MD: Hey Jerry. Thanks so much for talking with me. You know, I've been reading your cutting-edge material in the physique magazines since I was a kid in the 70's. Much of what I know and practice to this day has been borne from the information you have disseminated.
JB: Thanks Mike. Yes, I have over 5,000 published articles in my name or under a pen name in over 35 years of involvement in the industry.
MD: So, as we always want to know, how did you get your start and what kindled your interest in bodybuilding, science, and nutrition?
JB: Well, I grew up in Brooklyn. When I was three, my mother simply threw me in the pool (laughs) and I started dog paddling. I became a swimmer, and as the years rolled by I won some AAU swim meets. Of course, the swimming coaches back then said that using weights would slow you down. One day at the community center where I'd swim in the Olympic sized pool, there was a throng of people blocking the hallway. Suddenly, the group parted in the middle and a guy in posing trunks came walking out. It was Jerry Winick. He had great arms and had placed second to Larry Scott in the Mr. Universe in either 1962 or 63. I was about 12 years old at the time, and (laughs) two days later I saw Jerry outside the center smoking a cigarette. I asked him how he got so big, and, of course, he told me he did so by lifting weights. He told me to go buy some muscle magazines, so I did.
MD: So swimming was not to be pursued?
JB: No. I bought the magazines...Joe Abbenda was on the cover of one of them...he was Mr. America. His routine was in the magazine and I started by doing variations of it. Of course around this time I saw Steve Reeves in Hercules on TV and that was it for me. I did my research, looked Reeves up and saw that he did breathing squats and pullovers, so I hit this routine hard. I added 7 inches to my chest at 13 years old because of this-I have that in common with Mike Katz-a great rib cage (laughs)!
MD: So where did you work out at such a young age?
JB: Well, yes, I was very young. I ended up taking the train to Sig Klein's gym in the city...very old school place. Sig himself came up to me and I told him I wanted to join. He told me that the gym was only opened 3 times per week and then you had to make an appointment to train. That was not adequate of course so I walked from there to Tom Minichiello's Mid-City Gym. Here I trained 6 days per week and went after school. Harold Poole was there and he was a fantastic guy. Freddy Ortiz was also there, but didn't look very inviting so I didn't approach him. I'd cut school to train. Tom asked me why I wasn't in class and I gave him some BS story as to why I wasn't. I swear this will sound crazy but I trained from 1 pm to 10 pm! I was following the star's routines and this was nuts. Val Vasilef was doing 70 sets per body part so I did, too. Ultimately, Tom called my school-I got suspended for that.
MD: Man, talk about over training!
JB: Yes. So I ended up at R&J Health Studio owned by Ron Covino, but it was run by Julie Levine. I trained there with Pete Caputo who was a great bodybuilder. 16 year old skinny Lou Ferrigno was there with his father Matty, who would bug the hell out of us for information.
MD: Funny! So you did gravitate to bodybuilding competition?
JB: Yes. I won the teenage Junior East Coast contest, and placed high in the teen IFBB Eastern America. This one was held at the old Brooklyn Academy of Music. I recall standing backstage and some guy next to me told me I had WAY too much oil on. So he wiped some off of me and put it oin himself! Oh, the guy was Frank Zane!
MD: Man that's unreal!
JB: It was crazy. You know I got the addresses of all the top bodybuilders and wrote to all of them. I ended up corresponding with Bill Pearl for a couple of years. He'd write me lengthy letters back. He was very gracious like that. In 1967 Pearl was guest posing at a Lurie show at Hunter College. I was on my way to see him personally when Leo Stern blocked my way. I told him my name and he was surprised, saying, "Oh! Go see him!" I introduced myself to Bill and he was surprised because by my letters to him he'd thought I'd be much older. He was very nice. Some years later, just before his victory in the 1971 Mr. Universe, I visited him at his gym in Pasadena. I did ask him about steroids, and he said he wouldn't touch them. Now, I do recall that between 1959 and 1961, a prolific change occurred in Bill's physique. I looked him in the eye and pressed him on the issue. He did admit to using them but did say that if he admitted that publically, that kids may start using them.
MD: What about your mother-how did she feel about you dropping swimming for the most unpopular pursuit at that time of bodybuilding?
JB: Well, she wasn't to worried about the swimming but my diet did bother her. You see, for the first 8 years of my life, I had what is now termed ADHD...back then they called it "Mental problems." I had a donut and coffee for breakfast and that was it-it wasn't a healthy diet at all. No vitamins. Omega 3's help prevent ADHD and of course I was consuming none of that. I wasn't stupid-I was reading by the age of three. But I did start eating huge steaks because that's what I heard you had to do. There was the awful Hoffman's "Protein of the Sea." My mother opened a can of dessicated liver, sniffed it and threw it out! Ultimately, she saw that I had lost weight and started doing better in school, and that is what she cared most about. School became very, very easy for me. I didn't even have to study to do well. I was bored.
MD: Amazing how things change with the understanding of nutrition and nutrients. So you were doing well in competition and graduated from high school. What came next?
JB: I moved to California and trained my first year at Vince Gironda's gym. I learned a lot from him, as irascible as he was! If you got on his bad side you'd be done. It was a trial by fire as he'd start off by insulting you. He came up to me on my first day and sniffed me. I told him I'd traveled there by bus. He said I smelled so bad I'd likely had no problem getting a seat. I laughed and rolled with it so he liked me.
MD: Were you there when Weider sent Arnold to train at Vince's?
JB: Oh yes. Earlier I had told Vince that the massive German was coming to train. Vince just said, "We will see." So, about an hour later, Arnold walks in, approaches Vince, and now I am standing right there, and Arnold announces his name and that he is Mr. Universe. Now, Vince is chomping on a ruddy old cigar, looks Arnold up and down, and simply stated, "Well, you look like a big, fat F--k to me." Vince always called Arnold "Cement Head," because he thought he was stupid. Of course, he was not. Now, Arnold was not used to this, and I swear he looked like he would cry. Vince walked off and I told Arnold that I thought he looked great. We were fast friends right there. Four days later I went with him to his small apartment that Weider had gotten for him, and there's some guy running all about wearing only boxer shorts. It was Paul Graham, the guy from Australia who promoted the 1980 Olympia-Arnold's friend of many years. After that I didn't go back there!
1968 IFBB Universe
MD: So you basically met Arnold right after his loss to Zane in the 68 Universe in Florida.
JB: Yes. Arnold told me he was cheated, ripped off. He showed me the program from the show...Zane is on the cover of the program! He shows me the medallion that all the competitors in the show were given and wore on stage...there's an image of Zane on the medallion! Well, I did see the magazine coverage of the show, and Arnold looked like a big, white donut (laughs). Arnold called me with some nutrition questions a while back and we discussed this. Arnold allowed that Zane was superior to him at the time and he deserved the win.
MD: Man, that's fantastic stuff, Jerry. So you did end up at the original Gold's?
JB: Oh yes. Pete Caputo and I started getting there by bus in 1969. The gym was first, then the beach! I've been a member ever since.
MD: So you were around all the greats of the golden age. Must have been like the very pages of Muscle Builder came alive for you.
JB: Great times. Yes, there was comraderie...but that is all just a bit exaggerated. It wasn't always quite as close as you'd like to think. There was Serge Nubret, I remember he'd come to town with a guy named Paco, who would bring suitcases full of steroids and give it to the guys like he was giving candy to kids! Now, Serge, he had just a beautiful physique. You know he'd say he'd eat 12 pounds of horse meat per day. This wasn't true. Serge Nubret lied a lot. You'd see him using 8 pound dumb bells, and he'd be asked how the hell he'd gotten so big doing that. He'd just say he'd used heavy weights years earlier...now he'd just "refine." He'd lie in hopes of others doing this and getting small. There was a drug called Triacana, which was a form of T3, and he was telling guys at Gold's to do 15 per day! Waller and Bill Grant did it, but not Arnold. Well, they all lost a shitload of muscle. Serge was not a nice guy to those he saw as competitors.
MD: So now that you were at the Mecca, how did things progress for you?
JB: I won the Teen Southern Cal in 1969, and beat Rod Koontz. In 70-71 I was blown away by guys like Clint Beyerle and Dale Adrian in the Mr. California. I picked up Jeff Smith as a partner and we had great, very heavy workouts. I never touched drugs but still could do 315 behind the neck and 475 on incline barbell press. I went in the Mr. Venice Beach that was won by Roger Callard. In 74 I went in the Mr. Western America at the Embassy Auditorium and this was promoted by Arnold Schwarzenegger. I took third, but what stands out to me is that only me and another blond guy were the only clean guys in the show. I had a decision to make. With drugs, I could go national. But, with both grandparents being bald, and being bald not being in vogue like it is today,I felt I'd go bald on the drugs. So at this point I retired. I will say this, though: If I had known then what I know now about steroids and ergogenic aids, I would have done them. They are not really so harmful if done properly.
MD: Well, I've been around the game for 39 years, since I was 12, and I know a good deal. However, every time I read your newsletter, I learn many new things. It's really amazing.
JB: Well, to me, reputation is everything. My Applied Metabolics Newsletter is 100% truth-no bullshit is included whatsoever. There is NO advertising. Part of the problem in the magazines now is that they are all driven by the advertising dollar. This disallows writers from basically writing whole truths. I can't do that. You are insane not to read my newsletter. You will save so much time and money. I'll say this-if I were around thirty years ago-I'd go to me for information.
MD: I love it and I love to learn, as I know you do, too. I've already made some fine tuning and even a few drastic changes in my nutrient intake based on your research. Jerry, what kind of training have you had, if any?
JB: I have 53 years of study as well as practical and empirical experience. This alone gives the reader a huge head start and greatly reduces the learning curve. In college at Cal State Long Beach, I wanted to be an M.D. I just wasn't passionate enough for this, but ended up getting my B.S. in biochemistry. I was bored in school. I am a passionate learner, but I like to learn on my own. In class, I'd sit in back, wear sunglasses and fall asleep. You know, I love writing and research. I HATE the business end, though. Writers are treated like crap no matter what your talent level is. Except if you are Steven King!
MD: How did you get the writing career started?
One among the 1000s of articles written
by Jerry Brainum
by Jerry Brainum