Collected Outbursts, in original form, both published and unpublished, in defense of the Sisterhood…
(Musclemag International, Mar 1992)
Can you top this? She materializes onstage a la “beam-me-up-scotty,” splits into three holograms which drift through the auditorium all doing something different, at times catapulting into positions which defy the laws of physics or kinesiology. WBF, eat your heart out! The sixty segues are of hits so current they haven’t even been released yet, which doesn’t matter since we are only hearing three seconds of each bit. But the next competitor out goes even further; she’s not even visible, you see, because she’s being squirted into your brain through those electrodes you’ve donned. And if REM is any indication of what she’s doing to your headgear, bid your cerebral cortex adieu. But wait til you see- ahem, experience- the next competitor…
It must be awfully scary to be competing in women’s bodybuilding today. Light-years ahead of the men in the realm of physical expression, women bodybuilders have accelerated the cutting edge of posing the way the computer world is trotting out its new technology. There’s more to worry about than how many other competitors are going to be using your Madonna or Janet Jackson song. It’s fast and furious now and you must compete with the standards set by Lenda’s lip-synching, Tonya’s music-mixing (twenty-three?), and Jackie’s acrobatics. DeMilia has decreed that you must replay the whole prejudging amidst all this, and a jaded audience wants its ever-shrinking attention span sated in power bursts.
Some have the artistic and athletic gifts to keep them afloat, but those who don’t will have to content themselves with sashaying about the stage and popping off mandatories. We can’t really fix that. Talent’s part of the package -and it’s only a question of how much of the package- but we might make the environment easier by removing the “confusion of purpose” at the evening show by not insisting that sport and art collide with each other.
The IFBB should release its death grip on the individual posing routine. The judgment of pure muscularity, with all the grimacing and rigid poses, is completed during the prejudging. At night the whole venture should become purely artistic, using, if necessary, a whole different panel of judges. Presentation puts everything together of a single coherent effect. That effect should go far beyond revealing who’s bigger or more sliced (we did that this morning, remember? Anyone who wanted to see double biceps and crab shots shoulda been there).
Before I’m accused of leaning toward the beauty-pageant end of the spectrum, let me say now that I like ‘em big and ripped. I have seen very few women I would deem too muscular but plenty who seem to miss the femininity boat for other reasons. We all know what one of the reasons is. Negrita Jayde once referred to one of the effects as that “hardened criminal” look. If you disguise yourself as a fire hydrant, expect to get peed on.
If you want to see yet another threat to women’s bodybuilding, take a look at the proliferation of “Ms Fitness” competitions. These are no flash-in-the-pan aberrations. Check out the kind of money these girls are winning and you’ll realize that while we’ve been yammering over the direction of “our sport,” these upstarts, who couldn’t even place at a local contest, are stealing the bacon. Things that make you go hmmm! Where do we go now?
For women’s bodybuilding to gain legitimacy out there this “artistic thing” is more than important. It is pivotal. Our women have the capacity to blow all these aerobicized dainties back into their Diet Pepsi cans, if we let them, and they can do it without resorting to the WBF hyperbole. Art requires work and talent, not high-tech. Sometimes simplicity can have a startling effect.
A perfect example of this occurred at the Jan Tana Classic this past July when Gillian Serrette-Hodge took the stage. You may remember Gillian at the 1990 Ms. Olympia as the competitor who had to pose after Lenda’s triumph, who took an indifferent audience and brought it over to her side. Gillian has legs to rival anyone’s and she is arguably the most artistic poser in the sport; other Ms. Olympia competitors have sought her choreographic advice.
When she emerged into the lights that hot Virginia evening, it was to “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” There were no lasers, smoke or props, just Gillian soulfully and powerfully wringing angst from a startled audience, who were trying to comprehend the shift in gears from be-bop and the latest singles. By the time they had acknowledged the feat in a growing swell of applause, Gillian had shifted again and moved on to something different. The audience was hers and she knew it.
Only a handful of competitors are ballsy enough to forego the pop music and explore the rich legacy of the past. There are several reasons for this, one of them being that it takes a lot to pull it off, particularly with the impatience of the bodybuilding audience. For the men’s competition, with homophobia and the slightly different (sarcasm here) personality of the audience, the use of classical music can be the kiss of death. “Awesome” rules. The women, on the other hand (if freed from Wayne’s “show more muscle” directive and encouraged to emphasize aesthetics over athletics), stand on the threshold of an opportunity to see their performances sought in the greatest halls in the world.
Try a little experiment. Think back on all the films you’ve ever seen and pick out the three or four which moved you the most. And in the most effective moments, what kind of music was in the background? Betcha it wasn’t be-bop. Even in Rocky it wasn’t the “Gonna Fly Now” song which pulled at you; it was the baroque backdrop (yep, that Bach and Vivaldi stuff) which accompanies the final struggle in the ring, and the powerful orchestral swell which follows. How about Platoon or The Elephant Man ? Both used Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” at the end –lugubrious yes, but it hits you like a sledgehammer.
Nearly all film scores and incidental music are orchestral for a damn good reason: it works. One thing that thriller films (like The Hunt for Red October or Terminator 2) use to add to the larger-than-life atmosphere is orchestrated incidental music, a debt they owe John Barry and the Bond films of the sixties. Can you imagine any of these films building a mood with pop music?
Yet on the posing platforms, bodybuilders are shortchanging themselves by sticking with the relatively shallow evocations of the pop charts. There’s nothing wrong with a little prancing to Madonna, but why not experiment with the deep? So what if we move a little closer to ballet? Screw the mandatories, Wayne! We’re talking about art here. Douse some of the lights and unleash orchestral power. If Gillian could hit hard with ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” God only knows what she could do with something orchestral. The passion? It’s in there! Just for starters, how about Dvorak (Slavonic Dance Op. 72, No. 2), Mozart (overture to Don Giovanni), Beethoven (the climax of the 2nd movement, 7th Symphony), Wagner (“The Ride of the Valkyries”), Smetana (“The Moldau”) or Tchaikovsky (…where do you begin?) Or dive into that trove of film scores and let loose. If the muscle’s there, we’ll see it. And later, perhaps, so will the rest of the world, at the Met or La Scala. Isn’t it time?
THE LEGS HAVE IT
(Women’s Physique World, Dec 2001)
Think legs. Think Pauliina. It might seem an indictment of a bodybuilder to single out a bodypart as emblematic, a violation of competition’s “all-things-in-balance” dogma, but we don’t think Arja Pauliina Talus-Halonen will mind. After all, she’s got enough of everything else to have won the Finnish Championship, her pro card, celebrity status in her homeland, and legions of fans. So if we can’t stop looking at her legs, she’ll understand.
Face it, we’re all leg fanatics. ALL of us. And while mere size may satisfy many of us, the true connoisseur will delight in Pauliina’s prominent vastus medialis “teardrop,” pulsing, ribbed, jutting arrogantly above the knee, the sharp relief of the calf, the carved, vein-embroidered elegance of the whole ensemble.
These underpinnings seemed ordained for greatness from Pauliina’s active childhood. Born on 31 July 1972 in a small town in northern Finland, she was learning ballet at age four, then figure skating, numerous ball sports, swimming, track… But at age sixteen, Pauliina, now an avid sprinter, suffered strain injuries to her instep. The doctors removed some bone there, and told her to find a new hobby. That wasn’t difficult; the local gym was the best in Finland, and at this time Marjo Selin was in all the bodybuilding magazines. Soon Pauliina was setting her alarm for midnight amino acid snacks. By the age of eighteen she’d impressed Finland’s top bodybuilder enough to have him train her.
She fared poorly in her first few competitions. At one Finnish Championship she never even made it to the stage, cramping out badly enough to wind up in the hospital. Things changed in 1997. She moved to Helsinki and began to train with her future husband, Matti Halonen, a nutrition expert who designs supplements for a company called United Feelings. She also began working as a “door-host” or bouncer at Planet Hollywood. A fun time, she recalls: “In the beginning it was funny to see people’s faces when they saw a woman door host. When I had to kick some drunk out, guys started giving problems. I said ‘hey, do you want to humiliate yourself by having a woman kick you out?’ Guys were a little scared of me, so I had to use force only a few times.” One patron Pauliina remembers particularly well was a Bad-Bart-type who looked like a prison escapee and had threatened to kill her. “We had a little ‘help’ in coat check, as we say here, a bit longer than my hand. I went to get that. If he grabbed me I’d give him a taste of my ‘help.’ Luckily when I came back he had left. I was pleased…he looked like a real killer.”
In 1998, competing as a heavyweight, Pauliina won the Finnish Championship and her pro card. And in her first pro outing at the 2000 Jan Tana she took 6th heavyweight. But more important, she earned a whole slew of new fans. Very quickly, she found herself in high demand for photo and video work on both coasts. This reinforced her already strong Internet presence (www.pauliinatalus.com). Not that she’s suffered anonymity at home; in Finland she’s been featured often on television and in nearly every mainstream publication (including numerous covers). She’s highly sought for training and nutritional counseling by athletes in other sports. But Finland is a small pond- five million people-and Pauliina plans to jump the big one in 2001 and land in Southern California where a thriving business already awaits her.
Like every pro, she aspires to the “O.” She sees her main weaknesses to be her back and waist. As described in detail on her website, she trains on a monthly cycle using a 2×10-12 scheme for most exercises: a heavy week(straight sets 10-12RM, 2-3 minutes rest between sets), a “heavy-pump” week (same weight, 30 seconds between sets, includes supersets), another heavy week, then a light week(60% 10RM). She groups the bodyparts thus: Monday- Legs, Abs; Tuesday-Back; Wednesday-Shoulders, Triceps; Thursday-Rest; Friday-Hamstrings, Calves, Abs; Saturday-Chest, Biceps. She takes a three-hour massage each week.
For you numbers-freaks out there, Pauliina has benched 264 for six, incline-benched 220 for ten, squatted 440 for six, and can do fifteen reps with 264 in the leg extension. But nowadays she wisely stays away from excessive poundage. And she never does max reps. At 5’4” she competes at 155 pounds. Off-season, her thighs measure over 27,” her calves over 17” and her biceps (pumped), 18 ½.
Pauliina eats six times a day and her diet is standard bodybuilder fare. But while others may speak of tracking caloric intake, Pauliina takes it seriously. Even in the off-season, consuming 3500-4000 calories daily, she travels with a scale, calculator and log-book whose contents look like your high-school algebra notebook.
This consideration must have weighed on her last spring when the WPW crew took her and Matti to the Seven Stars Inn, a local Pennsylvania restaurant known for generous portions. Her London broil was so spectacular she backed away from the table and took photos of it. The restaurant staff was staring too. Like the rest of us, they recognized a good thing, even if they didn’t know exactly what they were looking at. But Pauliina doesn’t mind the stares. She’s earned them. Just be sure to raise your eyes now and then. And smile.
THE EDGE OF ELEGANCE
(Musclemag International, Dec 2002) (written Nov 1996)
Whatever Lenda Murray is now, having passed the scepter on, she’s probably anything but unhappy. While an undefeated and record reign would have been a classic exit, we’re all likely better served by the actuality. Especially the IFBB apparatus, whose pock-marked credibility is doomed by the whole commercial vs. competition countervaillance. Damned if you do, etc.
That’s been Lenda’s plight as well. Certainly she could have wrought herself more “extreme,” but at what cost? Hadn’t she ridden the edge of elegance, straddled the whims of IFBB standards, matched mass with the best of them, all the while contending with the inanition of a culture which never fully appreciated her? What more did she need to prove? It was evident to many that the Ms. Olympia crown had become an albatross to Lenda, a chafing millstone she did her best to hide.
And hide it she did. Even in the worst of times, amidst the catcalls of the philistia, the cattiness of her rivals and the unconscionable publicity suppression of her handlers (remember that initial 1992 Ms. Olympia poster?), Lenda maintained a quiet dignity and graciousness which pretended she didn’t hurt inside. But we knew better. Perhaps her time had not really arrived, and the more honest magazine publishers will tell you, even show you statistics, that blondes and breasts sell more issues. Only after Lenda had acquiesced to a revision of her countenance (banishing, for instance, the winsome toothy grin many of us found so appealing) would the Powers grant her a cover. That September 1993 issue of FLEX sold out, no doubt abetted by Lenda’s famous “sofa-shot” which all but launched “Power and Sizzle.”
At the Maryland State Championships in 1994 I was fortunate to be sharing an exhibit booth with Lenda, who was there as the guest poser. Most bodybuilding competitions are heavily male-oriented and this one was no exception. Yet the line of fans waiting to meet Lenda and get her photos never flagged for a moment that whole afternoon. “There’s something wrong here,” I told her. “After all, everyone knows you’re not marketable. Didn’t these people get the word?” But Lenda just smiled, and went on mesmerizing the people, just she would at every appearance, including the Montel show, where muscular female guests are normally accorded the lot of clay pigeons.
Her detractors, inevitably with some stake in the outcome of the competition, just didn’t get it, the idea that being Ms. Olympia means more than deeper thigh separations or more biceps peak –that overall finish, “total package,” charisma and star-quality deservedly carry more freight. The top champion should be our offering to the world’s window, and few of our competitors, regardless how divinely outrageous their contours, are on Lenda’s level in that arena. The fact is that Lenda could out-buff the best of them when she chose, if she elected to do the things which assure those extremes. She elected otherwise. For her own good, for the good of the sport, she confined herself to an image more palatable to the public, even though it left her a mere simulacrum of what she’d been. Anyone who doubts what Lenda is capable of need only recollect what she brought to the Olympia stage in 1990.
In a way, that triumph has haunted her ever since. If you were fortunate enough to be there at the Beacon that night, you may well recollect the headiness of it. Lenda came out of nowhere to thrash all the favorites so soundly that the standing ovation was unanimous, probably the only time that’s ever happened in bodybuilding history. It was as magic a moment as there ever was, and unfortunately, impossible to match, for anyone, Lenda included. For the rest of her reign, Lenda would be competing against 24 November 1990, inevitably falling short before a crowd which demands that its expectations be exceeded every year. No one can do that.
Now looking to more halcyon times, out of the line of fire and with a hand on domesticity, she can rest assured that her place is secure, her legacy of elegance unlikely to be challenged anytime soon. We hope she’ll stay around, free of the competitive fetters, to project her presence on a greater audience, to avail herself of the goodies yet due her, to share herself with us. Should the winds change, she might even consider a comeback, if for no other reason to show us that when she wants to, Lenda can do almost anything.
LIFE IS LIKE A MS OLYMPIA CONTEST
(Musclemag International, Apr 2002)
And even when you’ve got what you didn’t know you were going to get, you don’t know what you’ve got. Huh? Really….those with a quarrel about Juliette Bergman’s coronation in Las Vegas this past October can’t offer much in the way of meaningful objection other than, perhaps, grousing over the Hollander’s IFBB judging connections. She had the goods and was in shape. And since no one’s solved the conundrum of who/what Ms. Olympia is, there aren’t any right answers. You have to agree on this though: unlike the Mr. Olympia, and even unlike many of the pre-millenium Ms. Olympiad, the current show at least assures you a surprise. Some of us like that.
I recall attending my first Ms. Olympia in New York in 1990 when the money was on a batch of veteran favorites, and a newly-minted pro named Lenda buried all of them so decisively that she earned an encore, a standing ovation and nary a “boo.” It was a magical moment, at a time when the contest was in its heyday. The line-up featured thirty-one women, and the prejudging played to packed Beacon Theatre, with celebrities in attendance including rock and film stars. The electricity in the air was palpable, as befitted a Main Event.
Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, 26 October 2001, 9:30 am: The Ms. Olympia prejudging is about to start in one of two ballrooms being used as expo halls, the Fitness Olympia being held concurrently in the other ballroom. But there’s confusion: there aren’t any dressing rooms, the stage isn’t ready, a jumble of trash cans in front of it, a tangle of some company’s exercise machines behind it. I ask a convention center worker about moving the machines. “Those go onstage,” he insists. ‘That’s what we were told.” Meanwhile the Ms. Olympia competitors, having been herded over from the Luxor, huddle about in their sweatsuits, forklift drivers shooing them out of the way as IFBB officials try to figure out what to do with them. A shambles. I find Steve Wennerstrom sitting on the edge of the stage, gloomily taking notes, avoiding looking at the women. You know this is really hurting him, seeing what it’s come to. “I need to get out of this,“ he says. “It’s been over 20 years and I’ve had enough.”
The 1991 Ms. Olympia had made it to LA’s Shrine Auditorium, a two-day event with the best Expo ever seen at a contest up to that point. But by 1994 it would become a side-show to the Mr. Olympia, a condition relieved briefly in a few years later when it returned to the Beacon, and then to Prague where it sold out. In 1999, the show was actually cancelled for a week, then at the eleventh hour, shoe-horned into the Women’s Strength Extravaganza in New Jersey. Such indignities signaled that great changes must occur or the contest would die. Don’t come crying to Uncle Joe to prop it up. Thus the Ms. Olympia would return to side-show status to survive. And, surprise, new criteria would divide the glory between two women. Both of the 2000 winners were comparatively streamlined. Both were foreigners. Neither would know the “winner-takes-it-all,” celebrity-hood of their predecessors. No more “Ms. Olympia’s Corner” columns in MUSCLE & FITNESS. No Queen-for-a-Year. Andrulla and Valentina would have the distinction of historical oddity- Co-Olympians -benefactors of a noble experiment. The experimenters had miscalculated. But they’d meant well.
Which leads us to Ms. Bergman’s October surprise: “I’ve been to Paradise,” was her posing music’s refrain, devoid of the multi-segues which had been de rigueur since she’d left the scene in 1988, “but I’ve never been to me.” She actually looked good enough for her triumph to be legitimate, no small feat after a 13-year layoff from a contest in which she’d last placed…thirteenth. And if we can accept Juliette’s physical legitimacy as Ms. Olympia, we can rejoice in her bringing a far greater dimension to the title, a dimension made even more profound by recent events. If the Mentzer brothers’ deaths put us off-balance, September 11th knocked us down.
Suddenly we’re more aware of our mortality, our fragility, our vulnerability, our need to connect. We need assurances. And if Ms. Olympia is to symbolize something greater than flesh and prizes, something more than here and now, Juliette Bergman, representing both longevity and rebirth, couldn’t have returned to us at a better time.
STEVE NEECE- A Tribute
(Musclemag International, Apr 2002)
In a year of unusual tragedy and loss, we must now bid farewell to Steve Neece, columnist and character, colorful observer of our silly little enterprise. Often derided, he was an easy target, a lumbering caricature, of head and shoulders which the rest of him never caught up with, of giddy enthusiasm and awkward deportment. But if you got past all that you found a decent honest guy who meant well, who tried so hard to be liked, while unflinchingly (and humorously) pointing out BS wherever he saw it. He knew the lore of the Iron Game and its lineage as well as anyone. He was a scholar of poundages, of proportions.
And he loved female muscle. Amidst the glitter of the major bodybuilding publications, he offered one of precious few voices celebrating emergent unknowns in the Sisterhood of Iron, irrespective of commercial appeal. The girls knew it too, according him something of a mascot status. Many of them realized that Steve, not giving a damn what credentials they lacked, was their only chance at exposure. And many, having gone on to great adulation, will acknowledge Steve Neece discovered them first.
He was a friend and an ally, now part of the lore himself. Thanks, Robert Kennedy, for allowing him his voice. We’re going to miss him.
Sixty Years Strong
(CURL, Fall 2003)
The Roseland Ballroom, NYC, 5 Nov 1993:
The commotion begins at the rear of the audience, a throng 1300 strong, jammed in the pitch-black space facing the stage. An awkward arrangement- longer than wide, this room was built for the Swing era, not the static clustering it will see before the century’s end- boxing, big birthday bashes, Prince, Madonna, and the Rolling Stones. But this crowd is patient, perhaps even cowed. This is something different and they know it. Something new: “A Celebration of The Most Awesome Female Muscle in The World,” it’s historic -perhaps seminal- and the audience has just witnessed some incredible sights up there onstage. They’ve seen an array of superbly-muscled women, like Paula Suzuki, an Asian powerlifter-cum-bodybuilder whose back is the stuff of legend, and the doe-eyed Christa Bauch, outfitted with a sword and chain-mail, posing in operatic passion to Wagner. They’ve seen one young lady throw three hundred pounds overhead, another yank five hundred off the floor. And unlike the usual gatherings of sinew, this flesh-fest is devoid of competitive tension – this is a performance, not a contest. No narrowed eyes, no tortured faces, no hisses. Everyone’s in this together.
A spotlight picks up a procession through the crowd, accompanied by choral music and a staccato of flashbulbs. The brief glare reveals the head, shoulders and arms of a woman decked out as Cleopatra. The rest of her is hidden by the throne-litter, borne aloft by a quartet of muscular men festooned as slaves. The procession reaches the stage. Cleopatra climbs out to ascend her throne, doffing her robe and we see the rest of her. She’s pretty. Her skin is smooth and glowing. She’s muscular too; if her contours aren’t quite as exaggerated as those of the German girl, she’s got enough happening to earn a din of whistles and applause. Now Mark Antony enters, in the form of an impeccably proportioned and chiseled Adonis named Ron Coleman, shooing off the genuflecting beefcake (“Be gone!”) and leading Cleopatra into a steamy tango. The men appraise her hungrily during this mock drama, the women wistfully. When it concludes with the two collapsed together on the floor, the crowd erupts into applause. It’s then the MC drops the bombshell: “Linda Wood-Hoyte, ladies and gentlemen…in two months, she’ll be 51!” There’s an instant of stunned silence…then it really gets loud.
In an irony doubtless missed by most of the throng, the marquee of the theatre next door trumpets Richard Chamberlain in My Fair Lady. As Professor ‘enry ‘iggins, Chamberlain will raise eyebrows and scorn in his Galatean experiment, transforming a street waif into an upper-crust bombshell. Disdained to divine. Nobody from the press here-Fortune, The New Yorker, Penthouse, Playboy, MS, and The Village Voice- seems to catch this. They attend out of curiosity about this oddity, this outrageous display of female distortion so close to Broadway, the province of High Art and linchpin of New York’s international greatness, noting as The New Yorker does in a cartoon featuring husky she-males with men flung over their shoulders, a freak-show, an alternative art-form troubled by a misguided embracement of androgyny. Reverence, always doled out in miserly fashion by the media, isn’t about to be wasted here.
They’ve missed something else as well –not only the press, but most of the audience, the latter seeing themselves as aficionados of something esoteric and incommunicable: this is far more than a mere subculture with no feasible connection to the outside world. There are answers here to big questions our society can’t stop repeating. And no one at the Roseland on this night, no one, holds more alluring promise to those answers than that ebony Cleopatra lady provocatively semi-swathed in white and gold.
Annie Liebovitz photographed her. Olympic legend Wilma Rudolf ran against her. Anyone who meets her comes away in disbelief. What she is and what she’s done are so significant one might expect her to be on magazine covers- not just the health and fitness magazines, not just Ebony, Essence and Cosmopolitan, but Time and Newsweek.
It’s not enough to say she doesn’t look her age. Linda Wood-Hoyte doesn’t look her generation. In fact she makes most twenty-somethings look lame. She can walk into most gyms and be the best-built person, of either gender, in it. All this without drugs, without surgery, without gimmicks.
The public’s never heard of Linda. Why? Because the public, their media, and the multi-billion dollar commercial interests which pull the strings have decided that they don’t want to know about Linda. You see, most of them have already accepted all the bad press and dogma about these “women who look like men.” They’ve seen the caricatures, the magazine photographs of enormous grimacing gargoyles of tortured contour and veiny skin. As they exist outside the public’s frame of reference, the public has no trouble rejecting them as an aberration.
And for most men, they embody a primal nightmare. The commercial interests know that and will try to steer them elsewhere, assuring them that the women they really want to lure with their discretionary expenditures look like the ones in the men’s and women’s magazines.
So…most women are being robbed of their health, their faces, their figures and their futures- by those same multi-billion dollar commercial interests who feed on their misconceptions. Of course they all want a firm, strong, body with curves in all the right places, enhanced sexuality, more energy and age reversal. Of course they even think there are secrets, contained in some pill or plan, which will transform them into svelte youthful head-turners overnight. An entire industry exists to oblige them in that fallacy, or at least to separate them from their cash, with a bewildering array of diets, books, tapes, pills, surgery, and gimmicks. Over thirty-three billion dollars worth annually. You think they want anyone to know about women like Linda?
The Fitness revolution and Title IX have spawned a whole new breed of heroines, and with them, a serious assault on that final bastion of male physical predominance. Most of these icons, like the Williams sisters and the daughters of boxing legends, are new arrivals, emerging on cue, just as the world is ready to accept them. They’ll inspire countless little girls, no doubt. But not a whole lot of adult women, huffing away in their aerobics or spinning classes, aspire to Wimbledon or the bloody canvas. Most don’t want to pump iron either. But there’s been a trickle-down from the Olympian heights that they can’t ignore. Weight-training, once shunned even by male athletes, has so pervaded the sports world that Newsweek featured a dumbbell-wielding Olympic figure-skater named Michelle Kwan. By that time, dumbbells were even appearing in aerobics classes, and no longer were terms like “reps,” “triceps extensions” and “squats” the exclusive domain of the muscle-head community. Neither were the dietary practices of numerous small high-protein meals throughout the day, quarts of water, creatine, and thermogenics. The tenets of bodybuilding, always a decade or so ahead of public acceptance, eventually become de rigueur for athletes.
Linda learned those principles early on in the sport’s history. Women’s bodybuilding, as we know it today, was barely three years old when she came aboard. And Linda was barely thirty-nine.
The genetics had been there all along. Linda, whose Jamaican mother had been a track star, was herself a top runner in high school, hence the opportunity to share a heat against Wilma Rudolf. And Linda too was invited to try for the 1960 Olympic team, going to the glory in Rome which would thrust Wilma into history, along with a young boxer named Cassius Clay. But Linda declined; as a teen, growing up in an era repressive for both women and minorities, she’d been schooled that it was not deemed ladylike such physical clout. Linda had been raised as a lady. Ladies played tennis and jogged. Ladies married, started families and sometimes careers. Linda did those things too, working her way up the corporate chain to become a national corporate director for quality assurance for a major communications company. But once into bodybuilding, she thrust herself into it headlong, compiling a contest record which fills a full page, competing against women half her age, beating women who’d later go on to get their pro cards. She also became an NPC and IFBB judge, which put her in a position to be studying up close, the most outrageous muscle of all time- an ironic immersion for a former young girl who’d once eschewed “unladylike” athleticism.
Bev Francis’ Gold’s Gym, Syosset, NY, January 5, 2002:
Those present include Bev and Steve Weinberger (who seldom visit their gym on Sundays), Andrulla Blanchette, Heather Foster, Joe and Dave Palumbo, Colette Nelson, a couple of women who competed in the McLish era, and other friends of one of female bodybuilding’s classiest ladies. Linda Wood-Hoyte is sixty today, and she decides to celebrate by hoisting some no-nonsense iron with her pals, jumping in for a few sets with anyone who wants to train. The camaraderie and ambiance on this afternoon recalls those classic black-and-white gym-fest photos from the PUMPING IRON days. At one point Joe and Dave- together some five hundred pounds- clamber onto her back, all but hiding her as she reps donkey-calf raises.
Watching her, I can’t help but recall the astonishment that had been expressed by Art Carey, a noted columnist from the Philadelphia Inquirer eight years earlier. Linda had been onstage at a local health and fitness fair, performing one-arm dumbbell rows with 135 pounds, and now she stood in a booth chatting with admirers. “Look at her,“ Art marveled, before sprinting off to a phone to summon a local television news crew for a segment which would air a week later. ”Not a line on her face! All that muscle and she’s so…ladylike!”
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