THE LEGENDARY STEVE REEVES DEAD
BY DAVID GENTLE
Reprinted courtesy of Muscle Mob
On 1st May 2000, the legendary STEVE REEVES died in hospital in California. He was 74 years of age and most believed he would live forever; such is the stuff heroes are made of.
Having a handsome visage and an outstanding physique, Mr America and Mr Universe Steve Reeves became best known to non bodybuilders through the medium of the HERCULES muscle movies/videos and yet ironically, the film star Reeves was but a shell of his pre movie days, being ordered to slim down for the wide screen epics to "appeal" to a larger audience.
Born 21st January 1925 in Glasgow Montana U.S.A. of parents Lester Dell and Golden Reeves, Steve's father was killed when he was just 1 and a half years old. His first award in a lifetime of honours, and he probably received more awards in later years, than during his whole active bodybuilding career, was 'The Healthiest Baby in Valley County Montana'. Even with today's vast choice of physiques, Steve Reeves, because of a combination of facial as well as physical beauty and symmetry, had, the most universally envied development in modern tines.
World famous Muscle magazine photographer Russ Muscle Mob Warner (also gone) is quoted in Milton T. Moore's superb book Steve Reeves 'One Of A Kind' as saying "I don't think there is one chance in 50 trillion, that the particular mix of hereditary genes that formed the product we see in STEVE REEVES will ever occur in combination again. Steve was a very unusual bodybuilder. He had the overall beauty that no other bodybuilder has ever been able to achieve. I have had the occasion work with, photographically, most of the top bodybuilders in world, but when the good lord made STEVE REEVES, he threw the mould away."
In spite of the passage of time - now some 50 years since he recorded his Mr America victory and despite all the changes that have taken place in Bodybuilding's 'fashions', Reeves has remained the pinnacle of perfection to millions of fans, with an aesthetic physique many still attempt to emulate. Real beauty is as has been said timeless as is good taste.
Steve commenced bodybuilding when about 15 years of age, being the first to admit he had a good foundation and was an 'easy gainer', and after a year or so, soon had a potentially powerful physique. His first instruction was at ED YARICKS gym in OAKLAND California where he was encouraged to enter and - won, all local contests. His handsome features, healthy flop of hair and general overall vitality were all enormous assets for any muscle star and future film idol. With a balanced and harmonious development always his aim.
Drafted into the U.S. ARMY from 1944 to 1946 during which time he spent 19 months in the Far East (Philippines and Page 17 Japan) being involved in the Battle of Balete Pass, and witnessing the many horrors of warfare, later contracting malaria. Steve all the time managed to obtain some training, albeit often with Tarzan like rope climbing, general free exercises, such as push-ups or dips, and tension exercises. Later he designed his own weights and basic pulley apparatus.
Indeed there is a story that goes that he ended up with just 100 pounds of home made weights and managed almost to maintain his amazing physique with just that and hard training. SG.
On leaving the 125th Infantry in the Philippines and the service he resumed training at Yarricks making rapid progress. His first major contest was entering and winning the Mr. Pacific Coast. In 1947 Steve won the Mr America contest in Chicago on the 29th June, being just 21years old, beating, amongst others, the popular Alan Stephen and an even younger Eric Pederson, who at just 18 won the Most Muscular division. Steve with his harmonious physique, went on to greater glories
Already highly popular, after giving many exhibitions throughout the U.S.A Steve again competed in the Mr. America in 1948, this time being closely beaten by the great Clancy Ross, another man with a great balanced body. Steve came second and Alan Stephen 'made third place. With his fame preceding him Reeves came over to London in 1948 (complete with 'Zoot suit' and purple w-i-d--e shoulder style jacket.) On the 23rd August to compete for the first time in Europe, in the now classic battle between Reeves and the late John C. Grimek The battle of giants, Page 20 now physical culture history, saw Grimek nearly 40 years old, winning the first NABBA Mr. Universe title (there had been an earlier AAU Universe) and with Steve still on his way up in the World of bodybuilding.
Encouraged by Oscar Heidenstam, who recognised the potential Steve Reeves classic lines, they both travelled across the Channel to France. (This being the section of Jim Sheppard's Body Legand's video we reviewed. SG) and just three days later, on 26th August in Cannes Steve won the titles of Le Plus Bel Athlete Du Monde and Mr World from the Federation Francaise De Culture.
1949 saw Steve, along with almost a who's who of American bodybuilders, trying again for the Mr. USA crown. Grimek, the winner and Clancy Ross who took second place beat him. Reeves came third and genial George Eiferman, of huge pectoral fame, came forth. Possible reasons for placing, being this was the age of huge BULK. Physiques are as ever influenced greatly by judging requirements and of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
To the delight of his European fans, in 1950, Steve who was then an instructor at Bert Goodrich's gym, decided on an all out attempt at the NABBA MR UNIVERSE title, competing against a host of top stars, including Britain's own Reg Park. Reg later himself a triple winner, said it all when he remarked on Reeves. "The man had everything, the physique of the century ".
On 24th June at the Scala Theatre, Steve Reeves won the Mr. Universe title, and the unique originally designed SANDOW statuette, later copied and muscled up for the Olympia winners. Reg Park came second, and Muscle Mob third place went to the late Juan Ferrero, another aesthetic physique.
Steve's measurements, officially recorded at the event, something no longer followed, were, weight 2141bs, neck 18 inches, chest expanded 52 inches, arm 18", forearm 14", wrist 7 and quarter inches, calf 18", thigh 26 ins and height 6ft 1 ins. Although Oscar Heidenstam, considered that Reeves was in fact taller at more like 6ft 3 inches (actually I have stood next to Steve several times, and he appears to be same height as me i.e. 6ft 1 ins. D.G).
Steve was the first to admit that he had a good foundation, and right from the start was an easy gainer. Even early photos of him at fifteen display a good physique, with obvious potential.
Always impressive, Reeves shoulders, measured with callipers, reached 23 and half inches. (The only man I have seen with wider shoulders was the late Rueben Martin).
At times Reeves gained or lost muscle tissue almost at will, yet always retaining a harmonious and balanced physique. Never did one feature lag behind or out shine another. In his book (Steve Reeves, Building the Classic Physique the Natural Way) Steve set out his ideas of ideal physical proportions.
Having had the pleasure of his company, in recent years at the Oscar Foundation Awards and the NABBA 50th Muscle Mob anniversary. I can vouch he had lost none of his charm or physical charisma.
History records Steve Reeves won the Mr America, and all of five decades later, still remained one, if not the, most admired of all physique stars to grace the posing dais. Reeves was guest of honour at the 1997 Mr America contest, sponsored by DISNEY (we believe).
Steve Reeves really was ONE OF A KIND. Ours is the loss. �May 2000 David Gentle.
Pictures used with the kind permission of Richard Violatte of the unofficial Steve Reeves page (web site), Roy Edwards of Health & Strength (cover shot), Boris at the Steve Reeves Gallery (web site), Alan Radley and Roy Adams (the young Reeves in a front double biceps).
Lou Ravelle: It 's a great shock when a star of the
magnitude of Reeves dies because he is one of the
handful that we tend to think of as immortal. I think
he'll prove to be just that. He was my original
inspiration, as he must have been for a million or so
others, and I can still remember the photo. A side
shot showing triceps abs and those legs. I think he
must have provided more inspiration for beginners than
any other, before or since. Unforgettable, impeccable
and irreplaceable. He had a combination of grace,
power and line, which has never been matched, and
never will be.
You might also quote D J Johnson, then ed of H & S on Reeve winning of Universe in 1950."Reeves has the greatest physique out of this world."
Your editor says:
Not being in the iron game as long as some of our more esteemed bedfellows I can only reflect on my 20 years as a fan of the sport. I know that all of those I have informed have been saddened at Steve's passing. That the trainee with just a few years under his belt is as aware of Steve's influence as he or she is of Arnold's.
Those that have met him have said he remains - like Bill Pearl - a humble man aware of his talents but feeling no need to brag or boast. Like the many that have seen some of the amazing pictures seen here and others in the books mentioned, I am sure that we will not see the combination that was Steve in one man again and we should be sorry for our loss.
R.I.P Steve Reeves - we'll miss ya!
IRON GAME/PHYSICAL CULTURE HISTORY