IronMan, Vol 16, No 2, Page 26, September 1956
LONDON PALLADIUM is probably the greatest and best known theatre in the world and thus the stage hands, programme sellers and other attendants are well accustomed to resounding applause and scenes of wild enthusiasm. However the vociferous approval from the lungs of over 2,000 bodybuilders attending the 1956 Mr. Universe, by all accounts, exceeded anything in their experience.
"Blimey" said the Cockney stage hand, "Danny Kaye, Johnny Ray and Doris Day all rolled into one wouldn't get this applause." But then, an audience amongst whom there are many who have travelled thousands of miles to see the show can rightly be considered something exceptional. Tickets were sold out many weeks in advance and many queued for hours in the hope of getting places in the limited standing room available. As one fan aptly remarked, the only place where there was room to flex a muscle was on the stage, and even then this space diminished rapidly when mighty chests were inflated and lats spread. In all over 70 competitors entered the competition. These came from a score of different countries and were officially sponsored by their sporting federations.
The last minute entries from Pearl and Schaefer caused a sensation and upset all predictions. The surprise appearance of the formidable American entry caused a terrific stir and these worthy representatives of the United States received a terrific ovation from the crowd. The highlight of the contest was Delinger's victory over Pearl, and although Bill has very many fans, the decision was a most popular one.
As Jack proudly shook hands with Columbia Recording star Billie Anthony, who presented the prizes most graciously, I am sure I saw Billie wince. This, I know, was not due to parting with the lovely trophy. I too, shook hands with Jack after his victory, and, chappie, when Jack Delinger shakes you're shaken!
The show, however, was the culmination of a series of interesting and exciting arrangements made by the National Amateur Bodybuilders Association of Great Britain, who organized the events superbly. The staff available to organize the show had their work cut out meeting overseas competitors, making hotel bookings, receiving reporters, arranging transport from hotel to judging venue and the hundreds of little jobs entailed by a project of this nature. As well as this, there was a banquet for all competitors and performers, and the following night the Mr. Universe Dance. As if this were not enough, a full programme of physical culture items was presented at the Palladium supporting the Mr. Universe contests. The bulk of the work fell on indefatigable Oscar Heidenstam, secretary of Nabba and a former Mr. Britain, Mr. Europe, and a host of other important titles. His linguistic abilities (he speaks and swears in many languages) helped immensely and his capabilities in this direction were well tested!
Judging took place at the luxurious Carlton Rooms. Here the press were out in force but this was not allowed to interfere with the judging in any way as a very high standard has been set. For competitors and judges alike, the all day session is very exhausting. Each height class was lined up in turn and collectively viewed from back, front and side positions, the entrants standing in the attention position. The judges viewed from their tables and also walked around comparing the contestants and examining at close quarters in order that even minor defects would not be overlooked. Competitors were then asked to pose, individual optional poses being required. At another stage in the proceedings they pose all together in a standard pose set by the judges. For instance, a double biceps pose may be called for and all the competitors perform this at the same time. It will be of interest to note that although judges converse with each other they do not discuss their decisions nor do they compare notes. They write their choice of finalists on the judging sheet, and having collected these, the secretary compiles a short list of names, and these the judges place in the order of merit. Once again the papers are collected and, having judged all classes in this manner, the task is now to pick the best of the height class winners for the supreme award. The secretary alone knows the result, and this should be kept top secret until announced at the show. NOT EVEN THE JUDGES BEING TOLD THE FINAL WINNER. The system worked admirably, and the whole-hearted approval of the audience was evident on the announcement of the result, indeed difficult as it is to judge from the auditorium of a theatre, it is fairly certain that except perhaps for a few minor changes in the lower places, it is fairly certain that the result would have been the same if the votes had been cast by the spectators.
The whole competition was of a very high standard, and some hitherto unknown colored boys, taking part in the smaller height divisions, won top honors. Britain's John Lees looked magnificent, and better than ever. Without the presence of Ray Schaefer, he would have been a certain winner. Schaefer impressed one and all with his amazing muscularity, splendid posing and unassuming manner. This fellow, with his conservative dress and manners, looked more English and less American than the British competitors!
The win by Delinger over Pearl will probably surprise many who did not see the two side by side. However, it was a unanimous decision, and well deserved. Jack was in terrific form, muscles looking big and in extremely hard condition. Bill Pearl wasn't at his best and knew it. Who could be 100% directly after a three day trip across half the world? This popular bodybuilder showed his sportsmanship, for he went straight from the airport to the judging venue and took pan in the exhausting routine without complaint. Where did the difference lie? Many will ask that question. Jack was superior in the back. Bill could do with more in this region and in his posing he could have played up his midsection more instead of doing so many retractions. These points are not by any means intended to be destructive criticism -- Bill's a grand fellow, with a marvelous build, and I am sure, like other readers, he will welcome these comments.
The remainder of the show left nothing to be desired. The gorgeous array of talent in the Junior Miss Britain event made us old decrepit creatures, now out of our teens, wish that we were young again, and the Jr. Mr. Britain boys showed that the rest of the world will have to look to their laurels in a year or two's time when bidding for the international physique honors.
A fantastic specialty act by Hazelle and Wheeler was very well received. This young lady is a former Miss Britain and seems to have improved since then. In the act she literally tied herself in knots displaying suppleness and agility seldom seen in top class acrobatic circles. Mind you, I did hear it said that some of the lads found these wonderful stunts distracting -- they would far rather have sat admiring Hazelle for her physical appearance rather than her amazing ability!
Yet another sensational female captured the hearts of the audience. In this star studded bilI, Margaret Mackin of Scotland, in a most unassuming manner, put on a most polished performance. With her patner David, she did Jap Rolls, one hand planches, spectacular chair tricks, and some fine bearing with a top mounter about three times heavier than herself. To drive home the exceptional merit of this outstanding act it should be pointed out that Margaret is a pig-tailed youngster of eight years, and hefty David is her Dad!
There were many other amusing and entertaining items, gymnastics, impromptu stunts by the bodybuilders such as Reub Martin of London doing a straight arm pullover with 13 stone 8 lbs., Picavet of France doing a balance on his hands! An excellent feat in a fine act.
In conclusion, it is fairly safe to say that no physique contest has been more beautifully presented. The impressive opening and finale were classics made possible by having a top line theatre as venue. Colorful national flags, massive pedestals, moving platforms, and stage-fulls of steps and pli??ns were all utilized to great effect. As each country's team was announced, the competitors marched from the wings, up concealed steps, to a high platform, and shoulder to shoulder, sometimes as many as ten abreast, they marched down the procenium steps to take their place on the stage. An even more impressive sight closed the show. The platform glided to the front of the stage. Mounted on this were the finalists, the finest physical specimens one could hope to see. As the winners were announced, to a fanfare of trumpets, the proud new title holders mounted the huge pedestals at each side of the stage to complete the magnificent tableau. JACK DELINGER and RAY SCHAEFER -- we salute you!!
- Above is the lineup of the competitors in the London Mr. Universe contest with Jack Delinger, the professional Mr. Universe, on the left and Schaefer, the winner of the amateur title, on the right. Health and Strength photo. Below we see Jack Delinger thanking the organizers and the English people for the many kindnesses extended to him while there, while Bill Pearl and Raymond Schaefer await their turn. Photo by Arax.
- Two very happy fellows, Jack Delinger and Dick Schaefer, congratulate each other on their good fortune. Health and Strength photo.
- Here is Jack Delinger posed with hIs fine trophy. Photo by Loveday.
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