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Cutting some fancy figures
Charles Gaines
July 10, 1972
They chose the best body on the East Coast at a strutters' ball
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July 10, 1972

Cutting Some Fancy Figures

They chose the best body on the East Coast at a strutters' ball

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There is no competition for Brown in the mediums, a fact that disappoints the crowd. They cheer only perfunctorily. But three of the tails are huge, and as soon as the group comes out the crowd senses there may be a real contest for Mr. East Coast after all. Bob Klez, Errol Kattarow and Ray Delaney each sport a lot of bulk. Klez lingers on the dais, taking his time over mostly chest and stomach poses. He is bearded and has tattooed dragons on each calf that writhe whenever he flexes his legs. Kattarow, who probably has the best back in the contest, keeps it up in front of the judges. His positions are long-lined and dramatic, and whenever he does turn around he looks as if he is engaged in some kind of fierce prayer. It is Delaney who seems the greatest threat. He is massive. His skin is paler than anybody else's, and he has not mixed iodine in his baby oil to darken it. His body looks like a gigantic piece of carved candle wax, and the classic, sculptural poses he puts it through are effective.

But sometime during his routine (or maybe later, in the pose-off he has with Klez for first in their class) it becomes clear that Delaney, even with his beer-keg chest and arms that look like they are slugged full of sausage, cannot do it. Nor Klez, nor Kattarow. That all the bulk on the East Coast is not going to do it today against Leon Brown's fearful symmetry. For the two or three minutes while he was stretching out that back pose and turning that triceps in front of the judges, Brown had managed to do what body building is all about: to make a form of sport and a form of art merge momentarily in the sure exhibition of a body trained as far as the muscles will allow, pushed against the natural inertia of tissue into its final form. Before the first trophy is handed out the crowd is shouting, "Le-on, Le-on...."

He swept it. He won Mr. East Coast, his class, Most Muscular and Best Poser. With each new trophy Leon made a little bow, expressionless still, and threw the ravening crowd a new pose. They did not stop yelling for a long time, those 1,200 big people, and the carnival atmosphere that body contests always create took a long time to blow off.

A number of people even stayed in their chairs to wait for Brown, Klez, Delaney and the others to leave after they had showered. Eyes moving from left to right, they watched each of them strut out into the park in that odd, high-chested way. A lot of mouths were pursed, and it was easy to believe that some of those people might be wondering about the same urge that Karl Shapiro muses on in The Leg:

The body, what is it, Father, but a sign
To love the force that grows us, to give back
What in Thy palm is senselessness and mud?

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