Today marks yet another historic day in the chapters of bodybuilding history as another legend falls. Joe Weider of Muscle and Fitness, Flex, Shape, and Men’s Fitness fame, passed away this Saturday morning, March 23rd in Los Angeles as a result of heart failure after a two year long illness. For the entirety of his life however he will be remembered as a giant in the health and fitness industry, with a heart beating strongly for his passion – health and fitness.
My late husband Robert Kennedy, another giant in the fitness business, had much in common with Joe and Joe’s late brother Ben. Not only did they build the platform upon which the entire industry today rests but they transformed their own lives as well as the lives of countless millions along the way. One of the biggest names Joe built was that of Arnold Schwarzenegger – there is none bigger. Arnold rises to the top when it comes to bodybuilding but there are thousands who have made their way through the pages of these magazines and on to greatness. Bob always considered Joe his friendly competitive rival, as both duked it out with their brazen magazine publishing styles, vying for dominance on the newsstand and in subscriptions. Healthy competition is always good for customers even if it does challenge the entrepreneurs.
I have met Joe and his lovely wife Betty on many occasions, most recently at the late Jack LaLanne’s Celebration of Life. These gatherings, particularly for a newcomer in the fitness industry like me, were a wonderful mix of giants, legends and history. With a single glance around the room you could take in the likes of fitness icons like Joe himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, Rachel McLish, Joan Rhodes (the original strong woman who could tear a phone book in half), David Carradine and many more. I always felt completely humbled and honored to be sitting amongst these greats. I remember when I met Mickey Hargitay and his wife Ellen some years ago, how I felt that I was living a piece of history. Bob would never miss the opportunity to mimic Joe’s particular style of speaking causing everyone listening to look on in amazement as he did so. It was all in good fun.
Bob never lost his zest for life and creativity. At this last event for Jack, Bob strode across the room making a beeline for Joe. Bob had a way of looking at you with such intensity that if felt as though you were the only person in the room. He leaned down to Joe, who was seated at the table, gripped Joe’s hands firmly and made a pact to put out another magazine together. Bob challenged Joe to put up the money and Bob said he would create it. It would be a magazine about the legends. Joe gave a laugh as only Joe could and agreed that yes, they would get right on it. The two publishing icons laughed out loud for a time holding each other’s hands. No one knew then that Robert would be the next to go and Joe himself would join him today.
I may be a newcomer to this industry but my heart aches for the swiftness with which life changes. I miss Bob every day and I know Betty, her family and legions of men and women the world over will mourn Joe’s passing too.
I wish to extend my condolences and respect to the Weider family. The orchids you sent in Robert’s name last year are still standing in my living room, blooming once again.
Thank you Joe.
Tosca Reno Kennedy