Stength & Health, Page 8, May 1948
On the eave of the 45th anniversary of the initial American physique contest, tall, good-natured, slick proportioned Clarence Ross was chosen as the nation's first Mr. U.S.A. on March 13th before a wildly enthusiastic audience in Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium. Among the 5000 spectators that witnessed the best physical culture show ever given in the cinema capital was Al Treloar, winner of the 1904 most perfect developed man contest, who must have had many reminiscent thoughts as he watched Ross crowned king amongst physical culturists.
Before the Mr. U.S.A. competition climaxed the gala affair sponsored by popular Bert Goodrich and his partner in body culture Vic Tanny, a diversified program of strength and health entertainment was presented headed by a 22 piece orchestra. The whole show just about took on the air of a Broadway production as tuneful music backgrounded the various acts. However, prior to showtime it appeared as though a sudden downpour was going to toss a wet curtain over the proceedings. It hadn't rained in Los Angeles in about three months when the clouds let loose a heavy dew on Saturday afternoon. Transportation isn't what it should be in this biggest West Coast metropolis but that didn't keep the crowds away. Large lines outside the box office delayed the show a few minutes past 8:30 and the huge auditorium was jammed with strength and health enthusiasts when the curtain went up on the Bert Goodrich - Vic Tanny 1948 Strength and Health Show.
A typical scene in a gymnasium greeted the onlookers. The vast stage was filled with body builders and weight lifters going through their exercises whilst an excellent trampoline act went through their jumping maneuvers to the delight of the crowd. "Double Trouble" brought on the John Robinson and Louis Schneider on the high bars. Though teamed for only a year these fellows put on a superb performance. They literally glided into giant fly overs, cannonball catches and vault over catches. Robinson seems to be Olympic Team material.
Bobby Vernon, well known entertainer and Hollywood producer, then took over the m. c. chores and kept the audience happy with his chatter and actions. He introduced George Wilcut, President of the Southern California Weight Lifting Association of the A.A.U. for a prone press contest between Floyd Page, Alan Stephan and Bob McCune. Since Page and Stephan were in the Mr. U.S.A. contest the contestants lifted without removing their shirts and ties. "We don't want to give you a peek before the contests," laughed Stephan from the stage.
The 210 pound repetition supine press contest was an exciting one. McCune was the first to lift and eased his way through 20 repetitions. Then Mr. America of 1946, Stephan, prone pressed and he proved quite capable with 19 repetitions and just missed tying McCune. So it was up to Page, the last contestant. He pressed through 19 reps with ease, slightly faltered at 20 but the bar went up and then he another and copped the contest with 21 reps to win the prize of $50.
One of the highlights of the evening came next in the person of handsome, well-built, gym maestro Jack Lalanne. He possesses a top notch physique and looks better than ever and so is his routine on his unique revolving hand stand pedestals. Jack brought on his 17 year old pupil and protege 6 ft. 3, 210 pound Jim Drinkward. Jim is amazing for his young age and though he didn't perform any of his renowned strength feats his skill on the pedestals brought many gasps from the throng. Jack and Jim went on together and each went through varied hand stand routines including half arm planches as they revolved on the bars switching hands. Lalanne's handstands on 6 inch thick blocks placed 7 high were followed by an amazing routine with Drinkward in the two started on blocks piled four high and then via a handstand position they removed the blocks one by one on both sides and then put them back in their first position while maintaining their handstands at the same time. This was the first time the two had performed this feat on any stage and it was truly one of the most terrific handstand precision acts ever seen anywhere.
The Mr. Western America contest brought the spotlight on a number of young body culturists next. An elevated platform in the center of the stage background by smart curtains with an opening in the middle for the entrance of the competitors gave us an opportunity to get a good view. Earlier in the day the boys had practised their entrance on to the stage so that after they went through their posing they took a special place on the stage. This avoided confusion and gave the judges a chance to see all the contestants at the tame time in their relaxed stance.
Each competitor went through his four poses customary at physique contests when he was introduced to the audience. It was a closely matched contest. One of the last to appear was John Delinger and his physique brought forth loud applause. Delinger outpaced the others by a mere point winning the Mr. Western America title by 66 points to George Eiferman of Vic Tanny's gym - 65 points. Bill Melby of Tanny's was third with 63. Backstage Delinger's measurements according to what he told me were arms 18 ½, waist 30 ½, chest 49, thigh 26, neck 17 ½, weight 190 for his 5 ft. 7. John was very happy taking first place as Mr. Western America and hoped to compete for the Mr. America title. He trains thrice weekly, handstands, follows all sports and was selected as Mr. Northern California at one time. The 21 year old youngster has splendid physique possibilities.
Judging the Mr. Western America contest were Vicd Chairman Ostrove of the Southern Pacific A.A.U. - John Balen, Vice Pres. of the S. Calif. Weightlifting Assoc. and directors of the S.C.W.A Marcyan, McAleece, Haley, Johnson plus Frank Wasman, treasurer of the organization. The point system was used with 6 for muscular development, 6 for symmetry, 1 for skin, countenance, 1 for proportions and 1 for posing ability.
After the contest Pudgy and Les Stockton went through their unique hand balancing routines. The crowd approved enthusiastically of Pudgy's trim appearance and skill with her hubby. The cute weight lifter's 118 pounds handled Les' 1988 without any trouble. In an erect hand to the hand she practically held her 70 pound heavier partner in a crucifix position. Pudgy is all set to open her new gym and should attract many followers because she practises what she preaches. She's a fitting example as America's number one weight lifting gal. But that doesn't mean she's all muscle because she's not bulky but trim, curvacious and the ideal strength and health gal.
Whistles filled the Shrine Auditorium when the Miss U.S.A. contest was announced. And no wonder because soon attractive damsels in form fitting bathing suits added charm to the large stage. Redheads, brunettes and blondes gave each other close figure competition but it took auburnish-strawberry-blondish (that's the way her locks looked - though more on the fiery red side) - Val Njord to become the first Miss U.S.A. It was a slick decision for this delicious looking damsel. I managed to work my way through the crowd that swelled around her swell chassis backstage to discover that Val is 20, weighs 115 for he 5 ft 5, has a 37 inch bust, waist 24, with blue eyes to offset her eye catching charm. She's a premed student at the University of Arizona and swims, horsebacks and does calisthenics and other exercises for fitness. Running Val a close second was Walt Baptiste's curvacious wife Magana. Magana Baptiste is a form fitting brunette who follows her hubby's body building principles. Ruth McCullah came in third place and has long been a Santa Monica Muscle Beach follower.
Next on the program were Bert Goodrich and George Redpath. I didn't expect Bert to appear o the show with his great handbalancing act since he must have been a tired man by that time. For weeks he and Vic Tanny had planned the affair. It was natural that hundreds of problems would crop up at the last minute to plague Bert but he weathered them like the fine athlete he is. He has lost none of the handbalancing talent he used to display in the Radio City Music Hall and other top theatres throughout the country. Goodrich and Redpath executed one routine which to the knowledge of all the old timers and modern hand to hand balancers has never been duplicated. Bert Placed his feet on the very edge of the pedestal and pulled his lighter partner from the floor into the flag and continued to pull and press until Redpath was in a high hand to hand - then the top-mounter was skillfully lowered into another flag, stopping in mid-air. From there the flag was pulled to another high hand to hand. This was repeated three times with Redpath being suspended in the air throughout the routine. Goodrich and Redpath had three encores and the lavish applause fitted the occasion. It was altogether proper to the lad who was our first Mr. America nearly ten years ago and is now busy developing many physique champs in his Hollywood gym.
Tennis table matches and wrist turning preceded the final and most important Mr. U.S.A. competition to round out the interesting bill of fare. We could hardly wait the first contestant as Bert Goodrich made the introductions of the judges who were George Wilcut, McAleece, Wasman, Haley of the S.C.W.A., Pudgy and Les Stockton and Ed Yarick of the Yarick gym. The scoring for the Mr. U.S.A. was not on the point system but on the best six men basis. Each judge would have to record who he though deserved first place, second and so on. The most firsts would be the winner.
A Mr. Samson contest was to be judged simultaneously. Cecil B. DeMille, the well know film producer, plans a Samson and Delilah picture and the winner of this contest is to get a screen test for the role. Film actor Jim Davis, fashion model Blanche Ames, Paramount casting men Osterman and Poole and photographer Constantine held down judgeships on this affair.
The audience grew a bit restless as the contestants held up their appearance while they warmed up backstage. The excitement mounted as we realized that for the first time two former Mr. Americas and the present title holder would be competing. Could Clarence Ross - the 1945 winner - triumph over Alan Stephan's musculature or beat out 1947 champ Steve Reeves. But there were other top notch contenders, too. Chaps like Jack LaLanne, Walt Baptiste, Floyd Page - the professional Mr. America and young Eric Pedersen - the most muscular men of the year plus other well built physical culturists.
The entire stage was now darkened and a top light flooded down over the center platform where the contestants went through their poses. Behind the curtains Goodrich announced their names and club affiliations. When Stephan came out he got a warm reception. he wore his usual bright smile as he displayed his chest, wide back, side and biceps contours. As compared to the other boys his skin was rather white and didn't stand up too well under the bright light. Perhaps a tan would have done more for his chances. Steve Reeves, who had earlier in the evening presented Mr. Western America with his winning trophy, tickled the crowd as he displayed the marvelous physique that won him the '47 Mr. America crown. He has one of the best shoulder spreads in the country but is rather flat on the abdominals. It appeared from this viewpoint that his fault was in his posing. He put too much motion into his positions. Repeatedly he flexed his biceps and other muscles in the varied poses instead of a more steady position. However, it still pleased the throng.
Without forgetting about Floyd Page, Pedersen, and Marcyan it was Clarence Ross who brought down the house when he took the center of the spotlight. The enthusiasm was really tremendous compared to the hand his competitors received. This audience wasn't biased as far as I could see. The applause came from every section of the huge auditorium. Though three years had passed since Clarence Ross had copped the Mr. America title in Hollywood at the National Senior Weight Lifting Championships he looked better than ever. His musculature was tops, his posing was calm, steady, his body had a pleasing tan and he looked as though he knew just what to do. not that the other lads didn't but Ross' appearance commanded respect and held the 5000 spectators spellbound.
If Grimek had appeared in the contest the decision would have even been tougher because the contestants were in top shape. But John was missed. Bert Goodrich had announced that Grimek couldn't make it to the show because of the arrival of a belated blessed event, a 10 ½ pound boy. Needless to say, the crowd voiced disappointment but understood the circumstances. Later, Grimek's nice telegram was read citing his regrets and it received a warm applause.
Hustle and bustle were apparent on the stage and behind the curtains when the last contestant for Mr. U.S.A. left the platform. The DeWaynes were supposed to be on the program during the lull before the decisions were to be announced. But they couldn't make it so M.C. Bobby Vernon doubled in song and dance. Some of his patter during the show were on the risqué side which caused some head shaking but in all he turned in quite a good performance as M.C. While he was entertaining I visited backstage to find Pedersen all eager, Stephan attired in bathrobe discussing the event with friends while Reeves and Ross walked about in the busy background. Bathing beauties of the Miss U.S.A. affair mingled with masses of male musculature.
The tenseness grew as Earle Liederman pushed through the mob holding the judges' decisions in his hands. We shouted to Bobby Vernon that we had the results. here's where he started to run about like a chicken trying to get across the street. "Give them to me," he yelled as he interrupted his comedy antics. All was pell mell as he was told to announce the Mr. Samson winner first. But Bobby didn't stop for that. He rushed through the results and came up with Clarnece Ross as the winner of the Mr. U.S.A. title. A great ovation from the audience was the outcome of that announcement. Then, Vernon said that Ross was also chosen as Mr. Samson. The whole decision appeared immensely popular.
Second in the Mr. U.S.A. contest was Steve Reeves; third, Alan Stephan; fourth, Eric Pedersen; fifth, Flyod Page and sixth, Walter Marcyan. Now Bobby Vernon shouted for the trophies. Instead of the awards being presented in a bit of glamorous fashion it was a rush situation. Film star weight lifter Joe Kirkwood, who plays Joe Palooka in Monogram pictures, had been invited to the show to award Mr. U.S.A. with the large Goodrich-Tanny trophy. We shouted for Vernon to call Kirkwood to the stage but in the last minute excitement Bobby forgot to call the guest star and presented Ross the trophy himself. However, considering everything that was going on this was but a minor mishap.
Backstage I ran into Alan Stephan. "I feel numb about the whole thing," he told me. As for Steve Reeves he wore a disappointed look that more or less told his inner feelings. Of course, Ross was jubilant but in his rather quiet, modest way. He hadn't changed a bit from the sane fellow who had won his first physique crown in 1945. He's still a gentleman physical culturist, courteous, not boisterous but warmly friendly. While a battery of cameramen eagerly shot him with his trophy as he flexed his Mr. U.S.A. musculature, Clancy (as many of the boys call him) revealed his present measurements taken cold.
His chest shows 48 ½ inches as compared to 47 ½ when he was Mr. America, his waist is now an inch less at 31; his thighs are a half inch thicker taping some 25 ½ inches; his biceps are 18 compared to 17 ½ in 1945 and his current weight of 192 shows a gain of 11 pounds from the physique that won him his earlier Mr. America title. But remember all this flesh increase is pure proportioned muscle.
Discussing the title crown won by Ross, officials and men prominent in the muscle game were in agreement that his better definition, muscular proportions, ease in posing and symmetry were the decisive factors. I met that great York lifter Tony Terlazzo just in from his grand New York show at St. Nicks and he disclosed that he felt the decisions were fair all around and that Ross reminded him of Grimek. However, Tony also thought a lot of Stephan. Terlazzo is on pins and needles to open his new Hollywood gym as soon as his York equipment arrives.
Then Al Treloar, who won the title of most perfect developed man in 1904 at the old Madison Square Garden in international competition, gave me his views on the Mr. U.S.A. contest. "I thought Ross was ideal as Mr. U.S.A.," Treloar said. "He was calm and poised. He knew how to pose and his muscle definition and symmetry was tops." Still physical director at the Los Angeles Athletic Club, Al Treloar thought the Goodrich-Tanny strength and health show was tops. We'll tell you more about this grand man of the iron game in an early issue.
From all respects most people were in harmony with Al Treloar's thoughts on the whole Mr. U.S.A. affair. Except for a few minor hitches that even occur at the best of Broadway productions the show ran smoothly. The most important thing from this reviewer's standpoint was that the right man, Clarence Ross, was chosen Mr. U.S.A. of 1948. Need one say more ?
- The "Miss U.S.A." event gave the Atlantic City's "Miss America" affair plenty of competition in attracting beautiful belles. This trio of "barbelles" were the winner of the contest. Curvacious VAL NJORD in the center won the title. MAGNA BAPTISTE, the exotic beauty at the left, placed second and vivacious RUTH "JACKIE" McCULLAH at the right place third. Photo by Cecil Charles.
- Right: VAL NJORD, the winner of the "Miss U.S.A." contest, does not belong in the "beautiful but dumb" category. This gorgeous red-head is a pre-med student at the University of Arizona. Is 20 years old and weighs 115 pounds at a height of 5 feet 5 inches. Photo by Cecil Charles.
- The first "Mr. U.S.A." contest presented a cavalcade of physique title holders. Here we see the finalists on parade at the conclusion of the contest. From left to right: ALAN STEPHAN, STEVE REEVES, CLARENCE ROSS, WALT MARCYAN, ERIC PEDERSEN, FLOYD PAGE. Photo by Cecil Charles.
- CLARENCE ROSS' extraordinary physique yielded big dividends at the recent "Mr. U.S.A." contest. Besides the glory of winning this title he received a cash prize of $1,000 plus the colossal trophy we see him holding. Photo by Cecil Charles.
- ALAN STEPHAN, 1946 "Mr. America," was taking a warm-up workout with FLOYD PAGE, the 1948 "Professional Mr. America" backstage at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles just prior to the "Mr. U.S.A." contest when this candid photo was taken. Floyd Page, a comparative newcomer among physique champions, is at the right. Photo by Bruce of Los Angeles, California.
- Massive JOHN DELINGER of Ed Yarick's gym won the "Mr. Western America" title at the quadruple physique contest show Bert Goodrich and Vic Tanny sponsored at Los Angeles on March 13th. This herculean body builder will be one of the leading contestants in the forthcoming 1948 "Mr. America"
- This trio comprises the winners of the amateur "Mr. Western America" contest. From left to right we see GEORGE EIFERMAN, the second place man, JOHN DELINGER, the victor, and BILL MELBY, the third place winner. These same three outstanding body buidlers will again be rivals in the "Mr. America" contest at Los Angeles on the 13th and 14th of May. Photo by Cecil Charles.
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