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Just Reported: Bodybuilding pioneer Joe Weider passed away at 93. (November 29, 1919 - March 23, 2013).
The "So What?"
: Weider founded Weider Publications, which includes Muscle & Fitness, FLEX, Men's Fitness, Shape, Muscle & Fitness Hers, Natural Health, and Fit Pregnancy magazines. A key figure in expanding the worldwide fitness movement, he was particularly instrumental in promoting the sport of competitive bodybuilding via publishing.
Born in Montreal, Canada, to Polish parents, Joe Weider picked up a muscle magazine in a bookstore and entered weightlifting contests to combat the torment of being a scrawny kid, sparking the inspiration for his future empire. In the summer of 1940, he created his first bodybuilding magazine, writing every article and drawing every illustration. As a one-man company operating in his parents' house, in 1942, Joe began selling Weider-brand weights and exercise equipment.
In 1946, Joe and brother Ben Weider began promoting Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) bodybuilding contests, upping the quality of the events, which launched the International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB). In 1947, he moved his publishing biz to the New Jersey/New York area. In the 50's, he expanded, launching publications about boxing, wrestling, baseball and general sports, followed by adventure and outdoors magazines, and eventually women's exercise magazines.
The IFBB Pro League grew as well, championing the sculpted bodybuilder physique that popularized the magazines. Weider was groundbreaking in his inclusiveness of the diversity of athletes on IFBB stages and his magazines' pages. The IFBB Mr. Universe and IFBB Mr. America titles gave way to an idea for a new professional championship open to all major titleholders. Prior to NFL Super Bowl I, IFBB Pro Larry Scott won the inaugural IFBB Mr. Olympia contest on September 18, 1965, ushering in the modern era of bodybuilding.
This new era was furthered by Weider Publishing's West Coast office and the opening of the first Gold's Gym in Venice, CA, in 1965. This beachside epicenter of the bodybuilding scene was the set of photo shoots and lured IFBB Pro Arnold Schwarzenegger from Austria. Schwarzenegger was mentored and promoted as the face and body of the sport. In 1970, Sports Illustrated magazine declared Weider had "replaced Charles Atlas as the world's No. 1 bodybuilder," placing icon status on the man known as the "Master Blaster" and "Trainer of Champions."
After 25 years in on the East Coast, Weider Publishing moved to suburban Los Angeles in 1972. Along with the classic 1977 documentary Pumping Iron, the Weider Principles increased interest in weight training and influenced the way the mainstream exercise. Weider's empire set a global standard, earning multi-millions in revenues through the '80s. The '90s and 2000s saw more magazines and expansion into Internet content. The Weiders sold their equipment company in 1994 but held the supplement company. Weider sold his publishing arm to American Media, Inc., in November 2002, but continued to contribute as a consulting editor.
In his and Ben's co-autobiography Brothers of Iron, Weider wrote: "I love what a magazine can do for people. Spend less than $5 on a magazine and you get material worth a fortune." In 2007, Joe Weider received the President's Council of Physical Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition Lifetime Achievement Award. The Joe and Betty Weider Museum of Physical Culture opened at the University of Texas in 2011.
Andrew Oye's Verdict:
For all of the aforementioned achievements, Joe Weider earned the moniker: the "father of modern bodybuilding," and his legacy lives in the fitness "family" that grows daily. As a fellow publisher and journalist working in sports, fitness and bodybuilding media with the founding of MUSCLE INK and "Andrew Oye's Pro-Muscle Report," I respect the foundation Weider paved and know his immense impact will be felt forever.
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