By Dick Tyler
Mr America Magazine, August 1965
Here's big news to all the BIG men reading this column. Well-known California muscle man, Joe Gold will soon e opening a gym at 1006 Pacific Ave. in Venice. For those of you who know know, Venice is just a stone's throw from famed Muscle Beach. Joe, who owns some real estate hereabouts, is building the gym from the ground up. Nothing "made over" for Joe. Now this is going to be a gym for men. No fancy rugs or chrome - just plain old-fashioned weights and the greatest apparatus you ever saw. How's this for dumbbells? The gym will have two complete sets of dumbbells going from 10 lbs. to 80lbs. in five pound jumps. From there they'll go to 150 lbs. by tens. Already Joe is having equipment made to order for the specialists. Joe is a Weider man and you can bet your bottom dollar that this is going to be a hot bed of training ofr Southern California strong men. Co-managing will be ole Zabo Koszewski himself. How can they miss? Those of you not already here in "Sunsville" better make Gold's gym a tourist attraction.
Why are some restaurants and other establishments the "in" places to go? What is the aura of a place that makes it "the" place ? Bigness or expensive decor certainly do not make any place "in" automatically. In fact, bigness or costly trimmings might turn many people off, making those establishments Chapter 11 cases very quickly. Many businesses thrive because of good management; some businesses thrive in spite of poor management. What is the charisma of an establishment that attracts regardless of its mananagement, size or decor ?
Whatever it is, Gold's Gym on Pacific Avenue, one block from the beach in Venice, California has it. Gold's attracts many of the top California physique stars -- Schwarzenegger, Zane, Draper, Columbu, Bill Grant, Birdsong, to name a few. Gold's is definitely not a plush gym alal Jack LaLanne's, and it is not a big gym as most gyms go. Gold's appears to be the size of a medium-sized store. From the street you can look inside and see a floor crowede with barbells, benches, and other equipment. You can see members -- many of whom you will quickly recognize -- working out.
Gold's is a bodybuilders' gym. Here you won't find business men types who work out just to stay in shape. Most members are bodybuilders who work hard to gain bulk, density and symmetry, and they work hard with minimum time for kibitzing or goofing-off.
The lockers and showers are on the ground floor in the rear of the building. On the second floor above the locker area is the manager's office where you might find Kenn Waller, who not only trains here but also manages Gold's Gym.
Gold's Gym is a nice place to visit, and you may want to work out there.
by Don Ross
The California Gold Rush of the mid-19th century brought thousands of settlers to the West Coast. But it has been gold of an entirely different sort that has brought top strength athletes flocking westward for the past 20 years: the world's first internationally recognized gym chain, Gold's. The flagship of the more than 300 Gold's Gyms worldwide is found in Venice, California. Here famous athletes and celebrities commingle with the dedicated bodybuilding locals.
Just two decades ago no businessman in his right mind would have invested a penny in a hardcore workout facility lacking a sauna, Jacuzzi, spa, pool, or rackquetball court. Now, as many of the chromed and gleaming health clubs go out of business, Gold's continues to grow in membership and recognition the world over. Fitness buffs today are more interested in a no-frills approach to serious results.
To better understand the story of Gold's We need to go back nearly a quarter centery. Joe Gold had already been a competitive bodybuilder, movie stuntman, and co-star of the famous "Mae West Show" of the 1950's when he opened a small training space in Venice. Joe kept up with the evolving strides in new equipment and techniques and made sure they were a part of Gold's Gym.
Before long, the word had spread. Bodybuidlers began leaving their gyms for Gold's. Muscle magazines jostled for the opportunity of making Gold's a backdrop for their photo shoots. By the late 1960's, bodybuilding champions from around the world came to train where the action was, to combine their knowledge and techniques in a new atmosphere of "training community."
Gold's had become the Mecca of bodybuilding.
One of the early members who greatly influenced the Gold's physique fraternity was a young Austrian named Arnold Schwarzenegger. Since Arnold's early days at Gold's, scores of international champions have made the Mecca their training ground.
In 1970 Joe Gold sold the gym to Bud Danitz and Dave Sachs. Yet the change of hands did nothing to diminish Gold's tradition and following, and the gym went on to attract world attention when, in 1975, it was featured in the film Pumping Iron. The movie mad stars out of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno, and expanded world awareness of both Gold's and the sport of bodybuilding.
Gold's has undergone several changes and face-lifts over the years. Dave Sachs sold his share in the company to partner Bud Danitz. Then in 1977, the gym was bought by former bodybuilder and fitness expert, Ken Sprague.
Meanwhile, business continued to boom. Several prestigious contests were hosted by Gold's Gym, starting in 1977 with the Mr America. In subsequent years, Gold's was the arena for several national Men's, Women's and Mixed Pairs competitions. Gold's led the way in promoting the recognition of women in the sport by co-hosting the first national woman's championship.
It seemed that no changing of hands could hurt the reputation of the facility, but it didn't help, either - until 1979, when bodybuilding great and Mr World titleholder Pete Grymkowski, along with Mr Empire State Tim Kimber, and architect Ed Connors bought the facility for $100,000. These three men combined their marketing know-how and noticeable changes began to take place. Their plan for Gold's Gym came from a adram that went far beyond simply expanding the original facility.
Their dream was to popularize the image and benefits of hardcore gym training in the minds of the businessperson, housewife, actor, athlete, and other non-competitive, but health-conscious people. Once this reputation for state-of-the-art training techniques and equipment was established on a public level, they moved on to a larger audience - the world. In June, 1980, Ed Connors became the first Gold's Gym licensee by opening a Gold's in San Francisco. Today, over 310 Gold's Gym licensees operate gyms all over the world.
As the United States became more aware of their diets, Gold's saw the opportunity to expand into nutritional supplements for the purpose of energy, muscle recuperation and overall health. After interviewing athletes on their expectations and needs, after four years of research, including human clinical studies, Grymkowski, Kimber and Connor launched Gold's into the forefront of a new frontier, pharmaceuticals, with its own formulas for vitamins and minerals, call Pro-Line.
A whole new technological horizon opened up in the field of physical fitness and Gold's owners seized it with both hands. They developed a computerized program to analyze individual nutrition and fitness, which was sold not only through the gym, but through sporting goods and health food stores throughout the country. A line of sportswear was desinged bearing the Gold's logo, picked up by major department stores and sold to athletes of every stripe, who carried off designer name with the alacrity produced by an alligator only a decade before.
The ball was rolling and there was no sign where Gold'smania would stop. __ day there stands in Venice, California Gold's Bodybuilding Hall of Fame. The original gym had become a regular stop for tourist "weekend warriors" to train alongside Mr and Ms Olympias. The driving concept of Gold's had always been that there was no stereotypical muscle man, that working out should be open to people from every walk of life: not like some jet-set nightspot, all manners of weight trainers flocked to perform the reps beside such personalities as Lyle Alzado, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Mych Thompson, Ken Norton, Reggie Jackson, Charlie Sheen, Richard Dreyfus, Judge Reinhold, Carrie Fisher, Linda Rondstadt, Jodie Foster, Michael Landon, Carl Weathers, David Lee Roth, Janet Jackson, Jermaine Jackson, Hulk Hogan, 700 pound bench presser Ted Arcidi, and the world's strongest woman, Jan Harrol.
From a gym where the locals use to sweat and grunt is now spawned a Motion Picture & Television Division! Single-handedly, in its own name, Gold's was creating an industry where none had existed. In film, television, radio and print media, through film shoots in the gym, guest posing and seminars, Gold's promoted male and female bodybuilders and gained the sport international "showbiz" exposure.
The Gold's phenomenon is the embodiment of the American Dream. Today, in the small gym from which it all began, the Mecca has turned into the Mega-gym. Vacationing athletes work out side by side with locals in the expanded three rooms, on everything from free weights to Keiser air pressure machines; competitors visit the private posing room where they rehearse their routines to music in front of multi-angled mirrors; and soon the gym will add a fourth room, for boxing, martial arts and wresting.1
In many ways, Gold's was responsible for putting bodybuilding on the global map and thankfully, it's not Kansas anymore, Toto.
Don Ross is a former Pro Mr America and the author of MuscleBlasting.
1..The fourth room is now mostly Stairmasters and bicycles, with a corner room for aerobics and boxing classes.