Joe Weider, who helped popularize bodybuilding as a legitimate sport and launched the career of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, died of heart failure in his Los Angeles home on Saturday. He was 93.
“[Joe] was the godfather of fitness who told all of us to be somebody with a body,” Schwarzenegger tweeted. “He taught us that through hard work and training we could all be champions.”
Weider, who created the Mr. Olympia contest in the 1960s, developed a media empire that included dozens of bodybuilding magazines—including Your Physique, Adonis, Body Beautiful and Muscle & Fitness. He later produced successful lifestyle brands like Shape and Men’s Fitness, before selling Weider Publications in 2003.
When Weider hit the scene in the 1950s and 60s, so-called “physique magazines” were the closest thing to gay porn you could find. Weider—who is survived by his wife, Betty—didn’t hesitate to encourage his bodybuilding protegees to pose in his magazine to help fund their training.
There were even allegations Weider “pimped” his athletes to closeted gay men—but it was all very “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Bodybuilder Bob Paris claimed that Weider was furious he had come out as gay, rather than stay in the weight-room closet: “The powers that be want so badly to overcome the myth that all bodybuilders are gay, presuming that’s a negative thing,” Paris said in an interview in 1998. “Then you have the top face in the sport evolve into an activist and they don’t know what to do with that.”