Mr. America Magazine, Vol 4, No 6, Page 36, November 1961

MR. AMERICA 1961...


Mr. America for 1961 was selected on the same stage of the beautiful new Santa Monica Civic Auditorium from which the 1961 movie Academy Awards television show originated.

But that was the only thing the two events had in common. All the fine organization of the show, the precise planning and the showmanship - especially the showmanship - in the Oscar Awards event were missing in the physique contest.

Here was a competition to select the strongest men with the finest physical development in America. Why was it not nationally televised? why was the auditorium only half filled with spectators? Why was it run off with less drama than a community dog show?

Obviously, the sponsors who have taken over the once glamorous Mr. America contest - the tired old men who are the petty tyrants of the AAU - must be blamed.

The Amateur Athletic Union was at its amateurish worst in this presentation.

Press relations were particularly badly handled.

Accredited photographers with their cameras and lights were informed at the main door that their press badges would only admit them through the stage door, whence they could find their way to the press section.

A newsreel photographer was brushed off even more bluntly. He was an accredited representative of one of the biggest newsreel organizations. But he couldn't even get into the auditorium.

He left angrily, and there went an opportunity to carry the physical training message to thousands of viewers.

It seems there had been an edict that there were to be no movies taken during the performances - except those taken specifically for the AAU.

But while an iron curtain had to be penetrated by the press and magazine photographers to take pictures during the contest, they were given no help and no protection whatever in taking the important pictures of the winners.

The instant the winner, Ray Routledge was named, the amateur photographers in the crowd were allowed to swarm into the press section and make it almost impossible for the newspaper and magazine men to do their job.

Thus, they could capture not one iota of the backstage drama which could help enormously to give flavor to their stories and help to popularize strength events.

The show itself was so badly organized that the Friday night section which consisted of the weightlifting in the 181-pound, 198-pound and heavyweight classes and the selection of the "Most Muscular" bodybuilder lasted from 7 p.m. until 1:30 a.m., or six hours and a half.

Through it all, the bored attitude of the AAU officials colored everything. The incredible accomplishments of the great weightlifting champions were passed off as routine. The athletes were given no identity, in either the weightlifting or the fine physique contest. They were presented only as names and numbers.

Then finally when awards were presented, the athletes in many cases were allowed to accept them in street clothes -- they type of clothing the boys might wear loafing around the gym before and after workouts.

Spectators who turned out to see supermen in action sometimes saw men dressed like bums receive the awards. Presentation of the awards was in an off-hand fashion, as bare tokens to men who had proved themselves the strongest in the nation.

"Shall we give the awards now?" one of the AAU brass asked, on stage.

"Might as well. We have some time to kill," was the reply, made into a live microphone by the master of ceremonies at the end of the weightlifting competition on Saturday afternoon.

The Mr. America contest which was the grand climax of the show was rushed through as if it were a painful duty. Practically no information was given about any of the contestant, except home town, height and weight, and the basis of the judging was inadequately explained.

More honor was paid to the judges than to the contestants .

Franklin Jones, of the Los Angeles Y.M.C.A., a good lifter as well as a home town favorite, barely had time to take a bow before attention was shifted.

Then Joseph Abbenda, of New York City, competing unattached, was given his trophy, but only an instant to hear applause before the winner, Ray Routledge, Jr., of the U. S. Air Force, was allowed to take the stage.

Will he become a national hero, like so many of the "Mr. America" winners of the past, or will AAU domination cheat him of any real measure of new fame?


- RAY ROUTLEDGE, JR., "MR. AMERICA 1961" . . . will AAU domination cheat him of any real measure of new fame?

- Above: FRANKLIN JONES, 3rd; RAY ROUTLEDGE, JR., "MR. AMERICA 1961"; JOSEPH ABBENDA, 2nd (left to right) shared a "hurry up" spotlight.

- Left: "MR. AMERICA 1961" CONTESTANTS who are they?

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