A Long History of Ogling :: The Real World of Muscle Porn
I edit muscle videos. And I have a confession. I am no longer the muscle fan I once was.
Call it over-exposure, shop fatigue, the busman’s holiday syndrome, what have you. My tiny midtown studio should be a 21st century paradise for a diehard muscle lover, stocked as it is with, I estimate, roughly 800 hours of raw, unedited muscle video footage of hundreds of hugely beefed men. My LAN, an extremely modest HP family classic, is storehouse to thousands of muscle images.
For the true believers of muscle, my little shop is the mother lode. Considering that I am supplying breathlessly awaited video updates to an army of international muscle enthusiasts, one might think that I have plunged headlong into, well, pig heaven.
Hardly. And it wasn’t always thus.
The Birth of Muscle
Bob Hoffman, called the "Father of World Weightlifting" founded the York Barbell Company of York, Pennsylvania, in the early 1930s, and soon after began to publish articles on the benefits of exercise and nutrition. By 1939, physique contests showcasing muscular men (and, not coincidentally, promoting the sale of barbells) began to take place.
In 1940, the classically built, naturally gifted bodybuilder John Grimek, of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, the son of Slavic immigrants, emerged an undisputed contest winner with a triumphant physique which would be equally impressive now, 71 years later.
The emerging sport of bodybuilding was sincerely rooted in a quest for strength, health, longevity and personal discipline. While the public may have derided these early ’male beauty contests,’ it was inevitable that new stars, perhaps inspired by Grimek, began to appear on small contest stages and in the strength magazines of Hoffman. Other magazines and competing federations began to appear, with new promoters, like former competitor named Dan Lurie, and a couple of publishing upstarts, the brothers Joe and Ben Weider.
By the end of World War II, in spite of the inevitable territoriality that has always plagued competitive bodybuilding, somehow the name "Mr. America" stuck permanently in the backwaters of American consciousness.
Classic physique fans will recognize the names of yesterday’s champions: George Eiferman, Alan Stephan, Bill Pearl, Steve Stanko, Clarence Ross, and -- of course -- Steve Reeves.
Before Reeves, bodybuilders were rare birds, showcased only in the few competitions, rarely glimpsed on the beaches, and in inexpensive weightlifting and bodybuilding magazines for sale on city newsstands. Ambitious Californian Reeves had no particular talent, but he was a stunningly handsome male animal with hopeful acting aspirations, appearing on Broadway with Carol Channing, on television with Burns and Allen, and even made it into "Athena," an MGM musical with Jane Powell.
While none of these shows was actually much good, it made no matter to bodybuilding. Moreover, Reeves’ appearances forged a new link to the general public - this time through show biz.