Remembering Joe Weider

Lee with Joe Weider after a workout, circa 1992, taken in the days after the Mr.Olympia competition in Helsink, FInland.

Lee with Joe Weider after a workout, circa 1992, taken in the days after the Mr.Olympia competition in Helsink, FInland.

Joe Weider and I met at the 1985 IFBB Mr.Universe in Gothenburg , Sweden. I had just finished winning the contest, and had been awarded my first-place trophy by his brother Ben. Joe was waiting by the side of the stage, and I couldn’t wait to have my photo taken with him.

I didn’t want to miss my chance to introduce myself. It all seemed surreal at the time, because Joe was a legend to all of us bodybuilders– after all, he was the “Master Blaster”– the guy who along with Ben, had painstakingly transformed the sport of bodybuilding from literally nothing into an internationally recognized and respected sport.

Meeting Joe and having my photo taken with him was one of the highlights of my trip. A couple of weeks later, Joe flew me out to Los Angeles for my first photo shoot for Muscle & Fitness magazine. I’ll never forget it. Joe always attended the cover shoots, no matter how busy he was.

Joe preferred to direct the bodybuilders, models, and photographers himself. He had an uncanny eye for detail, and would always move the bodybuilders around on the camera set until they looked just perfect. Often it was just changing an angle a little here and there., but you knew that with Joe on the set, the photos would be awesome.

Joe Weider loved bodybuilding and the bodybuiders. He was paternalistic by nature, dispensing advice to all of us. Joe wanted all of us to succeed, not only in bodybuilding , but in life. I have very fond memories of this side of Joe. I owe much to Joe for affording me the opportunity to appear in his magazines, endorse his products, and become a “Weider athlete” as we were known at that time.

Joe was big on giving the bodybuilders opportunities if they were willing to work. He wasn’t big on giving bodybuilders hand-outs, much to the chagrin of the free-loaders who mistook his generosity for charity. Unfortunately, the bodybuilding culture, like humanity in general, has its share of those types.

The Los Angeles Time’s article on Joe’s passing away this weekend mentioned that “While he had staunch supporters, he also had critics, who complained about his outsized ego and bruising business style.”

Joe had a healthy ego, but he wasn’t arrogant or obnoxious. In fact, he was pretty down to earth. Nor was he ever unfair to me in business. He did the things that smart business men do. Nothing more, nothing less. Without Joe Weider and his brother Ben, all of us bodybuilders might still be relegated to an afterthought at a weight lifting tournament. The Weiders created modern bodybuilding as we know it, and gave birth to the modern sports nutrition industry.

Once I retired from bodybuilding competition in 1995, I set out to grow one of the most successful sports nutrition companies in the world. Again, I have Joe to thank in part for that opportunity. The things I learned working for him, I applied to what I do every day. Joe was proud of me for successfully transitioning into my business, Labrada Nutrition, and often told me so when I saw him at the Mr.Olympia competitions, which Joe attended as long as he was physically able (he LOVED the bodybuilders!)

I have a copy of Joe and Ben’s book Brothers of Iron on my desk. On the inside of the book, in Joe’s handwriting, are the words I love you, (signed) Joe Weider. I’m looking at it right now, and I’m choking back tears. I love you too, Joe. I love you too.