When I first travelled down to North Hollywood to take instruction from Vince Gironda, I had some reservations about his ideas on posing. After all, Vince's day was many years ago (the last contest he had entered was way back in 1962).
Posing styles had changed a great deal since those long ago times. And after all, I did have a reputation of sorts, at least according to Muscle Mag International's publisher Robert Kennedy. He had once written that I had one of the most graceful and noble countenances of the posing platform, and that one day I would come into my own and take the rightful title of Poser Extraordinaire.
As it turns out I did learn a lot from the Iron Guru. He sees the posing aspect of bodybuilding as something almost sublimely pure. "A lot of work has to go into practicing," says Vince, "but ultimately your routine must look like the easiest, most natural thing in the world."
Writing in his book "Unleasing the Wild Physique" Vince cites my posing as among the best in the world. This indeed is a great compliment because the Iron Guru has seen it all!
We worked long and hard over my routine. All his life Vince had been regarded as a posing genius, and it was a well-known fact that he was a behind the scenes adviser of many successful bodybuilders when it came to their physique display.
One evening, a couple of nights before the Atlantic City Grand Prix, Vince bid his last customer at his Hollywood gym goodnight! He sat himself down on a bench and got me to go through my routine a thousand times (or so it seemed) offering a hint here, a tip there. Finally he made me go through the whole routine, paying attention to all the details we had discussed.
After I was finished he punched me in the deltoid (Oh! how that Vince can punch the deltoid). "That's it," he shouted without a trace of emotion. "Don't pose another second until the day of the show!"
Up in Atlantic City you could cut the atmosphere with a knife. Arnold Schwarzenegger was covering the event for ABC television.
My Manager, Ken Wheeler and friends Bob Kennedy and Garry Bartlett were huddled in the front row ... and there was Vince. He too had travelled some 2,000 miles to see me compete.
After the compulsory round it was evident that the contest was not all going my way. Ken had sounded out everybody he knew and the contention was that it would take something very special to make me a clear winner.
It was decided that I should pose like I had never psosed before... as though my very life depended on it!
The music announced my routine and I gave every ounce of concentration to the task at hand ... to the "Chariots of Fire" music.
As the audience rose to their feet, and cheers and roars swept in to where I was standing onstage, I looked over at Vince.
His mouth was still open and he appeared to brush away a tear ... he turned to Ken sitting next to him. "That was the best damned posing routine I've ever seen," he said.
Those words of Vince's filtered through all the hoopla and noise, to my ears, and made me the happiest man on Earth. I had pleased the master.