by Christian Duque
It’s hard to believe that it’s been six years since I was down in sunny South Florida, and landed one of the biggest interviews I’d ever do on StrengthAddicts, interviewing Mighty Mike Quinn at his parent’s house in Lake Worth, FL.
Over the course of the interview, we covered Mike’s run from the AAU to the NPC to the IFBB and, later, the WBF. I’ve seen many interviews with the Mighty Quinn, but none like the one I did. Nearly 70,000 views later, the people have spoken, but the raw file has so much that never saw the light of day. There’s even parts of the interview, where even after editing, the viewers more or less know where Quinn was going with his original answer – that’s because there’s no such thing as Mike Quinn Light.
While you can edit out words and even sentences, you can’t clip the wings of a free spirit.
My detractors would argue that I should have let him say whatever he wanted, risked getting sued, and/or even risking losing my channel. To them I’d say, the final product was still very edgy, very controversial, but at the same time I was responsible in not putting out what could have easily blown the lid off the sport of bodybuilding!! I will tell you one thing, for sure – this was one very real bodybuilder.
Although he was very much at the center of media buzz and industry marketing, it wasn’t smoke. The magazines always sold out when Mike was on the cover and this is why they absolutely loved covering him, whether it was cover stories, at his famous guest posing appearances, or through the many workouts that he did. Often imitated, never duplicated, there was no off button when it came to this native of Brockton, MA.
And as the legend, himself, pointed out, on a number of occasions during my time at Casa Quinn, his old hometown wasn’t just a place where greats emerged from, it served as one of the best backdrops for the school of hard knocks. When you talk about tough, blue collar cities, that one immediately came to mind. You either fought or you simply got lost in the shuffle. This guy, right here, was a fighter!!
One of the first things about the interview that comes to mind, is that we’d tried booking it several times prior. Something would always seem to come up. Interestingly, after this interview, follow-ups failed as well. I mean, sure, I was able to catch up with Mike at local contests, but sitting down, like we did for the full length, just never seemed to happen again. This interview was special because Mike had done other full length interviews for RX Muscle and Muscular Development, but always over the phone. The fact we were able to film this in real-time, with guest and interviewer in the same place, was pretty damn special.
Speaking of special, it was great to be able to meet and interact with both of Mike’s parents, as well. It saddened me greatly to have heart Mike’s dad passed recently, but let me tell you a little about him. This was a guy who was probably in his early 70’s, but who was absolutely shredded!! I mean you talk about a great physique that a 20 yr old would want, this is what the senior Quinn had. You could tell he trained his whole life, ate right, and truly thought of his physique as his temple. In fact, back in the early days, when Mike was getting ready for football and even the bodybuilding stage, his chief goto gym partner was his dad. During the interview, the Mighty Quinn even spoke about how his dad kept the drug dealers away from him. Mike did it all naturally, from benching 405 in high school to getting through all the calisthenics and strength exercises necessary, to perform at the most elite levels. This groundwork laid the foundation for everything he’d do in strength and physique-based sports. The Quinn’s were much like the Ferrigno’s in Pumping Iron. They were very serious about the work that needed to be done and they took the sport very seriously. When you have that kind of support system at home, the sky truly is the limit.
Mike’s mom was an absolute sweetheart, as well. I remember many times during the interview, she’d come out and check up on us. She was extremely hospitable and it got me thinking what it must have been like for her, having a superstar son.
It was during this time, as well, that Mike was working with a bigtime Hollywood agent and there was very real talk about a book and documentary. Now, most bodybuilders wouldn’t have enough content to fill a chapter, let alone a book, but for those who watched the interview and/or have a frame of reference with Quinn, you know he’s lived the life of ten men.
While anyone can talk about the past, without backing it up, Mike has all the scars and the resume to back up what he’s saying. Like when he got into a brawl with Chris Paciello, the one time King of South Beach. Even before doing this interview, I had read Mob Over Miami by Michelle McPhee. I can even point out the bookstore in Sunny Isles Beach, FL, where I purchased it.
Paciello was a somewhat connected associate of the Colombo Crime Family, who’d come to Florida and networked with some powerful people, opening some of the biggest nightclubs when the scene was starting to get on the map. This guy was close friends with people like Madonna, mainstream professional athletes, and Hollywood A listers. He was also known to be a tough guy, though, when he battled with Mike, a bottle was involved. Needless to say, these are all things Mike can talk about, because he lived them. In fact, Mike is alluded to in the book, but that’s not all.
Mike talks about a gym he once owned, money he almost got cheated out of, and how the wrong people mentioned the Dapper Don, John Gotti, and would live to regret it. This story has also been discussed by RxMuscle regular, Jimmy “The Bull” Pellechia, who actually came to Mike’s aid.
So far, we’ve talked about organized crime families, South Beach brawls, and that’s not even 5% of the interview. Once again, for better or for worse, when the biggest bodybuilding publications in the world take to calling you the Badboy of Bodybuilding, that’s almost like an open invitation to any punk, anywhere, to try their luck. Most times, poor Mike would be minding his own business, maybe trying to get a workout in, maybe trying to leave a guest appearance, or maybe just walking down the street – and BAM! There was another guy trying to push his luck. Remember, there were no message boards back then, no social media, people didn’t walk around with cell phones texting each other. The magazines were king and media fanfare was more scarce than it is today.
Some of the best footage – and some of the footage that required editing – is when Mike talked about his rivals. His dislike of Gary Strydom is a matter of record; however, nothing could prepare me for the sheer animosity that persisted some two decades after the WBF days.
To a very real extent, I’ve noticed that quite a few former WBF guys harbor it, primarily over the travesty that was the 1992 World Grand Prix, that federation’s biggest contest. In fact, it wasn’t even that it was the biggest contest, it was the only real one of the year.
The whole idea of the World Bodybuilding Federation was intended to be a spinoff of the World Wrestling Federation. Entertainment was king and that’s what was pushed through the federation’s magazine, on its television platforms, and certainly through the bylines. Much like in wrestling, you had heels and faces, sometimes guys changed roles, and others were hybrids. Much like with Pumping Iron, I believe Vince McMahon and his team figured that muscle alone wasn’t going to parallel the successes enjoyed by cinematic wrestling. Therefore, it was important to take off where the magazines left off (e.g. with Quinn’s Bad Boy character) and amplify it by ten. The more Quinn was hated, the more popular he actually became. The only problem is, some fans simply couldn’t (and can’t) read between the lines.
There’s people who believe in the characters so much that there’s simply no distinction from TV and reality. That’s why some celebrities get addressed as the characters they play on tv and their real identities simply don’t register with their hardcore fanbases. In any event, 1992 remains a bone of contention and quite possibly one of the main reasons for the bad blood so many years later. And what was it all about?
Simple. It’s the ages old battle between the haves and the have nots. Don’t misconstrue what I’m saying, though. It’s not that Mike wanted anything Gary had, rather, Mike and the other WBF guys, simply, wanted a level playing field. In 1991, everyone looked fantastic, but in 1992, when the WBF went tested, there was a huge drop-off from the previous year.
Unable to train and prepare at ultimate levels, adding the constant inconvenience of rigorous testing, and the high fat diet of Dr. Mauro Di Pasquale, which many of the superstars of that era were on, simply created a recipe for disaster. While the diet may have been a good one, diet alone can’t replace powerful compounds that are required to compete at the highest levels. These were champion bodybuilders, they were the best of the best – I mean, let’s not forget that every single guy there, was handpicked and essentially poached from the IFBB. There were no second and third callout guys there. That being said, to throw such a drastic curveball at them, forcing them to make hasty adjustments or risk being sidelined from the one contest which their lucrative contracts depended on, made for some pretty chaotic times.
The only bodybuilder who looked just as good in ‘92 as he did in ‘91, was Gary Strydom. It seemed everyone, per Quinn, embarrassed themselves at the follow-up contest, except Gary. The interview captures that frustration, whether founded or not; guys like Quinn believe Strydom wasn’t tested as often, as stringently, or at all, for that matter.
And while Strydom may have always been intended to be the golden boy of the WBF and for as much as WBF scripts mirrored WWF ones, guys like Quinn, at least, yearned for the perception of fairness. Mike probably believed that if he out-worked Gary in the gym, out-conditioned him, and out-posed him on stage, that he should have been given real consideration to be the #1 guy, there. Maybe that was possible when they signed the contracts in ‘90 or even leading up to the first contest in ‘91, where a very impressive Mike Christian pushed Gary Strydom to the limit, but by ‘92, even the idea of fairness, seems to have been thrown out the window. The anger was still very real in this interview, some twenty years after the fact. And unlike a phone interview, you could see that uneasiness all over Mike’s face and in his mannerisms and body language. Again, that’s what makes this interview so special, so much so, that I’m writing a whole article about the highlights, six years later.
Another element to the production that really calls out to me, is the camaraderie the old school guys had. In a state of heightened competitiveness and back-to-back contests over the course of arduous world tours, the bodybuilders truly developed lifelong bonds. The grand prix tours of the 80’s and 90’s are largely a thing of the past.
Back in those days, it wasn’t uncommon for there to be a string of 5, 6, or more contests over the span of 7-10 days. These events were usually right after the Olympia and would bring the best bodybuilders, save for Mr. Olympia, to a number of European countries, from the UK to France, Germany, and others. Sometimes their placings remained consistent with what had gone down at the O, but other times, guys who wanted more money or wanted for media buzz, would take a particular contest more seriously than the next, putting 110% into it.
By the tail end of the tour, most guys however, were running on fumes. Their bodies were taxed, they were jetlagged, and they were exhausted. Nonetheless, they took their pro status seriously and they always showed respect for the stage.
All that being said, the happy-go-lucky vibes backstage were sometimes lost on the competitors. One example that comes to mind from the interview is when Phil Hill walked up to Ron Love and just clocked him. Now, for those out there that don’t know, Ron Love was a former City of Detroit police officer, an Olympia Top 10 finisher, and a dear friend of Mighty Mike Quinn’s. Although Love had no clue (from interviews I did with him) why HIll hit him, when Mike saw this, he went into a rage, sprinting to Love’s defense. Had Mike not been held back by several other pro’s, things could have ended very badly for Phil. And that’s just one example of how high tensions were among the competitors. These were guys pushed to the absolute limit and in the pre-social media age, when magazines controlled the news, fans were oblivious to just how burnt out some of their favorite stars were. This is why we, now, often hear, that when bodybuilders look their best, they probably feel their worst.
I could go on and on about this interview, but I feel like that would take a lot of the fun out of it for you, the viewer. I can tell you that the book and movie deals continue to be discussed, but Mike holds the bar very high. If someone’s going to be the lucky agent/producer to finally get the project off to the races, then everything has to be perfect. That’s a sentiment that I, both, agree with and understand. While haters might sigh and write the ventures off because they haven’t happened yet, to them I say, get over it.
Mike has lived a very interesting life and if he’s waited this long, what’s another few years? With the advent of social media and digital media hubs like Netflix and Hulu, I can totally see a day when Mike’s story gets picked up and, even, goes viral. There’s bodybuilding, there’s tough towns, organized crime, as well as hard work, success, backstabbing and plenty of barroom brawls. Who’s not going to read that book or watch that movie?!?!
I hope you get a chance to check out the interview. I’ll tell you one last thing, they don’t make guys like Mighty Mike Quinn, anymore. That’s for sure. Cheers!