After celebrating his first place victory at the Mr. Pacific Coast contest, Steve returned home and continued his quest to be the next Mr. America. It was December 23, 1946, just two days before Christmas. It was a time to rejoice and turn his attention to family, friends and enjoyed a very wonderful holiday season.
As the New Year commenced, Steve got back into his regular training routine at Ed Yarick's gym, along with his workout partner, Bob Weidlich. For several years, Steve had planned to compete in the Mr. America and was now seriously training towards that goal.
After endless hours of reviewing previous workouts and reading all of the workout material he could get his hands on, he finally determined how his physique should look. He always had in mind a physique designed for classic proportion and symmetry. Steve finally developed a formula for what others would eventually call his Classic Physique.
In defining his Classic Physique, Steve knew precisely what was required to achieve The Look. He wanted a 24 inch differential between waist and chest. His shoulders would be 24 inches tip to tip. He also wanted to avoid building large trapezius, which would make his shoulders appear narrower or large obliques, which would make his waist appear wider. Steve determined his neck, biceps and calves should be exactly the same size.
After much consideration and calculation Steve developed his personal formula for the Classic Physique:
Neck size equal to 79% of his head size; chest size equal to 148% of his pelvis size; arm size equal to 252% of his wrist size. He determined his waist size would be equal to 86% of his pelvis size, thigh size equal to 1 75% of his knee size, calf size equal to 192% of his ankle size and his weight 295% of his height.
Although Steve did not achieve a 24 inch differential between waist and chest, he came within a half inch of it. Undoubtedly he would have achieved his 24 inches if he had not gone into films, which was very demanding on both his time and energy.
With his plan in hand and the goal to be Mr. America, Steve and Bob worked out for the next four and a half months with new found spirit. At the same time, Steve attended chiropractic school in San Francisco to further his education in anatomy and nutrition through the G.I. Education Bill.
The Mr. Western America Contest (formerly the Mr. Pacific Coast Contest) was scheduled to take place at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on May 25. Steve decided to compete because it would be a good warm-up to the Mr. America competition.
When the Mr. California came up before the Mr. Western America, Steve decided not to enter it. He did not think it wise to compete in a contest of less importance than the Mr. Western America, especially since he had already captured the Mr. Pacific Coast title.
Steve and Bob drove down from Oakland a few days before the contest so they could spend time at Muscle Beach. That way they could get in a couple workouts and work on their tans. Bob decided not to compete himself, but went along for moral support.
While in the area, they visited with Les Stockton and his wife Pudgy at their home in Santa Monica. Steve always enjoyed Pudgy's delicious meals because they adhered to physical culture standards. The Stocktons promised to be at the Mr. Western America to support Steve.
Many notables from the body building world were also in the audience to see who would be the next Mr. Western America. Vince Gironda came with his very beautiful fiancée Peggy O'NeiI, and artist Kenneth Kendell.
When Steve was introduced to the audience as the reigning Mr. Pacific Coast, Peggy's comment to Vince and Kenneth was, "Mr. Pacific Coast... Mr. WORLD!" The Shrine Auditorium was so packed that it was standing room only when Steve was proclaimed Mr. Western America!
It was the first, but would not the last time that Steve would compete against Eric Pedersen.
After returning to Oakland, Steve had only a few weeks to polish his posing routine and put the finishing touches on his physique before heading for the Mr. America contest in Chicago.
During his workouts, when he did a heavy set he would give it 110 percent. He would start off counting his reps from 1 to 5 then finish with 6-Aluriano, 7-Vo, 8-Farbotnik, 9-Eiferman and 10-Pedersen (the names of the competitors he wanted to beat in the Mr. America competition) After his workouts, he made sure he got a little more rest and ate a little more to support his very strenuous routine. Steve's workout is printed in the Nutrition & Fitness section of this issue.
On Thursday morning, June 26, 1947, Steve boarded a United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Chicago for what would be the most important contest of his life. When Steve stepped off the plane at Midway Field, Dick Trusdale was waiting for him. It was a very humid 90 degree day, although it did not appear to affect Steve in the least. Dick drove Steve to his house in Evanston where Steve stayed for the night.
The next day Dick took Steve to get a haircut and then drove him to his hotel, which was located close but not too close to the location of the contest. Dick dropped Steve off and said he would see him the next day. Steve wanted to stay in a quiet hotel away from the other competitors and he had picked the right one. He felt it was the best way he could relax, get some sun and mentally prepare himself for the contest.
Steve put in his first workout at Chicago Central YMCA gym, then after eating a typical Reeves dinner he returned to his room. As he put his key into the lock Steve heard the phone ringing. He hurried in to answer if, not bothering to retrieve his key. It was Tony Lanza the outstanding Canadian photographer and a body builder himself, reminding Steve about a photo shoot the next morning. Not only was it Steve's first time in Chicago but was also Tony's. He told Steve he would pick him up early so they could get to the beach in time to take advantage of the best sun angles. After Steve and Tony finished their phone call, Steve went back for his key which was still dangling in the door lock!
Even with the time change Steve had no trouble falling asleep knowing that the next day was going to begin very early. In the morning Steve awoke early for a morning workout at the Central "Y." Steve had not been observed by any of the competitors during his workouts. After returning to the hotel, he relaxed and waited for Tony.
Tony met Steve as planned and they drove to the lake front where he parked his car at the Foster Avenue Beach. Steve stepped out of his street clothes to reveal only his posing trunks. He and Tony started walking down the beach looking for a location for their photo shoot.
Suddenly, Steve felt as if he were being watched, and as he looked back - he was quite surprised at the crowd of people following him. At one point Steve noticed that the street traffic was backed up! Motorists were blowing their horns at drivers that were slowing down to get a better look at Steve.
Lanza found a rock for Steve to stand on with the lake as a backdrop . As it turns out, these Lanza shots are considered some of the best ever taken of Steve. After the photo shoot they returned to the car and made their way to the hotel. Steve relaxed, got a little sun and thought about his posing routine, reminding himself to be calm during the contest. He retired early, for he knew that the next day was the one day he had dreamed about for many years and he wanted to be fully prepared for it.
On Sunday June 29, 1947 the Mr. America competition took place at Lane High School in Chicago. Steve relaxed and mentally prepared for the contest that day. About an hour before the event Steve took a cab to the contest site.
When he walked into the auditorium he was confident but felt a little rush of adrenaline. He thought to himself that he knew he was up to winning because he had beat Pedersen before, and Pedersen was as good if not better than anyone else competing. He thought if he played it cool, stayed calm and did his poses correctly with the right angle then he would win.
After checking out the lighting, which was only one light shining down at a 45 degree angle, he knew it was critical that placement was just right. If you stepped six inches forward or six inches backward you would be out of the light and lose the perfect angle for the shadows to reflect your musculature.
Steve reported in for the contest and walked to the back stage area where he got his first glimpse of the competition. They were lifting weights and exercising to get blood to gorge the muscles (pumping up). Steve did not pump up before his stage performance knowing that he would gain a little size but would lose some cuts and look a bit smoother. Instead, he just did some stretches and warmed up. He then rubbed oil all over his body, making sure not to overdo it. He needed only enough oil to perfectly reflect the lights.
The other competitors were watching Steve, wondering why he appeared so calm and was not pumping up. There was definitely a bit of psyching going on.
Numbers were drawn to determine the order the contestants would appear on stage. The judging group held a meeting with the contestants to review the rules. The contestants would be judged by a point system, with 75 points being a perfect score.
Each contestant would have 30 seconds total to do three poses. The referee would give a verbal signal when the time had elapsed. In previous years contestants tried to gain the advantage by taking extra time. That would not be allowed this year. Steve drew number 19 from the box, which placed him at the middle of the competition.
Out front sat the ten judges waiting for the first competitor to hit the platform. The judges were Roy Armstrong, Herman Fische, Karo Whitfield, Bob Rea, Larry Barnholth, Al Urban, Vern Hernlund, Dr. Dudley Watson, Charles Post and Donald Penny.
They were selected from an assembly of experts. Roy Armstrong was the physical director at the Chicago Central YMCA. Herman Fischer held the prestigious position of president of Central A.A.U.; Karo Witfield was the very talented lifting coach at Piedmont A.C. in Atlanta; Bob Rea was the renowned Director of the Chicago Press Photography Association; Larry Barnholth the exceptional lifting coach from Akron Ohio; Al Urban one of the outstanding physique photographers in the country; Vern Hernlund owner of a health studio in Minneapolis; Dr. Dudley a prominent local physician; and Donald Penny a physical culture instructor.
The main event was anxiously anticipated by everyone. Who would achieve the first place standing Alan Stephan achieved the previous year?
The announcer began the evening by introducing six lovely young models known as the Patricia Steven's Olympettes. These ladies would be presenting the trophies to the top six winners at the end of the show. Each model was introduced and walked to her place at the back of the stage, sitting on chairs evenly placed behind the posing platform.
The master of ceremonies announced the contestants' names in order of numbers drawn earlier. Each contestant came to center stage, ascended the platform and gave three poses (front, back and an optional pose). Throughout the event, the lighting on the contestants was too bright or not bright enough. The audience at various times called out: "More lights! Less lights! Turn on the lights! Turn off the lights! Phooey on the lights!"
Steve waited backstage, completely composed and ready for his moment. At the announcement of his name, he stepped from the wings and confidently walked to the platform in the center of the stage. He was the sensation of the evening. The crowd was behind him all the way.
In the audience, a writer for "Your Physique" magazine was heard telling a group of people, "Seldom if ever does one perceive such perfection as Steve Reeves." He later reported that he was really impressed by Steve's fine leg development, and that it was the best he had seen since Grimek and Pat Ryan. He also remarked, "This guy has shape plusl"
When all of the contestants completed their routines and the judges conferred - it was time for the moment of truth. The announcer made his way to the stage and quieted the audience. He informed the audience that he would announce the first six places in reverse order. Each contestant would then come out and take his place on the stage.
He began by stating that there was a tie for fifth and sixth place. He called for George Eiferman of Fritshe's Gym of Philadelphia and Kimon Voyages of Bal's Gym of the Bronx to take to the posing dais to break the tie. The judges gave Eiferman the nod and Voyages was awarded sixth place. Fourth place went to John Farbotnik hailing from Chicago. Third place was Joe Lauriano of the York Barbell Club.
Then the announcer hesitated and looked out at the audience and said, "Ladies and Gentlemen." A hush came over the crowd. "There is a tie for first place! Eric Pedersen and Steve Reeves have both received 72 points. We will have them come up and perform their routines one more time."
The announcer called out Eric Pedersen's name and enthusiastic applause broke out. Pedersen took the platform and hit his three poses. He looked great. Eric stepped down off the platform and walked to the side. Steve was standing in the wings waiting for his turn, ready and determined to win.
When the announcer called "Steve Reeves," the crowd broke out in thunderous applause that evolved into a roar of cheers and whistles. There was no doubt who was the people choice for Mr. America. Steve walked out and stepped up onto the platform. He turned around and faced the audience and hit his poses. The crowd responded with more deafening applause.
The judges made their decision and handed the announcer the winner name. The announcer moved to the microphone and said, "This year's Mr. America is Steve Reeves from Oakland, California." The audience showed it's approval with tremendous applause and cheers.
Each of the six winners took their turn on the posing dais to receive their trophy from one of the models. The previous year's Mr. America, Alan Stephan's, did a short posing routine, then congratulated the new winter. Then, along with Alan's charming wife, they stood on the platform with Steve posing for photos before a volley of flashbulbs.
At last, Steve had achieved his dream to be Mr. America! Just how could he top that feat? I will tell you more in our next issue.
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