Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Charles A. Smith Letters, Part Three - Dennis Weis

"Getting rid of that negative attitude and mental block you SEEM to have 
is your first priority methinks." 

Be assured that you nor will anyone else wear out their welcome writing to me. At 75 years of age what little else is there for me to do apart from what is within my limitations around the house. 

There is no privilege in friendship, it is just there and one should not regard it as a privilege. It is a two way street in which one does not get it until one gives it.  

This brings up the question of you asking me questions of the information I possess - or knowledge. I have always regarded what I know as NOT belonging to me. It is something that I have gained from others. Therefore I hold it in trust, something not to hoard away a a miser does his gold, but something to be shared with ALL. It isn't mine. It belongs to all who ask to share in it, like the air we breathe or the water we drink. All I ask is that if ever you use anything I tell you in these letters, you merely give me credit for it - "I was told by Charles Smith etc., etc., etc. That's all I ask. So long as you care to write me - do so. You may be sure, and you have my word that I will tell you what I know. If I don't know, or if I believe what I tell you to be a rumor or hearsay, that I will tell you too. 

I think the one big mistake most of us make is NOT to see all sides of the picture. As a historian I cannot afford to do this. It is true that most of the stuff we are told, or are taught, reflects but one side - the best and most presentable. Thus, if I tell you that there are other sides to a person's character, this is not done in a keyhole peeping, dirty linen airing sense, but in a HISTORICAL ONE. While it is true that Hoffie did a lot for the GAME, he also did a lot for Hoffie - witness the fact that he died many times a millionaire. If he put one dollar into the sport by his support of teams and lifting, he got two dollars back and untold valuable publicity for himself and his business concerns.

The fact remains, we, generally, are NOT told all the facts. It might shock you to learn that one of our greatest presidents was a syphilitic and gave the disease not only to his wife, but to his son. Jim Bowie who is revered in Texas almost as a folk hero, was nothing more or less than a bloody cutthroat ruffian. Paul Revere did not complete his ride and warn his compatriots that the English were coming. The English caught him at a bridge and good old Paul spilled his guts. 

Getting across the other side of the channel, the poor old King George the Third, who lost America for England, wasn't mad as is popularly believed, but suffered from a metabolic disease known as PORPHYRIA, which did leave him hallucinated at times,  but at others left him perfectly lucid. The man who is regarded as one of the greatest kings who ever sat on the British throne, Henry 8th, was a bloody tyrant - a "Bloody grease spot on British History," as Charles Dickens has so rightly called him. He died, and not from syphilitic complications as is so popularly believed, but from what now is thought to be diabetic complications - he ate and drank like a hog. And so we go on and on. What we know about history is that we know LITTLE about it. And so, when relating what I know to you, I, as a historian, MUST tell what I believe to be the truth, the whole truth, etc., etc., etc.

Some of the history of our Sport isn't a very nice tale to relate. One mustn't forget that it is now [1986] so commercialized that all the idealism it once held is to all intents and purposes vanished. It is now a very competitive and GREEDY world we live in. Get me onto this subject again one day and I will probably shock the hair off your pate.

I recall in your last letter you asked if the wife of Earle Liederman was a Miss Alaska. I do know that Earle, in his magazines, said she was. Her name was HELGAR, her first name. What her maiden name was I don't know and Earle never told me. I also doubt very much if she had any connection beyond the name Miss Alaska with the State. But I do know for a FACT that she came from Europe, one of the Scandinavian countries, since I recently read a letter, dated around 1924, in which it was revealed that Earle and his bride Helgar had returned to her country in Europe because of some troubles in HER family. 

Here lies a tale as told to me by Earle himself in 1953. In the '20s, Liederman was a kingpin among the Muscles by Mail merchants. In fact the post office delivered it to him daily by the truckload. Earle found out that Helgar was having a love affair with a mounted cop she had met while riding in Central Park. Earle, who had a load of political clout in those days in NYC, told her to knock it off - I'd have bounced her out on her keister right away - or he'd bust the cop. She didn't and Earle did and the cop was busted to the Police Siberia - Staten Island. One day Earle came home and found his dearly beloved had cleaned out his safe to the tune of three quarters of a million in cash - some say it was only 75 thousand - but Earle told me it was the bigger figure. His first reaction was to have a drink, then another and another and suddenly he wakes up in a hotel in Atlantic City with a woman he had never seen before and without the slightest knowledge of how he got there. I think it was at this point that his business gradually began to skid. At one time he was taking four FULL pages in the New York Journal American each week for his advertising. All this was told to me PERSONALLY by Liederman in 1953 when my wife and I were visiting him in Hollywood. 

It is hardly a case of seeing only the good. What if Hitler was remembered for the wonderful autobahns he built, or Mussolini for making the trains run on time in Italy. Hardly standards by which to judge the whole man. Thus the question of perfection arises but TRUTH DOES and the Truth is that WHICH IS.

Two other examples. There is a certain person who claims to be the Trainer of Champions since 1936 - a year in which he was just 14 years of age. There is the danger here that one day people will actually believe this - as many now do. It is of course ridiculous. 

There's the other case of someone in California who claims to have done four or five reps ONE HAND PRESS with 400, letting out only here and there that it was done on some type of machine. I know dozens of people who really think this claimed lift was done one handed with a barbell. It won't be long before most people will believe it WAS done with a barbell - as some already do. So the historian plays his role here - and that is sifting out who the man was, why he was as he was and what contributions he REALLY MADE. 

As for my part, I like to think I have done a lot of good and I hope I have. 

But even if I have done but little good, then my hopes lie in the thought that I have done LESS HARM.

The story you relate of someone taking your book and publishing it under his name is extremely poor behavior - in fact much stronger words could be used. I believe I know who this person is since he has done the same with me. He copied me word for word from an article I had written for IM re the steroid problem in power lifting recently. When I wrote to tell him that I was writing an obit for Sig Klein - who is very ill - he at once wrote one and sent it in to the guy I had proposed writing it for. But this is the sort of individual we have in our sport and, sadly, we have always had this type. Jowett took one of Pullum's articles on Arthur Saxon and published it word for word under his own name in the old STRENGTH magazine of the 1920s.

And this wasn't an isolated case.

I came to know Bob when he approached Jan and Terry Todd to write a piece about the Todd McClean Strength Collection. Both were very busy - Terry with his classes and Jan with her studies - she is a doctoral candidate - and were unable to do what Bob wanted. They suggested me and I came across; he apparently liked what he read and asked for more. I obliged with another and, though neither of the two pieces have appeared, he wants more of my stuff. He has also written and phoned me a few times.

R_____ B_____ aka ______, a homosexual. I have met him once or twice and didn't like him, not because of his sexual preferences but because I got the impression he was a snake oil salesman per excellence. 

Why he changed his name to ______ I don't know [note: on advice of an astrologist. It's "protein guy" if you haven't figured it out]. What I DO know is that for several months after he passed away, his death was kept secret because it might affect the supplement business. He once promised - so I was TOLD - to make a Mr. America out of some bodybuilder and all it would cost him would be in the neighborhood of 300 a week.

Although vitamins and food supplements have existed since the start of the game, he was that eon in modern times who revived them, rather resuscitated them and made them what big business they are today, with all the flimflam and hype that goes with their marketing. Johnson, as I prefer to call him, started out advertising in Hoffie S&H. When Hoffie - who kept tabs on the returns - saw what big business Johnson was doing he went into the business himself and heaved Johnson out of the advertising columns of S&H.

At the same time, Weider, Horvath and I sat down around the table to discuss if Weider should get into selling them. Weider was so-so about it. Horvath was dead against it, saying it was nothing more than a fad and wouldn't last. My stand was that while I believed one could get all the vitamins he needed with and through a balanced diet, why if money making was on Joe's mind, then have a go, Joe. Horvath predicted dire circumstances. So a trial ad was floated in all Joe's mags. First month response Nil. Second month about eighty bucks in orders. Third month five hundred and we were off and soaring and NEVER took in less than six thousand MONTHLY which in the 1950s was no mean sum.

I know nothing about Cottrell. I have met Gironda a few times and of course heard of him. It might be unfair to express an opinion, but I am always skeptical where a man claims to know all there is to know about the Game and is so adamant about certain of its phases. I wonder what a Registered Dietician would say about him advocating the consumption of two and three DOZEN eggs daily. And his vehement exhortations against the bench press. Too rigid a mind speaks of mental costiveness and verbal diahorrhea - never could spell that bloody word. Then too the assumption of the title GURU is, to me, a mark against him. All so distant prophets are, so far as I am concerned, suspect.

Brenner I met a few times at meets and apart from this had little or nothing to do with him. He didn't appear too bright to me, but then, this may be an unfair utterance, since I once had a kid before me on a hard narcotics violation who apparently was on the moron border line and mumbled rather than spoke. When I checked with schools as to his record, I found - to my intense astonishment - that his IQ was GENIUS LEVEL You figure it out. Impressions can be awfully deceiving. I also understand his mother was his biggest fan, at all his contests, cheering loudly for him. And what's a mother for - or heaven for that matter.

Clancy Ross. Now you're talking. That story you were told about his doing incline dumbbell presses with big weights was no story. He could and DID do sets of incline presses with a pair of 175 pound dumbbells. Whether he cleaned them I don't know. My opinion, for what it is worth, was that he had them handed to him.I remember at one time there was a load of donkey dust wafting around to the effect that he was "weak." Then John Davis, on one of his frequent visits to my family, told me that he had walked in on Ross in some gym close to the San Francisco area and there was Ross doing the inclines with the 175's. Commented John, "We should ALL be so weak." 

I met Ross quite a few times and found him to be most congenial. What a difference to those crud heads of today. Ross helped any and all who approached him at meets. I was present at a meet not too long ago when the "Star" was CHARGING FIVE BUCKS APIECE for his autograph. What filth. 

There is also some reason to believe that Jowett may have been in the U.S. illegally. This I have gathered from his letters to Ottley. His wife Bessie was always ill and he was always having to leave Philadelphia to go back to Canada, and there was always the thought expressed in his letters that he would  be barred from re-entry to the States. 

As for Jowett, I knew him well and liked him as a person. We got along well together and he was obviously a very powerful man. He also had a drinking problem. I have a copy of his birth certificate here and will send it to you. Let me know. You can xerox it and return it to me. 

Getting back to the bench press - why not try dumbbell inclines? Or parallel bar dips or presses behind the neck - any movement to improve the power of the triceps and deltoids. Most of the great work done in the training by weights field has been empirical work - trial and error, or eclectic, taking the best and discarding all the rest - finding out what best works for you and using those movements. I see absolutely no reason why you should not improve your bench. Getting rid of that negative attitude and mental block you SEEM to have is your first priority methinks.  


Marvin Eder was sui generis. No one else has ever appeared like him. He surely had the genetic factor. I will never forget his first appearance in an Olympic meet. It was, if I remember properly, May 23rd, 1953, at the McBurney YMCA in NYC. Schemansky was to appear but had hurt his back. Bradford appeared in his place. The press began. 

Marv shout up 300 as if the bar was empty. Bradford took the same and made it. Eder weighed in at 195, Bradford at 260. Bradford took 330 and just made it. Eder took 330 and again shot it up like the bar was unloaded. Bradford didn't go any higher. Marv took 350 and shot it up etc etc etc. 

He POWER snatched 275 without a dip, failed in all his other attempts. He started off with 375 in the clean and jerk, hauled the bloody bar so high - level with the top of his head - that if he had the style of Davis or Schemanskyv we would have had a WORLD RECORD SNATCH. He failed to fix the bar. He was using a very high intensity system of training when those who claim to have "INVENTED" it had mothers who were telling their dads, "not tonight dear, I have a headache." 

Guess I better sign off here unless you get tired of reading all this mash. 



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