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Joe Weider comes on strong. Watch him help two workmen hang an $8,000 Louis XV mirror in his midtown Manhattan apartment. They hoist the mirror into place. It slips from their grasp. Weider (pronounced Wee-der) muscles in, saving the antique in midair.
Listen to Weider talk: "Tomorrow? Hell, survive today, then bring on tomorrow."
Watch him write an advertisement with typical Weider wallop: "I don't care if today you own the scraggiest, flabbiest or funniest body—whether you're tall or short, young or not-so-young. If you send, under no obligation, for my absolutely free 32 pages of musclebuilding information, I guarantee you that virtually overnight you will experience a musclebuilding miracle; before your eyes, you will see handsome muscles bursting out all over you."
Or sample an ad for "Muscle Up" and Make Out, an instruction booklet: "In just 30 days you'll be a new breed of wildcat. You'll be a muscularized 'take charge' blaster—full of power and rugged vigor to help you perform like a tiger and drive 'em [the chicks] crazy this summer—from dawn to dusk!"
Weider, who has replaced Charles Atlas as the world's leading bodybuilder, writes 99% of his ads which, in turn, comprise 99% of the total advertising in his three magazines (combined monthly domestic circulation: 300,000), in which a substantial percentage of the articles are written or ghosted by Weider and his brother Ben. The magazines are Muscle Builder/Power ("The Advanced Muscle and Power Building Magazine Champions Believe In"), All American Athlete ("The Magazine for Fitness and Athletic Conditioning") and Mr. America ("The Fitness Magazine for Virile Men"). The first two publications are crammed with articles such as Watching Arnold Schwarzenegger Build His Incredible Biceps! and My 'Sock it to Me' Wednesday Training Routine by Sergio Oliva. Schwarzenegger is the present International Federation of Bodybuilders' Mr. Universe; Oliva is the IFBB Mr. Olympia. Both have 21½-inch biceps. Mr. America is more catholic. It runs stories on the order of Don't Be a Casualty of the Sexual Revolution.
Weider, whose headquarters are in Union City, N.J., grosses $4 million annually from his magazines and by selling weight-training courses, food supplements such as Muscle Density RX7 and bodybuilding equipment—60,000 sets of barbells, 12,000 007 Power Twisters, 15,000 German Iron Horsehoes and 15,000 Killer Karate Krushers. These and other products are unabashedly plugged in boldface in the editorial matter of the magazines. One ad for the Krusher reads: "DO YOU HAVE THE GUTS to use this 'Killer Karate Krusher' for just 30 days—and turn your hands into arsenals of incredible destructive power?" Train with it, says the ad, and you will "give your hands the power to tear chains apart...rip tennis balls asunder."
Weider is himself a living advertisement for his products. As he says matter-of-factly, "I'm 48, 5 feet 11, 190, can lift 200 pounds with one hand and 300 pounds overhead with two hands."
This, then, is Joe Weider, Builder of Champions since 1936 or 1938—depending on which ad you read—and tutor of "2 Million Successful Students." Or is it? The first inkling one gets that there is more to Weider than muscle comes from his voice. He is not his voice's master; it tinkles like so many pieces of glass and it is slightly high-pitched. Then there is the Weider accent, described by one associate as "a Russian-Jewish-French-Canadian twang with a Lawrence Welk echo."
If one asked the real Joe Weider to stand up, no one might arise. He aims at disparate goals, uncertain whether to concentrate on building his bank account or his brainpower. His museum-apartment is stuffed with antiques: a $2,000 Louis XVI clock, a $7,000 Clodion statue, a collection of English silver, early Western paintings and bronzes, a vase filled with $6,900 worth of porcelain Meissen and Vincennes flowers. In these elegant surroundings Weider will discourse on Nietzsche one minute and the next bat out copy for ads that picture well-stacked chicks embracing the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger. (In issue after issue of Weider's magazines the same handful of bodybuilders appear in both ads and articles.)
Says one former Weider employee: "Two of us wanted to write a play about Joe called Muscle-lini. But even though both of us had worked for him for years, we realized we didn't understand him well enough to put him in writing."