Sunday, March 26, 2023

The Hoffman Exposé -- Barton Horvath (1956)


Thanks to Jarett Hulse over at - 

Oh, those pesky capitalist shenanigans and the battles between bodybuilding and weightlifting promotion that went on. They got slimy. The back-and-forths grew into lawsuits, court cases, the works. This one's a little taste. There's much worse.  "There's money in them posin' trunks!"    Hoffman was not a big fan of pure bodybuilding. Weider saw its potential and set out to build his own empire. Quite similar to the modern YouTube slagging and battles, but with mag subscriptions and equipment sales, as opposed to channel subscribers and supplement sponsors. Setting . . . Physique contest, near Naked City. Only the games have been changed to protect the redundant . . .  

Check this. Pumped up or what! This Joe fella and a bunch of the others sure got the big head at birth! Musta been all them spinning moves in the womb.

"Not only did the Weider System continue to rank supreme, but Joe Weider as well added to his fame. For the past year he has been personally supervising Jack Delinger's training. And, for the first time in the history of the Mr. Universe contests, all seven judges voted first place to one man. Jack Delinger, trained personally be Joe Weider, received this unprecedented honor!"   

Okay . . . to the article, in all its shameless glory.

Lineup of contestants. Compare Chuck Vinci, (named on left), with Klinsmann (named, center) with Schaefer (named, right). Hoffman engineered to have judges changed in the middle of a contest when Schaefer was decisively ahead to establish Klisanin as winner. More visual evidence on following pages. 

The putrid stench stirred up by Bob Hoffman's questionable actions at the American Mr. Universe contest held at Virginia Beach on June 9 and 10 has created a bodybuilding rebellion. Buck Cowling, director of the event has refused to accept the decision of the judges and he brands Hoffman a "liar" and a "fraud." 

When the facts were presented to Don Parker, America's favorite sport's columnist, Don was moved to blast Hoffman in his Daily Mirror column. Hoffman was put on the spot by reporters after the contest and when asked to explain his irregular actions, sneered . . . "I'm interested in getting rid of these physique contests anyway. They are sissified things . . . " 

For the full facts of Hoffman's flagrant violations of AAU rules and for the details concerning his conduct unbecoming an AAU official, read this exclusive expose now! 

For too long a period of time one Robert C. Hoffman of York, Pa., has bellowed his way into the limelight of AAU bodybuilding contests, usurping powers never officially delegated to him in a series of ludicrous attempts to establish himself as the czar of the muscle world. 

His latest faux pas, committed at the two day American Mr. Universe Contest last June 9 and 10 at Virginia Beach, raised a tidal wave of indignation that may sweep him completely out of AAU and Olympic committee affiliation. 

When the first night's balloting showed a decisive first place victory for Ray Schaefer, Mr. America 1956, Hoffman's pride and dignity were hurt. He alone, from a panel of seven duly accredited judges had voted first place to his protégé Steve Klisanin, who ranked no better than fourth in the general consensus. 

Hoffman, who has become quite a controversial figure among bodybuilding enthusiasts because of his annoying tendency to take irregular steps to assure contest victories for his favorites, after realizing that Klisanin would not win in a fair contest, flaunted self-assumed authority and contrived to have the first night's balloting declared merely a trial run. 

They, by deftly maneuvering the replacement of two duly delegated AAU officials with judges of his own liking, and convincing another that his original scoring had been in error, Hoffman rigged the event and manipulated a new score on the second night, with an astounding reversal that gave fourth place Klisanin the winner's trophy and Schaefer the No. 2 spot.   

An early, out of date photo of Chuck Vinci used to compare with a full-blown and bloomed Schaefer. There's a page of score cards and such, but we don't need 'em here really. 

Before reporting on the irregular acts committed by Hoffman which have culminated in these serious charges, I would like to give the reader some background information of the American Mr. Universe contest so that he will have the story in full.

The first Mr. Universe contest was held in Philadelphia in 1947 and was won by Steve Stanko . . . 

Here is an article from The Roark Report on that contest: 

In 1948 the contest moved across the Atlantic to England and has been a major event there each year since, with the exception of 1948 when no contest was held. 

Virginia Beach, in commemoration of its Golden Jubilee, felt it would be patriotic to bring the Mr. Universe contest back to American soil. Buck Cowling was assigned by the Junior Chamber of Commerce of Virginia Beach to direct and promote the event. Cowling contacted the office early in 1956, asked us to publicize the contest and to help him to line up contestants. This we did. Buck Cowling also invited any members of our staff who desired to cover the event to do so, as guests of the Chamber of Commerce of Virginia Beach. 
I was assigned to the affair and ran into the biggest rhubarb [biggest rhubarb!] of my almost 30 years of association with the iron game. 
Virginia Beach, spared no expense, time, nor effort to assure the success of the Mr. Universe event. $5,000 was spent in erecting a platform and decorating a huge outdoor stadium where the contest was held. Many more thousands of dollars were spent in paying the full living expenses of all contestants and reporters during their stay at the beach. 
The actual Mr. Universe festivities opened Friday night, June 8th, with a Grand Mal, er, Ball and the elaborate Surf Club where the public was afforded an opportunity of meeting the important contestants and officials. 
Saturday afternoon, an hour long parade around the streets lined with spectators who obtained a good view of the contestants who rode past stripped down to bathing suits.
Note: Here in Canada this does not happen often. The cold weather creates gyno-looking pecs and all the speedos look loose and oversized. 
Saturday night, at 8 P.M. the Mr. Universe contest started on schedule. According to the instructions I received from Buck Cowling, the director of the contest, and these same instructions were confirmed to me by three other judges, this first night of judging was to establish the overall winner of the Mr. Universe crown. 
The second night, the same group of judges were to officiate again, with the idea in mind to run off any possible ties, to definitely establish the place winners and to also select the winner of the short man's class as well as place winners in that division. 
Acting on these instructions, the judges I spoke to on Saturday night concerned themselves primarily with selecting the overall Mr. Universe winner. In the event they felt that the contest was close, they scored several men equally, knowing that if there was a tie, they would have a second opportunity to reach a final decision on Sunday night. 

It was, however, clearly understood that if one man earned a clear-cut victory, that he was the Mr. Universe and only place positions and the short men's division were to be decided on Sunday night. It was also clearly understood that the same judges were to officiate on the second night.

The judges on Saturday night were: Bob Hoffman, Peary Rader, George Greenfield, Bill Collona, Doug Biller, Dr. James and myself. I felt the selection of judges to be satisfactory. From past experience I knew Collona and Greenfield were all competent and fair. Doug Biller, I learned, sold Hoffman [York] equipment in his gym but I did not believe this would sway his devotion to clean sport, nor prevent him from giving a fair decision. Dr. James, I know nothing about. Bob Hoffman, I've known for a long time. 

It should be pointed out at this time that Bob Hoffman's capacity was only that of one of seven judges. Other than that he was empowered with no other official rights. Bear this in mind. 

The contest was run beautifully. First, a short address by Buck Cowling. Then, Bob Hoffman introduced the judges [likely for about an hour? The man was well conditioned, and his "wind" was exceptional]. He said at that time: "Barton Horvath needs no introduction. He has been connected with the sport for many years. When I wrote my first book many years ago there were only a few color photos included and I used Barton for one. He is employed by Weider Publications." 

I could not have asked for a more gracious introduction.

Hoffman then took his seat at the judges table and the contest began. There were 13 contestants: Harry Johnson, Ray Schaefer, Jack King, William Butler, Howard Cohan, Harvey McCune, Steve Klisanin, Ed Edney, Charles Johnson, Chuck Vinci, Delmar Pickles, Bob Hinds, and Gene Bohaty. 

Note: Now there's a name for ya! Delmar Pickles. The article you're reading was taken from the October 1956 issue of Muscle Builder. The July '57 issue has an article by Pickles (stop it!) titled, "The Mr. Universe Pot Keeps Boiling." 

The first three contestants appeared in order, and then there was a break during which a number of novelty acts were presented. The next three contestants appeared, and then there was another break, with more novelty acts. This was continued throughout the contest. Everything ran as smoothly as a Broadway production and audience interest was high.     

      Hoffman, left, Weider right. 

It was during one of these breaks that Chuck Vinci, Paul Anderson and Steve Klisanin presented a lifting exhibition. Of Vinci, Hoffman said then: "Don't let his skinny legs fool you. Pound for pound he is probably the strongest man in the world today." With these words Hoffman apologized for Vinci's skinny legs, which you can see for yourself from the picture reproduced here. Vinci, incidentally, stands 4'10" and weighs in the neigborhood of 123 pounds. 

Note: You can round up other photos of Chuck Vinci easily online.

At about that time, Hoffman also played up the specific physique and strength virtues of Steve Klisanin. He overplayed the part and it was then that I grew suspicious that Klisanin was his choice. 

Of Klisanin personally, I have this to say. I had the opportunity to meet him. I talked in length with him [at length as well!], and sincerely feel that he is a credit to the iron game. Any events which transpired and which will be subsequently reported here are not to be taken as any reflection on the character or integrity of this young man. 

Note: As issues of Tommorow's Man loved to state . . . Clean cut lads. There were actually training things in that small magazine. Similar to the current "Men's Health" type of training things, that type of training. I am beginning to believe the pics may have been the thing for many readers! 

Whatever violations Hoffman may be guilty of, I am fairly convinced that Steve was purely an innocent victim and not a party of the act. To prevent any misunderstanding, I want this to be clearly understood. 

However, smelling a rat, i suggested to Buck Cowling that a committee comprised of members of the Junior Chamber of Commerce collect all judge's ballots once they had completed the scoring of their cards. This suggestion was followed and as will be eventually proved -- really paid off. 

Note: He said eventually and he means it. Several more pages to go. My fingers are tired. When will we be there. I'm hungry. I need to pee. 

Okay . . . 'nuff for now. 

Continued in Part Two. 

Enjoy Your Lifting!  




  1. Your editorial comments on the Hoffman Expose´ (can't find the e accent) article are hilarious. I especially enjoyed the comment about why Canada doesn't have parades of contestants wearing posing trunks. If I may venture a tidbit for you and your readers: I think the technical term for the posing trunk condition you describe is "shrinkage."

    1. I like the poster for The Producers, the first version there! Yeah! A bad case of package squinch?


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