Sex, Steroids, And Arnold: The Story Of The Gym That Shaped America

David Davis:

When did the modern-day fitness movement really begin in the U.S.?

Maybe our infatuation with getting in shape can be traced to when President-elect John F. Kennedy published an article in Sports Illustrated titled “The Soft American,” urging “the United States to move forward with a national program to improve the fitness of all Americans.” Or perhaps in 1982, when Jane Fonda donned Spandex and leggings and released the first of her best-selling workout videos. Cynics might cite the first time athletes gobbled down blue Dianabol pills, the first “mainstream” steroid, back in the 1950s.

Another candidate: That day in 1965 when Joe Gold, a crusty Merchant Marine from East Los Angeles, opened a workout space for hardcore weightlifters and bodybuilders on a desolate street in Venice Beach.

The original Gold’s Gym was a squat sweatbox that Joe and a few of his pals built from cinder blocks. Gold himself crafted the equipment that he and his fellow “Muscleheads” used to shape their flesh into cathedrals of strength. The gym spawned Pumping Iron, one of the most popular and critically acclaimed documentaries in modern times; redefined the masculine look in everything from commercials to modeling to movies; helped establish Southern California as the nation’s fitness capital; and shaped the ascent of one Arnold Schwarzenegger.