Muscle Builder, Vol 1, No 3, page 16, June 1959
Your forceful publisher gives an on-the-spot report of the strange happenings that occurred at the 1957 Mr. Universe event.
THE WINNER of the Amateur Division of the 1957 Mr. Universe Contest, held on October 19th at the London Paladium, should not have placed higher than fifth!
In a fair contest in the United States he would not have placed among the top 10!
The winner of the Professional Division should have placed second!
The perfect judging record which has always been identified with the Mr. Universe Contests has been broken. No longer is there any certainty that the best men will win the titles.
I overheard one judge supply an answer. He said: "We are tired of Americans walking off with the titles. It's time than an Englishman won again!"
Partiality of this sort may have been satisfactory to the officials of the Mr. Universe, but the audience took a different view. As I was leaving the hall a group of bodybuilders approached me and their collective views were summed up by these words of their spokemen: "Mr. Weider, it looks as though this is the end of the Mr. Universe event. As an Englishman, I'm ashamed of what took place here today!"
With these words, the speaker let me know that in selecting John Lees of Leeds, England, as the winner of the Amateur Mr. Universe Crown, that in the future he, and all sincere bodybuilders, would have to accept the decisions at the Mr. Universe event with doubt. The. flawless judging, the sincerity and honesty which made the Mr. Universe Contests the most important physique events in the world, now appear to be things of the past. After what took place at the 1957 event, it is difficult to believe that future contests warrant much consideration. From this time on, bodybuilders will wonder if the winner was really the winner, or merely a hand picked wearer of the crown.
Just as the misuse of officiating powers has made the Mr. America title a farce with the winner so frequently not being the best man, so does it now appear that in the future the Mr. Universe title will mean little as far as the selection of the best man is concerned!
Partiality in the 1957 Mr. Universe event appeared quite conclusive. Those who are familiar with the officiating of this event know that the judges arrive at their decisions the day before the public showing of the contest. They view and score the contestants in private and the winners are selected a day before the actual holding of the contest.
It was during this private judging, where only contestants, judges and important bodybuilding personalities are permitted, that one of the judges walked over to John Lees and whispered something into his ear. John's face broke into a happy smile and he raised his hands "thumbs up" signifying victory to his close friend, Reg Park who was standing some distance away. The other contestants had no inkling to the outcome until the official announcements were made from the stage of the Paladium the next day.
The new Amateur Mr. Universe does not possess the physical development, nor the appearance, which has always been a trade mark of the crown. I sincerely doubt if there is any man in the world who has made a deeper study of proportion, muscle tone and all around physical development than I. I have seen all the greatest champions in action have pointed out developmental flaws to the best, and those who have followed my advice have matured into the most honored names in the game.
In my opinion, based on my knowledge, John Lees is greatly out of proportion. His mid-section is soft, there are pads of fat on each side of his lower back, and - while not due to any fault of his own, but obvious none-the-less, he is knock-kneed! His chest is deep and his pectorals are thick, but neither are properly shaped. His posture is poor and his shoulders droop. His skin tone is that of an older man.
On the overall analysis, John Lees' presents the appearance of a formerly overweight man who merely reduced his surplus but who did not train long enough or hard enough to acquire hard muscularity or championship proportion. There is no aura of strength, shapeliness or classical beauty, none of the impressive impact of a rugged strongman merely a smooth development without muscular attractiveness or appeal.
Compared to Doug Strohl and Ron Lacy who were both contesting in the Amateur Division, won by Lees, the comparison was that of smooth bulk V.S. hammered steel. Stohl, in particular looked the part of a bronzed statue come to life. From what I overheard among the audience HE was the popular and rightful choice. Lacy had his supporters too - you didn't have to be a bodybuilding authority to see that the battle for first place was between those two. In my estimation Strohl was the best man. He features height, proportion and steel-like muscularity which Lacy lacks. Either of these Americans were standouts over all the other contestants. Still - John Lees received the official nod!
I was not surprised, for I had known what the outcome would be when I had seen John Lees raise his thumbs signifying victory to Reg Park the day before. Thomas Inch, the celebrated British weightlifting champion, who was seated next to me, gasped in amazement. I imagine he found it difficult to believe what he heard.
He and I had been carrying on a conversation while the contestants were posing on the stage and I had asked him who he sincerely felt was the logical winner in the Amateur Division?
Inch had supplied his answer readily: "There is no doubt about it, Doug Strohl possesses the most outstanding development in the Amateur Division. It is unfortunate that the closest competition Britain can offer is John Lees. He doesn't come close to Strohl."
In the Professional Division, Robert Robin of France, a Weider Booster, won first place. I was naturally pleased to have a Weider Man win the title, but to me, titles are meaningless if the best man does not win.
Reg Lewis, an American, should have been awarded the crown. Robert Robin has thick arms, shoulders and pectorals, but his back, waist and legs are without definition. He is big - but he is beefy. Somehow you get the impression that he is a bulky muscleman who has entered the stage of physical decline, rather than an honored champion on the way up.
That famous physique photographer, Arax, who brought Robin with him from France for the Mr. Universe, agreed with me. His trained eye caught the beauty, symmetry, muscularity and definition which Reg Lewis wears so well. He said he thought Reg should have won. .
Anyone with experience in physique events could see that the contest was poorly judged. Oscar State, who is an official of the International Federation Of Weightlifting and the International Olympic Committee said: "I believe that partiality has crept into the decisions. It is pretty obvious that the judge was serious when he said: "We are sick and tired. of Americans walking off with the titles." This would seem to point to prejudice and to win, Americans will have to be twice as good as competition. There will be no more close decisions for Americans. They will have to win outright or not at all."
On this assumption, does it pay for an American to train hard and to enter the Mr. Universe Contests? Is it worth his while to layout the cash for the trip to England? Why should he take weeks off from work, lose salary and make the sacrifices needed to compete? Will his only repayment be a panel of judges who feel - "We are sick and tired of Americans winning !"
THOSE are the questions American bodybuilders will have to decide for themselves.
As far as I am concerned, the audience told me all I need to know. When the outcome of the contest were made known, silence prevailed. It was as though the people were stunned; incredulous is perhaps a better word. Then a scattering of applause, which to me seemed more like an ovation to those who DID NOT win, rather than to those who did. There was no enthusiasm, no red-hot excitement, seen in former years.
Then, as though a sadness and shame had settled over the audience, they silently filled out of the hall. A few - only a sprinkling, stood at the exit door to greet the victors when the emerged. The previous year, when Ray Schaefer and Jack Delinger took the crowns, the street was BLOCKED by those who were willing to wait for hours if necessary to congratulate them, to get a close up view and to ask for autographs.
I am not making a direct accusation that the judges fixed the outcome. But certainly, the results of the 1957 Mr. Universe Contest did NOT see the best men crowned. I felt sickened and saddened as I walked away from the hall. To me, it was as though I had witnessed the death of a glorious era - an era in which deserving bodybuilders could look for justice in an honest and completely judged event. An era of great Mr. Universe Champions - Grimek, Reeves, Pearl, Park, Schaefer, Delinger and Tomas.
No wonder I felt heartsick and depressed as I walked into the clammy embrace of a foggy London night, away from the London Paladium and awayIf you find these articles interesting and useful, please