Our last issue left off in London, England where a controversy arose regarding the 1948 Mr. Universe contest. The contest, held on Friday, August 1 3, ended with Steve placing second and John Grimek placing first. Although an honor the second place win was not what Steve had hoped for. Many people remarked that Steve, at age 22, should have won over Grimek. Grimek, although a great bodybuilder with a superb physique, was 38 years old and beyond his prime, according to most of the experts.
August of 1948 began as one of Steve's least-favorite times. Besides being passed over for the Mr. Universe title, he had been released from his movie contract with CeclI B. DeMille at Paramount Studios. But all that changed very quickly.
Oscar Heidenstam, publisher of Health and Strength Magazine in England and one of Steve's competitors in the Mr. Universe contest congratulated Steve on his second place win He then proceeded with this suggestion "Steve, I am going to Cannes, France next week to compete in the Mr. World contest. Why don't you come with me and compete in it too? You are a sure winner!"
Steve hesitated, but Oscar was not going to take no for an answer. Steve thought, since he was already in Europe and it was only a short ride across the English Channel to France, maybe he should take advantage of the opportunity. So he told Oscar "Sure, lets do it." The plan was for Steve to travel with Oscar who was fluent in French, a language completely foreign to Steve.
VIVE LA FRANCE!
The next day Steve and Oscar boarded a boat in Dover England for the ride across the Channel to Calais, France. From there they took a train through Paris and on down to Cannes. The Mr. World contest, entitled "Plus Bel Athlete du Monde" in French, and the Mr. Europe contest was scheduled for August 16, and would be preceded on August 15 by the Mr. France finals. All of the events were held at a magnificent outdoor theatre located be hind a hotel casino. It was an fantastic setting. The stage was decked out with the colorful flags of various nations. The backdrop was the deep blue Mediterranean Sea and lots of sunshine.
PLUS BEL ATHLETE DU MONDE
On Sunday, August 15, the Mr. France finals took place. There were ten competitors including Robert Duranton who took first place, and Marcel Raveraud, second place and Maurice Weinberg was awarded third place.
But Monday August 1 6 was the day Steve awaited for. Both the Mr. Europe and the Mr. World contests were held that day in the outdoor theatre. An enthusiastic crowd, composed mostly of vacationers, filled the theatre. Contestants were from around the world: Steve Reeves (USA), Oscar Heidenstam (England), Sylvester Lindberg (Sweden), Jacques Estella (Spain), Jean Laafeuze (Belgium), Marcel Raveraud, Maurice Weinsburg, Guy Broquerie, Andre Drapp and Robert Duranton (France).
For the event, each contestant was required to perform three poses on stage. The first was forward facing, the next a back pose and the third a side view pose. After the completing the poses, the contestant performed a short posing routine. Steve chose to do the same posing routine he performed at the Mr. Universe contest.
After the posing routines were completed, the contestants were required to show some type of suppleness or acrobatic ability. Steve did the only one he knew-the same hand stand he performed at the Mr. Universe contest. After all the contestants finished, the judges conferred to compare score cards in order to declare a winner.
STEVE WINS THE 1948 MR. WORLD TITLE
Within a short time the judges declared Steve Reeves the new Mr. World I The crowd went wild with applause and stood and cheered as Steve was handed the Mr. World trophy. He was definitely the audiences favorite competitor. The president of France then presented Steve with a very exquisite blue and gold porcelain vase, about two feet high. (Even today, Steve still treasures its beauty.) He was also presented with a huge bouquet of flowers. This made him feel a bit awkward, so as soon as he was off the stage he handed them to the prettiest girl he spotted in the audience.
The second place trophy went to Sylvester Lindberg, third place was won by Robert Duranton, fourth place went to Andre Drapp and fifth place to Oscar Heidenstam. Oscar had to hurry back home, so Steve thanked him for his help and friendship during their stay and Oscar left for England. That meant Steve was on his own in a country whose language he did not speak!
Although Steve originally planned on being in Europe a total of ten days, he was forced to extend his stay in France by four days due to not procuring ship passage back to the USA. It was the end of August and the transatlantic ships were already filled with Americans returning home after vacationing in Europe.
After Oscar left, Steve had no one to interpret for him. So Steve, ventured out on his own. He made the most of his time on the French Riviera by relaxing in the sun, swimming and running on the beach. He managed to get his three squares per day using good old Yankee know how.
Every morning he walked to a local cafe and ordered a cheese and mushroom omelet (omelet fromage aux champignons) the only dish he knew how to order in French. For lunch he would go to the fruit stand and point at the piece of fruit and hunk of cheese that he wanted. Dinner got a bit boring for Steve who only knew how to order filet mignon and salad. He finally did meet a young man named Pierre who helped him translate the French to English.
One local custom he especially en was that on several occasions while he was lying on the beach with his eyes closed, a beautiful young lady would stroll by him, stoop down and plant a big kiss on his lipsl This happened several times and Steve never complained-not once!
Finally he was able to book passage to New York on the S.S. America, a passenger ocean liner. He boarded the ship on August 27, 1 948 and said au revoir to France and its beautiful ladies.
As was the custom at the time, the ocean liners always sent a telegram ahead to New York with the list of passengers. They always listed the celebrities who were aboard so the press could meet them when the ship pulled into the Port of New York. Sure enough, a phalanx of press and photographers were waiting as Steve arrived with his handsome Mr. World trophy in hand. After several interviews and many photos, Steve hailed a cab and headed for the airport and his flight to San Francisco.
As soon as he arrived in San Francisco, he headed to Oakland for a two-week visit with his mother and stepfather.
BACK IN SANTA MONICA
When he returned to Santa Monica, Steve signed with a new talent agent who found him several guest parts on television shows such as the "Dinah Shore Show." In between acting parts, Steve worked part-time on weekends at a friend's service station and parked cars one day a week at the Captain's Table Restaurant on La Cienega. His part-time lobs helped pay for the housing he shared with his friend, Les Wray from Santa Monica.
MR. AND MISS HONOLULU COMPETITION
While living in Santa Monica with Wray, Steve was invited to go to Hawaii with Les and Abbey Stockton to be part of a physical culture exhibition in conjunction with the Mr. and Miss Honolulu Competition. The Stocktons told Steve that George Eiferman, who had been appearing around the country at high school assemblies, would be joining the three of them. Steve thought it would be fun to go to Hawaii and to spend time with his old pal George Eiferman.
The Stockton's made all the travel arrangements and the four of them left Los Angeles International Airport on Wednesday, April 20-destination: The island of Oahu!
Their 11 pm flight brought them into the Honolulu Airport early the next morning. A Hawaiian A.A.U. official and many physical culture supporters were on hand to greet them. The Stocktons, Steve and George were invited to participate in four separate events on the islands of Oahu and Hawaii.
They began at the Mr. and Miss Hawaii Competition where the Stockton's performed a "Feat of Strength and Classic in Hand Balancing." George's performance included his "Feat of Strength, Posing and Muscle Control" routines. Steve gave the crowd a magnificent posing routine and was honored to present the awards to the winners of the competition.
On Saturday, the 23rd, the group left Honolulu and flew on Hawaiian Airlines to the "Big Island, "Hawaii. They stayed at the Moana Hotel in Hilo. The plan was for them to perform at the Hilo Center Barbell Club on both Saturday and Sunday evenings. They ended their last show on the 24th with a splendid Hawaiian feast around 9 pm.
Monday, the 25th was a free day for the foursome. They spent the day shopping and visiting a sugar cane refinery. Tuesday was their last day on the Big Island and the promoter of their trip gave them a fantastic Hawaiian Luau on Waianae beach. While there, Steve met some young ladies from his hometown of Oakland who were on the islands to play in a softball tournament. Just before the luau everyone was taking photos at the waters edge. That was the spot where the great color photo of Steve on lava boulders was taken.
The foursome flew back to Honolulu where they were invited to the Ishii Gardens Tea House for an "Aloha-farewell" dinner. Steve recalls that they each were given colorful Japanese kimonos to wear and presented with many lovely gifts. One of his favorites was a taro-leaf bowl carved from moneypod wood given to each of them. Each bowl had a small brass plaque engraved with the recipient's name. Dinner was an authentic Japanese feast served at low tables. Steve and the group really en themselves!
After thanking their hosts for a delightful time, the foursome left for the airport where they boarded Pan American World Airlines Flight 806 at 11:55 pm. Come morning, they were back in os Angeles. They had said, "Aloha" to a memorable trip-and we'll say, "Aloha" to you until next time!
Dr. Joe Vitale is a friend and supporter of SRIS. Click on the ad and get your FREE copy of "Attract Money Now"