The Golden Eagle Tom Platz
By Daniel Collier
By The Golden Eagle, Tom Platz, is again strongly thinking of making another comeback.
Jan 7, 2009
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The Golden Eagle:
The Blonde Hair, the Red Trunks, the Tanned Body, the Famous Legs.
Tom Platz was one of the most beloved bodybuilders of the late 1970s and 1980s. Known by his adoring fans as the "
Tom competed in and won multiple professional bodybuilding competitions
throughout his era, most notably taking a controversial third place
finish at the
1981 Mr. Olympia. Perhaps most
recognized for his remarkable leg development, Tom made a professional
bodybuilding comeback in 1995 and was awarded honorary Mr. America. Now
at the age of 53, the Golden Eagle is again strongly thinking of making
another comeback. I had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Tom
recently to discuss the possible comeback among other things.
Q: When did
you begin bodybuilding? What motivated you to pick that particular
sport and how did you retain that motivation throughout your career?
I could probably talk for an hour about that! Well, I began
bodybuilding when I was 9 years old and I became very serious about it
in a short period of time. When I saw Dave Draper in the movie
Don't Make Waves,
I was absolutely mesmerized. I thought, my God, look at that guy! To a
young kid looking for an identity, looking to gain some notoriety, it
was that movie and also a particular fitness advertisement of Mr.
Draper endorsing Weider exercise equipment that really got me inspired
to be a bodybuilder. I told my dad, "when I grow-up, I want to be like
him (Dave Draper), that's what I want to do!" My life changed forever
and was essentially shaped in a sense by seeing Dave Draper in those
As far as how I retained that
motivation throughout my career, I trained myself from a young age to
always feel like every competition was my very first one. Every
exhibition I ever did, I would try and pretend that it was my first
time and that I was essentially the underdog. By doing this, it not
only kept me motivated, but it also gave me a mental advantage. In
every venture I've ever pursued, I always perform better when I have
butterflies in my stomach, whether it is competing in bodybuilding,
acting, teaching or selling cars.
Q: What was the
experience like for you when you first left home to train and pursue
pro bodybuilding in Los Angeles, California? How did it feel to know
that you'd be training alongside some of the best in the world?
I had just graduated from college (Wayne State University). I went to
the airport with one suitcase, fifty bucks in my pocket and a single
plane ticket. Just before I boarded the plane I remember asking my dad,
should I really do this. He said, "Are you kidding me? You've been
talking about this since you were nine years old, you better do it!" He
then assured me that if it didn't work out I could do something else.
As I was sitting on the plane, on the way to what was then the Mecca of
Bodybuilding (Los Angeles/Venice Beach), all I could think the entire
flight was, it's finally arrived'ï¿½What I've been waiting for since I was
nine years old has finally come! As the plane started to descend toward
LAX, I looked out the window in awe thinking, oh my God, that's Gold's
Gym down there'ï¿½That's Venice Beach, that's where Arnold lives!
Q: What was it like stepping into the famous Gold's Gym for the first time?
I can remember this so clearly it's like it was this morning. I walked
into Gold's Gym and standing there under the first skylight I had ever
seen, was legendary bodybuilder Robby Robinson.
I just stood there and watched him in awe as he did baby reps with a 45
lb. barbell, gazing at his god-like physique in the mirror. As his
muscles and veins bulged out of his ripped-up tank top, they glistened
as the sun beamed down on them. I instantly knew at that moment, I was
at the place I'd wanted to be for so long. I'd finally arrived! Pro
bodybuilder, Kent Kuehn, who also working the front desk said, "Welcome
to Gold's Gym! Let me introduce you to some of the guys." So he took me
around the gym introducing me to Arnold, Frank Zane, Robby Robinson and
others. Now this was just after the movie
had come out, so you can imagine what that experience was like for me.
Let me also say, that to this day I'm indebted to Ken for being so
gracious with me at such an early point in my career.
Q: Can you tell
our readers a little bit about the life of a bodybuilder? What did your
weekly routine consist of during your professional bodybuilding career?
Well, everybody has a different perception or conception of what it
was. When I turned pro in bodybuilding, I also become a professional
businessman as well. As a business school graduate, I understood the
concept of branding a product. I was the product in this case'ï¿½with the
blond hair and the red trunks, and I knew how to sell that image. As
for my workout routine, I learned quickly that I didn't have to have
the frequency of training that some of the others pros did. The amount
of workouts I did was always low. I could train four days a week and
keep it all together, where a guy like Arnold had to train twice a day,
everyday. I would be in the gym for two hours Monday-Thursday and try
and be competition ready by Thursday night. I'd fly out Friday morning
and do the exhibition over the weekend, then fly home Sunday night and
start the process over again on Monday. That was my life for 15 years!
It was very similar to the lifestyle of a traveling musician. It was a
15-year tour for me (laughs). I will say it was a very lucrative and
meaningful experience; lucrative mentally, spiritually, financially,
Q: How did you
feel the first time you stepped onto the Mr. Olympia stage? It must
have been nerve wracking. How did you handle the pressure?
I was just thrilled to death to be standing next to and competing
against the guys I had been reading about since I was a kid. I was
standing next to Frank Zane
and others saying, oh my God, am I going to be able to handle this.
Really at that point, I didn't feel like I was one of the best yet. I
knew I was good, but these guys were the greatest of all time! However,
when I went up on stage I quickly eradicated those feelings and
replaced them with childlike confidence. I was ready to win! You've
really got to understand; to these guys I was just a kid. Ed Corney,
Frank Zane, these guys were ten, twenty years older than I was when I
arrived on the scene. They were my heroes as a kid. To be honest, I
still get goose bumps when I hear their names (laughs).
Q: In the pro
bodybuilding realm, you've often been dubbed as "America's Favorite"
and the "Gentleman's Bodybuilder". However, you never received the
ultimate crown of Mr. Olympia. What do you think was the reason for
(Thinks deeply for about ten seconds, and laughs) I had a case pre-made
for the Mr. Olympia trophy. I fully anticipated winning it, but it just
never happened. I am very grateful for having received the accolades
and trophies that I did win. I wouldn't want the Mr. Olympia trophy
quite frankly if it was void of what I did receive. Just the feelings,
the fans, the camaraderie, the people saying I was their choice'ï¿½As much
as I would love to have that trophy (
Mr. Olympia), I
don't know if I would trade in being the people's choice. I loved 1981
when I barely lost (third place finish), I went more places, and I made
more money than any winner ever did. I obviously would loved to have
won the Mr. Olympia trophy and had the chance to go down in history as
a Mr. Olympia winner, it just didn't happen, but a lot of great things
did. In all honesty I have to say this and I've never said it in an
interview before, (pause) Arnold coming back and winning in
1980...(long pause), I think my chances should have been more in my
favor than the results revealed In 1981. I really felt I did everything
just perfect! Arnold was there in attendance that night but not
competing. I don't see how the judges could have agreed with the
decision for first place. In fact, all of the international judges
invited me to guest pose for the next year in their respective
countries. But you know, I raised his (Franco's) arm up and said
Q: When you
were competing, what did your diet consist of on a daily basis? Did you
have any nutrition secrets that helped you have success?
My diet and nutrition varied all the time and that's the secret! The
key is to constantly keep switching metabolisms. I haven't really said
this before in an interview, but what I mean by switching metabolisms
is this. When you're not getting ready to compete and your have some
time off, eat the opposite way that you normally would prior to a big
event. I would traditionally go on a higher fat diet and a high calorie
diet, going into what I call "high fat metabolism." Really in the 70's
we were all on the high-fat, high-protein diet; eating mostly eggs,
tuna, and other meats, basically restricting our
But let me tell you, I had a lot of success in 1981, when I switched to
a high carbohydrate low fat diet. All of a sudden my body came together
and I was like oh my God! I looked in the mirror almost scared at how
good the results were! I still obviously stuck to a
high protein diet
but just limited the fat intake. I was in unbelievable condition, and
that was probably my best year ever by switching like that. As in
eating and nutrition, in workouts, periodic change is the secret. You
know a lot of this is done now with some of the gurus of the sport, but
back then I was experimenting with it.
Q: You became famous for your legendary leg development. Are there any secrets to your success in that regard?
Well you have to squat. I'm sorry to say, you can't replace the squat
with conventional new machines and secondary exercises. It has to be
about the squats'ï¿½The squats have to be sacred ground. I was raised
catholic, and squatting has to be the altar (laughs), that's where life
and death takes place. You really have to approach it like a separate
sport. I was taught how to squat and train my legs by Olympic lifters.
I was fourteen at the gym and shouldn't have been there in the first
place, but they let me in because I was persistent and wanted to learn.
I would just watch these Olympic lifters with their flawless technique;
it really was amazing to watch! You know, I think more power lifters
and bodybuilders should be around and watch Olympic lifters to learn
their technique and let it rub off on you. It's almost like a
religion'ï¿½You know, if you're studying Buddhism you should be around
Buddhists to have their knowledge of the religion rub off on you.
Unfortunately there's less of that in bodybuilding today.
Q: What moment in your career was your pinnacle?
I would say 1981. Being kind of the newcomer just out of college and
placing third at Mr. Olympia. Then to be recognized as one of the
all-time greats in 'ï¿½81, I mean wow! I was guest posing everywhere that
year in the free world and the un-free world (East Germany). It was an
amazing experience and a highlight of my life.
Q: What made you decide to retire from the sport the first time? It must have been hard for you.
I'm not sure if this holds true in other sports, but in bodybuilding
nobody tells you it's time to retire. You just sort of know when its
time. Bodybuilding has eras, and about every ten years or so, new guys
emerge onto the scene and represent that era. In the seventies it was
Arnold, Corney and Zane. The late seventies to the mid-to-late eighties
was my time. As the late eighties were approaching, I had been
bodybuilding professionally for nearly ten years, and I started to
think it's probably about time to get out. Quite frankly, the lifestyle
just became too much. Every single weekend, every four days I was
performing somewhere else. When I wasn't in the gym training, I was
traveling to different locations to perform. I'd get a month or two off
and then spend three or four months in Europe training and performing.
It looks and maybe even sounds like a glamorous life but let me tell
you, its hard work! After Arnold retired in the late seventies he
pretty much handed me the ball and told me to run with it. But by the
mid-eighties monotony was setting in. When the blond hair and the red
trunks started to become tedious, and the job was getting to be more
about the money and less about the love, I knew it was time to move on.
Q: You have a
teaching degree and a Masters in Business. After you retired the first
time from professional bodybuilding, you had the opportunity to teach
for a number of years. I also understand that you did a couple of
movies as well. Would you like to expound on these things?
That was one of the deals I made with my father at nine years old, that
I would get a college education. I received my Bachelor of Science in
Physiology and Nutrition from Wayne State University, a Masters in
Fitness Science from Michigan State University, and a Masters in
Business Administration from the University of California. I had the
opportunity to teach after I retired from bodybuilding at really all
levels of education from Kindergarten on up to college level, and I
loved it! I believe that success in anything relies on three things:
genetics, instincts and education. As I mentioned before, towards the
end of my bodybuilding career, I was beginning to just go through the
motions and it was beginning to be more about the money and less about
the love of the art. Being an artist, you have to have passion for what
you are doing to grow. Bodybuilding was becoming less of a challenge
for me and it wasn't making me uncomfortable anymore. The butterflies
just weren't as intense. So I wanted a new challenge, something that
made me uncomfortable and brought back those butterflies. I pursed
acting to some degree for a short period of time and had the
opportunity to do a few movies in the late eighties and early nineties.
Getting into theatre groups and having the opportunity to act, gave me
those butterflies for a period of time and it caused me to grow as an
Q: I understand
you worked with Vince McMahon and the World Bodybuilding Federation
(WBF). What was your job? Can you tell us a little bit about the WBF
and what your ultimate goals were for the new federation at that time?
I was recruited by Vince McMahon
like a high school All-American football star. After I had retired from
bodybuilding, Vince had some of his people drop by the beach to express
his interest in my future career. They invited me on Vince's behalf to
meet with him at his company headquarters in Connecticut. So I sat down
with Vince a few days later and he offered me a job. He was starting a
bodybuilding organization called the World Bodybuilding Federation and
he wanted me to be the Director of Talent Development. I accepted the
job and basically served as the liaison between the talent and the
front office. With the success of the WWF
(World Wrestling Federation) at that time, which was also run by Mr.
McMahon, it seemed like a tremendous opportunity. I thought that I
could help build the sport of bodybuilding into more of a mainstream
entity. With pro-wresting drawing 80-90,000 people to its events, I
figured that through this opportunity, I could help bodybuilding do the
same. Unfortunately, it didn't work out, but I still have a tremendous
amount of respect for Vince, and I consider the opportunity a great
Q: I understand that you have deep love and passion for cars. Where did this passion come from?
Muscle cars and bodybuilding have both been passions of mine since I
was a little kid. Back in the 70's it was the 383 six-packs, and the
427 hemi, oh my God! In high school I had a 'ï¿½68 black Dodge Charger
that I absolutely worshiped! Cars to me were really like an extension
of bodybuilding. In fact, at one time, I had to make a decision between
which career I wanted to pursue, bodybuilding or working on cars. I
chose bodybuilding because it was cheaper (laughs). But you know, when
I did well in bodybuilding I started collecting cars. I had Corvettes,
Porches, BMWs and many others. I eventually got into selling cars which
is actually a lot like the acting and performing part of bodybuilding,
it makes me uncomfortable. Throughout my career in bodybuilding, film
acting, teaching, and now selling cars, I tend to find more success
with professions that give me the butterflies. I actually attribute
much of what I do with selling cars to what I learned in the gym. You
know, I apply the education of what I learned in the gym to so many
facets of life.
Q: What is your view on the sport of bodybuilding right now? What has changed since you were competing?
To be honest, I'm concerned about modern-day bodybuilding. It seems too
many bodybuilders today are taking too many risks and a lot of the
competitors don't really even know how to talk or give an interview.
They (bodybuilders today) have nothing to say about the love of the
sport, nothing to say that's going to engage and draw people in. I sort
of see it going back to the garage sport, to where the general public
can't really relate to it as well. There was a time when bodybuilding
was growing. You know, with the Stallone movies and the Arnold movies
bodybuilding was becoming big. Not that bodybuilding isn't big right
now, fitness is just bigger. Again, the bodybuilders today are taking
too many risks. The health, the lifestyle, dare I say, without getting
into too much detail about pharmaceutical applications. Anything too
much is counterproductive. You know, I'm not a saint but what we did
compared to now'ï¿½..(10 second pause) I don't want to get into this too
much but I've always thought that if there were no drugs at all and
never were, the same superstars would be the same superstars because
the drugs don't make you pose better, the drugs don't give you the
ability to go on stage and put it all together, the drugs are only one
small part of it'ï¿½and it seems that's being identified too much
nowadays. There's even natural competitions nowadays, which essentially
identifies the non-natural. Do you see natural football? Do you see
natural volleyball? It's really kind of a self-marketing downfall.
Bodybuilding's about a lot more than just that, and that's where I'd
like to see it go again. You know everything is retro, bellbottoms came
back, and I think that that era is coming back and I think that's the
reason we're here today doing this interview.
Q: I understand
that you have been a naturalist for about 11 years and that you don't
really use any supplements. Are there any exceptions to this?
Well to be honest with you, yes, there are a few exceptions. Recently, I have used the
peanut butter is my favorite, but I also enjoy the
My wife and I have researched the ingredients thoroughly and feel they
are a good source of supplemental protein for when you cannot get to
foods right away. In preparation for my comeback, I will clearly need
to ramp up my protein intake; this product will be part of my dietary
preparation. One thing for sure, they taste unbelievable!
Q: Supreme Protein® is actually the number one protein bar in the retail marketplace. What do you like most about their bars?
I actually just finished eating one before this interview. They're very
satisfying, they digest well, and they cause absolutely no bloating. It
basically tastes like a candy bar but has 30 grams of protein, six
grams of carbs, and also contains flaxseed oil. So eating one a day in
addition to foods is what I advise others to do.
Q: In the January 2000 "Best Body Parts of the 20th Century" poll,
Flex Magazine deemed you as having the best quads and hamstrings of all time. What was your reaction to that recognition?
(Long pause) I don't know how to respond to that'ï¿½It's very humbling.
When you're considered the very best at something in 100 years, its
like one side of you says, "Oh wow, are you kidding" and the other side
is like "Yeah, you know I was the best!" But you know, I never quite
believed I was good, because you always can get better. But then I look
back at pictures from those days and I'm like, "Hey, I guess I was ok."
(Laughs) I tried really hard never to believe the stuff that was
written about me at the time, because I always wanted to believe I
could get better. You never get there, you know, you can always be a
little better tomorrow. There's always something left in the basement.
Q: You retired
from pro bodybuilding competitions in 1987 but did a 'Comeback' in 1995
and you were awarded Honorary Mr. America. Any plans for making another
Yes actually I am. I've actually been thinking about this for two years
now, but next year 2009, I'm seriously considering making a comeback.
It's not something that just happens in your mind, it's more than that.
I still have that same passion as I did when I was nine. When I saw the
most recent Rocky film that came out about two years ago and he said
that line "I think there's something still left in the basement" I
could relate to it and it inspired me.
Q: Being that you are now 53, will you train the same way you did in your younger years?
No, it's going to be catered to where I am right now. There will
obviously be some similarities and some notes that are played similar
from those notes of the past. Again, one of the main things I've
learned over the years is that you don't have to be deprived to get in
great shape. I can do a lot less as far as training and eat more fats
and still stay in shape. It's not about deprivation, it's about
abundance. Those are some things I recognize now more in my older age.
Over the years, I've really tried to stay consistent in going to the
gym at least twice a week. You'd be surprised how much I get done in
that amount of time. It's not about how many times you go anyway, it's
about what happens when you're there. But the gym is my first love,
it's my home. That's where I learned everything about life. So the gym
has that reverence for me.
Q: Are there any bodybuilders that you still keep in touch with?
Absolutely! Ed Corney, Frank Zane, Draper, we're all like family. It's
the common bond. I talked to Ed this morning actually and Frank
yesterday morning, so yes we're all still very close.
Q: Are there
any people in particular that you would like to thank for helping you
get to where you are today as well as how far you got in the sport of
First off, I have to thank my wife Cha. I wouldn't be healthy enough to
ever consider making a comeback if it wasn't for her coming into my
life; mentally, spiritually, and physically. This is a whole other
article, but I probably wouldn't even be alive if it wasn't for her. As
far as bodybuilding, there have been so many over the years. Any
success I've had, a lot of other people helped me get there. My
training partners were always there to help and encourage me. When my
arm was seriously hurt, they would stand with me as I worked out and
hand me the dumbbells or whatever. Let me tell you, I'm standing on the
shoulders of many, many, many great men before me. To be an artist and
to be an athlete, and a businessman and a diplomat is all that
bodybuilding entails. But the most vital aspect in my opinion was to be
an artist. To be a good artist you have to have the influence of other
artists, you know, you have to look at their work too. Corney, Draper,
Zane, and bunch of other guys, all had a huge influence on my work.
Birthdate: June 26, 1955
Height: 5' 8"
Hometown: Santa Monica, CA
Education: MBA, MFS, BSc
Occupation: Entrepreneur, Cars
Martial Status: Married to Dr Cha on September 11, 2000
Pets: Hermit Crabs
Favorite Car: Early 60s Corvette
Favorite Music: Iz, Babyface, Eric Clapton, R&B
Relaxation: Nintendo Wii & DS, Water/Snow Sports, Movies
1995 Honorary Mr. America '" AAU
1987 Grand Prix: Detroit 6th
1986 Mr. Olympia 11th
1985 Mr. Olympia 7th
1984 Mr. Olympia 10th
1982 Mr. Olympia 6th
1981 Mr. Olympia 3rd
1980 Pro Mr. Universe 2nd
1980 Mr. Olympia 9th
1980 Night of Champions 14th
1980 Grand Prix: Pittsburgh 10th
1980 Grand Prix: Lafayette, Louisiana 9th
1979 Mr. Olympia 8th (under 200 pounds)
1978 Mr. Universe, World Championships '" IFBB Middleweight & Overall Champion
1978 Mr. America - AAU, Short, 2nd
1977 Mr. Southeastern USA - AAU
1977 Mr. America - AAU, Short, 2nd
1976 Mr. America - AAU, Short, 3rd
1975 Mr. Michigan - AAU
1974 Junior & Senior State Power lifting Championships - AAU, 220 Class Champ
1974 Teen Mr. America - AAU, 2nd
1973 Mr. Adonis - AAU
1973 Mr. Ironman '" AAU
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