The History of Vince's Gym & The Stars He Trained

Vince Gironda - Question Everything

"I was a great one for questioning everything early in my bodybuilding career. I don't think there's enough of that in the sport today." - Vince Gironda.

Skip Robinson, Vince Gironda and Jim Hamblet at Vince's Gym

Skip Robinson, Vince Gironda and Jim Hamblet at Vinces Gym

Skip Robinson, Vince Gironda and Jim Hamblet at Vince's Gym.

A Tribute To Vince Gironda By Joe Weider

A Tribute To Vince Gironda By Joe Weider

On Oct. 18, 1997, only days before a highly anticipated gathering of friends and fellow iron athletes in the bodybuilding movement to celebrate his birthday, Vince Gironda, an original in the fitness field, died.

He was almost 80, which you might say was good enough for the mortal human, but his passing is hard on those of us left behind. Tagged the Iron Guru long before gurus were popularised, Vince blazed his own trail and challenged the prevailing theories of exercise; he was defensive and vitriolic about his beliefs.

But breakthroughs need that, and he hammered them home. He did it with his outlandish effrontery, half-serious tactlessness, sardonic wit and humour - traits that sometimes rankled us but stirred our affection for him.

For he was a master of his trade.

More than 50 years ago, before the birth of Arnold, Vince had a brief fling as an actor and stuntman in movies. Both Vince and Armand Tanny of MUSCLE & FITNESS were cast as pirates in the movie "Frenchman's Creek"; they were the first modern muscle-builders to appear on-screen.

After that he established Vince's Gym in Studio City, California, on the very doorstep of the film industry.

Hollywood came to Vince's Gym. Muscle was good show business, and the movie greats as well as many champion bodybuilders who trained at Vince's are legion.

His gym was an extension of his mind, a laboratory for his scientific concepts of training. He designed and built his own equipment, eschewing the commercial brands that proliferated over the years.

His gym was a sanctuary, dedicated to the production of the winning physique. It was a kind of ashram to all the souls who trained there. Until the day he closed his gym in September 1995, his equipment remained distinctively Gironda.

Vince was sharply outspoken about the sport he was so dedicated to, and he hated the chemical encroachment on the art of building muscle.

To him beauty was everything, and his gym was always a pageant of good-looking people. He personally set the pace as its role model.

In the 1950s he unveiled a raw, ripped, symmetrical physique that caught the attention of all bodybuilding magazines and secured the loyalty of his numerous followers. He competed occasionally, even up to the age of 44, consistently displaying a classic, proportioned physique.

For his contribution to bodybuilding and fitness, Vince received a Los Angeles Athletic Club award in 1991, and in 1994 he received the inaugural Peary Rader Award (named for the founder of Ironman magazine) for Lifelong Contribution to the Sport of Bodybuilding.

Vince Gironda has an assigned, permanent spot in bodybuilding history. He's gone now, but he'll live in our workouts and hearts forever.

Vince's Gym Bathroom

I visited Vince's Gym only one time, in the late 80's and it was an experience.

Vince was nice enough but when I asked where the bathroom was he asked "do you just need to piss?"

"Uh, yes."

"Then piss on the damn wall like everybody else does!"

Sure enough, I noticed others indeed made trips out the back door into the parking lot and come back in. That was the toilet.

As I recall, "Larry Scott's Locker Room" was a few hooks on the wall.

Arnold Arrives at Vince's Gym

Arnold Arrives at Vince's Gym

We stopped off at Joe Gold's gym so Arnold could see Zabo Koszewski. When we arrived Zabo showed him around and introduced him to Peanuts West, who was pushing some iron at the time.

Later, we went to a restaurant in Santa Monica. Arnold was so hungry he nearly ate the design off the plate. Zeller, no slouch in the eating department, decided he would have a salad because he had already had a full dinner earlier. He then proceeded to eat whatever he could find from other people's plates.

Zabo had to get back to the gym, so he took off in that direction, while Arnold, Art and I went to Art's apartment to see Art's wife, Josie. Josie comes from Germany and we thought Arnold might enjoy speaking his native tongue.

Time rushed by and before we knew it, it was time to meet Don Peters at his home. Don had been kind enough to offer his fabulous house to Arnold for a few days until he could find an apartment. This house is the one with the fantastic home gym, swimming pool, professional pool table, color TV, palm trees and genuine California sunshine.

After a few days in this perfect place, Arnold moved into an apartment that happens to be a block or so away from Vince's Gym, so you can guess where he's training now. Every morning at Vince's and every evening at Don Peters, this massive Austrian Oak bombs his muscles.

I recently asked Vince how Arnold was doing and I thought he was going to mount a bandstand to tell me.

"He's a vast untapped reservoir of unused tissue."

"What do you mean by that?" I asked.

"For one thing he's never used a preacher bench before; he's never trained his legs or shoulders correctly and only recently has he started working his waist hard and started taking supplements of any kind. The other day I put him on a new deltoid exercise and you could see the insertion in the humerous literally burst out of the skin while he was doing it, only to disappear when the pump was gone."

Now Vince looked at me seriously.

"Dick, I guarantee in six months he'll put two inches on his arms and three inches on his shoulders. That's six months from now."

"But how will he cram on all that size?"

Vince walked away with a knowing smile. Don't worry though, I'll find out and let you in on any secrets. The Austrian Oak is in town and you'll get all the information from Vince's Italian Riviera.

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