"There's no doubt about it. I am hated and I am loved. Why? Because I am dogmatic. I have this unforgivable feeling inside of me when it comes to bodybuilding. I know what I am talking about. If it ruffles feathers, so be it. I can neither compromise nor save feelings nor stretch the truth to flatter and please. I am my own man--egocentric, controversial, and proud. I have been called irrational, rude, and even contradictory. Judge for yourself." Perhaps no self-appraisal ever written was more on the mark than this paragraph included in the 1984 book, Unleashing the Wild Physique, written by Vince Gironda. Gironda's name may not be as familiar to many bodybuilders as it once was, but during the 47 years that he ran Vince's gym, a small hole-in-the-wall gym located at 11262 Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, California, Vince was the premier bodybuilding trainer and the true trainer of champions. The list of bodybuilding champions who made the trek to Vince's gym includes such luminaries as Larry Scott, who won the first two Mr.Olympia titles in 1965 and 1966; Don Howorth, 1967 IFBB Mr.America; Bill McArdle, a top bodybuilder in the 60s; Steve Davis, Steve Reno, and Pete Caputo, among many others. That last guy is the man who introduced me to Vince Gironda's training and nutrition ideas. I trained with Pete as a teenage bodybuilder in Brooklyn, New York in the mid to late 1960s. Pete would periodically go to California and train under the tutelage of Vince Gironda, and he would return to New York and show me what he learned from Vince. Although Vince had an irascible reputation, he took a liking to Pete, probably because both men were of Italian heritage and had been born in New York. Using the training and nutrition principles of Gironda that Pete relayed to me transformed my physique. Among other changes, my abdominal development became so spectacular that people would ask to take photos of my abs at my training headquarters, Mid-City Gym in Manhattan. I was 14 years old at the time.
By the time I was 18, I had already planned to attend college in California. But my primary reason for moving there was really to train at Vince's Gym, which by then was the premier bodybuilding gym in the world. I arrived in Los Angeles in August 1968, enrolled at Valley College, which I noted was also the alma mater of Mr.Olympia, Larry Scott, and immediately proceeded to join Vince's Gym. Since I hadn't yet bought a car, I had to take a bus to the gym. When I arrived at the gym, the first thing I noticed was how surprisingly small it was. I had expected to see a huge training palace of some kind but instead found myself looking at . . .