Muscular Development, Vol 11, No 7, Page 34, September 1974

Behind The Scenes Of The

By John C Grimek

EVERY BODYBUILDER who trains with any regularity has his sights set to win the Mr. America some day, and with this goal in mind he keeps training and plugging along hoping that someday he will become "the champ of the year !"

Obviously, only on the rarest occasions does any man win this title the first time around but then, sometimes the unexpected happens. It happened this year. No one, not even the champion himself, Ron Thompson, expected to win the crown this year but he surprised everyone, including himself, and became the "man of the hour."


Best Abdominals

  1. Sammie Willis
  2. Dave Johns (Tie)
    Doug Beaver (Tie)

Best Arms

  1. Doug Beaver
  2. Dave Johns
  3. Larry Sammuel

Best Back

  1. Willie Johnson
  2. Doug Beaver
  3. Dave Johns

Best Chest

  1. Ralph Kroger
  2. Willie Johnson
  3. Doug Beaver

Best Legs

  1. Ralph Kroger
  2. Ron Thompson
  3. Paul Hill

Most Muscular Man

  1. Doug Beaver
  2. Willie Johnson
  3. Ron Thompson
  4. Paul Hill
  5. Ralph Kroger

Over the past months certain men dominated the physique field, so quite naturally it was expected that one of these, a most logical conclusion, would take the title. Such stalwart specimens as Paul Hill, Willie Johnson, Doug Beaver, Mike Dayton, Anibal Lopez, Dave Johns are just a few to mention, have been upon the scene for some time and most followers of the game expected one of them to "walk away" with the title, . . but it just didn't happen that way, and certainly no one expected that the quiet and unassuming Thompson would get it . . . at least not this year, So Ron does deserve credit for this great achievement.

For example, last year in the Juniors he placed among the top-10 but didn't even bother to enter the Senior Championships. He did, however, compete in the Mr, USA contest in Scranton last September where he placed among the winners. This past May he sprung another surprise by taking the Junior title in Virginia, but even winning this, the second most important title in physique contests was not enough to give him the edge over the other contestants, since others have won the Junior title yet failed to repeat in the Seniors, Peter Grymkowski is a good example, although there have been others. But obviously in Ron's case this was just the victory he needed to spur him on to the top, and he did just that and came through with flying colors.

However, let's go behind the scenes a moment, just prior to the prejudging. It was Sunday morning and the contestants assembled in the dressing room of the York gym. Already some were warming up, others were going through their posing routines, a few were just flexing muscles here and there, and because the dressing room's air-conditioning wasn't working efficiently, it didn't take much pumping to bring out the sweat. Most looked terrific, muscles pumped up and striated and bodies glistening with perspiration. They were ready for the action.

Ron Thompson was among this group. This was the first I saw of him since Scranton. He looked very good and went about warming up in his usual quiet manner. He was one of those I casually questioned about his training, etc. I even congratulated him on his Jr. victory of a month ago, and even asked if he got a good transparency of himself for use on our cover. Ever since he won the Mr. World title, nearly two years ago, we've been trying to get a good transparency that would do him justice. Those we had on hand were fair but they certainly failed to justify his development. Now as I conversed with him, not realizing that he would be "the man," nor did he indicate this in any way that he had a better chance that the others, replied in the same quiet manner, expressing the hope that he would get some good pictures this time. . . and he did. The cover shot was taken that day.

As I quickly scanned the mass of muscles bouncing around I couldn't help but wonder who would be the winner this time. At this point I certainly would not venture any guess. To may way of thinking, every man there trained just as hard as the next one. . . but when the results would be announced, only ONE man will be the winner--and he was in this group.

As I stood around talking I could hear the coordinator telling the men to get ready to file out for the prejudging. The men, very cooperative, began walking out into the gym and lined up in a semi-circle. . . all 30-odd contestants. This was the first time in York that the public was invited to view the prejudging, and the place was over-jammed. The air-condition unit worked at full blast but it failed to do much good, and I could see that the judges had their task cut out for them, a most difficult one.

Prejudging of this sort was started in London at the Mr. Universe contest, and people were invited then to watch proceedings. It gave them a chance to match their views with the judges and see just how close their selection matched the judges. In most cases the people's choice tallied with that of the judges so that everyone was happier.

However, in judging the men in the York gym the task looked even more difficult, and trying to select just one man out of this group wasn't going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination. Many of the entries were OUTSTANDING and no one exhibited a clear-cut victory. At this point a few seemed to agree that Ron Thompson showed fine leg development, had a clean-cut abdomen, a fine back spread with an overall impressive physique, but no one even hinted that he had the best chance. For one thing, his approach was less dynamic and though he presented himself exceedingly well, it failed to match some of the others in the contest!

Ron, whom I thought was more muscular this time than in the past, came through to take third in the Most Muscular Man contest. He also placed in the Best Legs category but outside of these he got nothing, while others were getting these awards left and right. This made his chances even slimmer, at least from the public's viewpoint.

Among the entries this year were a few newcomers who were making their debut. . . and very impressively too. One fellow had a massive pair of arms and the consensus of many was that he would take the Big Arms trophy. He got second. His arms were big but I heard they lacked the full shape and muscularity that was needed. Sammie Willis, the young lad that won the Teen-age title a couple years ago, won the Best Abdominal award--and deserved it. He also placed 7th in the overall competition. Doug Beaver, who was called out more often than any of the other contenders, looked improved and very muscular, and apparently the judges felt the same way because they gave him the Most Muscular title, beating out Willie Johnson, the man who has won it several times before. Now in second place it must have made him wonder whether he over-bulked himself and lost much of his unusual muscularity this year.

This year there were several surprises, and this is why it's so hard today to predict the winner beforehand. This is impossible unless the contests were "fixed" . . . something's that highly improbable while these contests are under the AAU jurisdiction.

The prejuding lasted about a couple hours after which the men were interviewed. This part of the contest is conducted to help the judges evaluate the contestant's personality and decide whether the winner has the best qualifications to represent the title. However, many of the contestants do not like this part of the contest anymore than they appreciated the athletic ability test, which in recent years has been eliminated. However, the interview does provide the judges with an opportunity to a better insight about the individual and thus help them to evaluate the men better. This is the reason why some of the judges are often asked to serve again and again simply because they know the men better and very little escapes them.

After the interview had been completed the men laid around, sunbathed, although a couple took a fast workout. A few who found the ordeal too demanding just rested and waited for the time they would have to get ready for their final appearances. Shortly before the lifting finished the men were backstage preparing for the last stage of the show.

The contest got started around 8:00 PM, only slightly behind schedule, due to the outstanding lifting that took place. Those who are interested in this report should read the complete account about it in the August-September S&H magazine. The report is very fascinating and should provide those, who missed this outstanding event, with an excellent in-depth account.

Now after the lifting awards were presented, the auditorium was packed to near capacity with interested spectators who came to see the Mr. America display.

Before the contest started one could see people mopping their brows, and this in spite of the fact that the air-conditioning was running full blast. Obviously, tension mounted. MC Len Bosland made his appearance and mentioned that the contest was about to start. Just then the huge stage curtains parted revealing the large group of men who came to vie for the title. MC Bosland made a fine introductory speech as the curtains began to close. The house lights were already dimmed as Len called up the first man, giving him full credit for his previous accomplishments.

As the man approached the center of the pedestal the strong overhead spots accentuated his muscular details, and some looked truly outstanding. Each was called until the entire 30-odd entries had their chance to go through their posing display, all of which was fascinating and interesting to the audience. The audience responded with a fine round of applause for every man who appeared, and when all had "done their thing," the awards for the Most Muscular and subdivisions were presented, then things began to get more exciting. Doug Beaver not only got the M M title, one of the first upsets of the contest, but he was called out in almost every other category for a place. For a while it looked as if HE WOULD BE THE MAN.

Ralph Kroger, a man who has been out of competition for a couple years, was in this one and making amazing headway. In the Juniors, just a month before, he entered and placed in the top-five and won the Best Chest and Legs trophies. This too surprised a few.

After these awards came the nomination for the top-10. It would be from this group that the winner and four runners-up would be selected. Now as these men stood on stage, sweating, nervous and partially flexed, the M C called out the man for the 5th place-Ralph Kroger. In 4th place was Willie Johnson. Doug Beaver, the man who placed in most of the subdivisions and whom many thought might be the man, got 3rd. In 2nd place was one of the top favorites, Paul Hill, whom many thought had the best chance with his rugged, muscular development. But now that most of the favorites were already on deck in their respective places, the top man was yet to be called. Standing on stage were still some good men. There was Sammie Willis, Anibal Lopez, Ron Thompson, Larry Samuel, Dave Johns and Mike Dayton, who was in the top-10 but didn't even bother to take his place on stage.

Maybe the MC stalled at this point on purpose before announcing the name of the winner, and by now the tension was near its peak, as everyone anxiously awaited the winner's name. It was puzzling trying to figure out which of the five still on stage, it might be. The men themselves stood somewhat nervously. Then slowly, almost teasingly, the announcement came and the name of Ron Thompson echoed throughout the auditorium. A hush settled over the auditorium for a moment as if they didn't believe their ears, but as Ron approached and took his place upon the rostrum, the applause mounted. Ron's wife, a lovely girl, forced her way up on stage to her husband's side and was one of the first to congratulate him after he received his trophy --a very beautiful thing.

The applause continued with a note of mixed emotion, not really knowing how it all happened. Then as the men stood for pictures, and cameras flashed from every corner of the stage and auditorium, Ron glowed in his moment of triumph--just as everyone else does when he hits the jackpot. But even he looked perplexed and may have been partly shocked over this great, unexpected victory. The mild mayhem continued even as the crowd started tiling out of the auditorium, talking and discussing the events of the day. A few disgruntled remarks could be heard, which is expected under these conditions, though there were some who gave the winner due credit for having the tenacity of "getting in there" when the odds seemed stacked against him.

Thus concluded another great contest and a very oustanding one it was. The one noticable thing was that evervbody was very cordial and seemed to get along well-everywhere. Even lifters, some of whom failed to do as well as they expected, were cheerful and helped those against whom they competed. The Mr. A contestants were equally as pleasant and exchanged ideas about their training, posing and relative details. Some even helped the newcomers and gave help to anyone who sought it. Actually, the whole affair turned out to be one of the nicest gatherings we've seen in a long time. It's the kind of fellowship that is hard to find today but it does happen--occasionally.

Many visitors said that such championships are great for getting together. It's the only time that they can see and meet the men they have read and heard about... and to see them in action. . . well, that was something else!

A few of the old-timers also made the trip and had quite a pow-wow as they reminisced about their era. Men like Milo Steinborn, Ottley Coulter, Bob Snyder, Robert Knodle and Ed Zercher are from another generation, yet all who saw and talked to these men were convinced that the "barbell way of life" must be the best and these men prove that.

Ottley Coulter, of course, had some tough luck a few years ago when he fell and broke his hip. It never healed properly and, as a result, developed arthritis. Naturally this condition makes walking for him a great problem, yet he comes to every show we hold in York and is always welcomed, as are all other old-timers.

Milo, however, had to leave almost before he got settled. An urgent call from home made it necessary that he repack his bags and return home. His son Dick, however, stayed on and took numerous pictures, and plans to attend these affairs more regularly.

York was loaded with barbell men and enthusiasts that weekend, even John Decola, whom we haven't seen or heard anything from for some time, was here and looking great. And Ted Keppler, his wife and several elderly citizens, a real enthusiastic group, that come down for every big contest we hold. They are always a welcome sight. They exhibit so much vitality that one wonders where they get it. Ted of course is the springboard of this group. Now in his 60s he still remains a real dynamo. He has been instrumental in starting many youngsters in sensible weight training, and has interested older people in caring better for their health, some of whom accompany him to our shows. These senior citizens may be old in years but are young in spirit, which may be the reason for their youthful appearance, and that may be the real "secret" of staying young.

Ted's claim to fame, however, is that fact that he was a contestant in the first Mr. America contest (1938) even before it was sponsored by the AAU, and today he still manages to keep himself in fine shape by remaining active.

The fact that all good things must end sometime the events of that memorable weekend came to a close, and naturally, went by faster than many others. Of course a good deal of thanks must be given to the efforts of John Terlazzo who arranged the details for this gala affair and, hopefully, we will have many more to cement other friendships and better sportsmanship!


- Mr. America winner and runners-up in the top-five. Left to right: Ralph Kroger, Doug Beaver, Ron Thompson, Paul Hill and Willie Johnson.

- The judges take a closer look at some of the Mr. A. competitors.

- The contestant line-up in a semi-circle for the judges.

- Paul Hill who got 2nd.

- Doug Beaver placed 3rd.

- Willie Johnson took 4th.

- The contestants line-up closer . . . And on the other side - another section of the line-up

- Ron Thompson, the Mr. America winner, is joined by his pretty wife, who adds to her congratulations.

- Another view of the competitors as they line-up in the York gym for the prejudging.

- The large contingent of contestants line-up on stage the night of the Mr. America competition.

- During the prejudging session of the Mr. America competition the health bar, where many tasty drinks were available, was a busy place most of the time. Nora (on left) who manages the store, took extra vitamins to keep up with the unusual demands those two days.

- Some of the Mr. A. contestants browsing through the MD and S&H magazine rack during their free time.

- In this shot contenders Joe Means, Paul Hill, Pat Ruelle, Willie Johnosn and Hugh Huggins give the judges a closer look during the prejudging.

- Group of Mr. A. contestants during the prejudging in the York gym. The place was packed during this session.

- Lawrence Samuel, New York City.

- Ralph Kroger, El Cajon, Calif.

- Dave Johns, N. Hollywood, Calif.

- Sammie Willis, Indianapolis, Ind.

- Anibal Lopez, Hollis, N.Y.

- Joe Means, Columbia, S.C.

- Mike Dayton, Napa, Calif.

- Fred Shandor, Manville, N.J.

- Bill St. John, Glassboro, N.J.

- Dan Padilla, Rochester, N.Y.

- MOST MUSCULAR CONTEST . . . Left to right: Ralph Kroger 5th; Ron Thompson 3rd; Doug Beaver the winner; Willie Johnson 2nd, and Paul Hill 4th.

- In the Best Arm category: left to right: Doug Beaver who won the trophy, Dave Johns 2nd, and Lawrence Samuel 3rd.

- Vying for the Best Chest award are, left to right: Doug Beaver 3rd; Ralph Kroger the winner, and Willie Johnson. Kroger also won the trophy for Best Legs.

- In the Best Back competition, Willie Johnson (left) won the award, Doug Beaver 2nd, and Dave Johns 3rd.

- The finalists for the Best Abdominals are, left to right: Sammie Willis the winner, Doug Beaver and Dave Johns both tied for 2nd.

- Chuck Carlson, Oaklawn, Ill; Joe Dodd, Trenton, N.J.; Robert Rogers, Hillcrest Hghts., Md.

- It looks as though Bob Szymanski, AAU official, is taking the picture of Fred Shandor and Joe Sasso who are enjoying a laugh in the foyer of the York Building. But actually Bob is outside on the street photographing another group standing in front of the entrance.

- Eddie Love, Indianapolis, Ind.; Homer Gassett, Rockford, Ill.; Tommy Richards, Indianapolis, Ind.

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