Who Was Joe Gold?

Who Was Joe Gold?
by John Romano

A lot of you have been commenting on how much you enjoy the stories
from back in the old days at Venice Gold’s and World Gyms. Since this
era interests some of you I thought it would be fitting to write a
little bit about the guy who started the whole shebang in Muscle Beach
during the 70s. Many of you know the name “Gold,” as in Gold’s gym;
but do you know Joe, the man?

The late Joe Gold was the cantankerous old man who founded
both Gold’s and World Gym in Venice Beach in the 60s and 70s. It was
from those hallowed temples that our industry was hatched. And along the way,
it’s where the bodybuilding gods were built. Joe Gold is responsible
for the odd crucible which created the most longed-for love affair with
bodybuilding in the history of our sport. Joe Weider may have
popularized bodybuilding in his magazines, but it was Gold who
built the factories that churned out Weider’s progeny. And if you
were lucky enough to be working out in one of Gold’s factories during
their zenith, your life has been changed forever. It’s like you’re soul has
received the sacrament of bodybuilding offered by its
creator. There were a lot of great gyms over the years, but no one
could ever deny that Venice Beach was where the crucial work was being
done. It was the birthplace of “hardcore” and Joe Gold was its daddy

Joe opened the first hardcore bodybuilding gym in Venice California in
1965. He designed and built all his own equipment for his gyms. He
paid specific attention to the unique needs of bodybuilding and built
equipment specifically for bodybuilders that were so good that his gyms
were the destination for just about every noteworthy bodybuilder in
history, including Arnold. No pantheon of modern bodybuilding would be
complete today without Joe Gold.

Every time you stick a pin in a weight stack, or grab the handles on a
pulley machine, give thanks to Joe; he invented and built the very
first models. In fact, the entire concept of “machines” that we use
to build muscle can trace its roots back to Joe Gold. And as
innovative and technologically advanced as the fitness equipment
industry has become, there isn’t a manufacturer in business today –
even with every ounce of state of the art technology at their disposal
– that can churn out equipment as good for bodybuilding as the pieces
Joe Gold welded together in his garage in Venice. This is privileged be the
few who have moved big iron on one of Joe’s machines.

Joe sold Gold’s Gym in 1970 and it eventually became a huge
international franchise worth an estimated $160 million today. It
also grew into quite a rancorous attraction with a transient element
that invaded the sanctity of those bodybuilders who took themselves a
little more seriously. Eventually Arnold, Franco and the rest of that
little original Gold’s Gym clique were able to convince Joe to open
another gym so they could all train in peace. In 1977, Joe opened
World Gym in Santa Monica. Immediately such bodybuilding superstars
as Lou Ferrigno, Frank Zane, Dave Draper, Tom Platz, the Mentzer
brothers, to name but a few. joined the ranks of Arnold and Franco
upstairs on Main Street. While Gold’s Gym eventually established
itself as the center of the bodybuilding universe, no self respecting
bodybuilder making the trek to Mecca in the late seventies and
eighties didn’t climb those stairs up from Main Street to train in the
sunlit hallowed cement block building with the big outside deck facing
the Pacific. Where else in the world could you train outside with a
view of the ocean? And where else could you train on such good
equipment? In fact, all through the eighties, it was very common for
bodybuilders who belonged to Gold’s to train legs at World because the
equipment was so much better. I can still remember how smooth Joe’s
leg press was; it practically lifted itself.

I trained at World Gym on Main Street from 1979 until Joe threw me out
in 1983. I’ll always regret that incident. I got thrown out of the
coolest gym in the country. That story has been told way too many
times to tell it here again. The important thing is that Joe and I did
finally make up. From the moment we did, Joe always welcomed me into
his gym and never charged me. Behind that cranky façade of his, Joe
was a really good guy – a true bodybuilder – and a great gym operator ;
maybe the best ever in history. Joe was the boss and he ran his
gyms lean and mean- mostly with Joe doing the mean part himself- but
in a tough love kind of way. The bottom line is simply illustrated by an
anecdotal comparison of the two gyms: At Gold’s Gym the weights were
all over the place- people left plates loaded on machines and the
dumbbells were strewn all over and none were in their proper location
on the rack. World, on the other hand, looked like a magazine ad.
Every weight was stowed in its proper and corresponding spot and
every dumbbell not in use was stationed on the rack in its proper
slot. Joe never turned on the heat, there was no air-conditioning and
he didn’t give a rat’s ass if you were comfortable or not. All Joe
cared about is that you respected his gym and its equipment and used
it with the same pride he used in building it. He liked it when guys
got in shape and moved big weights. He liked to see his gym working
and his equipment being used and enjoyed by all. Joe genuinely liked
his members- he gave most of us nick-names. He liked to see us. He liked
to laugh with us- sometime at us. There was no denying Joe loved
being in his gym. So much so that he was there, in the gym, almost all
the time, right up until the end.

We all owe Joe Gold our utmost adoration. He started the hardcore gym
movement and encouraged more bodybuilders than I could count. Even
Arnold counts Joe Gold as a father figure. There isn’t one of us who
doesn’t owe him our gratitude. I’ll never forget Joe and I’ll never
forget how he touched my life. I miss him.

Article Source: RxMuscle.com