First Things First

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A Day Late and Short on Words


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It took us the better part of four hours just to unhook our vehicle from the mid-day traffic that consumes the San Jose, San Francisco area. We reached our first rest stop, an In-N-Out Burger in Rohnert Park, and proceeded to uncoil our grouchy bodies -- long time behind the controls -- from the tight and hot cockpit. Squats the day before didn’t make the task any easier and standing upright took several attempts, the final one accomplished with a smiling groan of relief. You know the kind, don’t you? Don’t you? Say yes.

At that precise moment a car slowly rolled by and the mid-aged male driver yelled out the window something like, "Hey, aren’t you Dave Draper?" I looked around as if I recognized the name, but wasn’t sure; Laree had gained my attention with cutesy comments about my stooped-over lurching gait.

"Your fans should see you now, Bomber. You look like you crawled out of a wreck. 'Medic, over here... we have an emergency.' You can kiss the athlete-of-the-year award goodbye. Are you sure you’re taking your chondroitin and glucosamine? 'Nurse, get that man a walker!'" She went on and on. One of these days…

I faced the car and caller and, with the aid of seeping adrenalin, assumed an erect and noble stand. I smiled and bowed. The man said he loved the website and encouraged us to keep up the good work. I watched his car dash away and resumed my inflexible, collapsed posture. Laree, hiding behind a Ford Explorer, was in stitches. Together we staggered into the burger joint and ordered a couple of no-bun protein-style specials and waters to devour in the shade of a corner table, thank you.

Our destination was Medford, Oregon, some 500 miles north of our front door in Aptos, California. There on the hillside of a small outlying community is the home of Bill and Judy Pearl and their barn gym. We were in no rush and there were no timelines to meet. "Call us when you get to town and we’ll go from there," were the instructions we determined to follow. We got there when we got there and we called. The Drapers don’t mess around.

After convening at their home and sharing several hours of yesterdays, todays and tomorrows, we decided to meet at 9AM for our grand-slam taping session. I should note that this is five hours after B&J and their buds met to train at the barn, a no-miss six-day-a-week 4AM habit, ritual, devotion -- take your pick. We were most cordially invited to join in the fun, but recalling our humble experience at the In-N-Out parking lot, chose to sleep in. Nine was pushing it.

Southern Oregon is hilly, farmy, woodsy and sparsely populated. Rushing is not allowed. It’s hot in the summer and patches of snow cover the ground in the winter. People burned out from California madness slip into Oregon when nobody’s lookin'. Laree and I had our eyes open for the land of our dreams. Between you and us and the cows in the field, it’s hard to leave the northern Cal coast. Somethin' 'bout the way she moves...

At 9:15 Bill and I were seated in his office with the wind-up toys. We were remarkably surrounded by hundreds of tin toys before Laree and her nifty telltale camera perched upon its tripod. Bill’s a collector and restorer of antique things, automobiles, bicycles, weight-lifting devices from the turn of the twentieth century, ancient unicycles, wagons, motorcycles and solid strongman barbells. A cheery setting, we began chatting and the camera was set in motion.

The scheme of our conversation was simple and inspired by the recent taping of our seminar at the Bomber Bash about a month before. The seminar was a fun and informative two hours of Bill, Ed Corney, me and the 200 attending IronOnliners tossing around questions and answers. How can you miss? Laree and those operating the four cameras recording the exchange were delighted with the material gained. What a tape this will make for fans of the golden days of bodybuilding and original physical culture.

One thing was missing. I had prepared a short list of questions I personally wanted answered, certain they would be of interest to others, but had forgotten them. You know how it goes, a little past lunch, two hours into it, bodybuilders twitching, the smell of barbequed beef wafting through the gym and I’m rambling on about tuna and water or squats. With the last echoing silence between questions and answers, I called it a wrap and we headed for the food.

In reviewing the tapes I imagined what an interesting addition it would be to complete the presentation with a direct exchange between Bill and me. Bill said, "Let’s do it." As an outline, I’d recover my ragged list of Qs and go from there. The less preparation the better was the agreement Bill and I made. Neither of us adores pressure and both of us appreciate the value of spontaneity.

For two hours we conversed as if the camera was one of the antiques. Laree was our audience and chimed in occasionally as she became involved in the dialogue. George, one of Bill’s pre-dawn training partners, slid in the open front door and assumed a seat on the floor. A young tabby cat took up residence on a nearby couch and began to purr. The place was getting packed. We talked and talked about the things that were on our minds about the sport we’ve loved for 50 to 60 years.

Again, it was the lunch bell that signaled the end to our conversation. Laree gathered her gear and we made our way to the outdoors, the cars and the restaurant down the road and on the right. There, joined by Judy and a few more early morning ironminds, we ate, drank iced tea and talked some more.

What we achieved was no small thing. Neither Bill nor I eagerly seek interviews. I mean, with whom do you wish to speak, who do you trust, who knows the questions to ask, what’s their angle and why bother? As it was, our casual talk was a shared interview. After offering an opinion on a subject, I asked Bill his point of view or his experience or a related question. The result was two old friends gabbing pleasurably, and with hopes of pleasing an audience of curious and devoted bodybuilding fans.

Don’t ask us what we talked about. Who remembers?

Bombers, take your positions on the field. We’ll be taking off shortly. The skies are coming into focus.

God’s speed... Dave Draper

+++

Laree here...I came back from our Oregon visit with the Pearls even more impressed by Bill, although that seems barely possible. What an amazing person. And I'll let you in one another secret: The conversation between he and Dave -- the one I got on tape -- was fabulous. No kidding, there isn't a one of you who won't enjoy it; they covered everything. What was planned to be a 10- or 15-minute add-on to the upcoming DVD morphed into a two-tape segment as the guys began to ask each other questions covering the whys and hows of their lifetime training. I'm thrilled with what developed, and can't wait to share it with you.

In the meantime, do you know the story of how Dave first came to appreciate Bill, his friendship and generosity? Well, you see, it's like this… 1965, somewhere in LA, sorta on his way to Brooklyn… here's the rest of the story.

Now Bill by then was Mr. Universe at least a couple times over on his way to what eventually became five Mr. U titles. At the same time, with the encouragement of Leo Stern, he expanded the standard posing routine entertainment into a full-scale strongman show. Tearing license plates, blowing up hot water bottles until they exploded… wait, let's have Dick Tyler describe the sights and sounds of a Bill Pearl Strongman Show.

A few years go by -- seven, to be precise -- and we find Bill back on stage for another shot at the Mr. Universe. Why? Hard to say, exactly. Partly a public challenge, mostly the persuasion of Leo, I suppose. Bill's autobiography begins as the question of why takes center stage; have a look.

The stack of email messages we returned home to included one from a guy begging Dave to design a year's worth of workouts. But guess what? No need, because, as with many other experiences Dave stumbled into, Bill's already done that, too. I'm going to drop you off at Bill and Judy's website, on the page that sets up a 20-month training plan. If you're already into intermediate or advanced level training, you can jump several months into the program by clicking on the "select a program" link at the top, after reading the intro material, of course. Not only will you find the exercise routines and workout suggestions, but you'll also have individual exercise descriptions and illustrations.

Guess what else: Bill's a generous guy -- we both mentioned that already -- and the 20 Months to a Champion Physique pages are absolutely free. Jump on over.

2006 UPDATE—DVD's AVAILABLE!

The  DVD includes a one-hour-and-fifteen-minute tape of the July seminar, two muscular slide shows, plus a 32-page booklet outlining the subsequent interview between the mighty one, Bill Pearl, and me in which we discuss some favorite subjects untouched by the seminar.

To order your copy of the Bash 05 Seminar dvd with Dave and Bill Pearl click here.

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