As a kid in Graz, Austria, Schwarzenegger played soccer, ran and wrestled. He always seemed to have more energy than his friends, and at the age of 15 he had a vision—as others might see Christ—of himself standing on a stage, winning the world body-building championship. Against the advice of parents and peers, young Arnold devoted his life to that goal, training an unprecedented six hours a day. At the age of 19, he moved to Munich and won the European body-building championship. He turned pro in 1969 and was runner-up for the title of Mr. Olympia. The next year he won and was never thereafter seriously challenged.
That Schwarzenegger has achieved the most remarkably developed physique anyone can remember is one thing, but even more amazing is the way he has punctured the most enduring myths of body building, while at the same time endearing himself to the arbiters of chic—Jackie 0. was among those who helped him celebrate the New? York premiere of "Pumping Iron." With sass and wit, Schwarzenegger offers himself as living disproof that strong men must be either dumb or homosexual. He insists that discipline is unnecessary and that booze, drugs and even garbage food are perfectly all right as long as one's head is screwed on straight. Schwarzenegger's secret, he lets everyone know, is as much mental as physical: "The two together—the connection—that's where it's at, whether you're doing a bench press, a business deal or just f***ing." The irony here goes way past bar bells. In this era of pop psychology, Werner Erhard, Dr. Wayne "Your Erroneous Zones" Dyer, the Reverend Moon and others have all taken their best shots, but Schwarzenegger has actually done it—brought body and soul together, and, in the process, very nearly redefined what we mean by self.
Appropriately enough, Schwarzenegger is a combination of high energy and a style best described as laconic no-bullshit. After several weeks on the road with him, free-lance writer Peter Manso reports: "Initially I figured it would take a while to adjust to the sheer physical presence of the guy, but that wasn't so. He doesn't appear particularly monstrous, although he's definitely not the kind of fellow I'd like to pick a fight with. First and foremost, Schwarzenegger is a European, with the manners and humor to match, although his willingness to discuss his body may be a result of his past six years of California living. In any case, never before in my life have I had the nerve to ask somebody the size of his cock. That was not, of course, my first question."
oui: You've spent most of your life turning your body into a model of excellence. Why? What does having the world's greatest body mean to you?
SCHWARZENEGGER: It means that I'm somebody special. What drove me to become the world's greatest bodybuilder is no different from what drives other athletes to become great tennis players or boxers or jockeys. I didn't get into body building until I was 15, and, at the time, my parents thought I was crazy to get deeply involved with something for which there was so little precedent in Austria. They even thought of sending me to a psychiatrist. They couldn't see any future in the sport; but there I was, lifting weights two or three hours every day.
oui: Did you have any idea then that body building would eventually bring you fame and fortune?
SCHWARZENEGGER: No, not really. I was just locked into the idea of winning the world championship in body building. As time passed, I began to see it as a way out of Austria, an escape from the everyday life around me. I'd look out my parents' window and see people talking over a cup of coffee for two hours or more, and I knew it wasn't for me. My father was the local police chief and he led a very regular life. I became determined to make it without working from nine to five. Sports, I thought, was the only way to act out.
oui: But, at the time, were there really any bodybuilders who were making a living from the sport?
SCHWARZENEGGER: There was a guy named Reg Park. He's an Englishman who now lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, and he was my idol. He was publicized in the muscle magazines as a businessman and movie star, and the combination of the two so impressed me that all I could think of was winning the Mr. Universe title the fastest way possible. The basic problem, though, was that the Americans had an enormous advantage. Every Mr. Universe had come from America and, as it later turned out, I was the first one to break that pattern.
oui: Why were the Americans so successful? Was it a question of having more money?
SCHWARZENEGGER: No, it was because the Americans had all the confidence. Theirs was a mental superiority, the feeling that they owned the title. But in Austria, the mentality was the reverse; winning against the Americans was unthinkable. By the time I was 15, though, I had a vision of absolutely wiping everybody off the stage. I had no idea, really, of what a stage even looked like, but I saw myself standing there, posing and winning.
oui: An epiphany, a dream?
SCHWARZENEGGER: A dream, yes, though not at night. It was just like having a vision—you know, like when you hear a person say, "I saw Jesus and he talked to me, and now I'm so happy with life because I know I'm going to be taken care of," and all of a sudden he's relaxed, he's not haunted anymore—well, it was like that.
oui: When was this visionary sense of yourself confirmed?
SCHWARZENEGGER: When I was 18 and still in the army, I entered the European body-building championship and won. It was my first competition and, even though it was the junior division, I instantly felt like King Kong, as if I'd already won the Mr. Universe title—which, in fact, I did win a year later. The title itself wasn't so important to me as the lifestyle it brought with it. I was living in Munich at the time, hanging out with night people—entertainers, hookers and bar owners—and I had a girlfriend who was a stripper. I was an innocent boy from a farm town, but I grew up fast in Munich. Then an American promoter wired me to come and compete in the States.
oui: Was your training affected by the drinking and screwing around?
SCHWARZENEGGER: No, because having a good time is not nearly so damaging as people think. I'm constantly amazed when people ask me about discipline. Discipline is what you use when you don't want to do something, when you have to force yourself.
oui: You lift five and six tons daily because you enjoy it?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Yes, because I want to. Do you have to discipline yourself to have breakfast, lunch or dinner? Of course not; and so discipline—the usual concept of it—doesn't apply here. I had to discipline myself to learn English, but never to train.
oui: You never had to push yourself?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Absolutely not; at least, not the way most people think. I love body building. I positively get off on it. When you lift weights, there's a certain point in the repetitions at which it really starts aching—where you can't go on any further, and the body starts shaking, and you know you have to press one more time. That's where the satisfaction is: in going that one step further. That's why it gets painful. It's also what makes a champion. If you can't go through that pain period, that dead point, then competitively you won't make it.
oui: How do you deal with the pain?
SCHWARZENEGGER: I look forward to it, and when it starts, I tell myself that I have to go through this because damn few people can. It's like any other sport: You have to do what nobody else can do, and the only way is to push yourself past the limit.
oui: Do you have a training partner?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Yes. He helps push you through the pain periods. The relationship between the two of you is very close—closer than most marriages, in fact—and he has to understand when you're trying to chicken out, as well as when you really have to put the weights down, when you absolutely can't go on. He's looking after your body as if it were his own. Sometimes your body really gets bombed out: You try to go through this pain thing, but your body won't push the weight, and your partner will help you with his fingers just enough so that you can handle it. He'll stand behind you and lift with his fingers and make it possible—but just barely possible—for you to make the lift, and then on the next repetition, maybe he'll help a little bit more.
oui: With just his fingers on the bar?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Just with the fingers, yes. Maybe he's lifting five pounds, maybe only a single pound, but it can make all the difference. What it means is that somebody is helping, paying attention and really giving you his energy. It's all vibes: The two of you are out to conquer, to win. The two of you become a unit. You're working and nobody can get into your territory—it's that type of thing.
oui: It sounds as if your relationship with your training partner is so close that you wouldn't have much energy left for other relationships.
SCHWARZENEGGER: No. My training. belongs to the gym, period. When I walk out, it's an absolutely different thing. I lived with a woman for five years, a very smart lady who teaches English at a college in California. She finally split when I went into the film business, not because of the training.
oui: Still, you talk about the workouts as if they were taking place in a temple.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Yes and no. There's often a point where you say, "It's getting too intense here." Your partner might be a little scared of the next set because you've been pushing him too hard, so you'll crack a joke and go over to somebody else and bullshit a little. Then you talk him into it. The best example I can think of was one day when Franco Columbu walked into the gym, went down into a squat with 500 pounds on his shoulders and couldn't come back up. Someone had to lift the weight off. I reminded Franco that four people from New York were watching the great Franco Columbu, the world's strongest bodybuilder, crashing down under a mere 500 pounds. "Franco," I told him, "this is very embarrassing. There are a lot of people here watching and they think that the muscle magazines are all bullshitting." He looked around and started breathing heavily, so I pushed it further. I bet him $20 in front of everybody that he couldn't do another repetition and then offered an additional $50 if he could go on and do eight reps. "Bullshit!" he screamed. "I did it a few weeks ago and I can do it again." Out of the door he went, took a few deep breaths and came back to do ten repetitions with the same weight—not eight but ten. Do you think his body changed? No; his body was the same, his power was the same, but he was motivated. He ripped the weight out and just started going up and down as if there were no end, as if he were going to do 50 repetitions.
oui: Can you push yourself too far?
SCHWARZENEGGER: I've torn pectoral muscles, fibers in my knee, in my thighs, and once I had to have an operation to repair torn cartilage. Generally you let muscles heal by themselves or get cortisone shots. Injuries happen when your mind is beyond your body, largely when you think you're King Kong and lift weights heavier than the body can handle. At the same time, though, we generally manage to have a good time. Bodybuilders party a lot, and once, in Gold's—the gym in Venice, California, where all the top guys train—there was a black girl who came out naked. Everybody jumped on her and took her upstairs, where we all got together.
oui: A gang bang?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Yes, but not everybody, just the guys who can f*** in front of other guys. Not everybody can do that. Some think that they don't have a big-enough cock, so they can't get a hard-on. Having chicks around is the kind of thing that breaks up the intense training. It gives you relief, and then afterward you go back to the serious stuff.
oui: What do you think about when you look at yourself in the mirror? Does your body become something outside yourself, an object?
SCHWARZENEGGER: It's outside of me and also part of me. I don't say, "Arnold, how do you look?" but rather "Let's check out this body in the mirror and see what it looks like today." Professionally, I have to be detached in order to be critical of it. I don't criticize myself; I criticize my body.
oui: With a body as perfect as yours, it seems strange to hear you talk of criticizing it.
SCHWARZENEGGER: From the bodybuilder's point of view, my physique was perfect when I won my last title; yet I felt it could have been better. It's true that I was in perfect proportion, but I weighed 228 pounds and I wanted to be 240, overall just bigger. If you keep the proportions, bigger is always better. The goal is to carry the weight but keep the proportion and symmetry.
oui: Does that mean that 300 pounds would be better than 240?
SCHWARZENEGGER: No, because it wouldn't fit my height. I'm 6'2", and 240 pounds is the perfect weight for me.
oui: Wouldn't your head be out of proportion if you weighed 240 pounds?
SCHWARZENEGGER: No. Visually that can be taken care of very easily. All you have to do is let the hair grow and you have a bigger head. Also, in competition, the judges concentrate only on your physique. More than one Mr. Universe was an ugly son of a bitch.
oui: Is your cock disproportionate to the rest of you?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, that depends on what you mean by disproportionate. The cock isn't a muscle, so it doesn't grow in relation to the shoulders, say, or the pectorals. You can't make it bigger through exercise, that's for sure. Besides, I've never even heard of a bodybuilder who's tried to make his bigger.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Really, though in my case, women have told me they're curious about its size—you know, outgoing chicks who're just trying to be outrageous or horny. I hear all kinds of lines, including "Oh, you're hurting me; you're so big." But it means nothing. Bodybuilders' cocks are the same size as everyone else's.
oui: Many people think that bodybuilders see their physique as an instrument for getting laid. Is that true?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Are you asking if my basic motivation in building my body was to pick up girls? That's ridiculous. There are many easier ways to pick up girls, believe me. Of course, I do use what I have when it comes in handy. If nothing else, my body's a conversation piece.
oui: Are you embarrassed by that?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Not at all. A girl can talk about my nose, my teeth or my accent—anything that gets a conversation going is fine with me. It is weird, though, the way women respond to my body. Maybe 50 percent respond positively right away, while another 25 or 30 percent need a while to adjust to my size and to realize that ordinarily my muscles are soft, just like anyone's, only bigger. A number of women, however, will say, "You're way too big for me; I don't like that."
oui: What kinds of women generally come on to you?
SCHWARZENEGGER: I can't categorize them. I've been approached by waitresses, stewardesses, teachers—come to think of it, there have been a great many teachers, women who are smart. Their trip is such a mental one that they are often attracted to men who are big and muscular.
oui: Do you feel exploited by such women?
SCHWARZENEGGER: No, I'd feel used only if I didn't get something out of it. If a girl comes on strong and says, "I really dig your body and I want to f*** the shit out of you," I just decide whether or not I like her. If I do take her home, I try to make sure I get just as much out of it as she does. The word exploited therefore wouldn't apply.
oui: Do you think that your familiarity with your body gives you a sounder mind sexually?
SCHWARZENEGGER: I don't have any sexual hang-ups, but I'm sure there are bodybuilders who have trouble with sex, and obviously the body building hasn't helped. Still, if you're in touch with your body, you certainly have an enormous sexual advantage. The mind-body connection is the same in sex as it is in training. If I tell myself to train the thighs, then the calves, it's boom, boom, mind-thighs, mind-calves, mind-this, mind-that. And it's the same with f***ing—mind-cock. You're in touch. You realize you have a body. Ninety percent of the people, though, don't realize that there is anything below the head. They think that the head is carried around by something very mysterious, and they're not aware that it's the body, something they should be in tune with.
oui: Stirling Moss, the British racing-car champion, claimed that he'd never f*** the night before a race because it would sap his competitive drive. Does anything like that apply to bodybuilders, say, on the eve of the Mr. Olympia contest?
SCHWARZENEGGER: I get laid on purpose. I can't sleep before competition and I'm up all night, anyway, so instead of staring at the ceiling I figure I might as well find somebody and f***.
oui: Doesn't it take the edge off your performance?
SCHWARZENEGGER: No, why should it? For ten years, I've been building a physique. It's not going to run away after one night. What Moss and others are talking about is a totally mental thing: If you feel that something's going to affect your body, then it definitely will. I've always found that sex gives me a kind of calm, and I'm much more in control because of it. It's the same for friends of mine who are also top bodybuilders. The guys who are working their way up often say they have to sleep ten hours a day and they try not to get laid more than three times a week, but, sooner or later, most of them find out that all this means shit. Whether you sleep two hours or ten, get laid a dozen times a week or not at all, eat three meals or five, at the end of the week you look absolutely the same; there's no difference.
oui: So you believe in writing your own rules?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Exactly. There are bodybuilders who are afraid of indulging in sex or even of playing other sports for fear of harming their bodies. I think that's silly. What's the use of building your body if you don't use it? At the Mr. Olympia contest in 1972, we had girls backstage giving head, then all of us went out and I won. It didn't bother me at all; in fact, I went out there feeling like King Kong.
oui: This business of feeling like King Kong—is it your act to psych everyone out so they know you're King Kong?
SCHWARZENEGGER: In the past five or six years, I haven't had to do that, but I used to do all kinds of numbers in the gym just to make it clear that I was the best. Gold's gym has produced ten or 12 Mr. Americas, and obviously there were guys there who wanted to take the Mr. Universe title away from me. What I do is make them feel great. I tell a guy that he's never looked better, that he looks brilliant, fantastic. "Your deltoids! And how did you get the tan and the proportion? I'm positive that you'll place; you'll beat Frank; I think you'll even beat Corney. You can easily beat this guy and that guy. I'm certain you'll go all the way—to second place."
oui: Is there a code of dos and don'ts in a championship?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Of course; but when you become a star almost anything goes. It's like Ali doing something dirty in the ring—not many people are going to take it too seriously. You're not supposed to talk while you're posing, for example, yet I used to do it all the time and it would blow the other guys' minds. If we were going through the compulsory poses—a double-biceps pose, say—I'd just turn to the guy next to me and say, "What a shame, what a disadvantage for you," or I'd psych him in reverse by aying that the disadvantage was mine, that he was definitely going to be the one to win. Once, I even sent a guy offstage. He was enormous, really fantastic, and the audience was screaming for both of us, so you knew it was going to be close. After about 15 minutes of posing, I told him I thought I'd had enough and that we ought to quit, just walk off. He agreed, turned around and left and I just stayed on. The audience immediately turned against him and I won—my first Mr. Olympia title, in 1970.
oui: What percentage of bodybuilders is gay?
SCHWARZENEGGER: The percentage of gays is the same, probably, as anywhere. Most bodybuilders are straight, regular street guys, though a lot aren't serious. Many in California are punks, beach bums just lying around in the sun and maybe collecting unemployment.
oui: Many people think that bodybuilders eventually become muscle-bound. Is this true?
SCHWARZENEGGER: The general definition of being muscle-bound is that you have so many muscles that you can't move freely. I don't know of any bodybuilder in that category; in fact, many of them are quite active in other sports. Columbu, for instance, was the Italian boxing champion. Ken Waller was a football player and Mike Katz played for the Jets. Robbie Robinson runs the 100-yard dash in 9.3 seconds. When the Russians were lifting weights in preparation for the Olympics—for the shot-put, the hammer throw and things like that—the Americans picked up on it immediately. Then there's the Russian master weight lifter, Alexiev. Do you know what speed it takes to do a snatch, to lift a 700- or 800-pound bar bell so fast that you can raise it over your head? Alexiev can't run because he weighs 375 pounds, a weight he needs in order to handle the bar bell. The Olympic decathlon champion, Bruce Jenner, is one of the world's best athletes. When training for the Olympics, he lifted weights for two hours daily, squatting with almost 500 pounds. The idea of a muscle-bound freak is nothing but a myth.
oui: Do you look at other people's bodies as objectively as you look at your own?
SCHWARZENEGGER: No, I look at bodies differently in the gym than I do elsewhere. For example, many women seem to have hang-ups about going out with me because they feel they have to be in the same shape that I am. If they're overweight, they're insecure, because they don't understand that I don't look at women the same way I look at myself. I'm a competitive bodybuilder; I'm not training just to be healthy. Ninety-five percent of the people training with weights are into this health thing, and it's a different mentality entirely. As far as I'm concerned, it's bullshit; otherwise I wouldn't drink. I make my protein drink with whiskey. People think I'm crazy, but that's the way I am. I get stoned, I do my own thing.
oui: Do you use dope?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Yes, grass and hash—no hard drugs. But the point is that I do what I feel like doing. I'm not on a health kick. I know I should take vitamins, for example, but I forget half the time. I just can't be bothered carrying around a lot of little bottles. Once I get outside the gym, I forget all about body building. I can look at a chick who's a little out of shape and if she turns me on, I won't hesitate to date her. If she's a good f***, she can weigh 150 pounds, I don't care.
oui: Do you get freaked out by being in such close contact with men in the gym?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Not at all. When I was playing soccer at the age of 14, the first thing we'd do before going out onto the field would be to climb up on one another's thighs and massage the legs; it was a regular thing. None of us had a thought of being gay, absolutely not, and it's the same with most bodybuilders. Men shouldn't feel like fags just because they want to have nice-looking bodies. Another thing: Recently I posed for a gay magazine, which caused much comment. But it doesn't bother me. Gay people are fighting the same kind of stereotyping that bodybuilders are: People have certain misconceptions about them just as they do about us. Well, I have absolutely no hang-ups about the fag business; though it may bother some bodybuilders, it doesn't affect me at all.
oui: Is there a broader acceptance of the body these days, as an offshoot of the sexual revolution of the Sixties?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Yes. I've been in America for only eight years, but there's been a change and it's getting better. It's happening in Europe, too. People are more at ease with their bodies.
oui: Being at ease is one thing, but whatever possessed you to pose for the Whitney Museum?
SCHWARZENEGGER: A woman from The New York Times had been doing a piece on body building. She came to the gym and asked if Corney and I would pose at the museum. I thought at once that it was a terrific idea. I'd always wanted to tell people that when I work on my body I'm thinking about classical sculpture, so I jumped at the chance to show off body building as an art form. After the show, a lot of people came backstage and said it was fantastic, that they'd never thought of body building as art before.
oui: Didn't you feel like a pet monkey performing for the East Side ladies?
SCHWARZENEGGER: No, I felt great because I was the first athlete to be in a museum displaying his work of art, which just happened to be my physique. Overall, it was a great success. What does piss me off, though, is when people try to trick me into going to parties. You know, rich people in Beverly Hills who want to make the gossip columns.
oui: Now that you've retired from professional body-building competition and are concentrating on acting, don't you need the Hollywood publicity?
SCHWARZENEGGER: If that's the kind of publicity I have to depend on, I'm a sad, sad case. I don't choose my friends for publicity purposes. Jon Voight, Warren Beatty, Sylvester Stallone—I've gotten to know these people and they're a lot of fun. Stallone's into body building, and Jack Nicholson had a birthday party for me after we finished Stay Hungry. All my bodybuilder friends were there, really a mixed crowd—actors, bodybuilders, weight lifters, karate guys and writers—and it was great. The other kind of party, though, where someone's trying to rip you off—no, thanks.
oui: Are you serious about becoming a professional actor?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Yes, I've been going to acting school and I know that this is what I really want to do. At the moment, I'm looking for the right vehicles, and I pretty much know what I want. Do you know Hemingway's short story The Killers? I'd like to do a remake, play the guy the two mobsters are after—the Swede. I realize there's only one Arnold in the world, that there's never been an Arnold before, and the one thing that won't work on the screen is my being an ass-kicker. If Robert De Niro kills in Taxi Driver, it's perfect, because he's a little guy and people are 100 percent behind him. For me, that isn't the right kind of role, because I'm big and therefore I have to play the opposite kind of guy. When you build a career, you should never imitate anybody. If there's one thing I ought to do, it's the unexpected. Whether it's The Killers or something else, I probably should play the victim.