The Vince Gironda and Rheo Blair Controversy
In July of 2003, I got a phone call from a gentleman named Randy Roach. He is a bodybuilder and personal trainer out of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
The Weston Price Foundation had commissioned him to do a story on the history of nutrition and bodybuilding.
He said that my friend, Bob Gayda (yes, the former A.A.U. Mr. America), in Palatine, Illinois, had given him my name to call regarding history during the '50s, '60s, '70s, and '80s. In particular, he wanted to know about Vince Gironda and a gentleman named Rheo Blair.
Of course, this stirred my memories and I found myself emotionally charged. I found myself recovering things deep in my memory banks and my emotions stirred as I recalled Vince's gym, the '65 Olympia, the '66 Olympia, Don Howorth, Larry Scott, Dave Draper, Bill McArdlel, a lot of the movie stars the Vince trained, the foreign bodybuilders that came over such as Mohammed Makaway and I recalled some of the feelings that I felt in those days.
It excited me because I love talking about Vince Gironda and Rheo Blair, as they were both major contributors to bodybuilding history! Some time ago, I set out on a one-man mission to never let Vince "die". Randy and I had lengthy phone conversations at least 3 times a week all through July, August, and September and, eventually, we became friends. I found Randy to be a very intellectual and bright person and I was reinvigorated by our conversations and the stirring of my memories. The main element of Randy's research at that time was the 50's and 60's and he wanted my thoughts on the comparison between Rheo Blair and Vince Gironda to determine who was the most knowledgeable of nutrition.
A Different Time
Recalling the past, I have noticed that old-time bodybuilding is starting to come back in many phases.
Many people are sick and disgusted by the freaks that we are seeing in bodybuilding magazines. Many of these magazines themselves are distasteful and often repulsive because they are nothing but tits, abs, and steroids. Now people are looking back to the way bodybuilding used to be in the '50s and '60s, not so much the drugs, because, all though drugs did exist in that era, drug use was nothing like the saturation abuse of drugs today. It is truly becoming a drug culture. I see in my business, NSP, which I refer to as "the old-time bodybuilding company", an interest in what worked back then, that which still works today and will always work regarding nutrition and supplementation. These proven methods include amino acids, glandulars, liver tablets, digestive enzymes, vitamin packets, 92% egg and milk protein, pituitary enhancers and growth factors, etc., this is one of the reasons I have the new website.
My Love Of Bodybuilding
From the start, I knew that bodybuilding and nutrition were something that I had an affinity for, actually, I had a love affair with them and I wanted to pursue them. I was on a quest to learn from as many people as I possibly could. During this quest, I knew that California was the place to go; therefore I spent a lot of money on airplane trips and rental cars so that I could gain more knowledge. It may seem hard to believe, but you'd be shocked at the people I assumed knew what they were talking about who were actually extremely ignorant. It was in California that I met both Rheo and Vince.
Rheo Blair's real name was Irving Johnson and he was out of Chicago, Illinois. I cannot substantiate whether he was a gym owner, whether he was a bodybuilder (although he never looked like a bodybuilder to me), or whether he was a nutritionist, or exactly what he did. I hope that Randy will be able to enlighten me on that once he is done with his research. But I do know that he changed his name to Rheo H. Blair on the advice of his astrologist. It was always sketchy why he moved from Chicago to Los Angeles. He was a very knowledgeable man and it is my understanding that his teacher, advisor, and guru was the renowned nutritionist Dr. Carlton Fredricks, who was a professor of nutrition at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. Dr. Fredricks was one of the first to advocate fats and proteins and hydrochloric acid and to discount the value of overconsumption of carbohydrates.
Rheo, being a disciple of Dr. Fredricks, learned everything he could from him. When Rheo went to California, his forte was nutrition counseling and what he called body rejuvenating. One of the things I agreed wholeheartedly with Rheo was that exercise does not make you healthy.
He stated that nutrition and peace of mind, the right mental attitude, make you healthy. Rheo did have one exercise called the high kick which he felt would benefit the cardiovascular system and strengthen the back muscles if enough repetitions were done. I personally never really understood the value of it.
Nutritionist of the Stars
Rheo took up shop in Hollywood as the "nutritionist of the stars" because he was a very flamboyant and likable person.
He implemented what Dr. Fredricks taught him about liver tablets, cleansing of the liver and hydrochloric acid. He was one of the first people to advocate the milk and egg protein. I've always told people that 10,000 years ago the finest proteins biologically for the human body were raw milk, eggs, liver, and glands which are what Rheo promoted.If you take liver tablets long enough, they will regenerate and detoxify your liver.
The liver is the most important gland in the body because it does something to everything you eat. You can lose a number of organs and still function but if you lose your liver, you will die.
After Rheo built up quite a reputation, he started to manufacture a milk and egg protein and a line of supplements. Eventually, he and Vince Gironda met and became good friends. I would like, once and for all, to dispel the myth that Rheo Blair taught Vince Gironda everything about nutrition. I don't know how that rumor got started but it is a lie. Vince had been using hydrochloric acid as well as talking about digesting food and the importance of protein and fat back in the '50s.
Rheo did teach Vince the value of milk and egg protein in supplement form but he gave the impression that if you consumed his protein that there was some sort of miracle of magic in it.
Although I felt that Rheo was a very likable person, I would have to call him a little bit of a con artist (while Randy Roach prefers to call him a salesman). It's all in how you look at it. My terminology is just a little stronger.
Because Rheo was somewhat charismatic, he had a following. Since most bodybuilders don't have a lot of money, he began marketing his milk and egg protein by giving it to the top bodybuilders for free so that they would advocate his product. This "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" promotional practice was common for "gym bums".
Although Rheo never mentioned drugs, he knew that taking liver tabs, milk and egg protein, and fats would highly complement drugs. So if you took drugs and used proper nutrition, your growth would be 2 or 3 times that of somebody who just took drugs. Rheo knew that but he didn't want to alienate anybody and he didn't care because after a while he became a very wealthy person, so he would ignore steroids altogether. Remember, when he consulted a Hollywood star, his rates were not cheap, as Ray Raridon told me.
After reading about Rheo and hearing about him, I decided to contact him on one of my trips to California to pursue my quest for knowledge. He graciously welcomed me into his Rosewood St. home where I spent an entire afternoon with him. Since he used to ship products right from his house, he showed me his operation and introduced me to the very nice people who worked for him.
I did not want to take advantage of him by just picking his brain so I bought a host of his supplements thinking that his milk and egg protein supplement line was something unique and special, especially due to the fact that they were very overpriced. But, as I had learned from Vince, from some of Dr. Carlton Fredrick's writings and from my friend, Dr. Harry Eidenier, Jr., the most renowned nutritional biochemist in America, you cannot digest protein without fat. So, there was no magic to Rheo Blair's protein after all. His "secret formula" was just a promotion, the sign of a huckster.
It got to the point that he was telling people that it was formulated to match mother's milk. That was not mother's milk. Milk is higher in fat and carbohydrates than it is in protein because for the first couple of years in a child's life the most important thing is the development of the brain and the organs. The muscles are last. If you ever look at a baby in the first few years of its life, you will notice quite a bit of so-called baby fat.
As good and as intriguing as it sounded, the secret was that when you mix this protein you mix it with raw 1/2 and 1/2 or cream, which are fats. I have always said that that if you isolate a protein with a fat, it is just converted to sugar and stored in the liver as glycogen. The most important thing is not how much protein you eat, but how much you digest, so Rheo advocated hydrochloric acid tabs. There was the secret! The cream and the hydrochloric acid tabs.
There is not much you can do with milk and egg protein, once isolated, and when I asked, he told me that he did not add amino acids to it, which I doubted. He told me it was a special blend. Oh, boy! After years of being in the supplement business, I know that most biochemists laugh when somebody mentions "special blends" as they question what is actually being added, possibly including amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.
Back then there weren't that many milk and egg protein products on the market and I used to order one out of the back of Iron Man Magazine from a little company, I believe it was called Douglas, which was a lot cheaper than Rheo's. I always knew that his product was overpriced. He used the marketing gimmick of overpricing it so that people would think that it must be really good if it is so expensive. This marketing ploy of overpricing worked well for Rheo with his wealthy Hollywood customers. Although his products were very good, they certainly weren't the miracle that he said they were and did not give me any more benefit than any other liver tablets, protein or trigerm oils did.
There were a lot of rumors that Rheo lived strictly on his milk and egg protein and his supplements. I question that because Ray Raridon, of NSP, told me that Rheo would go to fancy restaurants in the Los Angeles area. It is doubtful that milk and egg protein was served at these restaurants, so I would assume that he ate steak and salads at those places. When he died, it was reputed that he died of food poisoning although I can't verify that. Where were his hydrochloric acid tablets if he ate food in a restaurant? If your hydrochloric acid levels are high, you don't have to worry about e coli bacteria or spoiled food. Read this article where I tell you about the time that I ate the spoiled turkey and tool the hydrochloric acid tabs and apple cider vinegar and didn't get sick.
Note: A dog can drink sewer water and not get sick because of the hydrochloric acid in his system.
One of the reasons why Americans are becoming so sick today is because we are losing our hydrochloric acid due to the face that we have become carbohydrate eaters, causing us to become alkaline. God has given us two stalwarts for our immune system, one is hydrochloric acid and the other being intestinal bacteria, which we are also losing due to consumption of processed and refined foods, chlorinated water and meat products soaked in chlorine, all of which destroy intestinal bacteria. Along with those, taking aspirin and antibiotics greatly contribute to the destruction of our intestinal bacteria. How ironic that Rheo must have forgotten to take his hydrochloric acid tablets.
Along with his milk and egg protein, I bought Rheo's liver tablets and his trigerm oils. Trigerm oils were nothing new, having been around since the 1940s. Fats are hormone precursors. In the end, there was really nothing magical about his formula. The truth is that Rheo H. Blair taught me nothing about bodybuilding because, at that time, he wasn't even interested in bodybuilding, only in promoting his products through bodybuilders. I don't think I have ever read anything memorable that Rheo has written, certainly nothing on bodybuilding. He wrote just a few articles concerning his products, how to mix it, how to take it and what liver does. But all that was common knowledge back then. So the bottom line is that I did not learn anything memorable or monumental about nutrition or bodybuilding from Rheo H. Blair. I'm sorry, but I tried!
I know a gentleman who has been a customer of mine for 10 years who is pretty close to 70 and, of course, he went through the war years. When he first came to me, I trained him in Vince Gironda's methods and he owes his phenomenal look to Vince and obviously to eating right. We were talking about the old Iron Man Magazines that Rheo used to advertise in when Perry Raider was the editor. Rheo gave the impression, through his advertisements, that he invented dry milk and dry egg powder during wartime, which certainly disputes the fact that Rheo invented it. I did enjoy Rheo's sense of humor and I found him personable and comical. However, on your trek through life, you cannot truly like a man until you respect him. Respect is paramount to really liking a person. Although I did like many things about Rheo, I cannot say that I respected him due to such shenanigans as his mother's milk statements and giving people the impression that he invented milk and egg protein.
The Iron Guru
Now we come to whom I call "The Great Vince Gironda".
You have to remember that there were many, many people who did not like Vince at all but there were none that did not respect him for his knowledge. To me, that is the greatest tribute that you can pay a man. In my 25 years of selling Vince's courses, I have found that the people who are interested in his methods have a degree of intelligence and integrity. It's obvious that the people who are interested in taking Vince's courses and who talk to me have no interest in taking steroids.
They are dedicated people who work hard and don't like to cheat or harm their bodies. They just want to be healthy and they want a decent physique. On a recent phone order, a customer began to give me his Visa number. I told him that I would just ship the products and course materials with an invoice and he could send a check to me after he received the package. The customer was surprised by my trust in him. I explained to that in all my years of selling Vince's courses, I have never had one person stiff me on the payment because people that believe in Vince's methods are a different breed.
With the Masters and the Pro series being the most expensive, Vince created 17 manuals.
And, of course, Vince was big on supplements to be adjunct to size and definition. In his manuals it's just like a brilliant road map: How, when, why, potencies, etc. I have always told people that I guarantee them 100%.
I advise them to read his books and courses 2 or 3 times so that all the information sinks in and then to call me. I tell them that when they call me they are going to say who was ahead of his time. In all these years, I have only had one person who has asked for a refund stating that they were worthless but he did so after he unscrupulously copied the courses and wanted his money returned.
Studying Vince Gironda
As you all know, there is a reason for everything in this world. Maybe I can give you an insight into Vince as a person. I hope I'm correct in my assumptions. after I got to know him, I would go to California for a week or two every year, depending on my time off from my job at General Motors. I would stay in his gym as an observer and I saw many of the movie stars and the bodybuilders who worked out there.
One of the things I would do was study Vince.
I have always been a very analytical person. In college, my psychology professor always gave A's and noted my aptitude for the class. Psychology is really just common sense, analyzing a person by what you see of their emotions and how they react to different situations, where they were secure and insecure. Vince was barely 5' 8" and my opinion is that he had somewhat of a small man complex. That's not to say that tall men don't have complexes. As a 6'4", 170-pound kid, my stature was an easy target for people to pick on because I was tall but there was not much to me. One of the reasons I wear a beard today, as I have for many years, is to cover up the acne scars around my jawline. I had my face sanded twice and I most certainly had a complex.
It is not unreasonable to say that most bodybuilders are short to medium-sized people who have something physically to prove. I'm not saying that all have an inferiority complex, but they all do experience inadequacies as Vince did as a small man and as I did as a tall man.
Many emotions enter into the field of bodybuilding with these inadequacies so one wants to overcome these by being strong with large muscles. I believe that the Spanish term is macho. Under this heading are sexual prowess and the desire to attract the opposite sex. Through life, your efficiencies don't motivate you, but your inadequacies will motivate you to overcome them, which is the case with most bodybuilders. All the human emotions that come into play including love, hate, passion, betrayal, fear, insecurity have a lot to do with your physical size and strength and a multitude of emotional problems that we go through, especially when we're young.
Vince wanted to prove that he could be just as strong at 5' 8" as anybody who was taller. Interestingly, the one bodybuilder that he always admired was Steve Reeves.
It was established that Vince first opened his gym on Ventura Boulevard in North Hollywood around 1947. By the early '50s. Vince had one heck of a terrific, natural physique, natural being the keyword, so he had to know something about nutrition.
He always said, "Bodybuilding is 85% to 90% nutrition". Fact: He did know more than anyone at that time. Towards the middle '50s, he started to enter contests and he never did well because he was actually too ripped, too defined. He would always place 2nd, 3rd, or 4th. They had to give him something because he was very impressive but that type of physique was not in style at the time.
The Father of Modern-Day Bodybuilding
As I've said many times, and make no mistake, Vince Gironda was the father of modern-day bodybuilding. He is the one who took it from its primitive, ignorant state and elevated it to a science. This is something that is obvious when you read any of his courses.
After reading an article I wrote for Muscle Mag International, a gentleman sent a tape to me of a contest where some of the old-time bodybuilders of the early '50s posed. I can tell you that to this day, nobody could pose like Vince Gironda because he turned it into a total art form.
You will see many bodybuilders pose today and they are just copying from Vince. He was so head and shoulders above everybody else in his posing and in his physique, it was really almost funny.
I know of many bodybuilders who came to Vince's gym not only to train but also to pay homage to the man. When you pay homage to someone, that means your degree of respect for that person is totally monumental. It was a tragedy that his ripped, defined, symmetrical physique wasn't in vogue. Placing 2nd or 3rd and never really winning a big contest took its toll emotionally. Ray Reardon knew Vince since he was a kid and told me that this was extremely hard on Vince.
Drugs In Bodybuilding
By the middle '50s, when Vince was in his early 40's, he became bitter because that is when drugs started to seep into bodybuilding. I think his bitterness grew as he gave all of his knowledge to bodybuilding from the '50s to the '70s and it was apparent that nobody wanted to apply themselves naturally: They just wanted to take drugs to get big and to get cut up.
After all that took place is when Vince developed a caustic personality. He was fighting back and getting even for never being recognized and never winning a contest. A lot of the things he did, as a result, were not right, but he did them anyway. I've always said that Dr. John wrote a song about Vince because Vince "was in the right place, musta been the wrong time, he was on the right road, musta took the wrong turn." May I inject a comment? I have spoken and counseled by phone a man named David Griffin from Wales, United Kingdom, for two years. He just placed 4th in a world contest and everyone is asking him how he attained his unusual physique. The answer: Vince's methods and diet.
He was the smallest in his class and he isn't on the juice. One judge told him if he had a little more size, he would have one. Get the point?
Vince The Scientist
As the '60s rolled around, Vince became a scientist and researcher with his endeavors on his trial-and-error methods and getting data wherever he could find it.
He never accepted anything and he questioned everything. He would take data and he would spend weeks and months seeing if the data was correct or incorrect. If the data proved right, he would advocate it, if it proved wrong he would debunk it.
It was constant trial-and-error and, if you do read his courses, you will see what I'm saying.
There was a man that I mention in one of my articles by the name of Dr. Clifford Armeduri who was a doctor out of the East and he held Vince in such high esteem. He and I spoke on the phone a couple of times and he was amazed at Vince's knowledge, and his experiments and his tenacity when looking into every aspect of physical culture and nutrition. He had every one of Vince's courses and he marveled at them.
While Vince gave credit to the great Monte Wolford for showing him the sissy squat, Vince took the sissy squat and made that exercised a science. Monte wouldn't have recognized it!
He was the only person in the whole bodybuilding game that knew anything about kinesiology, how a muscle works, and he applied that knowledge. When he would pioneer a method that he personally didn't invent but rather enhanced, Vince always gave credit to the people who taught him. He was a very fair person and brutally honest.
I used to study his very small gym.
Every piece of equipment in there was designed to work a muscle a thousand over. He hated machines and would always question what a machine could create.
In the late '60s, early 70's there was a man out of DeLand, FL named Arthur Jones who was quite intelligent and invented the Nautilus machines. He opened Nautilus centers around the country. He had the cams that would create resistance on the extension as well as the contraction. It was these increased resistance machines that had the advantage over the machines used previously in bodybuilding, which really didn't do much good. The only reason I never liked the Nautilus machines is that you could only do an exercise one way and Vince proved that they weren't effective because they couldn't invoke muscle confusion.
If you had to invoke muscle confusion, then you'd have 10 machines for your biceps, 10 machines for your triceps, 10 machines for your delts and 10 machines for your chest. Get the picture?
Although they were fine for the average person trying to get a conditioning workout, they were worthless and impractical for bodybuilders.
I recall the middle or late 70's when some guy asked Vince why he didn't have more machines in the gym. Vince just ripped into him calling him an idiot because the machines couldn't create anything and that if he wanted machines, he should go someplace else. I also remember a similar conversation between Vince and another man about not having a radio in the gym. Now that was a scene!
Usually, Vince's gym was like the Comedy Castle with people always cracking jokes and laughing as they did their serious workouts.
In the later years, Vince was cranking out all of his knowledge and his courses such as the "File 1", the "File 2", "Blueprint for the Bodybuilder", his best exercises including the 10-8-6-15, the 6 Week Bulk Courses.There were other famous bodybuilders such as Bill Pearl and Arnold who were writing books about bodybuilding and I read all of them and, in many instances, I was embarrassed for a lot of these people. Not to mention any names, but their writings and knowledge, in my way of thinking, were just a joke. If you have the opportunity to read old-time bodybuilder articles, you may or may not agree with me regarding the lack of knowledge of some of the authors.
Through telephone conversations, I have become friends with a man by the name of Nelson Montana from New York City. He wrote The History of the Supplement Industry and The Pioneer of Bodybuilding. He has all of Vince's courses and he trains according to those courses and has a fabulous physique to prove it. You will see on my website that he states, "Vince was the archetypical know-it-all, but in Vince's case, he did know it all!"
I salute and thank Nelson for writing that. Right on! When you entered his gym, there was a nutritional and training information rack on the front door with numerous hand-typed articles. An old-timer at the gym told me that they had been there since the middle 1950s, years before Rheo H. Blair.
Vince The Buinessman...
Unfortunately, Vince was a terrible businessman and everybody knew it.
He did not love money that much because his passion was researching and teaching and knowledge. I have had people criticize not the content of his courses, but the simply typed and hand-drawn presentation and publication of them.
I let people know that I will never change them because that was Vince. He was not a fancy person and he did things the way he knew how and he communicated with you the way that he knew how.
Those courses have stood the test of time and they are still in their genuine infancy. They are plain and simple just like the man was. I will never touch them.
One fellow at a contest complained that I wanted $19.00 for "Vince Gironda Files: Part 1" because it's only 1/4 inch thick. I pointed out to him that there was a million dollars worth of knowledge in that 1/4 inch book and that this one is loaded with nutrition and diet information.
Vince The Pioneer
Vince discovered many monumental things in bodybuilding.
He understood that muscles had a lot to do with nerve force and he was the one who first mentioned the nerve force in muscles. He was the first one who advised against working your abdominals if you are trying to gain size because it will cause a shock to the solar plexus, the second brain of the body.I believe that the solar plexus is tied right into the nerve endings of the testicles, possibly causing your hormone levels to drop.
Vince was also the first one to state that sit-ups and leg raises don't make your stomach smaller, they make your stomach bigger and he stated that exercise does not reduce superfluous fat, it's all glandular function, thyroid, etc.
Along with Ed Yarick, Vince was one of the earliest to point out that squats would result in a big rear end and would ruin your physique.
He came out with how to break a rut with his 10-8-6-15 routine, which is just phenomenal.
He told people that even if they have been working out a year or two, they are overtraining just based on the longevity of their workouts so he came up with the concept of training for 21 days, then taking 7 days off to rest your physique. As an over trainer, that was a real boon to me.
He not only pioneered the sissy squat but he took it to another level.He took the research of German scientists and he invoked intensity into workouts. His theory was to work out like a sprinter, not like a long-distance runner. Get in the gym and get out. Make your workouts fast and brief.
He said that 99.9% of the people in the world over-train, which causes 'tonis'. Sadly, people laughed at him for using the terminology tonis but it is a medical term referring to how muscles get smaller if you over train.
He also invented burns for when you are on a definition diet: for every repetition at the top at the contraction, you do 6 quick burns, 1/4 reps to create definition.
He came up with the 21's or the 3 splits where you do a half a rep at the extension to 1/2 way and then you do 1/2 was on the contraction, you do 7 reps of each then you do a full complete extension and a complete contraction.
He came up with the palm grip where you never put your thumb around the bar because you are invoking the forearm in every exercise. This was a stroke of genius.
He was the one that told people to concentrate, to invoke autosuggestion, which is why he wouldn't allow music to be played in the gym. That is what prodded him to write "Why Do Champions Muscles Look Different?". It was the people who concentrated, who had to focus and that oneness of thought, who became champions. He smiled when I asked him if he studied with the Zen masters, leading me to believe that he did because he was so much into concentration.
He got his definition diet from the Eskimos, and it was from Stefanson's book, 'Not by Bread Alone', that he came up with the plan that for 3 to 5 days you take zero carbohydrates until you get light headed and your liver is devoid of glycogen, you carb up on the 3rd to 5th day at lunch then you go back on zero carbs and the last 7 days you go on nothing but meat and water.
On the Friday before the contest you carb up again and then you will get very vascular for the contest. He told people never to pump up before a contest because posing is pumping up and you can't pump up twice.
He told bodybuilders to take an enema on Friday before a competition to shrink their stomach and he told them to drink water in normal amounts and take amino acids all day.
He came up with the 8 sets of 8 reps and cutting the time down from 30 seconds to roughly 5 seconds between each set.
He originated synapse and no synapse, which are complete extension/complete contraction and never extend/never contract, respectively.
He told people to do one exercise per body part, don't over-train by doing 4 or 5 exercises per body part.
He also came up with the compounds, which is to take 2 exercises, do a set of one, then the other and do 4 sets of each until you have 8 sets of 8 reps, which was another brilliant theory that proved correct.
If you read those, you will realize that Vince was truly, truly something special.
Vince was not only a bodybuilder; he used to "toss the caper" which was an old Scottish strength game, he was a bike rider, including doing bicycle sprints, he was a swimmer and at 50 years old he ran the 100-yard dash in 10.9 seconds according to Ray Raridon! He was a gifted man in every aspect of physical culture.
In conclusion, I apologize to Rheo supporters, because although he was a nice man whose personality I enjoyed despite his exaggerations, he clearly, in no uncertain terms, did not compare to Vince Gironda.
While most people have forgotten about Rheo, Vince has stood the test of time and in the final analysis, this the true test!