And now for the sublimely inspirational and truly heartwarming tale of two boys and their dog. Well, to be absolutely honest, the dog is in there for comic relief—that's because the dog is all sort of shambly and burps a lot, a Newfoundland puppy named Chiang, soon to be 150 pounds, with paws the size of saucers. She has a tendency to gulp her food, including fingers if you feed her by hand. And then she sits around smiling and looking terrifically cuddly until finally somebody will say, "My, what a cunning dog," and Chiang will go braaaaaaggph, like that.
The dog lumbers around the parking lot outside of Gold's Gym in Venice, Calif. every day while the two boys are inside, turning themselves into monsters. Venice is a particularly lunatic suburb of Los Angeles, and it seems to be just about the right spot for the gym. Gold's, as most everybody knows, is the world headquarters of bodybuilding.
There are no innuendos intended here. Bodybuilders are a delight to know and assuredly no more loony than you or I. Always remember that other people can hide their little vices, but with bodybuilders, the results of their obsession show. Besides, how can one not like a race of people whose conversation is studded with stuff like, "Today I'm going to do my pecs [pectorals] because yesterday I did my abs [abdominals]"? How can one not stand in wonder when a bunch of bodybuilders is assembled and there's a giddy sense that everybody in the room has just taken a deep breath? At any time of the day, it seems possible that Gold's Gym will tear loose from its foundations and rise, mirrors, body oil and all, and float lazily off toward the Aleutians.
The truth is, something almost that strange and wonderful is about to happen. Indeed, this story is by way of a scoop, for even as you read it, the world of bodybuilding and possibly even powerlifting and God knows what-all else is on the verge of a shocking change. Up until now, bodybuilding has been, at least most of the time, a peaceful, narcissistic, insulated world. But no more. The Barbarians are here and a new order is at hand. Hark! Hear that? Braaaaaaggph.
The Barbarians are a team, two 25-year-old giants named Peter and David Paul—how sweetly, how innocently, those names fall upon the ear—recently of Hartford, Conn. and Narragansett, R.I. They stand 6 feet and 6'1", respectively, weigh 235 and 245, and have 20½-inch necks and 59-inch chests. Peter and David are fraternal twins, the third and fourth children of Lenny and Teddy Paul, an erstwhile vigorous, athletic couple whom the boys totally exhausted before they finally left home a few years ago. "As babies, we were what is known as late walkers but early climbers," says Peter, "and it wasn't long after we were born that, for the first time in her life, Mom would sit down at the end of a day and pour herself a drink."
Now the twins are busily exhausting Venice specifically and the world of bodybuilding generally. Peter and David don't really train, they rampage. They invade the gym, falling upon huge weights and lifting them and then piling on more weights. They lurch from station to station with a rolling, top-heavy gait, often growling loudly as they go. When they are under enormous stress, perhaps a bench press with 500 pounds of iron held overhead, their roars of effort rattle the big windows at Gold's.
They don't claim to be the strongest men in the world—just the strongest bodybuilders. And definitely the strongest twins. "These guys are really radical," says Pete Grymkowski, who was Mr. World of 1977. "Pound for pound, they have greater muscle density than any bodybuilder in the country. And we don't even know what their peak will be because they're still climbing." Nobody has ever combined the two disciplines of bodybuilding and powerlifting before, and the simple effrontery of the idea has raised goofiness to a high plane.
And now, Peter stands trembling under a bar loaded with 535 pounds, veins standing out like thick phone lines along his neck. He glances to one side and grins. "How much fun can one guy have?" he says.
From behind him, David celebrates the lift. "Punch it, Pee-tah!" he yells. And then, while Pee-tah groans, he explains their motto. Well, one of their mottoes. This one is imprinted on the backs of their T shirts. A drawing depicts crossed axes, medieval-looking, presumably barbarian, with the blades lightly edged in blood. Above the axes it says:
NOT TILL YOU CRY