Boyer Coe is one of the all time greats, winning such titles as AAU Mr. America, NABBA Mr. Universe, multiple IFBB Pro wins, IFBB Grand Prix winner and many more too numerous to list in one paragraph! His bodybuilding career spanned four decades. He competed against such luminaries as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Frank Zane, Mike Mentzer, Danny Padilla, Tom Platz, Lou Ferrigno and Robby Robinson, and won more titles than most of other pros could count.
Boyer was kind enough to take time to give the following in depth interview.
1. Q You won the Mr. America in 1969, already a veteran of several contests and a
slew of other titles. What was it like to win that show? Did it change anything
A. I won the AAU Mr. America Contest in 1969 in June in Chicago. It was satisfying in that it was a goal that I had set for myself some eight years earlier. In 1960 I was reading a copy of Strength & Health magazine; I notice that the new Mr. America was Red Lerille from Harvey, Louisiana. I remember telling my father, hey this guy from Louisiana just won the Mr. America contest, and perhaps one day I could accomplish the same thing. That was when the seed was planted. Later that year, Red was on his way to Dallas to give a posing exhibition, he had stopped in Lake Charles, La., my home town to visit a friend. His friend arranged for Red to be on the 6:00 evening news. They also said that same evening that he would give a posing exhibition at the local YMCA. I was only 14 at the time, but I knew there was no way in hell that I was going to miss out on this opportunity. Just as soon as my dad got home from work, I told him I just had to go the YMCA to see Mr. America. Poor guy, I didn’t even give him enough time to have his dinner. So off we went, picked up my best buddy and off we went to the YMCA. I remember that day so well. Red posed on top of an old massage table with just a posing light arranged last minute over a basketball goal. Everyone’s mouth hit the floor; we had never seen a real live bodybuilder in the flesh. I knew without a doubt this would be the path that I would follow in life. I never dwell too much on things, so I only remember accomplishing winning the Mr. America, but I also remember sitting in the dressing room after it was all over, I had already set my sites on accomplishing the NABBA Mr. Universe and what would I have to do to attain that.After thinking about this for a minute. The same month that I won the Mr. America Contest, I also graduated from college and also open my first business which was a retail health food store and shortly after I started my own nutrition company. So I did not really have much time to think about winning the contest.
Also, when I was 16 I had responded very fast to weight training, at the time I was training at Ray Roy’s Health Studio, the younger brother of the famed Alvin Roy. At the time I started appearing on a local TV show in Baton Rouge that Alvin was hosting. On one particular trip we stopped off in Lafayette to visit Red Lerille’s new gym, so I actually got to meet Red in person for the first time. I told him that as soon as I could graduate high school and move to Lafayette and learn everything I could from him. And what a friendship it has been. Red and I have become life long friends. He has always been my mentor and I over the years have really benefited from his counsel.
2. Q. You won multiple Mr. Universe and Mr. World titles afterward, but for several
years did not try your hand at the Mr. Olympia. Why was that?
A. After the AAU Mr. America, I was fortunate enough to win the NABBA Mr. Universe a few times and also the WBBG Mr. World titles that Dan Lurie promoted. You must remember even though Joe Weider had started the Mr. Olympia back in 1965, it was still not that big a deal as it is today. You must remember, it was the true legends of the sport, the likes of John Grimek, Steve Reeves, Reg Park and Bill Pearl all had won the NABBA Mr. Universe. It was THE contest to win. I will always remember how proud I was to be included in that group of men who are the real history of bodybuilding. Even thought Sergio Oliva, who had won the Mr. Olympia in 67, 68, 69 still wanted that title and entered in 1971, only to lose to Bill Pearl. Arnold won the NABBA Pro Mr. Universe for the second time before finally winning the Olympia the first time. I was more than content to compete in the Mr. Universe each year. The Mr. World Contest was always held about three weeks before the Mr. Universe. I always used it as a tune-up before going over to London. Without a doubt I have never been treated with more respect as when I competed in the Universe. I hold that organization in the highest regard. I would have never considered competing in the Mr. Olympia, had not Arnold called me and invited me to compete in the Mr. Olympia that he and Jim Lorimer were holding in Columbus in 1976.
3. Q. In 1977 you threw your hat in the ring so to speak and entered the Olympia
and placed high in the lightweight class though you didn’t win with the title
going to Frank Zane. What were your thoughts on that show?
A. To be completely correct, I entered the Mr. Olympia the first time in 1976. I did so because of two reasons, one because Arnold called and invited me and I knew Jim Lorimer even before Arnold met him. Jim promoted the 1967 AAU Mr. America, the year that Dennis Tinerino won. I knew him as a very capable organizer. Again he promoted the 1970 World’s Weight Lifting Championships and Mr. World Contest. The contest in 1970 was extremely interesting, in that Jim always thought of everything. On the Saturday night, Arnold, Franco, Dave Draper and I were in London to compete in the NABBA Mr. Universe. The next morning (Sunday) we flew back to New York, we arrived in New York, within minutes we were airborne on a private jet straight to Columbus to compete on Sunday night. I don’t know how Jim did it, but I don’t ever recall clearing customs when we arrive in New York. So I know that if Jim was involved it would be a first call contest.
4. Q. The next year you shocked everybody with your improvement at the 1978 show
and looked a threat to win it all. But there apparently was a problem with the
judging and you ended up an unlikely 4th? What happened at that show?
A. I have always tried to improve from contest to contest, after all that is what it is all about. You must remember, I never view myself anything more than just a student of bodybuilding always trying to learn and improve. My goal was to always be more than what I was, nothing more. I did believe that I was in good shape in 1978and thought that would place higher, years later in a book written by Rick Wayne, called Muscle Wars, he mentioned that I would have placed higher or even won, but for some reason that one judge forgot to add my score. I never had a chance to read the book, so I repeating this on the basis of someone who read the book.
5. Q. In 1979, Zane again won fighting a tough challenge from yourself and Robby
Robinson in the under 200lbs division and from Mike Mentzer who won the
heavyweight division. Reports were that Zane was at his best, but Mentzer,
yourself and maybe one or two more were bigger an d just as defined. What was
your view of this show?
A. In 1979, Zane won again, and of the three years that Zane dominated the Mr. Olympia I thought I looked the best that year. The big talk was about Zane and Mentzer, which was rightly so, both were heavily promoted by the magazines. I never really made a great deal of effort to do that, it just wasn’t my personality. I never really had any respect for most of the judges, so basically I just took the score that they gave me. You see, my great desire was just to see how much I could improve myself, after all a bodybuilding competition is just a matter of opinion who never had any idea of what it took to get to that level. The judges that I was trying to impress were a lot harder. I grew up with so damn good training partners. They spoke the real truth, and were much harsher in their assessment of my physique. Guys like Red, Shelton Leger, Charlie Spell, Chuck Crosby, Alan Nelson and Brunson Achiu were brutally honest. Many times I would be fortunate enough to win a competition only to find out that they thought I looked like hell and not as good as the time before.
I do remember in 1979, after the pre-judging, Red got back stage, who was always ultra conservative in assessing my physique. He calmly told me, hey you looked pretty good, and you just might win this thing. To me that was just as good as winning.
6. Q. Which brings us to the most controversial Olympia, the 1980 Olympia in
Sydney. Arnold Schwarzenegger made a surprise last minute return, taking back the title
over Zane, Mentzer, Chris Dickerson and yourself, all of whom many observers
felt were in better shape that year. Looking back- what happened? Who do you
think should have won that show?
A. I honestly think an equal case as for as controversial outcome could be placed on the 1972 Mr. Olympia held in Munich, Germany and again the very next year in 1981 held in Columbus, Ohio. I suppose that the 1972 Olympia is a little easier to explain in that it only boiled down to two men. In my humble opinion, I don’t believe there has ever been a more impressive physique on earth in the condition that Sergio Oliva attained. There are two photos of Sergio taken on stage by Albert Busek that are the most impressive physique shots ever taken. One is Sergio in his arms straight over head, known as his “victory pose” and the other is a front lat spread. On that day, in my opinion that is the best that Sergio ever looked and should have been awarded Mr. Olympia.
In 1981 I predicted this a year in advance, since I did not attend the contest in person, there is really no point in discussing this, this would be better addressed with some of the contestants who were actually in the contest. Shortly after the 1981 Mr. Olympia there were a number of Grand Prixs held in Europe, I recall being in Bruge, Belgium and Swansee, Wales. I do recall as we are traveling from one event to the other, Johnny Fuller, commented, “boy, Boyer, I sure wish we would have listened to you, you called the Mr. Olympia right on the money!”
This now brings us to your original question the 1980 Mr. Olympia. After 31 years, this has been debated to death, MOST by people who were not even born at that time, and ALL by people who were never there. Even the contest report written about the contest in Muscle & Fitness, by Ricky Wayne, was not even in Sydney, Australia. When I asked Ricky, “how can you write the contest report and not even be there?’ his answer was, “well I wrote what I thought happened.” Ricky did the very same thing, early the next year, 1981 when the IFBB held the Pro Mr. World Contest in Atlantic City. There was a big deal about the fact that I receive the first perfect score in a professional contest, yet he was not anywhere near Atlantic City. Truth be known, the guy that looked out standing to me was a guy by the name of Brunson Austin. I believe that was the only pro contest he ever entered, but I always believed that he could have won.
If you are really interested in the absolute truth about the 1980 Mr. Olympia I suggest your readers get hold of a copy of The Journal of Physical Culture, Volume 11, Number 1, and September 2009. This is the best article written on the subject by John Fair. It covers everything going all the way back to 1967, 1968 when the seed was actually planted. You can order a back copy by contacting Jan and Terry Todd who runs the Stark Center in Austin, Texas. www.starkcenter.org.
The only thing that I can add that probably has never been discussed was the issue of CBS network. In 1979 CBS signed a contract to film and air the Mr. Olympia for three years. In 1979, everything went off without a hitch, with the exception of one statement that Frank Zane made to Arnold on camera. Arnold was doing the color commentary. Arnold asked Frank, how does it feel to be Mr. Olympia. Frank answered “It feels almost as good as when I beat you.” That caught Arnold completely off guard and I don’t think he ever forgot that. You see, back in 1967 Frank did in fact beat Arnold in the IFBB Mr. Universe held in Miami, Florida.
Apparently, after CBS got good ratings for airing the Mr. Olympia, so the following year, they jumped in with both feet. About 10 days before the Olympia, CBS sent a film crew to film Frank Zane, Mike Mentzer, Dennis Tinerino and myself. They were hedging their bets as they figure one of us would win. They followed each of us around for a couple of days getting footage to make a nice piece in the event one of us would win. We left Los Angeles Airport a week in advance of the Mr. Olympia, all the contestants and film crew in tow on our way to Australia. Once we arrived in Sydney, it soon became apparent that there were two film crews. I thought that perhaps CBS had sent a back up film crew. As one crew was always in the gym that we trained at which was owned by Paul Graham. So a couple of days later, I asked the CBS producer, Sherman Egan, “Hey I see you have two film crews.” He had no idea as to what I was talking about. So the very next morning, I asked the guy behind the camera who are you working for? He really would not give me a straight answer, at that time, I knew something was up. I mentioned this to Mike Mentzer and Bill Pearl, but neither one knew anything about it. Later I learned that this was the attempt by Paul Graham to make a documentary titled the “The Comeback”, about Arnold. However he made one serious error, he never bothered to get a release from any competitor until AFTER the contest was over with. That is why when you do see it, the only other contestant that was featured in the film is Tom Platz, and apparently he was the only one willing to sign the release.
Now back to CBS. Two days after the contest was over with, I got a phone call from Sherman Egan asking me if I would come to a meeting with Frank, Mike, & Dennis. We met and he made it clear to us, even with his untrained eye, something was seriously wrong with the outcome of the contest and they would never even bother to edit and show this on CBS. He mentioned that if we were ever interested in seeing the raw footage of the contest, he invited us the CBS corporate office in New York. Later that year I was in New York, so on a cold, rainy Saturday afternoon, Wayne DeMilia, his wife Karen, Chris Dickerson and myself viewed the footage. It was even worst that I remembered it. Needless to say, CBS was still under contract to film the 1981 Mr. Olympia. They did make good on the contract and paid the IFBB their agreed fee, but did not even bother to send a film crew to the contest. To my knowledge CBS has never covered a bodybuilding event since. Additional thought- I can tell you this, not a single person who was involved in the 1980 Mr. Olympia could care one way or the other about the outcome today. And why should they, it was 31 years ago, and after all it was just a contest. I think people should just let it be forgotten.
I will agree with Dorian Yates, when he recently commented on the internet. He said that all people who hide behind the keyboards on these blog sites should be required to use their real names and post an actual photo of themselves. It seems that these individuals have too much time on their hands and have opinions about everything and love to degrade everyone. It is my understanding that most everything that is presented is negative.