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

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.

Classic Vince's Gym

Rare photos of Vince's Gym in its heyday.

Classic Vince's Gym

Classic Vince's Gym

Classic Vince's Gym

Vince's Gym 31 December 2003

Take a look at Vince's Gym on 31 December 2003.

Vince's Gym on 31 December 2003

Throw Out The Scale Says Gironda!

"I would like to be the first man in the gym business to throw out my scale. If you don't like what you see in the mirror, what difference does it make what the scale says?" - Vince Gironda

Vince's Gym Manager Steve Downs

Vince’s Gym Manager Steve DownsSteve Downs is a native of Southern California, having been born in Hollywood and raised in the San Fernando Valley. He completed his high school education at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks and his college studies at California State University, Northridge, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature. He later pursued post graduate studies at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, in Strategic Market Planning.

Steve was introduced to weight training as a sophomore in high school by Muscle Beach bodybuilding and lifting legend, Bert Elliot, at a Sherman Oaks gym Bert was managing. "One of the most incredible feats of strength I ever saw," recalls Steve, "was Bert successfully completing a 290 lb. one arm bent press, and his weight, at the time, couldn’t have been more than 180 lbs.!"

When ownership of the gym decided to convert it to a women’s facility, Bert introduced Steve to his friend, Vince Gironda, encouraging him to train at Vince’s Gym.

"To say that my introduction to Vince was a life changing event would be an understatement," recalls Steve.

He trained at Vince’s Gym through the glory years of the 60s and early 70s, watching Vince prepare for the 1962 N.A.B.B.A. Professional Mr. Universe where he placed second, and seeing Larry Scott progress from Mr. California to become the first Mr. Olympia winner in 1965.

Inspired by probably the best bodybuilding photojournalist of our time, Gene Mozee, and legendary physique photographer and producer of the Jack LaLanne Show, Russ Warner, Steve picked up a camera and began to experiment in black & white, looking to show physiques under stark contrast lighting.

"As bodybuilding is in stark contrast to what the public considers normal, it was my intention," recalls Steve, " to, through dramatic lighting, magnify that contrast ten fold."

He found that the skylight at Vince’s produced this effect indoors while the pier in Santa Monica offered a somewhat comparable contrast outdoors, and was fortunate enough to capture moments with some of the greats of the time including the "Iron Guru" himself, Vince Gironda, a brash 21 year old Arnold Schwarzenegger, Larry Scott, Sergio Oliva, 1967 IFBB Mr. America, Don Howorth, and 1967 AAU Junior Mr. California and Iron Man Magazine publisher, John Balik, among other standouts of the late 60s and early 70s.

While Steve began his career after college in the gym business managing Vince’s Gym and then opening franchises on the east coast for the fastest growing chain of women’s figure salons in the late 60s and early 70s, Elaine Powers Figure Salons, he transitioned in 1973 to vitamin and natural food sales and has been there ever since.

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