Editor’s Note: Rick Wayne was the keynote speaker at this week’s opening of the ITF Junior International Tournament. Following is the speech he delivered:
Ladies and Gentlemen: Our MC Reds Pereira neglected to introduce my recently acquired best friend Mr. Cane . . . but that we can leave for later—for when I come to that part of this little rap session relating to war wounds.
Right now, I want to tell you about our island’s greatest living hero, Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott. At any rate, about a particular day when I was a third-form student at St Mary’s College and Mr. Walcott was at the blackboard, chalk in hand, determined to teach me and my fellow heathens how to draw something called a skyscraper—which of course none of us had ever laid eyes on, save in pictures.
Meanwhile, I was daydreaming my favorite dream that had absolutely nothing to do with art or with architecture. In my dream, a recurring one, I lived in the United States. In Santa Monica, California, in an apartment a stone’s throw from Venice Beach, especially famous as the playground of the young, the beautiful and the tanned. And the stoned, I might add. Of course I didn’t find out about that last mentioned category from the magazine that lay in my lap unseen by my art teacher Mr. Walcott. I had to discover the particular truth for myself. But that, as I say, is for another show!
On the cover of my magazine was a color photograph of a young man just 21 years old, who had recently been declared Mr. America. At just 12 or 13, I had already made up my mind there was nothing in the whole world I wouldn’t do to develop a body such as decorated the cover of my magazine. That incredible physique, ladies and gentlemen, belonged to Steve Reeves, destined to win the Mr. Universe title in London, England, and then go on to become legendary as the star of the greatest Hercules movies ever made; among them the classic Hercules Unchained.
Of course, in the Saint Lucia of my boyhood there were no gyms, no spas, no . . . I could spend the rest of the evening listing the things Saint Lucia did not have back in the day. But we more than made up for our shortcomings: we had, as we do now, the most beautiful beaches and the almost always tranquil and inviting Caribbean Sea. Every Sunday morning my friends and I would take over a section of the Laborie beach, to engage in hours of teach-yourself gymnastics, noisy arm wrestling, bare knuckle boxing and so on. I especially enjoyed our pushups contests in the blazing sun. Ah, to be young again . . . and absolutely nuts.
Once a month we had ourselves photographed mimicking the favorite poses of the star bodybuilders featured in the magazines we borrowed from the Soufriere library and forgot to return. By age sixteen I had built myself a pretty impressive physique that attracted much positive attention. But I was still a long, long way from looking like the man on the cover of my earlier mentioned magazine. And I knew the reason why: Steve Reeves had built his magnificent musculature lifting weights, not by doing countless pushups and wrestling friends on blistering hot sand.
But as already noted, in the time of which I speak there were no gymnasiums on this island. Or stores that sold barbells and dumbbells. Even if there had been, my friends and I certainly didn’t have the necessary funds. Neither did our parents who considered all that bodybuilding stuff a waste of time, anyway, if not altogether perverted. We had one other choice: we’d make our own weights. And we did, from molten lead. Two or three pairs of the crudest dumbbells you ever saw, none quite the intended poundage. From a particular garage operator we acquired a couple of rusty car axles and used them as barbells. My uncooperative family’s backyard was our open-air gym.
Yes, this was how I started out on the way to my dream of being the next Steve Reeves. The road led to England, where I took my first workouts in a real gym, where I won my first bodybuilding titles, from Mr. Home Counties to Mr. Britain, where I prepared for my first attempt at becoming Mr. Universe. The last mentioned event was staged in Paris, France. The best I could do on that outing was second place. And boy was I miffed. For whatever reason, I’ve never been able to settle for anything less than Number One. Sore loser? You bet. Show me a guy who is happy being second or third and I’ll show you a guy who’ll never make first place.
Eventually I started going up against the big boys in the States, usually in New York where I won the Mr. World award three times, Mr. America twice and Mr. Universe three times.
I met the publisher of the magazine that I earlier mentioned, the one with Steve Reeves on the cover. His name was Joe Weider and his company promoted the most important bodybuilding events in the world. Soon I was contributing articles to his Muscle Builder magazine, also published in the UK, and several other countries. I was booked for exhibitions all over Europe. In the meantime I discovered I could deliver fairly impressive versions of hit records by Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis and so on and would perform them for my audiences. Then a talent scout from Pye Records offered me a recording contract. From humble beginnings with my crudely fashioned lead dumbbells I was now doing pretty good for myself as a regular contributor to a popular magazine that was published in several languages. I was in demand as a professional bodybuilder and, yes, as a rock singer performing on the same stage as some of the day’s hottest showbiz names.
Then Joe Weider snatched me from his UK company and made me the editor of Muscle Builder, at its main office in New York. But just before that I was invited to meet a young Austrian who was in London to take his first shot at the Mr. Universe title. He was 19 years old then and could speak not a word of English. When we met backstage at London’s Scala theater, we needed an interpreter. Luckily his German friend, another bodybuilder named Helmut Rudmeyer, spoke fluent English.
Whenever I tell this story, I always remind my audience that I was the superstar at the time and my Austrian friend merely one of my fans. How quickly things changed. His first translated question to me was: “Do you believe it’s possible for a man to get anything he wants out of life?” I’m afraid I answered too quickly. I said, no. Moreover, that to think otherwise was downright silly.
From his prone position on his dressing room floor he looked up at me with a knowing smile: “Well, you’re wrong about that, Ricky Wayne. I truly believe a man can get whatever he wants, if he wants it badly enough, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to get it!”
I laughed. As hard as I would laugh several years later when we were both California residents and he told me he’d been asked to appear in a movie, never mind his horrid pronunciation of simple English words. By then we had become very close friends. I wrote most of the articles in Weider’s magazines that featured his by-line.
We were often invited together to address seminars in various parts of the world. Oh, he was good. By then his English had improved tremendously, if not his accent. He still sounded as if he were gargling Listerine. Yes, so having revealed to his seminar audiences the secrets to building monster biceps and massive pecs and barn-door lats, he would then sign off this way: “Always remember you get out of life what you put into it. You can be whatever you want to be if you are prepared to pay whatever the price demanded. And if you are especially lucky, you’ll get a Kennedy woman to marry you.”
Oh, did I mention my friend’s name? Who else could I be talking about but Arnold Schwarzenegger, aka The Terminator and former Governor of California.
Arnold’s career also started quite humbly in Gratz, Austria, and in Munich. I recall him inviting me, while I was on a visit to Essen for an exhibition, to join him and some of his buddies for lunch at a particularly posh restaurant. When it came time to pay the bill, Arnold grunted something in German and everyone lazily rose from their chairs and casually walked out. Everyone but Arnold, that is, who stayed at the table, evidently checking the bill.
When he noticed me still in place, he gave me a quizzical look, then signaled with his thumb that I should follow the others. I did as directed but they were nowhere to be seen. They had vanished. Then around the corner several yards from the restaurant’s front entrance I saw one of them signaling me to hurry up and join them. Minutes later, Arnold came belting down the street, all 230 pounds of him, like some rhinoceros in jeans, a screaming waiter hot on his heels. Alas, he never stood a chance. We boarded Arnold’s truck and that’s all she wrote.
I learned later that, just for the hell of it, Arnold and his apostles had pulled the same stunt at several other restaurants all over Germany: having devoured a ton of steak and potatoes, to say nothing of the rivers of beer guzzled, they’d get up and leave without paying. As I say, oh for those not-so-lazy crazy days when we were young and could run like hell despite our overloaded bellies.
I worked at Weider’s for some 25 years. One afternoon, as the boss and I were putting the finishing touches to the next issue of our magazine, Joe took a phone call. After several minutes, he said: “Hey, come over here, Rick, someone wants to talk to you.”
He handed me the receiver. “Hello,” I said, “this is Rick Wayne.” And the voice on the other end asked, obviously feigning awe: “Is this the Rick Wayne who is the most exciting writer in all of bodybuilding?”
“Well, thank you,” I said. “What can I do for you?”
And the caller said: “You can help me write the story of my life. I’m no writer myself, but a publisher is willing to pay me good money for a book. You can collect the advance and we’ll split the royalties. What do you say? By the way, my name is Steve. Steve Reeves.”
We later met to seal the deal. He looked nothing like the picture on the cover of that ancient magazine of course. But what the heck, my first bodybuilding hero considered me our sport’s best writer. He also said the most flattering things about my own career. Who could ask for anything more?
And now you know it is true, that you can get whatever you set your heart on, providing you’re willing to pay the price demanded. I’ll tell you this: talk to anyone who has made a success of his or her life and the first thing they’ll tell you is they never would’ve made it without a lot discipline. Without the ability to focus, to concentrate on achieving their goals. That’s the price Arnold was talking about.
And another thing: you’ve got to start early. But kids have no way of knowing that; they’re just kids, after all. It is therefore incumbent on parents, as early as possible, to teach their offspring the immense value of discipline. By which I mean, eating right, resisting peer pressure, going early to bed, staying away from drugs, booze, cigarettes and all that other stuff. Ironically, sadly too, without the sponsorship of local booze producers I don’t know where sport in this country would be?
I daresay it’s a crying shame that in Saint Lucia there still isn’t a gymnasium at any of our schools. Not even a gymnastics class. For too many of us the idea of a disciplined kid is still one who always remembers to say good morning, always addresses elders as Miss and Mister—and is scared to death of his or her parents. Is it any wonder so many of our young people drop out of school or leave home to join the burgeoning communities of drug abusers and other dropouts from society?
Who are their heroes? I’ve heard once or twice about a hero’s park somewhere on this island but never the names of the heroes. Is that because politicians are involved in the choosing? That must change. And quickly, if we are to develop better citizens—if we are to develop star athletes like Jamaica’s Usain Bolt. We are too easily satisfied with merely being invited to compete in important overseas meets, even when we recognize our neglected (and consequently inferior) athletes won’t make it into the preliminaries. We expect too little, yes, too little, from our people. And too little is what too many deliver. Let’s all remember that too expect nothing special from others, for whatever reason, is bigotry.
Extremely late in the day, and in the worst of times, it appears we are finally starting to appreciate the value of sports tourism, economically and otherwise. I wonder how many of us realize Darren Sammy, simply by being Darren Sammy, is doing for our island what millions and millions of tourist board dollars have not done, and never will.
Thanks to Sammy our island has become a household word wherever cricket is appreciated—even in baseball crazy America. Of course, we have yet to appreciate the extent of Sammy’s influence.
Sammy also comes from humble beginnings. His talent and his discipline have taken him where he is today. I need ask: how many young Saint Lucians might’ve been champions doing well for self and country but for lack of opportunity, lack of proper training facilities and coaching, neglected even by those whose job it was to help them achieve their potential? How many talented Saint Lucians were discovered too late?
It should be taken for granted that when I speak of sports I refer to competitive sports. I want to say to our young citizens and their parents that there is no greater builder of self-discipline, self- confidence, the desire to go where no man has gone before, than competitive sports. But here perhaps is the best part: even if you should fall short of being the next Mark Phelps, the next Darren Sammy, the next Usain Bolt or the next Serena Williams—the effort you put into becoming a sports champion will deliver other goals you never even considered while pursuing your initial ambition.
Competitive bodybuilding gave me the confidence and the discipline that are part and parcel of being a writer. Indeed, what endeavor can you think of that does not demand discipline, hard work, self-confidence, concentration and so on, all synonymous with competitive sport?
We cannot thank enough Dunstan and Jayne DuBoulay of DuBoulay’s Bottling Company for their contributions to local tennis, once considered in Saint Lucia a sport exclusive to a certain class. What this couple have been doing for three decades or so for tennis has undoubtedly impacted many young Saint Lucians, always in the best way. I want to thank them for the opportunity once again to underscore the importance of competitive sport to nation building. Thanks guys.
Oh, I almost forgot about Mr. Cane. Come to think of it, let’s save him for another time, while I wish the promoters of this ITF Junior International tournament, on behalf of our fellow Saint Lucians, continued success. You are doing for our nation a whole lot more than is evident on our tennis courts!