George Eiferman

George Eiferman, Dave Draper, Chuck Collaras

Mr. Philadelphia 1947
Mr. California 1948
Mr. America 1948
Mr. Universe 1962

Almost 50 years ago I boarded an aircraft at La Guardia (I believe they had commercial jets back then) and made my lone and curious way to Los Angeles. My nose was pressed against the window for most of the flight as I absorbed my first flying experience in wonder. The other side of clouds, the tiny-toy real world with its little cars and rooftops, soft patchworks of countryside, lonely stretches of crinkled mountain range; the scenery appeared and receded in slow motion as I sat still in the hum.

"Coffee?" "Huh? Sure." That's the planet earth going by.

For five hours we chased the sun, catching it finally over the Sierras, and sure enough, landed at LAX late Thursday night. Airport terminals in the middle of the night are body-bent, tired places where bleary people roam, out of sync, underfed and fading. George Eiferman stood at the arrival gate wearing a grin and a Hawaiian shirt, mighty forearms and grip hanging loosely from short sleeves.

"Hi Dave, I'm George. Have a nice trip? Welcome to California. Here, let me carry your bag."

And so began my friendship with a man whose heart was bigger than the immense world over which I had just flown. Originals cannot be duplicated; they can only be admired. Amid conversation to suit the hour and the needs, we made our way to lovely Santa Monica and the famous Muscle House, a crash pad on the Pacific, for my first night's sleep.

"I don't think so. There are a dozen guys in two rooms sprawled out and snoring, George, and none of them in the dim light look like they have muscles or a job. Perhaps I can sleep on the couch in Weider's office, wake up early, have some breakfast and get to work."

Lord, I needed to be alone.

Weider's -- Weider Barbell Co. -- was the small, sputtering West Coast branch of Joe Weider's yet-to-develop empire of muscles, magazines, pro contests, health food products and other related enterprises. George was sort of in charge of the two-month-old project and I was imported from the Union City Headquarters to assist. Two muscleheads to install one light bulb and it took us all day.

I took one look at Santa Monica in the morning summer sun and thought I was in Heaven. George, the current Mr. Universe, and I, the current Mr. New Jersey, bumped around and got things done. Ann, Joe's aunt three times my age, kept a tender eye on George and me as she opened the mail and did the bookkeeping. A staff of three, rubbing sticks together.

Naturally, the first piece of business the day after I arrived was to settle into a workout. George took me to The Muscle Beach Gym three blocks southwest of my new digs and 30 steps down into the dark. Once my eyes and nose adjusted, I realized the dank and impoverished gym, affectionately called The Dungeon, with all the amenities of a dungeon, was my kind of place. I met Wes and Zabo and Joe Gold and Chuck Collras and Merjanian and Artie Zeller and Hugo Labra and Peanuts West. And George benched 405 cold.

I benched half that and got splinters.

The summer smiled and my big friend showed me how to hang out at the beach and get rays and body surf like a log. It was during one such convulsive day in the waves that I collided with a long submerged and swollen body, a man who earlier had fallen off a nearby pier. I pushed, pulled and dragged him to shore and, exhausted, collapsed by his side. George observed my frenzied antics from a distance and like a rhino crossed the sand to my aid.

Too late for either of us, the Pennsylvania transplant stood over me and commented with great enthusiasm, "This stuff only happens in California." I nodded. He was right on.

In September we drove down to San Diego in George's 1955 Buick Special to present a show at a junior college. I'm wondering why a Mr. Universe titleholder is driving around in a beat-up ole clunker, but don't say anything because I think it means he's poor. It wasn't very long before I learned that all titleholders are poor. Anyway, under the lights of the small auditorium, George introduced the eager contestants of the local competition to the eager local audience.

Midway, he invites a pretty volunteer from the second row to help him in a musical number. He begs, she concedes; he breaks out a dented but shiny trumpet as she looks on waiting for a cue. He blurts out an off-key and vaguely familiar tune no one can identify; she waits for a clue. Somehow, amid laughter and the blaring horn, the girl is up and over his head in a one-arm press. She's startled and George is doing his famous trick, parading around the stage in circles accompanied by the mad tune and the screaming student.

I'm offstage trying to pump up because I'm next with my corny posing routine. How am I ever going to follow this act?

Ralph Kroeger, a popular gym owner in a nearby community, demonstrated with precision the three Olympic lifts performed in the 1960s. Eventually, Jack Lalanne got hold of the mike and raised the revolutions with his passion for health and fitness. Somebody gave out trophies and everyone went home.

The Buick pulled into Santa Monica around midnight without overheating.

Two weeks later George introduced me to a wonderful man with a camera, Russ Warner, my new boss. Seems Mr. Eiferman was moving to Hawaii with his bride to open a gym. Didn't see him much after that. We both wandered this way and that; he opened a successful gym in Las Vegas in the 1970s. He died there last week after complications that often accompany people nearing 80 years old.

A most unforgettable man. He had a heart of gold, the strength of an ox, a corny sense of humor honed to perfection, the disposition of a muscle-building saint, the humility of a '55 Buick and color of a Hawaiian shirt, loyalty of a Golden Retriever and faith and wisdom apportioned by God.

Nose up, Bombers… soar high… see George, tell him I miss him… DD

Did you sign up for Dave's expanded email yet?
It's free, motivating and priceless!
We'll also send you a link to Dave's free Body Revival Tips and Hints booklet with your confirmation notice.

Enter your email address:


Cut through the confusion! Grab your copy Brother Iron Sister Steel to make your training path clear.

Readers agree: Dave new book, Iron On My Mind, is non-stop inspirational reading.

Our IronOnline Forum will answer your training and nutriton questions right here, right now.

Golden Era fans will rejoice in this excerpt from West Coast Bodybuilding Scene.

Are your shoulders tight? Do your shoulders hurt when you squat? It's practically a miracle! Dave's Top Squat assists sqatters with shoulder problems.