Mentzer-Sharkey Enterprises, Inc. is very pleased to have internationally known Bodybuilding Author & Photographer, Garry Bartlett, on board as one of our contributors to www.Mikementzer.com. Garry has generously offered his never-before published photos of Mike Mentzer taken during several competition appearances that Mike made during the prime of his competitive career.
Garry has covered the professional bodybuilding scene as a photo journalist for the past 25 years, and his work has been published in just about every bodybuilding publication in the U.S., Germany, England, and Canada. He currently has a monthly column in Musclemag International. Following is an introduction written by Garry and his tribute to Mike Mentzer on the second anniversary of his death.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with me, I will give you a brief history of myself. My interest in bodybuilding began back in 1966, where I was the typical skinny 15-year-old kid who desperately wanted to build some muscle. Active in sports, especially Track & Field, I was always looking for some way to improve my performance. One day while visiting the local magazine store I spied a magazine published by the Weider Corporation entitled "All American Athlete"; in that magazine was an article devoted to improving your performance through weight training. That Christmas, I begged my parents into purchasing me a set of weights as a present. As a result of the pump, I experienced that first workout, I was convinced that something special was taking place with my body, and I was hooked.
I grew up on a farm in a small rural community on the East Coast of Canada, and back in the late 60's, weight training and bodybuilding were a mystery. In fact, I knew very few people who knew what it even was. However, I religiously followed the courses and never missed a workout. I bought every bodybuilding magazine available and read each issue from cover to cover, dreaming of the day that I would strut my stuff on the sunny beaches of Santa Monica with the current champs of the time. In reality, the cold harsh winters of New Brunswick, Canada were a far cry from sunny California.
Eventually, I moved to a city with a population of fifty thousand and began training at the local YMCA. One day while on my way to the gym I spied a small poster that read: 1975 New Brunswick Bodybuilding Championships. Encouraged by my wife and friends, I decided to compete, which set the wheels in motion for a career and adventure that would change my life forever! (I thought.)
At that contest, I met General Secretary of the IFBB, Winston Roberts. Over the years, we developed a strong friendship that has continued to this day, 28 years later. Winston lived and breathed bodybuilding, and our mutual passion only grew as the years passed.
Like many of you, I'm sure, I worshipped the champs featured on the pages of Weider's Muscle Builder/Power and Mr. America magazines. Of course, Arnold was everyone's idol back in the early 70's, but for me, one particular newcomer really caught my eye. This guy was of average height but had a stocky rugged look that to me epitomized the ultimate male physique. He was fresh, ruggedly built, handsome, and outspoken. Mike Mentzer, a new breed of bodybuilder was unafraid to challenge the established training methods and willing to debate any of the accepted theories. This charismatic, clean cut, educated spokesman was a breath of fresh air to a regimented system that had one believe that to build a championship physique, you practically had to live in a gym. Mike preached about a new training system that could build muscle in only 3-4 workouts a week not lasting for more than one hour. [This was not his final thought on the ideal routine.] Mike was the first superstar to publicly speak out against the practice of working out 3 to 4 hours a day. He was convinced that almost everyone over trained and would obtain much better results with briefer - but more intense workouts. He became an instant star with a huge following that grew to large numbers. He was a top favorite and featured in every bodybuilding magazine of the time. We couldn't get enough of this new champion. From the mid seventies to the early eighties, he had a popularity that rivaled Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In those days, I knew very little about photography but was determined to learn and practiced every chance I could at local contests. Bodybuilding is very visual and without photos to chronicle our sport, we would have nothing as a history or inspiration. The early days of my career in bodybuilding photojournalism began back in 1976, when Winston Roberts called inviting me to attend his promotion of the IFBB World Bodybuilding Championships in Montreal, Quebec. He promised that I would see many of the sport's current stars. That was all I needed to hear!
Up until then, the only contact that I had with the bodybuilding world was through the various muscle magazines. Imagine my total shock when upon entering the lobby of the official hotel, there - before me seated in the lounge area was Mike Mentzer. Mike was competing in the IFBB World Bodybuilding Champions. That weekend was the turning point in my life, as from that point on I embarked on a twenty-five year bodybuilding career in photojournalism that has taken me around the world, where I have photographed and written about all of the sport's top stars.
My first encounter with Mike was an amusing one. The day leading up to his world championship bid was spent hanging around the hotel lounge. He loved holding court in front of his fans. I took full advantage of this, using the opportunity to talk with Mike and to strike up a friendship. He was very friendly and found time for any fan who approached him. This guy had abundant charisma and plenty of personality to go with his physique, and we all loved hanging around him.
I still remember when one of the Weider people pulled the soon-to-be cover of the January 1977 issue of Muscle/Power magazine and handed it to Mike to take a look at! The photo of Mike that was on the cover was brilliant - and he looked like a God! His condition was superb, and the lighting made his granite hard muscles look even more formidable. After looking at it he seemed pleased with what he saw. He then looked up at me and asked if I would take it over to show bodybuilder, "Robby Robison". Robby was also a big name in the bodybuilding world back then and was favored to win his category of the World Championships. Unfortunately, both he and Mike were in the same class and would be competing against each other. Mike was so confident that he felt that Robby would freak out when he saw the photo of him on the cover. This would be a great tactic, in the game of psychological warfare. When I took the cover over to Robby and handed it to him, he just stared at it for the longest time without saying a single word. I went back and explained to Mike what was Robbie's reaction; he just grinned with that confident impish smirk that became his trademark. He realized that he had just won round one! Unfortunately, the next day, Robbie got even by winning the world championship with Mike finishing second.
Following the 1976 World Championships, Mike did go on to win in Mexico in 1978 turning Pro as a result of his win.
I followed Mike's career, as he was featured a great deal in the various bodybuilding magazines of the time. My next encounter was a result of his appearance at the 1979 Mr. Olympia in Columbus, Ohio, where he finished second to the fabulous "Frank Zane". The contest was very controversial, as many fans felt that Mike should have won. I wrote an article entitled "In defense of Zane" which was published in Muscle/Power magazine. It was my first published article and created quite a heated response, especially from Mike! He was not pleased with my criticism of his Olympia condition. From that point on, I expected a cold reception from Mike. However, I was shocked that instead of giving me a hard time, he did the opposite by singling me out and always asking my opinion of his condition. It was obvious that he respected my opinion and sought my approval realizing that I was one of the few writers who actually wrote what I really saw. Whether he agreed or not, Mike always respected those who were honest.
I still kick myself for not covering the controversial 1980 Olympia in Australia, where Mike finished a devastating fifth. From the many photos and reports, I am convinced to this day that he got robbed and should have won that show. The loss devastated him, and what was one of the finest physiques in bodybuilding history never stepped on stage again.
One of my biggest regrets was losing contact with Mike, especially when he needed friends the most. Unfortunately, we all scramble to worship and idolize the new champions. How quickly we forget those once great champions who drop out of the limelight. This is even more prominent in the sport of bodybuilding. Once former champs are gone from the stage and no longer grace the pages of the latest bodybuilding magazines, they are soon forgotten. I have to confess that this was the case with Mike. However, true greatness is not kept in the dark for long as evidenced by his tremendous popularity, which began back in 1993 upon the publication of Heavy Duty. For those serious fans of the sport who never really forgot Mike, this was all they needed to resurrect his popularity. By the mid-90's he was writing regularly for the various bodybuilding magazines, had consultations and in-gym clients, plus a fast growing mail order business.
I only wished, I could have spent some time with Mike reminiscing before he left us. It is unfortunate that one of our biggest human weaknesses is not to appreciate something until it is gone! As a tribute to Mike's greatness are the qualities that resurfaced through the debris of a shattered personality where demons were fought and vanquished. His solid foundation and perseverance for truth and fairness was his strength, and once again Heavy Duty rose to the top, becoming as popular as ever. Mike was suddenly the talk of the bodybuilding world as a new generation of fitness & bodybuilding buffs discovered a sane sensible system of training that really works. Ironically, since his death his popularity has grown even more where his knowledge is much sought after internationally.
I personally feel that Mike never came near his full potential as a Champion bodybuilder. His physique and type of rugged development was way ahead of his time, as he sported the thick powerful shapely muscles that win pro shows today. Back in the 70's & early 80's, ultra-ripped was in, and in spite of Mike's shocking physical dominance on stage, the judges didn't favor him. When writers describe him they forget to mention that he was one of the sports greatest posers displaying majestic poses that even today's monsters can't match. I have seen him pose for several minutes and never hit the same one twice. Mike Mentzer reigns as one of the sports most popular and controversial figures, and his legacy lives on in the minds and hearts of his legions of fans.
I was very honored and flattered when approached by Joanne Sharkey to contribute to Mike's official website as hosted by Mentzer-Sharkey Enterprises. As a tribute to Mike on the second anniversary of his tragic death, I am pleased to offer fans my rare unpublished photos of him during his competitive years exclusively through www.mikementzer.com. We are now in the process of choosing photo sets (2 per set), and they will soon be available to purchase through the Order Page at this website. Samples of my photos will be added to the Order Page very soon, where you can go to view these inspirational photos of this legendary star. These photos will be for the benefit of the Mentzer fans and are not intended to be used on or by any other website.
In closing, I must confess that I consider myself a very privileged and lucky individual to have briefly shared a passing moment with both Mike and Ray. It's my hope that through my reflections in this tribute, you will gain an even greater feeling as to the true character of Mike Mentzer.
Thank you for taking the time to read my tribute, and I hope that you will find my photographs very inspirational.
Photojournalist and Author
Send any inquiries via email to Joanne Sharkey at Mikementzerco@aol.com
Tribute and Photos © Copyright Garry Bartlett. All Rights Reserved. This tribute is written exclusively for www.Mikementzer.com at Mentzer-Sharkey Enterprises, Inc. and cannot be used without written permission.