I was a kid. , and it's never, always stayed with me. Two things about, well, three things. One, obviously the Southern California, the palm trees, the, the comradery, the, the, the, the, the, the, the, the fun, the casual nature of the relationship between Arnold and Franco.
Franco's hanging upside. From a bar, they're training outdoors. And then of course there are two beautiful girls there in bikinis, who, who they're hanging out with. So I think one, one of the best photos, I think, that captures the whole milia
Marc Martinez: Oh, absolutely. And, and, just Arnold's condition there, you know, just you look at the size of the trapezius muscles and I mean, it's just, you know, it, it, this is 19. I think they took these photos in 72 or 73, which really puts it in perspective that his level of development and Francos and a few of the other top guys were there, at that point in time.
And that's at the, the weight put in, in Venice, which was, you know, the original Gold was a couple blocks up and about a block or two down. But you could see like the little benches there, which now that place is all, you know, it's all upgraded and it's got like a nice, cemented type, almost miniature amphitheater type look to the, to the, to the seating area.
And there you see little wooden little league benches, you know, which is what it was like for many, many, many years. , yeah, just a foggy morning in Venice.
Steve Hsu: Incredible. I, I, I think I, I think you say this several times in the movie, that it's, it's a, a magical little world that's just, we're never going to see it again. Right? It's just like lightning in a bottle and then no more.
Marc Martinez: Yeah. I was, you know, John Bay who's in the, he's a gentleman who competed in the early to mid sixties and then became a photographer and publisher and published, he finally bought a publication called Ironman and was the, the owner, publisher editor for, for a couple decades of it. And, he had come from Chicago and he had said, you know, he goes, that area, you know, Southern California area of Santa Monica, Venice was kind of the closest thing they had to Greenwich Village on the West Coast.
And I think that's very true, you know, in terms of artists flocking there because the rent was cheap. , and, you know, just living a life outside of the mainstream American life.
Steve Hsu: Yep. Bunch of strange subcultures rubbing up against each other in Venice at that time, including this one All right. Now we got a picture of you, the young you.
Marc Martinez: Yes.
Steve Hsu: , for the listeners, we've got Joe Wheater talking to a guy called Mike Menzer, who is kind of a philosophical intellectual of bodybuilding, but also a top competitor. Maybe he was, he had just done a seminar or something. And Marc Martinez, as my guest, is looking at the camera right over Mike Menzer's shoulder.
So tell us about this.
Marc Martinez: We, the funny thing was that morning in the gym, you know, it was depending on my school schedules when I could make it in the gym. And I liked being able to get in in the mornings because it was less crowded. And that morning you'll, you know, there was a photographer, named Craig Deets and he was taking shots of another top competition.
Uh, a guy named Danny Padilla and then Mike Menzer. And then there were a lot of shots with Joe Weeder there. So this was kind of how, the myth was perpetrated as you'd see these guys training obviously because that was their, Almost jobs, so to speak. And then when it came time for magazine photos, Joe would come in and then Joe would pose with the guys.
Like he was there all the time, you know, pointing out how to do this certainty, you know? And so when I, when I meet people from other parts of the country that actually thought Joe was there, and it's like, well the running joke was guys would make fun of 'em. , I mean, in a good natured way, like, you know, you know, Joe was in here yesterday showing me how to.
you know, turn my wrist a bit to make this curl perfect and, but it's sold, right. , but anyway, this morning there was a photo shoot with Danny Padilla and Mike Menzer, and Joe Wheater was there. Craig Dietz took the photos and it was kind of like a relatively normal morning in the gym. It wasn't until I was making this documentary that my friend in New York, he's a lawyer named Scott Murphy and he's, you know, as a lawyer, he does a lot of tracking and he, and he, and he goes, I was looking online. He goes, is this you? I had never seen that photo until he showed it to me a couple years ago. I had no idea it existed. , again, I don't know if that photo ever appeared in the Weeder magazine. I would, I I, I would think that it didn't, because I was, you know, up until probably the early eighties, still buying the magazines and I figured, okay, this thing would've shown up by then, but maybe.
But, yeah, so that's one, one morning in either late 1977 or early 78. And , there I am.
Steve Hsu: Wow.
Wow. Now I gotta ask this question. So mens are here are so ripped. What was the situation with steroid use there? So one story I hear from the old timers is, oh, we only took a cycle like eight weeks before a contest. And most of the time we were not on gear. But I wonder about that. , maybe, you know, can kind of, kind of set the record straight.
Marc Martinez: You know, they were more moderate back then, but I, I would say, I would say it was, and they made no bones about it, there was no secret. And in fact, one of the first days that, that I was at Gold's, there was a guy who was a, A training partner of Robby Robinson and, and, and, he had just come back from Mexico because they would drive down to the pharmacies in Tijuana and load up and then drive back.
And he was distributing what, whatever the guys needed. And you have to remember back then they weren't illegal. So, you know, it wasn't that big a deal.
I've heard from 12 to 16 weeks was more the truth and they would go off. I mean, the guys, I would've, I mean, I haven't followed bodybuilding in so long, but I hear they're on 'em year round, which is probably why guys are dying in their, you know, even twenties, you know, twenties and thirties.
Uh, but I think it's a combination of a lot of things. But I would see the guys get larger. I mean, this is, this is, I think Danny and Mike were actually getting ready for a show, which is why they do the photos when they start getting in the top shape. , yeah. So they were, yeah, they were definitely on. And this, the, the, the prevailing wisdom back then seemed to be anywhere from 12 to 16 weeks that they'd be on and back then the guys would actually, you know, get bigger and more ripped. They weren't, they weren't dieting off a lot of fat. They weren't guys that were bulking up and then they would have to lose weight to strip down. It was almost the reverse. , but , yeah, that was a dirty little secret. Yeah.
Steve Hsu: I think the guys, you know, when they're off cycle, like I think even in, like in your film, you can see a lot of variation in, for example, how Ken Waller looks at different times. And, and sometimes you can see he's pretty smooth and, you know, doesn't look nearly as good. Especially like when you're wearing clothes.
Like if you're that big, you look kind of, you actually could look fat wearing, like even Arnold can look at clothes. , even though he looks great without the clothes. , it just seemed like there was a lot of, for some guys, there was a lot of variation between when they were on and off in terms of how ripped they were, for example.
Marc Martinez: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Without a doubt. And it, and it was, you know, and that was the thing, I think, it was, they didn't seem to really care that they didn't look like Superman every day of the year. It was about the actual competition. And it's like, okay, well this is part of the process. I'll work on my weak points in the off season. , I'll, I'll eat within reason. I'm not going to eat like a maniac, but I'll eat within reason. And then when it's time to lock down the diet and go on the stuff, then, then I know that my hard work will show. And that seemed to be, that's, that's a total paradigm shift I think in the thinking of, of guys that feel they have to look that way all the time now, because that goes beyond just the competition. I think other, other motivating factors going on there. But
Steve Hsu: Yeah, I'm, I'm glad you mentioned. Because I, one, one of the things that occurred to me having lived through all this is that bodybuilding kind of made it okay for men to care a lot about what their physique looked like. Whereas pre golden era, or even through the golden era, most American men would've just been embarrassed to say something like, oh, I gotta build up my biceps, or something like this. This bodybuilding movement and also like, I dunno if you remember a movie called American Gigolo with
Marc Martinez: Oh yeah, Richard.
Steve Hsu: Richard Gere. They show Richard Gere working out with gravity boots and dumbbells and laying out his Armani jacket and ties and suits, shirts. I'm caring a lot about his appearance and he's a super successful heterosexual, gigolo. So at some point it got normalized for men to care about their physique and how they looked.
And so now you have guys going to the gym, not thinking like one for one week of the year. I'm going to look like Adonis, but actually just throughout the course of the year, I want to just look good. And a somewhat different mindset, as you said.
Marc Martinez: Yeah. Well, again, I mean, because yeah, American Gigolo was what, early eighties. And then you think today, I mean obviously like you said, now it's, it's so mainstream and so ingrained in our culture. Now there's manscaping products, right? I mean, could, I mean, could you imagine that like, you know, in, in in 19, you know, 72 or 19, you know, 1981, a manscaping product?
It's, it's, it's now it's normalized, you know, so
Steve Hsu: Yeah, I think that's the, for, for some of my listeners who are, you know, professors in sociology and humanities and social science and stuff, I, I think one of the most interesting aspects of what we're talking about, you might just say, oh, we're just talking about some weird cults or subculture that exists in the seventies and these guys are freaks. In fact, it kind of took over America. , like your son in high school is probably like lifting weights in part because of, pumping iron and, and all this stuff that happened in the seventies.
Marc Martinez: Yeah. You know, it's, it's so, it's, well, it's, you know, bodybuilding for I think a, a lot of people, I think it, it jumped the shark, but I mean, the culture's still there and it's huge. And it has its own, it's so huge. It has it, it's a huge business. , but my son and his buddies were doing CrossFit in high school.
Um, and , They saw lifting as one, as as, as getting stronger and you know, obviously helping their self-esteem and feeling confident about themselves. But in terms of like, muscle for muscle's sake, they couldn't understand it. , you know, so it's kind of flipped in that way. But then again, there's the hardcore bodybuilding war that's, you know, now.
Now the top competitors are weighing 300 pounds. , you know, with no body fat on stage, you know, so
Steve Hsu: Yeah, I, I think one of the reasons I like age, my age kind of prefers the golden age. bodybuilders are they, they look a little more normal or aesthetically appealing to me than the current super monstrous guys that are the top bodybuilders. I would also even say that like the top CrossFitters. Now, some of those guys are on here, but a lot of the top CrossFitters are not that far off.
Some of the smaller golden age guys in size, wouldn't you?
Marc Martinez: Oh yeah, definitely. I mean their physiques are really impressive. You know, I remember, I don't know if he's still competing, but Rich Froning, yeah. And I'm like, yeah, you know what? I go, there's probably tons and tons of guys that say, Hey, I wouldn't mind looking like that, you know? Yeah. Just a fit looking, you know, muscular guy.
Um, yeah, totally agree.
Steve Hsu: Froning would be on the small side, I think even for like a professional guy in the seventies. But still it's, it's, it's, it's within the range. It's, he's definitely much bigger than any normal guy you'd see walking around in the
Marc Martinez: Right, right.
Steve Hsu: Let me go to another photo. So here's Mr. Aesthetic. You mentioned his name earlier. His name is Frank Zane. And for the real guys that are sort of mass fanatics who really like big bodybuilders, they think of Frank Zane as kind of frail and skinny. In fact, maybe Froning could be more muscularly dense than Frank Zane.
But, here he is in his favorite, a famous post, I think this is called The Vacuum, where you can just really see just how chiseled he is and just how perfectly proportioned every part of his body is.
Marc Martinez: Yeah. And they, they, Frank was, or is, well his competitive days, he's a, a very, a very nice guy. I would see . I saw Frank at World Gym when I switched to World Gym when Ken sold gold and he was there most mornings. A very quiet, well spoken man. He was a school teacher. I know he got his, I think he got his, masters at Cal State LA and his PhD, I think it was out near Palm Springs.
I'm trying to think of what State University was out there. Maybe Loma Linda. Anyway, he was really, really into the mind muscle connection. , but another thing too though, for people that didn't see Frank Zane in person up close, he was a lot larger than people gave him credit for. , you know, because he was friends with the two guys that were managers at World Gym at the time, a gentleman named Zebo, Kazuki and Eddie Giuliani. And they were all buddies. And, they would talk and I'd be there in the morning with one of my training partners and you would stand next to Frank and, you know, he was about, you know, I was, I think we were about the same height, about five 10 or so, but, you know, for people that said he was small, I think everything was so unproportionate that you didn't realize how large he was.
Um, I mean, of course he's stepping on stage against other professional bodybuilders who are weighing, outweighing him by 20, 30 pounds. But, you know, if you saw him walking across the street, like most laymen would say, holy cow. Who's that? , yeah.
Steve Hsu: Now, now at five 10, he would, would he compete under 200?
Marc Martinez: Yeah, he'd be right at the limit, I think. I think he would always be anywhere from, I think his, in the early eighties. And I really liked his look when he, I think, I think he had stopped competing by 83 or 84, maybe, I think 83. But he was, he was probably the high one in the nineties in the early eighties, and I like that look better than the seventies when he won the olympics, because he was, I think they said he was at the heaviest, about 190, but, .
Steve Hsu: Yeah. So at 5 10, 1 90, even though he's like really low percentage body fat, I, I think like Froning could be more dense, don't you think?
Marc Martinez: Oh. Yeah. Oh yeah. No doubt. I'm, yeah, I'm sure he probably carried more beef and it, it's just amazing to think of how the aesthetics changed. So, .
Steve Hsu: Yeah, I think nowadays any guy you know who could have like the Zane 5, 10, 1 90 proportions would be like, I'll take that in a second. Right?
So this is a photo of a French bodybuilder named Serge Nubret who I always thought in terms of aesthetics and seems like every single picture I've seen of him, he's just ripped. I think he's just genetically gifted. I always felt he had one of the best physiques out there and didn't, maybe, didn't get the credit that he deserved.
Marc Martinez: I agree. I agree. And it shows you just how subjective it all is, because, Yeah, I mean, for people to look at this photo , it's just mind blowing, you it's just.
Steve Hsu: In the seventies to see that. You just wouldn't know what, you know, like you would say like, oh, like those weird little Marcs that when they draw Captain America or you know, something. It's like those little things. Now I know what they are. Those are real features of human anatomy.
Marc Martinez: It's just, yeah, just, just amazing. And, and I, and I agree. I mean, how do you say one guy's better than the other when you're not doing anything objectively to, you know, no, no one crosses the finish line first. No one jumps higher, no one even lifts more weight. It's just what certain judges decide to see and Marc down on a piece of paper.
So like, like figure skating, I guess. But even so , they're doing something. Oh.
Steve Hsu: So here's a photo of Robby Robinson. This is very imposing, it's a full page photo in the original, I think the original pumping iron book. And he's facing the camera. And again, when I was flipping through this in the bookstore, I was a kid and I was just blown away because Robby is just massive in this picture, but he's sitting down relaxed.
Marc Martinez: Yeah, yeah. Just sitting there and then he obviously had that style of, of dressing, you know, just so. so Venice, you know, you know the, the, the beads and the ripped shirt and
Steve Hsu: Yep. Incredible. Now did you, did you try to get him for your movie? because he's in the movie, but he's not, I don't think you
Marc Martinez: Yeah, I did. There were several guys. I tried to get it. , and, you know, who knows what goes through their mind. I did have other people speak with them, you know, like Bill Grant or Ken Waller. Like, you know, hey, we're, we're participating in this. You know, we think, we think you should, you think you'd have fun?
It's kind of an arch, archival piece, but you know, he didn't, I'm trying Danny, Danny Padilla, I wanted to get, because he was a. , a big part of the Santa Monica Gold's. But yeah, it would've, it would've been, nice to get him. It would've been great to get Danny, because he's got a fantastic sense of humor, you know, great insights.
Steve Hsu: When I first saw this photo as a kid, I almost thought they kind of on purpose put, there's a white guy in the background working out who, you know, is not unathletic or unfit, but clearly like, is like almost like from a totally different level of, of development as Robby. And I was almost like a contrast between like this guy sitting in the foreground and this guy working really hard in the
Marc Martinez: Oh, I know, I know. That could just be George Butler's eye too, but. Yeah. Yeah. The top guys were just, yeah, from another planet.
Steve Hsu: Unbelievable.
Okay, so here are the three. This is Butler, Gaines, and Arnold and a pretty small looking Arnold like, you know, way off. His con seems like way off his contest size.
Marc Martinez: Yeah. Yeah. So, yeah, there's, you know, Charles Gaines on the far left, George Butler in the middle, and then, and then Arnold and. I know the story went that, I mean, Pumping Iron wouldn't, the movie wouldn't even have been made because Arnold wanted to just retire. And George Butler who wanted to make the documentary said, you know, it's not going to work unless you're in it, you know, and, you know, we'll try and get some money to pay you to make it worth your while.
And, I mean, it was, But, yeah, I mean I think you look at those ones, obviously Arnold being the figure that would be able to draft the attention and had that charisma. And then two guys that, you know, Gaines as a, as a wonderful writer and, you know, George Butler filmmaker, and, and they had connections within, within the New York literary world and the art world to, to, you know, to kind of move some mountains to, to get that done.
Um, yeah, I just, you know, I, I, I told, I told Charles and I said, I go, it took me decades for me to realize, that, my, my love affair was bo with bodybuilding. Probably wasn't so much bodybuilding itself, but the world that you wrote about, you know, the pros and, and, he had said, he kind of, he goes, I kind of had a, had had to approach it like a, a sun also rises type of, approach, you know, because I had to think of that in my head as like some kind of, you know, I'll use these bodybuilder guys. Think of them as expatriates separated from America and, and take it from that. So yeah, those guys, yeah.
Steve Hsu: Yeah, beautifully done. I recommend the writing of, in the book Pumping Iron, not just the photographs. It's really beautifully written.
Marc Martinez: Yeah, yeah. Wonderful book.
Steve Hsu: So, Marc, I should have done this earlier, but I want to play now a little trailer for your documentary. Again, apologies to the people who are only getting audio, but at least you can hear what people are saying. I really recommend for this episode you get on YouTube so you can see all these photos and videos that we're sharing with you.
Dream Big: There's a feeling back then that that, I don't know if anybody will ever understand. It was as close to Greenwich Village on the West Coast. That we had, it was a last stop before jumping in the ocean. Is what the reputation was. California itself was a stunning change for me from any place else. And it had what you can't buy, which is a, aal a , a feeling about it and the will to train there felt totally like.
You just fell down with the pursuit to the perfect place. Well, what it was like was magic, you know? It was almost better than any reality that I would've imagined. It's like a series of dominoes following, and if one of 'em hadn't, none of this would've happened. I mean, it's just this perfect, good luck event.
The world that I lived in for those. Was the best world ever lived in.
Steve Hsu: I love that quote from Grant.
Marc Martinez: Oh yes.
Steve Hsu: world was, what did he say? That world was the best. That world that I lived in was the best world. Or sorry, something like that.
Marc Martinez: That I ever lived in. Yeah.
Steve Hsu: Incredible. Talk. Talk to us a little bit about the struggles that you went through and getting the documentary made. I mean, obviously always. I, I, my understanding is that making a documentary film is just always an incredible struggle.
Marc Martinez: Yeah, it's , now, because it's always about one, even being able to, pitch it. You know, and this is, you know, this is really, a hundred percent homemade. I mean, there was the, the only pitch that I ever really made was, was to a gentleman that I, I found out about through the TV station I was working at at the time.
He was on a public service, public access show on a Sunday, and he was a local businessman who also ran a cancer foundation, but he did life coaching. And, his business, his office was in the same city as, as a TV station or, that I worked at, which was in, in Oakland, California. So I contacted him via email and then also left the message and didn't hear back for about at least a month or so, and he had called me back and we set up a meeting and he talked for like more than an hour. And it was really, wasn't even about the documentary, it was, it the, I truthfully, even though I'd been kicking around a documentary, the idea for this really didn't come out until, this gentleman's name is Mike Murphy.
He and I had probably had a couple conversations, and then he says, you know, what do you really want to do? You know, I, I, you know, I know you have your job, but what do you really want to do? And this came out. So, you know, he said, well, I'll, you know, I'll see what I could do. So he actually gave me the initial seed money, which gave me the opportunity to actually fly out Bill Grant from New York and Ken Waller, who was in Alabama at the time, you're still there.
Um, Ken Spr, who's living in Georgia with his wife, Rudy Hermo, who was in Florida, and then brought Dave Dupre, rented a studio. And those were the initial five interviews. So, you know, and, and it's always been a struggle because, you know, you have to track down. When you're going in the past, and especially in a niche thing like bodybuilding where there's not a lot of, a whole lot of, stock footage. It's not like, you know, culling through NFL or Major League Baseball highlights , right? It's like not much exists. So you, you know, .
And then actually convincing guys to, to get involved. , it took, once you got a few guys and then they would contact other guys, then it kind of made it easier. And I knew the people that I wanted to get from the timeframe. Didn't get all of 'em, but I thought I need to get enough to where I can give, a nice, you know, range of, of views or opinions, you know, to kind of like give it, give it gravity instead of just talking to one person and then saying, well, It was so and so. You need to get different opinions. So, anyway, that you have a struggle all the way, even down to fair use, you know, getting a lawyer to , you know, because there's certain clips that I'm using that the lawyer had to make sure were cleared fair use, right?
Is it transformative? Am I not just ripping it off, so to speak? So, yeah, still rolling the boulder up the hill.
Steve Hsu: It definitely comes off. It's, it's apparent I think to anybody who watches that it was a labor of love. So congratulations.
Marc Martinez: Thanks.
Steve Hsu: So here's the cover of the book. , I think maybe not the one that I have. Is this the original cover?
Marc Martinez: This is the original and that's, ed, corny, yeah. Who is described in the book. I believe that Sunni won the, the Mr. Universe contest in Baghdad, Iraq that year that they covered. And , then that's the one thing about Charles Gaines. It's, you know, to do, because he didn't write this book for bodybuilding fans. He wrote it just to show what, what top level bodybuilders. Their lives were alike. And he said, you know, you know, they were there the night that he won the top amateur prize in Baghdad, Iraq. And he goes, and then a few months later, we're visiting him as he's, working as the door bouncer of a nightclub in San Jose, California.
You know, which at that point in time shows you, that these guys do it out of love. They obviously don't do it for money. You know, they all had day jobs, they all had other things. So, yeah, I thought that was.
Steve Hsu: this was recapitulated a little bit in the early to mid nineties when MMA. , like ultimate fighting got started and when it started it was so small that, you know, the guy who was a world champion middleweight might be working as a bouncer, outside a bar. Same thing.
So for me, that was actually what kind of like got me, I sort of transitioned from being interested in lifting weights and stuff like that into like doing, mixed martial arts and stuff like
Marc Martinez: Oh yeah.
Steve Hsu: but, but in both cases, like little tiny subcultures that blew up into big sports.
Marc Martinez: Yeah. And then MMA, it got, oh, is that Search New Bray
Steve Hsu: Yeah, this is a picture of Serge, which I found, which just shows how, because he's so aesthetic. But, in this picture you can just see how thick the guy is, it is unbelievable. Like, when I saw stuff like this and also of Sergio Oliva when I was a kid, it just blew me away. Like, I couldn't believe people were that developed.
Marc Martinez: Oh, I know. Yeah. Like, yeah. Wow. Yeah. That's so, yeah. He looks so powerful there. I know that the first, the first photos I saw of Sergio Oliva, were taken by Wayne Galles, the Australian, photographer and filmmaker who covers bodybuilding, and they were in a, a muscle builder in the late seventies.
And, it was almost cartoonish. I could not, yeah, I was, look at it. I was looking at the, like, you, like you had mentioned you couldn't believe someone was that massively developed and I was looking at the Sergio photos. well as I'm looking at this surge, new brave photo here, but I was, I was like, something wasn't registering with my eye.
And I'm like, what is it? What is it? What is it? And I'm like, oh my God. His arm, you know, his upper arm is the size of his head. Like, is that even possible ? You know,
Steve Hsu: Yeah. This, the pose that only Sergio does where he just pushes his, puts his arm straight up vertically.
Marc Martinez: yeah.
Steve Hsu: But you, but you can see like his bicep tricep combo is bigger than his head . It's insane. I don't think I have that in here, otherwise I'd show it to you.
Um, this is Arnold and Franco Colombo.
Check posing, Arnold's doing, what is that side chest pose.
Marc Martinez: Yeah. It's the original gold. Yeah. It's from Pumping Iron, I believe, from the book. Yeah.
Steve Hsu: And I like it reveals just kind of how serious and analytical these guys are. , right? Like if you look at the expressions on their faces, just like professionals, like sculptors.
Marc Martinez: Yeah, absolutely.
Steve Hsu: Okay, this is the only Serge, this is the only Sergio Oliva picture I have, but it gives you a sense of how freakishly developed the guy was.
Marc Martinez: yeah. And that's, that's, that's one of, that's from one of the, from that photoshoot from Wayne, from Wayne Galosh that's, he took that photo. Yeah. It's just amazing. You know, the size of the forearm and the bicep and Yeah.
Steve Hsu: Peaked bicep to bottom of triceps. Sometimes it looks like that distance is as big as his head.
Marc Martinez: Yeah.
Steve Hsu: This one I like. , so Ken Waller, who you interviewed at length, is Ken standing with Arnold and they're also both kind of check posing, checking, inspecting themselves in the mirror here, ed Corney is on the side.
Marc Martinez: Yeah. Yeah, this was, I think that's, I got that from, it's a gene mosaic photo, John Bay. , was able to come through with a lot of photos from, from the original Gold's Gym and, and Gene Mosa who had passed had given all of his slides to John. And this is from that series, and this is in 75. As you could see, this is probably during the filming of Pumping Iron where they were both getting ready, one for the amateur contest, and then Arnold for the pro.
Um, I see Robby in there as well. Yeah. Wow.
Steve Hsu: One of the things that really hit me so obviously Arnold was kind of the star of pumping iron and did a lot to popularize a sport. And one of the things that for me was that the word charisma wasn't really that widely used when I was a kid. And I kind of learned the meaning of the word charisma in like the example of Arnold Schwarzenegger because he was such a larger than life personality.
you know, that picture you sent me of him wearing the hat on the beach, the, the kind of like, fedora, but he's like, he's like, you know, flexing his huge muscles and wearing this fedora. It's like he's just a character and he just has a certain appeal. Everybody, nobody can, people can't, resist being charmed by the guy.
And it's like the first real example of charisma that I had seen.
Marc Martinez: Yeah. I mean he, you know, I guess, yeah, confidence, you know, there's confidence in it, it's kinda like a Venn diagram. There's, there's. Within charisma, there's confidence, but I'm not. But there's also other things that go into charisma. You know, it takes more than just confidence. And, he definitely had it.
I know, in speaking with Charles Gaines, he had mentioned the time that they were writing, I think it was an article he said that we, they were writing for We Magazine, he was writing for We and it was leading up to writing Pumping Iron. And he said we took, Arnold and several of the other bodybuilders because they were all in New York for, for Mr. Olympia. And then whatever the concurrent amateur contests were being held the same night. And he said, and we took them all to the Algonquin Hotel
Steve Hsu: Right.
Marc Martinez: He said, because I wanted to take, you know, these, these, these, you know, freakishly large muscular guys who, you know, probably never heard of the Algonquin Hotel.
He goes, but he goes, I knew right then. He goes, I saw how Arnold immediately seized up the room and, and knew what, he didn't know exactly what it was, but what it meant. , you know, and he goes, he was, I was a quick study. Most of the other guys didn't get it, but he did. Like, okay, well these guys, you know, the people that come to the Algonquin, you know, they're, they're movers and shakers in another field and it's important that I charm them and get to know them and impress them.
Steve Hsu: You, you mentioned Arnold at the Algonquin, and this is, is it Gaines's writing? ,
Marc Martinez: Yeah. Charles Gain.
Steve Hsu: yeah, I, I mean, as you know, as we were saying earlier, he has real literary sensibilities and for someone now reading that again in the book from the seventies, they, they, they would, might even be getting an insight into what the literary world of New York looked like in the seventies, because I think people today don't necessarily know what the Algonquin Hotel is.
Marc Martinez: Right exactly and, and again, too, who even reads anymore? I, I mean. Well, I mean, we know. I, I, I think less of the culture reads, but you're right is the Algonquin and the round table, it's gone. Obviously those figures are gone. You know, the, the, the Kurt Vonz and, you know, the Thomas Wolfs and all those people. , and then of course the previous generations, the Algonquin.
And I think that's, I think that's, the lasting, endearing success of, of that book Pumping Iron is, it wasn't written for just the muscle head, you know, it was kind of an introduction to the rest of the culture for that. It just, it just drew from a wider, a wider swath of our culture, I think.
Um, anyway, Jo Charles's experiences.
Steve Hsu: Yeah, I, I recommend it, like I'm probably repeating myself too many times, but I recommend it to everyone to have a look at it. I'm going to just play a couple minutes here of a video from the movie Pumping Iron. It's Arnold working out at Gold's, and then talking about how the pump feels when the blood rushes into your muscles.
And this is a very famous, kind of discussion by Arnold, which was actually somewhat controversial for a little while, but you'll see why.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Good body will have the same mind when it comes to scaring. Then the scar, the head if you analyze it, you look in the mirror and just say, okay, I need a little bit more doubt in it. A little bit shorter. So to get the proportions right. So what you do is you exercise and put this tell to its arms. Whereas an artist would just slap on some key on, on each side.
You know, and this is maybe the easier way, we go through a harder way because you have to do it in a human body, you know? Yeah. I mean, obviously a lot of people look at you and they think it's kind of strange what you're doing, you know? But those are the people who don't know much about it.
You know, as soon as you find out about what the whole thing is about, then it's just like another thing. I mean, it's not any stranger, going into a car and trying to go a quarter mile, five seconds. I mean, that's strange for me.
Steve Hsu: Now for people who can't, see, this is Arnold doing concentration curls, pumping up his bicep, and now he's going to talk about what the pump feels like.
Arnold Schwarzenegger: The greatest feeling you can get in the gym or the most satisfying feeling you can get in the gym is the pump. Let's say you drain your biceps blood rushing into your muscles, and that's what we call a pump. Your muscles get a really tight feeling like your skin is going to explode any minute. You know it's really tight.
It's like somebody blowing air into, into your muscle. It just blows up and it feels different. It feels fantastic.
It's satisfying to me, coming as you know, as, having sex with a woman and coming. And so can you believe how much I am in heaven. I like getting the feeling of coming to the gym. I'm getting the feeling of coming home. I'm getting the feeling of coming backstage when I pump up. When I pose out in front of 5,000 people, I get the same feeling.
Steve Hsu: So Marc, probably you're familiar with that, ,
Marc Martinez: Yeah.
Steve Hsu: clip. Now do you feel like that, in that era, guys were self-conscious about, the homosexual, you know, charges of homosexuality and bodybuilding? They wanted to like, kind of make themselves seem like hyper heterosexual?
Marc Martinez: , do you know, I can only speak for myself. I, you know, in speaking with other guys, we, in hindsight, we laugh. Like we were so clueless as to think that how, how, how so many gay guys were around in that culture, which makes perfect sense because it's a lot of well built, you know, guys. But we never , we never thought of it. I mean, it'll tell, I'll tell you when it dawned on me, I was in a bookstore and I was, I was getting a magazine and it was, it was one that, John DeFendis was on the cover, right? And, and it, and it had him in a vacuum pose. And it said, John DeFendis, is he the next Frank Zane?
And they showed side by side. So I'm picking up the magazine and to the left of me is one of my professors . Right. he's, he's got like another muscle magazine and I'm like, oh, okay. You know, and it never, you know, it never dawned on me. And then,
Steve Hsu: And I'm guessing this professor doesn't train.
Marc Martinez: No, no, exactly. You know, just a big bear of a guy, not, you know, nice trimmed beard, nice clothes and everything, but, and then I'm like, oh, you know, and then, but it never did.
I mean, I don't, I, I mean, I don't, in my experience, no. I don't know if maybe when guys spoke to other guys, but I, I. Yeah, I think we were all just so clueless as to think that Oh yeah, well it would make perfect sense. Right. , and, and, you know, I think outside of one incident, I don't think I was ever, you know, even, approached or made aware of it.
Uh, you know, I think for Arnold rolling the cameras, that was, you know, that was just a stroke of genius by him.
Steve Hsu: Yeah. I was totally unaware of this idea that, you know, gay men were attracted to bodybuilders until I saw, I think maybe around the same time I saw the Rocky Horror Picture Show. And there was that character, I forgot the name. Rocky, maybe it's Rocky. The, the,
Marc Martinez: Right, right. The blonde guy and he is Rift. Yeah.
Steve Hsu: yeah. And he's obviously kind of like a bodybuilder.
And then I kind of realized, and then there's even a line that the main character, Dr. Whoever, the main character of Rocky Horror Picture Show is, he sings a song in, in his song he mentions a Steve Reeves movie. As that was, I guess, very stimulating for him. And then I kind of put two and two together.
Until that point, it had just not occurred to me that any of this was of any interest to gay men . So I guess it was the same for you.
Marc Martinez: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. You know, our, our concern was, you know, getting stronger and getting muscle and then not realizing the ancillary culture going on around us. , . That's funny. That's true. Yeah. It was Tim Curry, I believe. Right? That was kind of like the
Steve Hsu: Dr. Frankfurt, or maybe I forgot.
Marc Martinez: Yes. Yes.
Steve Hsu: Yeah, so that was the first time I made the connection. Then, until then I was just like, to me it was more an extension. I, I had been a, you know, I was a swimmer and a football player, and I thought just, we just, they actually got us into lifting weights. That's an interesting angle actually, that in parallel to bodybuilding for some of the international sports, like swimming, was always a very international sport.
Um, some of the Russian training methods, east German and Russian training methods leaked into the American sphere very early on. So swimmers were lifting weights before football players. And so when I was doing age group swimming, even in the middle of Iowa, they had us lifting weights. And so I was already into weightlifting culture before, like I even knew there was a thing called bodybuilding because it came through competitive swimming.
Marc Martinez: Yeah. Wow. So, and, and that was the late seventies or early eighties.
Steve Hsu: This was in the seventies actually. I, I probably first touched a weight in like yeah, mid to late seventies, something like that when I was in age group swimming. So,
Marc Martinez: Yeah. Yeah. I, I mean, I, I knew, at, at my school, at my high school, there was, you know, obviously a lot of lifting. But again, you know, until I saw the book Pumping Iron, I didn't make the connection between bodybuilding and, and weights anymore than, you know, it was more for sports like you. So.
Steve Hsu: A little, a little advanced, I think at least relative to Iowa, for their, did you guys do your swim? Did your high school have a good weight room already in the seventies?
Marc Martinez: You know, it was, it was, pretty utilitarian, but, it was, it was known as a, a southern California high school football power. But I was surprised that the facilities were so meager, but, you know, the booster club and I were trying to get more Olympic sets in there and, and whatnot.
Um, but, I'm sure, I'm sure right now they probably have a , you know, a training center that looks, you know.
Steve Hsu: When I went to my high school for one of my reunions, not that long ago, maybe 10 years ago, they had just unbelievable facilities like these, you know, the big power cubes where you can squat and do Olympic lifts and stuff. And they just had this huge cavernous room with row after row of these power cubes.
Marc Martinez: Wow.
Steve Hsu: Yep.
Marc Martinez: Yeah.
Steve Hsu: We've come. We've come a long way, man.
Marc Martinez: Yeah, sure have. Sure have. I, yeah. , and, I, I was, I was talking to, to one of my buddies and, and I said, yeah, I'm going to be speaking with a guy who's, who's a, a physicist, who's a Cal, who's a Caltech and, and Cal grad, and, you know, did some time in Harvard and Super Collider. And I said, and, and yet he has a little bit of interest in golden age bodybuilding.
I said, so that I go, I, that'll, that combo alone, fascinates me, ,
Steve Hsu: Hello. I love it. I mean, it was, it's a big, just a, was a big part of my adolescence and growing up. And , same for you. And, I'll tell you my one, like, I didn't know any of these famous guys that we were talking about. I just knew them through the magazines and seeing them, you know, reading about them.
The one guy that I met, I, I guess I briefly met Berle Fox, I think I told you about that. But I met Arnold because when we were training at the Caltech weight room, one of the local LA guys who worked out there, told us that, oh, he works out, I think at World Gym, which was then owned by Joe Gold, but it was World Gym down in Santa Monica around this time.
So we just decided we'd go there and see if we could just meet him. Met Joe Gold, got a T-shirt and said hello to Arnold and this other German guy, Joseph Wilcox, who was a Mr. Universe and they were doing inclines when we came in, and Arnold was in very good shape. I think he was probably getting ready for a roll or something because he looked, he looked cut outta glass actually when we saw him.
So, that's my, that's my closest brush to all these guys that you trained with for years.
Marc Martinez: Yeah, well I saw, yeah, I mean I saw Arnold, the first time, I think it was in 77 and he'd already retired, so he was running and really, really lanky and lean and running. And then, by 1980 when he started getting ready for the Olympia, you could start to see some of the transformation, you know, is getting a little, a bit larger.
But, yeah. , it, it's a, it's, to think of that, I mean, World Gym, I really enjoyed World Gym. , you know, I was a member there from like 79 to 85. Nice and quiet. Nice and clean. Just a different environment. I, I, I haven't been into a gym in a while. I usually just train at home. But, I, I, there's so many more people in the gyms now.
Uh, you know, I don't, I don't know if I'd like to , you know, stand around waiting for equipment all day.
Steve Hsu: Yeah, me too. I mostly work out at home too now. I guess we're old guys, but, you know, you and I have lived through this whole transformation of American culture and I just want to say to the academics who are listening to this, you know, things change. It's, it's hard to have a feel for it unless you lived, I basically would say unless you live through it. Right? Otherwise, like you, you really fully understand how the world looked in 1970 versus today.
Marc Martinez: Right. I know, I, I, I, I, I fear. Hopefully not, hopefully we didn't lose your academics within the first two minutes. But, but, yeah, I was, I was, trying to explain to someone and, it was, it was a story about the Gold's Gym t-shirt of how Rick Dresen had made the design and didn't get any money for it. But at the time they said, well, you know, Gold's Gym had less than a hundred paying members at that point.
Uh, Kent's Break says, I think I gave him like, you know, 50 bucks off the gym membership and he gladly took it. , you know, I go, it's, it's hard to, to, to believe that you didn't see those t-shirts. too much. , you know, it wasn't, it wasn't a big deal. People don't, you know, people are looking at it in hindsight where they're looking in a world where Gold's Gym has 600 locations around the world and everyone has those t-shirts and they can't imagine a time where, oh, this gym was like, a couple weeks from closing down and being turned into an antique shop. You know, kind of hard to, it's kind yeah, it's kind of hard to go back in time. Like you said, if you, if you haven't lived it or been through it and seen the transformation, you wouldn't believe it. So.
Steve Hsu: My, my other story is that I enjoy telling people, which people can't believe now, but I was in the trainer's room, physical trainer's room at the Caltech athletic complex when I was a college student. This would've been like 85 or something. and I had a pulled muscle in my leg and I was sitting on the training table, so I was elevated a little bit.
And this woman who was the physical trainer was like looking at me from the front. And so she's looking at my knee from the front and you know, if you have well-developed quadriceps, there's like a bulge that heads insert above your, your knee. And she looks at me and says, yeah, this is really swollen. And I was like, no, no, no, that's not the injury. Those are my quadri. and this is a physical trainer. Her job is to mostly treat football players. And, she didn't know the anatomy, she didn't realize those, that was like the normal development of a strong quadricep. I was just shocked. And then years later, people started using the slang word swole.
Marc Martinez: Yeah.
Steve Hsu: I mean, so funny. So, it's just crazy. I had to explain to her like, what, what, what quadricep basically was.
Marc Martinez: Oh my God. That's funny.
Steve Hsu: Unbelievable. So, Marc, I've kept you for a long time. You want to tell us, do you have any new projects ongoing, anything you want to say about the documentary?
Marc Martinez: Well, yeah. You know, right now the documentary I'm, it's, it's on, it's on Amazon Prime. It's on Tubi, it's on another streaming system called Popsy on Plex, also Thrills Tv. And then it's going to be on, well, it's going to be on Thrills starting in March, and then it's also on Nuclear Tv. These are all streaming systems.
I am, you know, kind of in a, a, a standby pattern on my next project. I really wanted to do something on the music culture of Southern California during about the same timeframe and the, and the, the rise of KROQ and how it affected music playlists. But it's really hard getting guys to want to speak to you, especially if there's no financial backing or any sort of compensation involved.
And beyond that, I'm, I'm, I'm working on probably some bonus material for a DVD for Dream, for Dream Big if we do do a DVD. And there's been some interest in it, I think, from, from an older audience, which this, would, would apply to. And so, I'm putting together some stuff that didn't make, a lot of stuff that didn't make the film because I interviewed guys for more than an hour and used basically two to three minutes of their interview. So there's a lot, a lot there.
So, that's pretty much where, where that is right now. So, you know, look for Dream Big on those streaming systems and, I'll update on my website to dreambigdoc.com.
Steve Hsu: Great. I wish you luck with that and, and I do want to say, this seventies music in Southern California project also is super interesting. And I remember KROQ having a big influence, at least on the Caltech campus. A lot of people listened to KROQ and it was very unique. It doesn't, nothing like that exists, on, you know, on radio or anything like it anymore.
So definitely do that one if you can get it going.
Marc Martinez: , yeah, I would love to, you know, that's right. Since with Caltech being in Pasadena and KROQ being located in Pasadena, it, yeah, they were the, again, it's, it's, here's another thing where it would be so hard for people to realize what it was like. I remember, the early stages of KROQ, they were, they had no commercials. They would just collect money, go on the air, transmit, and then I'd ask my older brother like, hey, where'd they go? It's like, it disappeared. They're static here. And he goes, yeah, he goes, they'll be back in a few days. So, I remember the first commercial I heard on KROQ and even at that early age, and this had to be like mid seventies or so, and I was some part of my brain understood that, okay, good, they're here to stay, but something's going to change, you know, because now you're beholden to a commercial interest, but that's what makes the world go round.
But, yeah, I know, I, I really, I, I, you know, I've gotta make another push into that and recontact guys because, KROQ was so far ahead of the rest of the country that I think once they reached a level to where they, I think they were bought by Westwood One, which was, I don't even know if Westwood one is around anymore. , but they were obviously, like a holding company or, or a network that music that was being played in Southern California was now going to be part of a programming list for the rest of the country and then the rest of the world.
And that was kind of like a, a, a changer. So again, you know, another seminal moment that, you know, takes place and changes culture forever. So, yeah. Thanks.
Steve Hsu: Great. Hey, I, I, I'll just end with one thing. My wife is a professor of literature and film, and one of the areas she researches this documentary film. Mostly, mostly about Asian documentary films, not what you do. But through the course of her work, I've met a fair number of people who work in documentary film and, you know, it's a struggle, but it's an art form and you're producing stuff of lasting value. So I just want to just encourage you to keep going and, you know, great accomplishment. Really enjoyed Dream Big and I'm sure you can do it again.
Marc Martinez: Well, thank you. Thank you, Stephen. And, and, yeah, you know, I was listening to a podcast with Ken Burns and. Someone had told him, they go, do you know what you do? And, and , and he tells 'em, well, I, you know, do documentary films. The guy says, no, you bring back the dead. And , and of course with him, because he deals with historical figures, but it's, yeah, someday we're all going to be gone. So it's, you know, going to live, live on, in some way, shape, or form. So, yeah.
Steve Hsu: How else can people who are 20 years old now have any understanding of what the seventies were like in Southern California? Right. Otherwise, it's gone forever.
Marc Martinez: Yeah, yeah, exactly. I know. It's like, it's now like when we were in grade school and like they're talking about World War II or something and we're just like, yeah.
Steve Hsu: Right.
Marc Martinez: So,
Steve Hsu: Great. Well, thanks a lot, Marc.
Marc Martinez: Well thank you. Thank you, Stephen. And , yeah, I hope we didn't bore too many of you, of your listeners there are.
Steve Hsu: Oh, I'm sure they loved it. I'm sure they loved it.