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Draper Q & A, Part Two



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[Laree here -- Still lazy, but continuing from last week, here's part two.]

Dave Draper Q & A, interviewed by Chris Colucci

Q: How did you end up not being featured in the film "Pumping Iron"?

A: I was out to lunch, up to my ears in sawdust and not at all interested. I was also comfortably shabby, invisible and disconnected from the scene. I came and went among the benches and racks without seeing the cameras roll or the roles being played. I was 215, strong and contentedly distant and preoccupied.

A workhorse with blinders, I missed the distractions about me. I plodded on tenaciously, faithfully wherever I pointed my nose.

Hmmm... Some of my answers sound cynical as they echo in my mind. They're not, scouts honor. Like a flipped coin, I occasionally land on my edge. Also, there's more to the story. Isn't there always?

Q: For those who might not know, who was David the Gladiator? Did you really get into the acting business just to pay the bills?

A: In a breath, David the Gladiator was a burly, bare-chested character fitted with leather and equipped with a sword who introduced old muscle flicks to LA's largest television viewing audience, KHJ-TV, every Saturday evening for a year through mid-'63 and '64.

Shortly after I moved from Jersey to California in 1963, where I trained at the Muscle Beach Gym, AKA the Dungeon, I was chosen from the local beef to play the off-the-wall dungeon-dweller character.

Action: "Hi, ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys and you muscle worshippers. You guessed it, it's me, your favorite Gladiator in the flesh to introduce tonight's extraordinary, daring and action-packed film, "Hercules Unchained," starring the pudgy and homely Steve Reeves. But first, I must pause to fight off beautiful and naughty slave girls pounding on my dungeon door... and bring you this exciting news from Ford Motor Company and Chariot Builders."

Corny, but fun and insightful for me, and the audience loved it until KHJ ran out of films. The Hollywood scene and cattle calls and casting were new to me. I never pursued an acting career. The few things I did in filmdom were sorta accidental. Cattle call notifications circulate the local gyms and everyone with a 15-inch pumped biceps ascends the agency... mostly out-of-work extras.

A headful of experience, entertainment and life instruction, and a pocketful of change. No passion for acting, no time to pursue, no bucks for three to stay afloat on a battered raft.

Q: You also did an episode of the Beverly Hillbillies. Any chance you've got some juicy behind-the-scenes stories about Ellie May?

A: Mr. Universe Trains Ellie May: The entire cast and crew was professional, of course, but unusually laid back and treated me like family. I thought any minute between takes Jed would spark up the ole corncob pipe and Granny would break out the moonshine. Ellie May, played by Donna Douglas, was adorable and eagerly rehearsed our scenes off camera to ease my nerves. Miss the good old days...

Q: You've had a bunch of great lifting partners, but is there a single workout from back then that still sticks out in your mind?

A: I learned most of what I know (have a tin cup handy?) about training and nutrition during my first year at the Muscle Beach Dungeon working out with Dick Sweet, Mr. California, five years my senior.

I think of early morning press-behind-necks with a slightly bent Olympic bar on a squeaky, shaky upright bench engineered and erected by eager and carpentry-handicapped muscle guys with 2x4s and 2x6s and spikes. The splintery PBNs were supersetted with sidearm lateral raises with my backside snugly fitted for support into the crumbled plaster of a heavy duty column substructure of the eroding 1920s hotel.

You had to have been there. Perfection, pure and simple.

Q: What's something lifters today should absolutely learn from the pros of the Golden Age? What's something today's crowd needs to stop asking or wondering about?

A: Don't compare yourself to the pros and want or need to be like them. Pro bodybuilding is a remarkable involvement and the participants are astonishing, staggering and near incredible. Be open to inspiration, let it pour over you; seek it, even, but train for yourself.

Set your realistic goals, but realize and train for the larger vision of training itself. There's far more to the daily workouts than muscle and might. You're applying and developing character and health of the mind and emotions and soul at once.

There are no secrets, no short cuts. But there is always the search, the hunt, for another good workout, another appealing way, another stimulating combination of food and exercise. It's the basics, kids; simple, but not easy. You've got to blast it, sensibly blast it.

You've must love your workouts, though you might hate them. A good workout is not an outline of exercises, sets and reps only. It's a voyage of focus and form, pace and rhythm, exertion and feel, instincts and knowing that come with time and practice and guts and understanding.

Hey, you can always take a truckload of pharmaceuticals and avoid all of the above.

In a word... make that two: Never quit!

Q: Over the years, you've dealt with a combination of health issues and injuries. Are injuries unavoidable for bodybuilders (competitive and recreational)? Is there anything they can do to stay healthy and lifting for the long-term?

Injuries are avoidable, if the lifter is sensible, cautious, controlled and mildly motivated. The lifter with these personality traits generally lasts days, weeks or months under the iron before escaping. A determined bodybuilder is driven and daring and intense (slightly mad) and injury-bound... comes with territory.

It's the last rep and the extra plates that must be done that kill ya. These are also the ones that build large, powerful, dense and well-shaped muscle. What's a lifter to do?

Eat right, rest a lot, warm up plenty, focus on muscle engagement, maintain proper form, take exertion to 99 percent -- not 101 percent -- and learn from the inevitable injuries that strike you down. Don't overtrain or overstrain, if you can figure that out.

One main clue from the modern world: Add joint mobility to your warmup.

Q: You've worked a lot with Bill Pearl and you once wrote he told you, "You've got to get out of shape to get into shape." What's your take on the whole "bulking and cutting" situation for recreational lifter?

There's a season for bulking and getting strong and a season for trimming and getting ripped. They both work well as the lifter makes the way toward the goals. There's the need and enjoyment of change in menu and training methodology and there's the education gained from experiencing the different approaches. The various schemes are productive and the variety stretches the trainee's understanding of self and sport.

The recreational ironhead will experiment less and be content to eventually find a middle ground of training output and a desirable year-round bodybuilding development. Less stress and strain and easier to maintain and appreciate.

Q: What would today's Bomber want to tell the little Bomber back in 1962 before he won Mr. New Jersey?

Possible choices:

> It's gonna be a long journey, kid, enjoy it... never quit.

> Go to college and become somebody.

> Get a real job, ya bum.

> Since you won't listen to anyone, learn from your mistakes.

> Save your five winning trophies. You can sell them on eBay in 50 years for a few extra bucks... times will be tough.

> Too late now, little bomberino, hold on for dear life. There are no secrets; simply toil and sweat and years and tears.

Q: If someone wanted to know more of your ideas on life, lifting, and everything else, should they start by reading Brother Iron, Sister Steel or one of your later books?

Brother Iron Sister Steel is a balance of personality, facts, fiction, guess work, tips, hints and clues. The book offers the basics I followed from a small pile of weights stashed under my bed to the tons of iron spread all over the world. Those simple, commonsensical, heart-felt and intuitive basics are a cheerful and credible guide to lifters of all ages, levels and purposes. Fun and encouraging and packed with photos from the day.

Iron on My Mind and Iron in My Hands are revisited collections of my IronOnline newsletters designed to entertain, inform and motivate. Muscleheads of all shapes and sizes say it gets them to the gym when they least want to go. Each chapter forestalls the dreaded training gaps and overcomes the musclebuilding blues.

West Coast Bodybuilding Scene is an ironman storybook and picture guide that takes you back to the Golden Era of muscle and might. It's a refreshing and warm reminder of why we lift weights in the first place... and cannot put them down. Dick Tyler wrote the text back in the late '60s and early '70s and I wrote the photo captions current day.

Well, if you'll excuse me, the next stop is mine. Been swell talking with you.

dd

*****

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