Note: It seems to me that so many times when a guy first starts out lifting he has this naive, yet very strong passion for the weights. We could all use the occasional reminder of that beautiful, mystical feeling in our training now and then. Back when we did it, and did it 'for the love of it' without concern for a helluva lot else. But there's more to Larry's story here than just the very beginnings, so
Let's let the Great Scott tell his story . . .
Hidden in a dark corner of the stage, I quietly finished pumping out the last calf raises to put the finishing touches on my legs. I was about to step out into the lights in full view of the audience.
As I stood there, I couldn't help but think to myself of past conversations in which my friends told me, "You will never make it in bodybuilding, Larry. You're too small. Try something else."
It seemed so long ago these taunts were thrown at me. A big change had taken place in my physique over the last eleven years. I was no longer the skinny little 120 pound kid from Pocatello, Idaho. I now carried over 200 pounds of hard muscle. My arms were bigger than most men's thighs. My delts stood out like coconuts. I felt ready for my greatest triumph.
"Lar-rie! Lar-rie! Lar-rie!" the crowd chanted. The sound became a deafening roar. The audience roar was so incredible, Betty Weider was heard to say years later, "Never have I seen anything like it. I have seen most of the Mr. Olympia contests and there has never been the kind of audience frenzy the night Larry won the first Olympia. I was really afraid. It was like they were going to get out of control. They were screaming and some were actually crying, trying to get a look at Larry."
I took one step out from the side of the stage into view. A wave of sound crashed into me along with an explosion of flash bulbs. It was hard to believe the response was for me. Tentatively, I made my way across the stage to the posing platform.
"Slowly, slowly," I cautioned myself. Don't appear arrogant. Show a little lack of confidence. No one likes a showoff. I paused, now at the edge of the posing platform, still outside the posing light.
The audience impatience grew to a frenzy. I waited for the intensity to build without it appearing as if I was savoring or doing anything intentional. The delay was to appear as if I was hesitant, that I felt a little unsure. It wasn't hard to convey because I was a little unsure. It wasn't hard to convey because I was a little unsure!
It was finally time. After all the years of hard work I was about to step under the posing light and allow my body to plead for approval. How would they react to what I had done to their hero's body during the last year. I took a deep breath and stepped onto the platform. The mountain of approval rained on my senses. The overhead light cascaded sown on me and fought with the flash bulbs. The fans thundered their gratitude. I hadn't let them down. A special communication bonded us together.
Rather than beginning my posing, I began thanking them. How could I begin posing without first acknowledging my thanks for this expression of love. I smiled at the audience offering my thanks, bowing my head several times. I turned my head with a slight glance to the side and signaled the beginning of the music.
The dramatic but reverent theme to The Ten Commandments was my choice. As this beautiful melody filled the hall I attempted to glorify the male physique. Words can only point to memories. If you were there, you will understand. If you weren't, perhaps this recalling will allow you to enjoy some of it. I floated through my posing routine, thanked the audience again and exited to the curtains of the stage. By the time I had circled the stage, they announced the winner.
My goal was to make this the best night possible for fans and their champion. I believe, it just so happened, that I was chosen to be the one on stage. But like everyone there, I experienced something wonderful that night.
It wasn't just the events of this night that contributed to this unique experience. It was the unfolding of several years that had led up to it.
Let me take a few moments to see if I can explain some of the events that contributed to the success of this particular evening . . .
You see, Larry Scott represented the all American boy image. Years earlier, Milo, my photographer, after spending countless hours trying to get my growing body into exactly the correct pose, observed, "Larry, yours is the all American boy image. Make sure you continue to reinforce this image when you are posing on stage or for the magazines." I listened carefully to his advice. Joe Weider was good to make sure that every picture or piece of print about me helped to reinforce this image.
I stepped into the national limelight by unexpectedly winning the Mr. California title out of nowhere. I suppose the naive little boy from Idaho carried some innocent appeal, something with which everyone could identify. Anyway, almost from nowhere, I was appearing on the covers of several national magazines. There I was, apparently, enjoying the "good life" basking on the sunny beaches of California with pretty girls hanging on to me in every photo. Even though it wasn't actually true, it appeared to be so. It was an image with which every young boy could identify.
The pictures on the covers during the '60s were different than they are today. We didn't have to compete with bold suggestions of how to prolong sexual pleasure etc. The covers featured a healthy boy and girl standing next to each other with a warm but not hot feeling. There was no one tearing the other's clothes off with open panting mouths. My Mormon background fit in perfectly with the lifestyle I was chosen to represent.
After having all this exposure cast in the setting of the carefree and idyllic life in southern California, I traveled to New York City for the Mr. America contest. What a difference! It was awesome, especially for the little kid from Pocatello, Idaho. The place was a forest of buildings in every stage of decay with derelicts, street walkers and panhandlers everywhere. The crowded, rushing masses swarmed on dirty streets with impossible traffic.
It wasn't hard to see why the mentality of the audience at the Brooklyn Academy of Music was different from the laid back southern California crowd. Out on the streets of New York where everyone is elbowing and fighting for space, individual personalities become a blur. Nobody is noticing anyone, be get them off the streets into a fellowship where they are all cheering for their hero and the New York people become electrified. It's almost as if they are venting their frustration at having to suspend human sensitivities while out on the street. Once inside and sheltered, they can show just how much they can feel and show appreciation.
At the time, California audiences were blase, gatherings of bored people. Perhaps it's because their daily activities found them constantly brushing shoulders with movie people in the markets, at employment agencies and on the freeways, so it was no big deal to run across a celebrity. On the other hand, to the audience in Brooklyn, every physique star that strode on stage who had heretofore only been seen in the the pages of the muscle magazine was an impossible dream. Everything they wanted and hoped life would be was standing on stage smiling, proving dreams come true.
It was almost as if they were cheering for themselves and their hopes. In short, the New York audiences were motivated. They made the physique shows like no other shows in the world. For those of us fortunate enough to be setting foot on the stage of the Brooklyn Academy of Music during the 60's it was unreal.
There was little or no money for the winners, but the outpouring of approval made all the years of hard work worthwhile. For someone like myself who came from such a humble beginning physically, it really put stars in one's eyes. You have to remember, I was once a skinny, undernourished, sand-kicked-in-his-face kid.
Standing on the threshold of my greatest physique triumph, it seemed a lifetime ago I had my first experience with weight training. It all began between my junior and senior years in Pocatello High School.
Pocatello is a quiet little town in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, through which the Portneif River meanders on its way to the Snake. Though Pocatello was named after a famous Indian chief, it's frontier beginnings have given way to a little town with big railroad. The Fort Hall Indian Reservation and a few thousand members of the Blackfoot Indian Tribe are all that remain to remind one of its colorful past.
The chief source of interest and excitement for a teenage boy in Pocatello is much the same as every other teenager living in rural America. He wants to be popular with his friends and a hit with the girls. Maybe, some vestige of the wild west still clings to the foothills of Pocatello, for it seemed especially important to be bigger and stronger than anyone else. At least it was in my eyes. I was always smaller than the rest of my friends. I guess the reason I was smaller was because I was almost a year behind everyone else in my class. I was just old enough to make it into the next grade. Being born on Columbus day (Oct. 12) had its advantages because it was easier for others to remember my birthday, but it also meant that most of the fellows in my class had an extra year of growth on me. Not being as big, I tried to console myself with the fact that I was a little faster on my feet. I used this speed to keep me out of the hands of justice on more than one occasion.
Daily summer activity consisted of first getting my chores done. My dad and I traded off milking the cow. He would milk at night and I would get up early to do the morning milking. I would then do my garden weeding and other odd jobs like mowing the lawn and irrigating until about two in the afternoon. Entertainment for a teenager consisted of going to the movies occasionally and running around the neighborhood. We would usually head for the canal and look for suckers or we would go over to old man Corm's place to see if we could sneak in and get some apples without getting caught. If it wasn't apple season we would head for the rodeo grounds or the stockyards to see what other interesting tidbits we could uncover. We got into the same sort of mischief as do most boys our age. Throwing rotten tomatoes at passing cars and running was a favorite. Knocking on doors at night and hiding in the weeds just out of sight was always good for at least one night's entertainment a week. In fact, my young life contained so many of these "rascality" activities that my children often urge me, "Dad, tell us some of the other things that you and Don Williams did as kids. Your life was kind of like Huckleberry Finn's."
Just a Huck Finn had Aunt Polly to keep him in line, I had the Mormon Church to remind me to make right choices. The constant Sunday reinforcement of good moral principles kept the devil in me under some degree of control.
The above diversions were okay for an occasional evening or Halloween's entertainment, as long as I was still in grade school. As I grew older, a strange thing happened to me. I lost interest in getting into trouble and girls started becoming more important in my life. I soon developed a split personality. Part Huckleberry Finn and part 16 year old lecher.
While in grade school I was always smaller than my friends, but I was kind of cute and it was fashionable to be small and cute in grade school. The girls were still playing "house" and a small, cute kid somehow fit in. When junior high came along, however, the guy's voices started to get deeper and they began to grow in height and other places. I was still small, not too cute, and slow in developing everywhere it counted. Seventh grade gym classes with mandatory showers were a torture for us late bloomers.
Of course, all this increased masculinity did not go unnoticed by the girls. Consequently, all the attention I was formerly receiving from some of the more attractive girls began to be directed to the burgeoning athletes. No longer was I the center of attention. Even worse, neither my opinion nor I was considered important. It was a tough time of adjustment. Most of the guys were growing and getting lots of attention from the "pretty" girls, and I was left with the ones no one else would look at.
Gradually in the 7th grade I began to grow. But my rapid spurt of growth stopped far short of the Sir Lancelot I had envisioned myself becoming. It gradually dawned on me that I was not going to become a super jock, or anything else heroic. The only thing I had in common with the studs was pimples and this didn't recapture the attention of anybody. This was a time of frustration and soul searching for me. I could feel the demons of lust after me and I became intensely interested in the opposite sex, but my Mormon training convinced me that pursuing lust wasn't right.Anyway, whatever I did with it, it was to be kept secret under the pretense that it didn't exist. So long as no one knew of the creature I had become, I could still attend church without my Bishop knowing I was turning into a sex maniac.
Falling short of becoming the next Hercules, I had to settle for second or third in everything but "running around" and gymnastics. At least with gymnastics I felt at home. There was something about flipping through the air that matched a body that was shorter and just a shade above skinny. I had pretty much accepted gymnastics as my avenue to glory. I had, that is, until something occurred which changed my entire life.
At this point I was somewhat aware of bodybuilding and those guys with the impossible lumps on their bodies. I found them only mildly interesting because I knew it was an area closed to me. I had this innate feeling I could never develop any muscle on my body. I felt God had singled me out and pushed me off into mortality with a special blessing. "Your position in life is to be the runt of the pack. So don't try to change it."
My dad was six feet tall and strong. I stopped growing at a colossal 5'8" and was skinny to boot. Not only my dad, but most of my uncles on my dad's side were tall and husky; perhaps that is why I felt others could get big but not me.
Then one day, something happened that gave me new direction. It was during the spring of 1955 in my 16th year. I was doing chores around the yard, weeding and cleaning up the clutter of a winter's accumulation of junk. It was our custom to fill the garbage cans with what we could. But if it was too much garbage for the cans to handle, the junk would go in the garbage trailer until it spilled out on the ground. Then we would hook up the car and haul the whole thing off to the city dump. One summer day I applied my usual lackluster effort to a cleanup assignment from my Dad and had filled the trailer to overflowing. I hooked our trusty Packard to the trailer and headed for the dump. Down Eldridge Street past the the Rodeo grounds over the Yellowstone highway then across the canal and there it was in all its beauty: The city dump with its usual bad smells and assortment of accumulated crap.
Having backed up the trailer to what looked like a likely place to deposit our trash, I kicked everything off and cast a look around to see if there was anything I could scrounge. I noticed a pile of magazines not far from where I was parked. Looking around to make sure I hadn't been pinned by the dump boss, who was always quick to make sure you didn't steal any of his treasures, I sauntered over as if I was stretching my legs.
"Man! Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Bowhunting. What a find!" I glanced around again for the dump bully to see if I had been spotted. So far, so good.
"Must have come from Marie's Book Store. She's the only one cheap enough to tear off the covers so they couldn't be resold," I told myself. Other than the covers being gone they were in perfect condition. I quickly gathered them up, picking out a few of each kind. As I sifted through them, something different popped into view. Can you believe it? It was a Weider magazine way back then! I didn't even know how to pronounce Weider but I had no difficulty appreciating the physique which held me captivated on the first page of that magazine. It was a picture of George Pain (should be "Paine"). I didn't know it at the time but he was doing a side triceps pose. Underneath the picture it said, "You too can have an arm like this if you follow my instruction."
Note: Greater historians than myself have tried to determine what magazine issue Larry refers to here. "It was the spring of 1955." Let's use the whole of 1955's Weider muscle mags as a start point. The cover was removed so we're looking for an issue with George Paine on the first page; let's even go so far as to look for George Paine doing a side triceps in any Weider muscle mag of 1955. Go further and accept ANY George Paine photo in any Weider muscle mag of 1955 . . . we dug around for a while and couldn't really determine which mag this would be. There were several Paine photos and articles in Weider's American Manhood, but that mag only ran from Dec '52 to July '53. We're crazy fools, eh. But lovin' it nonetheless.
The Great Scott Story continues in Part Two soon.
And a big Thank You to Jim for selling me the source of this material at a price I could actually afford!