Flex Your Truth

PHOTOS: Former Mr. Universe Bob Paris Discusses Life Outside The Closet

hqdefaultFormer bodybuilder Bob Paris appeared in a recent Oprah Winfrey Where Are They Now? segment to share how his decision to come out in 1989 has affected his life over the past 25 years.

As we continue to follow high-profile sports “coming out” stories like Michael Sam and Jason Collins, it’s important to be aware of the trailblazers who helped forge the slowly stabilizing path towards acceptance in athletics.

It’s a path that’s still rocky to say the least, but consider the social climate Paris faced when he chose to share his truth with the world (and Oprah; is there a difference?). In 1989, when Paris was a celebrated bodybuilder with a Mr. Universe title under his belt, the Los Angeles Times reported that 70 percent of Americans thought homosexuality was a sin. But public opinion didn’t stop him from taking a serious leap of faith on national television, sharing his relationship with fellow bodybuilder Rod Jackson.

Asked why come out? back in ’89, he told Oprah:

“You fall in love. When Rod and I met, we found a spiritual bond between each other. If you bastardize it and you stick it back in your back pocket where no one can see it, then pretty soon you chip away pieces of that bit by bit, until you have absolutely nothing left.”

The lovers become symbols of hope in the fight for gay marriage, but it was career suicide for Paris. He reflects back:

“For me, the repercussions [of coming out] were tremendous. I lost about 80 percent of my business. Literally had doors closed in my face… There were a number of times where my life was threatened. Some death threats came by phone, by mail.”

Bob and Rod (awesome names for a gay couple) eventually split, and Paris met his now-husband Brian LeFurgey in 1997.

Being able to finally make our marriage legal in 2003 healed a spot in my soul that had been wounded from the time I was 14 years old and first realized I was a gay man living in a culture that told me I was less than. Here I was, suddenly being treated as a whole person.

Paris and LeFurgey currently live a happy, quiet life on an Island in British Columbia.

Watch the OWN interview below then scroll down for a look back on Paris and Jackson in their bulky heyday.




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  • Paul F

    MMMM, long hair, me like. (top photo) Too bad it looks like the skin on his chest is about to rip open from the stress. Still, I wouldn’t throw him out of bed for drinking a protein shake and an energy bar.

  • Scribe38

    Rod and Bob saved me when I was a kid. I saw their story in the paper folded it up and carried it in my wallet for a few years. It was proof to me that being gay wasn’t wrong and two men could love each other. They gave me a model of what gay love could look like and it saved the suicidal teen that I was at the time. I will love these guys forever.

  • hephaestion

    In the 80s and 90s Bob Paris was the sexiest, most beautiful man on Earth. And he still looks great. He is one of the smartest gay activists of all time. Always a serious thinker and a very kind man.

  • Dixie Rect

    Wasn’t the blonde one naked in Playgirl?

  • ppp111

    @Dixie Rect:

    Yes, Rod Jackson did pose for Playgirl some years before. Of course we all know Playgirl models are straight [eyes rolling]. Anyway, I remember that interview they did for Oprah. It blew people away. There was some homophobic remarks from her less intelligent audience members but I guess we shouldn’t be surprised considering the conservative attitude that was pervasive in the 80s.
    Couldn’t agree more. I remember many straight women were in love with Paris, even those who weren’t normally attracted to bodybuilders. He was and still is one of the sexiest men on earth.

  • balehead

    Most straight bodybuilders didn’t care he was gay…Only the sad queens really hated him….

  • litper

    @Paul F: are you bi and like trans women with long hair?

  • litper

    ewww, his former partner is almost trans

  • Bellerophon69

    Bob Paris was an awesome example of a bodybuilder with a perfect classical physique, and an awesome example of a human being for coming out at a time when it was going to make things very rough for him. And there were a lot of gay bodybuilders who didn’t have half the talent and genetics to make it in competition that he did and never came out, hich says a lot for Bobs character. Good to hear about Bob today, he seems very happy, although he and I both have “shrunk” a little since the eighties! Then again, that was eons ago. I wish him all the best.

  • robho3

    I remember him. What a great, courageous guy.

  • Stache1

    Kind of surprising to see him in the video though. He looks good but now just a regular middle aged guy. I guess when they stop the steroids it all goes away.

  • stadacona

    It was all steroids. He is not a role model.

  • Cam


    Look, we get it that you are anti-gay. But the issue is, you spend a lot of time on a gay website so which are you? A troll or a self hating right wing gay?

  • Rad

    Bob and Rod were my role models; I came out shortly after they did. I figured if they could do it, so could I.

    I’ve never looked back.

  • stanhope

    I am much more interested in what happened to Rod Jackson. Some vilified him as an opportunist back in the day and I would expect his story to have much more texture. It seems he virtually disappeared from planet Earth. All of the ink is on Bob Paris….OK so he was Mr. Universe…I know that story. If Rod is reading this, write a candid book…..it would sell.

  • ibernard

    The most interesting thing about DUO by Herb Ritts and Bob and Rob Paris Jackson (at the time) is that Ritts was the SECOND choice to do the book. Mapplethorpe was gearing up to do the book, and got so ill, he couldn’t do it, and died. Forget which one of the Glimmer Twins really wanted the book done, or if Ritts decided himself to do the book, but that’s the story behind the origin of DUO. The stink about it is that neither Rod nor Bob would “sign” the book when they were in Miami on South Beach decades ago. Nice attitude.

  • litper

    @Cam: both, s/he also likes sex with dogs

  • geoff

    @ibernard: Can’t speak to their attitude, but I actually own a copy of DUO signed by Rod.

  • Stache1

    @stadacona: That was an era when everyone was doing steroids. He wouldn’t have been considered for anything if he hadn’t done it. I bought one of his body building books a long time ago. They should’ve re titled it to Juiced or something.

  • misterhollywood

    I used his book Flawless back in the 90’s. He offered great tips for beginners and I commend him for his work.

  • Niall

    Ew, definition of “too much”

  • Paul F

    @litper: While I lost my virginity to a woman(she insisted)at age 26, and I don’t think women are “yucky”, woman parts don’t make me hot like a dick will. I just like a man to have long hair (and a beard) like they were designed to have. The furrier a man is, the hotter I think he looks. As shown by the comments on this site, people have different tastes in men. Mine is for HAIRY men, and I’m not repulsed by tattoos either, like some.

  • Bobby Christina Crawford

    As someone around his age and remember the original interview….I about fell off my chair when I saw the current day Bob. He is still an attractive man but I don’t see ONE ounce of the previous Bob.
    I think the more attractive we were as young gay man the harder it is getting older and totally loosing ALL bits of our original look. Some men grow older and just look like older versions of themselves, others evolve into a totally different look. It happened to me and it took me a long time to really accept I would never regain ANY of my former looks.
    I would love to hear how this has effected someone like Bob who was, for all purposes, a perfect specimen.

  • Hillers

    @Bobby Christina Crawford:
    We can look good at any age as long we accept the age we are. At least I think so.

    Bob looks great–dapper, articulate, silver fox-hot. I wouldn’t necessarily kick the 20-something version of him out of bed, but I would be concerned about ball shrinkage and performance, if you know what I mean.

  • actiondude

    i met these two at a book signing in san diego shortly after their oprah show appearance and it was down-right disheartening. of course i didn’t expect them to offer up a threeway or even spend more than 15 seconds of personal time with me. but they seemed both distracted and disgusted by the block-long line of gay men who’d shelled out $20 something for their book and waited in line for over two hours to get it signed. they wouldn’t shake hands, they wouldn’t allow picture taking, and they made no eye contact with anyone/anything except for their watches as they counted down the seconds until they could get the eff outta there. after that OBVIOUS money grab, i never gave a flying fritatta about either one of those guys. instead of being ACTUAL role models, they were the exact thing the gay community did NOT need: two more stuck-up pretty boys who acted like you should be honored to be within 20 feet of them.

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