Collected Outbursts, in original form, both published and unpublished, in defense of the Sisterhood…


Volume Two


(Musclemag International, March 1999)

If the interest in female bodybuilders has waned in the magazines, take reassurance that it’s booming on the Web. But much like the competitive stage and the printed page, cyberspace can be vicious and unforgiving, no place for fragile egos. The capacity for anonymity and façade spawns spoilers. On the bulletin boards, in the chat-rooms, nothing is sacred, no one immune.

Andrulla Blanchette seems to defy the demons of both worlds. In post-contest coverage, this thirty-two-year-old Olympia contender from Britain garners praise from everyone. And why not? Packing as much muscle mass as possible on a 5’2″ frame (weighing in the upper 130’s for competition), she’s steadily moved upward since her first contest in 1986, which she entered on a spur-of-the moment, “just for fun.” She took first place at that show and at three others that year, then worked her way up though several World Championships to the pro world where she debuted with a sixth at the Jan Tana in 1995. In the past year she’s placed 7th at the Ms. Olympia and 6th at the Ms. International. If anyone challenges those placings, it’s only to question why they’re not higher.

Meanwhile on the Internet, she’s equally revered, running a bulletin board and making regular chat-room appearances. This is often a furnace, where verbal savagery by cyber-creeps has already driven off a number of otherwise tough women. But Andrulla just laughs them off or they’re set upon by her legions of fans, often to return contrite and converted. Her approach is simple: she treats everyone with respect and patience, even some who don’t deserve it. She’s earthy, witty, and not afraid to be silly. She remembers who you are and will take time to banter with you. And the regulars of the chat-room and bulletin board, a jaded cyber-savvy clique who will flame at the least provocation, defer to her as both a princess and little sister.

How devoted are these fans? During a visit to the East Coast in April, Andrulla roamed freely between New York City and Valley Forge, PA (a one-way drive of several hours) often on a moment’s notice, chauffeured door-to-door by worshippers who simply dropped what they were doing to be at her disposal. And these were “normal” guys: iron-pumping, beer-drinking, football-fan types. Nothing furtive and embarrassing here. Andrulla erases boundaries. Even with all that outrageous topography, that casual disregard for “feminine” posturing, she connects. Maybe that’s why: Andrulla’s tough, working-class demeanor, her refusal to play sophistication, lets her be one of the guys without having to compete with them.

But there’s a real woman here, and when Andrulla wants to, she can smolder with the best.

MMI: You’re a strange brew, Andrulla, and people are fascinated. Not just the outrageous body, but the exotic looks, that French/Marvel Comics name of yours… Where’s all that come from?

AB: The name’s from my father’s side. He has a half-French-Canadian father (Other part German, some Anglo-Indian -yes I know, weird mixture! My mother is a Greek Cypriot, through and through! My grandmother on father’s side is Portugese. I guess when you mix this lot up, you get ME! My father has a naturally athletic build, did lots of sports, and was in the Army as a young man. My mother was a real tough battle-axe -so strong! I remember her carrying us, me and my brother, for miles as children. She had forearms like Popeye! I guess they are both responsible for my great muscle-building genes. Speaking of genes (jeans), Mum’s also a great seamstress!

MMI: Brothers and sisters?

AB: I have a younger sister, 22, and two younger brothers, 25 and 30. They’re also naturally athletic. None of them’s seriously into sports, although my sister Barbra did bodybuild for awhile whilst she was in her early teens. The potential certainly did show itself; she could have been a taller version of me for sure. However the urge of motherhood was much stronger.

MMI: Will be interesting to see the result when you give in to that urge.

AB: I will one day!

3 May 1998 Vixen Hill Farm, Pennsylvania- On her way to the edge of the first field where Reg Bradford’s setting up to photograph her atop a rock, she’s stopped at the trampoline by my three nieces and their playmates who insist she climb aboard. She does. The girls all hop off except for ten-year-old Alyssa who proudly demonstrates a front flip. “Splendid,” says Andrulla. “Can you do this?” And improbably (like Mary Lou Retton and Michelle Ralabate, who looked too husky for this as well) she launches into a perfect back-flip. Alyssa looks at her wide-eyed and shakes her head slowly. “Of course you can.” Andrulla tells her. “I want you to crouch down low, thrust your legs. And swing your arms back like this.” She demonstrates, then assists Alyssa through a few turns. A moment or two later Alyssa’s back-flipping as if she’d been doing it all her life, and her new friend’s gone off to perch on her stone.

MMI: So how do they all view the family’s wild child? I can’t imagine their not being supportive.

AB: How do they view me? I guess you should really be asking them this question. I feel that it’s with much admiration. My parents have been extremely supportive of all of us, and still are. They’re very proud. My father’s at my gym everyday helping out. He’s 67. Mum just got the urge to start working out -can you believe it? At 67! By the way, I made a boo-boo: I have three brothers. Terry’s a half-brother and he’s the eldest of us. He spent many years in the army, so I didn’t see him so much. He was such a rogue -my parents couldn’t handle him! He’s actually a really cool guy now; he’s been married for many years and has two beautiful daughters.

MMI Could YOU handle him, Andrulla? Was he the reason you took up judo as a toddler? Tell us about Andrulla the Kid…

AB: I was very physical. I loved to climb- trees, buildings… The housing where we lived was still in the process of being built when I was eight. This was superb, with all the scaffolding to swing on! I spent lots of hours on a bike or roller-skates. I would play-fight with other kids. Getting into judo was basically a more controlled version of what I would otherwise be doing out in the street -letting off my aggression in a civilized manner.

MMI: When did you get serious about it?

AB: In 1978 when I was 11. I gained my 1st Dan by the time I was 16. As a junior on the British team I competed abroad many times. My goal was to compete in the Olympic games.

MMI: Their loss was our gain! What was the training like?

AB: Our instructor was very unorthodox. He taught us stuff the other clubs wouldn’t -arm-locks, strangles…at contests our club would win all weight classes. I competed almost every weekend- even in different federations. That’s not allowed, but it paid off. My brothers and I have a roomful of trophies.

MMI: Strangles? Not very sporting -ever use it on the street?

AB: I had to defend my younger brothers often, because we lived in an area with racial prejudice and one of my brothers got picked on for having darkish skin.

MMI: And your move from fast-falls to slow squats -let me guess: you started with weights to improve your throwing…

AB: Right. A lot of guys at my gym were entering bodybuilding contests, but only one woman was. They talked me into entering a little one called the Miss London Championships. I had a week’s notice -learned some poses the day before- and I won. There were 15 girls in it. They’d been training for several years, but I had more muscle. And that’s how I got started.

MMI: You leg-pressed 1200 and cheat-curled around 180 several times during the WPW shoot here. What are some of your other poundages?

AB: Lat-pulldowns- 250, Dumbbell One-arm Rows-120, Shoulder press (dumbell)-70, Incline Dumbell press -100lbs… I train pretty heavy on most movements, but back is probably my


MMI: How do you normally train? Anything out of the ordinary?

AB: Heavy, with basic movements. 8-10 rep range utilizing the pyramids and drop-sets…

MMI: Do you prefer to train alone, with guys or with other women?

AB: I like to train alone sometimes. It’s more productive near a contest to have a partner. I don’t mind what sex they are, so long as they turn up on time.

25 April 1998, New York City- Is she really tough? I find out at Johnny Lats Gym in lower Manhattan where we pound shoulders set after set, using seventy-pounders seated for the last three sets. Andrulla barely breaks a sweat or loses her breath, grinning at me to let me know this is as tasty for her as all those steaks she inhales. Is she really tough? Later that evening, we’re discussing her judo and I playfully grapple with her. Guarded, conservative, I keep the center of gravity of my 230 pounds low, aware that over-commitment is suicide in this game. Despite my caution, despite twenty years of weight-training, I’m on my back in seconds anyway, an Andrulloid knee at my throat, an exuberant grin mocking me through a tangle of hair. Going down is humiliating enough. What really hurts is how easily she did it. Like peeling off a jacket. Yes, she’s tough. Probably wouldn’t have broken a nail, even if she had any to break.

MMI: Steak and eggs seems to be your primary staple. What’s your average daily feed?

AB: I consume around 2,500 calories per day during the off-season. It’s always a high protein low-fat approach, regardless. The difference for pre-contest is in manipulating the carb ratio. But it’s nothing unusual:

Meal 1) Scrambled eggs (6 whites/2 yolks), some days steak (250gm), Oats (40 gm) with raisins

2) Protein shake

3) Chicken breast (200 gm), medium potato, apple

4) Protein shake

5) Fish or steak grilled (250 gm) plus veggies and small bowl of rice

MMI: How does the BB scene differ in England? Do you get many competing bodybuilders at your gym, Dowe Dynamics?

AB: In general, it seems that there’s not as much interest here. It doesn’t seem to have grown at all. I find I get a lot more positive response from the USA and other European countries. My gym has some awesome equipment and a nice working atmosphere. We don’t have many competitors, just 3 other than myself, or 4 if you want to count my boyfriend Ian!

MMI: Does England have an equivalent to the Venice scene? Do you run across Dorian, Joanne Lee, Paula Bircumshaw, Ian Harrison etc?

AB: Not exactly! Top bodybuilders in Venice are constantly around at Golds, etc. The contests are really the only opportunities at which you would get to see many of the top bodybuilders under one roof. I do bump into some of these folks at the bigger shows.

MMI: Tell us about your Ian (Dowe)? Will he compete again?

AB: With Ian, you can never be sure! His last contest was the 1993 World Games at which we both won our classes. Prior to that he competed in 1987. His theory is like learning to drive: once you’re able, you do it at will. He parked his car for a while, from 1987 to 1993. Then he took it for a spin. So who knows with Ian -might be time for another trip! He always trains and stays huge.

MMI: Who are your inspirations?

AB: I really can’t think of anybody!

MMI: Aw c’mon, Androooolla! We all have heroes or idols, folks we admire even if we don’t want to be them.

AB: I admire Arnold Schwarzenegger. He has accomplished so much. Even more so he proved some big-mouthed people wrong by sticking to his goals and working hard til he achieved. Oh, and yes he was a great bodybuilder! I personally think he is the all time best.

MMI: Beyond the Ms. Olympia, what are your aspirations?

AB: I live now as I would with or without the Olympia, It doesn’t govern my life. I train very hard for the contests, but still pursue my other goals at the same time. Bodybuilding itself is a lifelong commitment for me. I’ll always work out even beyond the Ms. Olympia.

MMI: Right, but what about those other goals? Beyond bodybuilding? What are they?

AB: Mainly to be happy in whatever I do. I’m presently involved in a small movie to be made in November; hopefully more will stem from this. I’m taking some acting classes this summer, I already do several modeling assignments here for ads, etc. I’m also writing a book. I haven’t really thought much about the baby thing, but can see myself as a mum one day!

MMI: A book? Good for you! Tell us about it!

AB: I’ve actually just finished writing it. I must have spent near 6 months in a state of depression, from not being able to train and continue with my bodybuilding career. I found it therapeutic to

write stuff down. Back in 1996 after the Ms. O, I decided to get my boobs done. I had thought about it for a couple years, before finally taking the plunge. I sought out as much info on it as

possible to show my surgeon. There was a super write-up from MuscleMag, with women bodybuilders and the problems they had in getting boob-jobs. I gave this, plus videos and pics of myself to the surgeon for reference. He decided it best to put the implants under the muscle. He messed up. I had to get four surgeries in all to correct the problem. I’m now in the process of trying to get compensation. The book goes into full detail of all the happenings.

MMI: Not your usual paperback or coffee-table tome, but good luck with it! There are probably quite a few women out there who’d benefit from it. Now about the acting- what work and training have you had?

AB: I’m about to take some classes. I have auditioned for a few parts. I have a film to do in November, in California. It’s called Magneeta. I will star as a tycoon who fights with a seven-foot machine called the Bodycuff Robot! The movie will go direct to video, and expects to be available by January 1999.

MMI: Now you can use those strangle-holds! If you could choose your roles, what would they be?

AB: Action! Anything action! Assassin of some sort. Sci-fi would be just cool…

MMI: How do you deal with the public?

AB: People are always fascinated by me. They always end up telling me how different I am to what they expected. I feel in general I get a positive response. People like muscle. They like to come up and have a squeeze, and talk to me in the street.

MMI: And what sort of things do they say? Besides the marriage proposals?

AB “I never knew muscles could look so good on a woman” This is typical -I guess it’s brought about by the fact that the public see pictures in magazines of female bodybuilders just in contest shape. This could be too overwhelming for their eyes. If magazines portrayed the sensual side

more; instead of just blanking us, it would be a step in the right direction.

2 May 1998, Yellow Springs, Pennsylvania- It’s well past midnight when Andrulla and I arrive at the house-party in Yellow Springs, a nearby historic hamlet of pre-Revolution buildings and reclusive artists. Most of those present are of the local equestrian aristocracy. All seem well-toasted on cognac and whatever they were dispensing at the day-long Border Plate horse event held just a mile or so away. As with most house-parties, the nucleus occupies the kitchen. The women pause in their deliberations to assess Andrulla, but she’s so far from their realm, she’s not even within any scale of comparison and they don’t know what to say. But they’re very polite to her and when she’s out on the darkened overhang porch, nursing a glass of port and peering through the soft rain at the quiet street, they’ll come out individually to tell her how wonderful she looks. Andrulla, delighted and curious at these surroundings, comments how odd it is that New York City and this delirious haven could exist in the same country. Now one of the men comes outside to check her out. He’s a little giddy; he was at the Border Plate too. He feels her arm and recoils in exaggerated horror. Andrulla lets him do it without comment. She smiles and turns around, leaning against the rail and laying some lat on him. He shakes his head, laughing: “You can’t fool me. You’re a guy!” Another woman might go hissy at this point, or at least offer a well-rehearsed come-back, reflecting on the guy’s insufficiencies. But Andrulla doesn’t mind, and the smile never leaves her face. She knows she’s a woman and she knows the guy knows that too, that he’s expressing his tribute to her muscle the only way he knows how. And he pays tribute to her womanhood too, by remaining as near her as he dares until it’s time for her to leave.

MMI: What does women’s bodybuilding need to do to fix itself?

AB: I think bodybuilding in general needs fixing! Go back to what it’s supposed to be about -the best-built woman or man in the world. In my view it means having a beautiful shape with

muscles, everything evenly and fully developed, not necessarily massive and ripped. I believe Anja Langer had this look.

MMI: Anyone competing today have this look?

AB: My friend and fellow competitor Jitka has got to be the closest I have seen.

MMI: A lot of us agree with you. And Jitka’s obvious commercial potential could do big things for the image of women’s bodybuilding. But commercial viability has also pushed Fitness women into the limelight at the expense of the female bodybuilder. Wanna comment on that?

AB: Commercial viability…don’t you mean to say that “Sex Sells?” Be honest about it. The way the women are portrayed is as sexual images, for men to drool over in between reading the training articles.

MMI: We guys can’t help drooling over sexual images -that’s the way we’re wired! Some of us drool over Andrulla and Jitka, but there aren’t enough of us yet to influence the magazines. And the magazines have to go with whatever sells. So faced with that requirement, if you were one of these publishers, what would you do?

AB: I would certainly keep the Fitness stuff still, but make sure an adequate amount is published on the FBB side of things. Contest reports, training articles, profiles, and nice photos. Not always ripped and, veiny, but a sensuous look!

3 May 1998 Vixen Hill Farm, Pennsylvania- Can Andrulla be sensuous? She doesn’t try to be. She acts like a guy a lot of the time, doesn’t complain or talk much, worry about her hair or nails. Every photograph I’ve seen of her so far accentuates her muscle, her power. When she was here for the video-shoot with Women’s Physique World, she’d neglected to get any color. After all, this was about strength, raw muscle. But Reg and I want to see the other Andrulla, the one she doesn’t have time for. We make sure she arrives with some color. And Reg carefully poses her as a temptress rather than a titan, highlighting those things she withholds. When I see the prints much later I’m impressed, even dazzled. But I’m not surprised. Because when Reg is finished, I take a few shots of her in the front pasture, leaning against the fence. And when I show them to people, they say “That’s Andrulla?”

MMI: What are Androoolla’s turn-ons? 

AB: Is this a sexual question? 

MMI: Not exclusively, but now that we know how you think, go ahead and include those things too!

AB: I love a good movie, on a cold night, with a good vintage red, plus someone to cuddle up to…Ian, of course! 

MMI: What things make Andrulla mad? 

AB: I can’t stand bad time-keeping! I need food on time, sleep on time, should I go on? 

MMI: Yes.

AB: I’m quite easy-going. Don’t really get mad, unless I haven’t eaten for a while.

25 April 1998, New York City- There’s a traffic jam on 62nd Street and when we come out of Andrulla’s friend’s apartment the cacophony of horns is maddening. Andrulla doesn’t understand how this mindless venting of noise is supposed to accomplish anything. So she walks up to the nearest car, whose driver’s jamming on his horn, to say so. She raps on the guy’s window. Stunned at this breach of Big Apple see-hear-speak nothing, he actually rolls it down. With the noise so deafening, Andrulla’s leaning halfway into the car to speak to him. I can’t hear what they’re saying but when she pulls back out, they’re both laughing. Bob Kennedy has assured me that this wit and charm is merely “British,” a trait possessed by 60 million others in the UK. Go ahead, Sir Robert –you tell an angry Manhattan motorist to knock it off! I’ll watch after your toys for you.

MMI: What do you look for in a man?

AB: Loads of Money! (Just kidding) A caring, sincere, fun, intelligent man, with some muscle and maybe a bit of money. 

MMI: Does that exclude most bodybuilders?

AB: I’m not sure. I’ve met some very nice bodybuilders -probably quite a few out there fit this criteria. However, I shan’t be looking… I already have one! 

MMI: What are the stupidest things guys do? 

AB: Try to lift up more weight than they can handle to impress me. Act tough in public. Drive too fast. Ask marriage without prior meeting. Boast about their organ.

MMI…and ask how they can find a girl like you when they look as though they’ve never seen the inside of a gym?

AB: Yes. This does occur. The list could grow, but I personally don’t hang out or bother with em, if they act stupid.

MMI: You’ve got quite a following on the Internet. Do many of these guys make an effort to meet you?

 AB: Oh, yes, they sure do! I have met quite a few interesting people through the Net.

 MMI: Some examples?

AB: Diana the Valkyrie, whom I am sponsored by. I host a chat session on her site weekly (Tuesday 4pm GMT). That’s Then there’s Genex Hwang. We used to converse daily via e-mail. He’s a webmaster (makes websites for companies) and does my site for me too. He is also a superb writer/photographer -goes regularly to many of the contests, including the Ms. O, where we met, and makes an online report with pictures afterwards. Better than some of the bodybuilding magazines do -at least we get to see the female scene covered! And Smitty – a really wonderful guy- he’s a sports editor in NYC. He showed me around town on my visit to NY and generally chauffeured me about. He also goes to many of the shows.

MMI: You related a funny story on your bulletin board recently which your fans got a kick out of. How about sharing it with the cyber-spatially-disadvantaged?

AB: I went to a market with my friend Lillian. It was not that warm, so I was wearing a sweater. Lillian loves silver jewelry, so we went to look at the silver on display on the outside stools. There were some nice bracelets, none of which would fit over my hand. Lillian was looking at some snake-style bracelets, which are meant to be worn on the upper arm. I picked one up and looked at Lillian. She told me “No way, Drew; don’t even think about it! That won’t fit you.” The guy selling the jewelry told Lillian “Its OK, love, they fit all sizes and they’re pretty flexible.” Lillian replied “Well I don’t care how flexible they are; No way will they fit her arms.” The man, looked at me, and said, “Course it’ll fit ya; give it a try.” I replied “I can see it’s too small for me without trying it. I wish it would fit, since it’s sooo pretty.” The man was insistent about this being able to fit me. Lillian said “Get your arm out; show ‘im,” She was tugging at my sleeve now. “Ok, give it to me then, but if It breaks, it ain’t my fault” The man nodded approval. I de-robed one arm, slipped the bangle up to the gap between my delt and bicep/tricep. The man looked at my arm in shock. I raised my arm, and flexed it. His eye’s popped out as he watched my arm open out the bangle. Lillian said “I told you so; I told you it wouldn’t fit her.”

25 April 1998, New York City- She’s got a fang. Just one. She shows it to me almost mirthfully when I arrive, having gotten over the shock of learning she’s stuck with it. The story’s funny. A night or so earlier a friend dragged her to a horror convention and treated her to a fang-fitting. But the acrylic mold wouldn’t let go on one side, not after they’d nearly yanked her gums out and she’d threatened to kick all their asses. Not even after a visit to the hospital. She’ll have to wait, a celebrity of sorts in New York with numerous appointments and a fang that won’t go away. So she has some fun with it, shows it off in surprising moments, bringing her face up close to yours and saying widely: “Hi!” None of that screechy female hysteria for Andrulla! But the novelty wears off after a day, and that evening as we stroll Soho, she stops in a pharmacy and buys a file. The next morning, the fang is gone.

MMI: You told me you did a TV talk show appearance in March. Was it the usual ignorant line of questioning?

AB: Yeah, not worth the bother. Stuff like, “Does it turn to fat when I get to 50?” and “Why do you have to be so big on the top?” and “Your chest looks unfeminine -you don’t have breasts.” I laid into the bitch who threw this comment at me. Told her that she was insulting all the other women in the studio, and calling them unfeminine, just cause they weren’t so well-endowed. Went down well. She had to shut her gob!

17 April 1998, Vixen Hill Farm- The Women’s Physique World guys have finished filming her monster-lifts in the gym and now Andrulla comes out-doors in a silver two-piece to pose for them against the backdrop of nature. Looking on are several guests, including Dr. Al Thomas, the perpetual foot-note to this sport’s history, who likes ’em big and doesn’t make these trips for just anyone. And Andrulla hasn’t disappointed. Even off-season, she’s quite a sight. Now pumped and flushed from her labors, she makes her way down the lane to the field with the cortege following. But then she spots one of the peacocks, a mass of male plumage as gaudy as a Robert Kennedy necktie, preening himself in a lower barn-window reflection, and she decides to try catching him. In a scene reminiscent of a Rocky film, she chases him around in circles til the game gets too serious for him and she gets too close. “AW-HAW?” he shrieks, and flaps up to the safety of the spring-house roof. Andrulla shrugs and turns to grin at us. She might have looked silly doing that, but she was having fun. And it’s like everything else she does, for that matter, like women’s bodybuilding itself: if we’re not in on it, too bad for us.


(The Right Stuff,  January 1995)

She didn’t win her class at the Nationals in 1993. In fact, she placed ninth. Funny thing, it’s just as well. The Nationals were little more than a spur-of-the-moment addition to her agenda then and to win there would have been a little too much at once. When you’re Cyndi James you’ve got enough of a life for three people.

Let’s go back to the beginning of that year when she’s unknown outside of the south Jersey area with little more than a local Gold’s Gym Classic title under her Cardillo. A friend has referred her to me to help run an exhibit at the Arnold Classic in Columbus. ‘She’s up and coming,” her friend says ‘and turning some heads.” Yeah, OK. The photos CJ has mailed me don’t ring any bells. Basic blonde in contest shape, too lean for my tastes but obviously serious. That suffices. She comes alive on the phone. “I’m down in Florida,” she says, “training with Gillian Hodge and running a sportswear business. Posing suits. Make my own stuff. My business partner’s screwed me over, so I’m pulling out of here and going on my own. Love your designs. See you in Columbus.”

CJ turns heads at the Arnold. Whether joining a well-constructed Rachel Mathias demonstrating the Bun Burner or posing with Rachel atop chairs in a sportswear booth, this thirty-five year old turbo draws a crowd. The combination of Barbi-doll thick blonde hair, walnut tan and Hot-Skins shorts being stretched in the directions they ought to be stretched, is only a starting point. CJ is not what you’d call beautiful, her natural visage being hard and challenging. But hers is a face vested with the energy which animates all of her, and she throws much prettier women into the shadows. The composite effect attracts men like moths, including photographers from the magazines. the show is sold out and CJ hasn’t bought tickets but she will turn up in the theatre anyway. and she will draw attention at the absurdly-oversold post-show banquet and the private parties which go on until dawn, in a spectacular red mini outfit she made herself. That’s a debut!

A week later, during the Blizzard of ’93, CJ takes second in the New Jersey Suburban and not long after that, middleweight in the New Jersey State.

Meanwhile she’s launching her new line of posing wear, EGO BEACH. She brings some of it to a photo shoot at THE VALKYRIES’ headquarters. Seeing a sketch of a female Rambo design on a table she says, “I wanna do that.” She does, in one of her leather and steel creations, and an improvised headband. An assault rifle slung across her shoulder completes the effect. Click! Later in the month she calls from St. Croix, to tell me that she has sold hundreds of copies of the photo there, ostensibly to legions of crazed military personnel. At the Jr. Nationals in Baltimore, Bruce Thompson of Delaware Valley Bodybuilding News decides he likes the photo too and fills the front page of his next issue with it. Then again, he’s known CJ since college and is hardly impartial.

I suggest to CJ that she do the Jan Tana Classic for more exposure. She does, taking the middleweight title with a bright red suit and posing which dominates the stage, even while she is being out-massed by for the overall by Jennifer Greenbaum. “Damn!” she says to me the next morning with about as much concern as if she’d just lost a hair pin. “I could’ve clobbered this show if I hadn’t dropped the carbs. Two weeks ago I was ten pounds heavier and just as ripped.” No matter. You could tell she’d have had a blast even without the Alice B. Toklas brownies someone had fed her shortly before stagetime. At the post-show party she’s wearing another CJ rig to the popping of eyeballs and flashbulbs, nonchalantly upstaging many of the pro women there. The next day the Women’s Physique World gang collars her for a video. And a number of pro women corner her to be custom fitted for posing suits.

Somers Point lies just outside Ocean City, NJ, minutes from the decadent glitter of Atlantic City. down the road from Cyndi’s house are Gold’s Gym and the Eastern Athletic Club. She trains at both, according to her mood, but mainly at Gold’s where she can lift at her favorite hour of 3:am. When I hammer on her door just after noon one Saturday in August, she is so far under that it takes phone calls from a nearby supermarket to rouse her. I’ve since learned that there is no best time to call. She’s either gone out or zonked out. Tripping over a dozen cats with names like Khaddafi, Spooky, Sparky, Flash and Zorbity, I follow CJ to the kitchen to observe the revival process to the aroma of industrial-strength vanilla almond hazelnut expresso and a noisy phone. This isn’t her time of day, but nobody else seems to know it either. One of her callers is a cousin and CJ, a full-blooded Greek who didn’t speak English until she was nearly seven, concludes the conversation with a barrage of her father’s tongue.

Later, in her black Ford F150 pickup rumbling atop oversized wheels, we head for the beach. Al Thomas, the university professor whose eloquent writings on muscular women predate Lenda Murray’s birth, lives here, and told me that  Steve Wennerstrom surveyed these beaches and expressed disappointment to find few signs of Amazonian life. It hasn’t changed much. Thus CJ owns the beach here, much as Arnold did Venice in the early seventies. It is apparent at the beachside cafe where the car jockey reverently takes her keys and her presence on the crowded deck is acknowledged by all the male staff. It’s the same on the beach, where a succession of GQ-cover types approach her to be acknowledged. if she seems blase about this, it might have something to do with having once been engaged to an international Chippendale and having for close friends some guys who make Fabio look like Al Bundy.

She’s achieved some notoriety here too, having recently Billy-Jacked a group who were harassing some of her girlfriends while they were sunning themselves. The confrontation concluded with Calamity James bodily dragging two women off the beach by their hair while onlookers cheered and the beach patrol shrugged.

On the way back to the truck we pass a group of young Latino bodybuilders bantering amongst themselves in the street. They pause in their macho posturing and eye her but say nothing, sensing perhaps that she’s well-established on this turf. CJ barely notices them. “Out-of-towners.” she says dismissively.

It’s near evening on November 5th, and at the Roseland Ballroom in New York, the final rehearsals for Laurie Fierstein’s seminal “Celebration of the Most Awesome Female Muscle in the World” aren’t going as well as planned. Some of the scheduled performers have backed out, and of those who have come up, there are a few who haven’t made the rehearsal. It is rumored that they’re congregated in the suite of Cyndi James, who has lugged the appurtenances of a modest-sized sweat-shop up to Manhattan to costume the performers. No one has seen her the whole day. she apparently has Kris Luebke in tow, and this has the stage manager in fits, since Kris is one of the missing and is all but scratched from the script. Kris never does make it onstage. Instead, to the astonishment of all, it is CJ who arises grandly from the casket onstage, performing her danse macabre in the eerie light to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” What do you expect? She’s been holed up in a hotel room for days, putting together outfits, and isn’t going to let a burn-out session like that go by without making a statement.

Subsequently she doesn’t make it to the Extravaganza in the Meadowlands of north Jersey until the following afternoon. Despite the grueling pace, she still looks fancy enough that she has to dodge some of her more persistent fans. CJ’s not ingracious, but some of these guys ought to use a little more judgment. Ask Tina Lockwood, the gargantuan diamond-in-the-rough from California. only 22 years old and carrying 170 pounds on a stupendous skeletal structure, she’s got the goodies to spoil quite a few Master Plans and a few idiots, like the one who tried to grope her at the show. He got away undamaged only because CJ hasn’t had the time to school Tina yet.

That’s coming, though. Both of them share a room at the Beacon for the Ms. Olympia in New York three weeks later, and when I stop in, Tina is fitting nicely into the bedlam which accompanies CJ wherever she goes. The room is awash with Jamesian paraphernalia, including sewing machines, costumes, and coffee pots, because even now CJ has been working on posing suits for some of the competitors: a flurry of last-minute alterations and appointments for later fittings. Small wonder that Kenny Kassel refers to her as the Official Seamstress of the IFBB. Now, with twenty minutes until showtime, the two are readying themselves for the night appearance. CJ, wearing only a towel, reaches down into a bag, fishes out a gelatinous blob, and throws it at me, absently. It hefts about like a small water balloon.

“Ever seen one of these?” she asks.

“I don’t think I wanna know…”

“Breast implant. Keep them around in the refrigerator, but I don’t know when I’ll ever get them put in.” 

She’s working with pliers on a gold chain contraption resembling a chastity belt when I leave and sure enough, dressed to dazzle, the two make a conspicuous entrance midway through the show.

A week later she is filmed in an HBO comedy special with Rhonda Shear (of  UP ALL NIGHT fame). This is nothing new for her. Months earlier she was doing local TV interviews, and long before that were appearances with the likes of Danny DeVito and Joe Piscopo in WISE GUYS, and with the late Red Foxx. One can conclude that this knack for presentation didn’t come overnight.

1994 finds her pace undiminished. With Roger Stewart, who hasn’t won a national show but still gets more magazine covers and ad work than anyone else, pro or otherwise., she has launched a new sportswear line called “Totally Untamed.” She’s popping up in the magazines more; an appearance in Ironman brings her inquiries worldwide. She takes second at the National Masters and at the Jan Tana, where she is bested by the sheer mass of Tina Lockwood. She has to skip the Nationals, as a relocation to Ft. Lauderdale disrupts her preparations. As before, more important matters have arisen.

By now, Kenny Kassel’s sobriquette is no longer a joke. CEEJAY’s stature in the world of bodybuilding fashions has brought her to the attention of photographers like Bill Dobbins, Jim Amentler, and Paul Goode. She will now be designing suits for Flex centerfolds. The last time I talk to her she has just returned from an appearance on the MONTEL WILLIAMS SHOW, where she provided the outfits and played commentator, all while fighting a raging fever.

‘Gotta go,” she says, concluding the conversation to attend to an ailing member of her feline brood. “Spooky’s puking again.”  And some things just can’t wait.

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