Lou Ferrigno 2
In late October 2012, I had my second meeting with Lou Ferrigno.
I picked him up at the Marriott hotel in downtown Austin, Texas around 4pm on a warm afternoon.
As I sat in the truck outside the hotel, I looked in my passenger rear view mirror to watch for the legend. I remember watching Lou in the 70’s TV show, The Incredible Hulk and how it made a huge impression on me. I received my share of bullying as a kid but when I watched The Hulk, I became The Hulk. In fact, that became my nickname after I began lifting weights as a teenager. As muscles began sprouting, my classmates referred to me as “Hulk”.
My first meeting with Lou took place months earlier in June. We ended that meeting with the idea that we would meet again when Lou came down to attend a Gun Show in the Austin area. He’s a reserve deputy with the San Luis Obispo’s Sheriff’s Department in California and he and his friend, Brad share a love of guns.
All of a sudden there was Lou standing outside the truck. The afternoon hustle and bustle of a Friday afternoon was in full swing. He quickly opened the door, slid in, extended his hand, looked me in the eye and said “Hello!” with a big smile. This time I acted less star struck. It was a comfortable feeling. Vascularity was evident in his arms, he was lean and energetic and wore a dark grey shirt and black dress pants.
HE LIKED THE TRUCK
After we exchanged pleasantries, he commented on how much he liked the truck, asking what kind it was and what year (2012 Chevy Silverado 1500, Extended Cab). As we made our way through the streets of downtown Austin, I couldn’t help but think to myself:
“This guy was my hero in the TV show “The Hulk”. This man was featured in the movie “Pumping Iron” with Arnold. We’re in the truck together just the 2 of us.”
We headed over to another hotel to pick up Lou’s friend, Brad and then we drove South On IH 35 towards Wimberley, Texas to meet up with Joe Vitale. Joe has a Steve Reeves bodybuilding collection like you’ve never seen. Joe has been collecting items from Steve’s estate piece by piece for years. Some of the collection includes:
- Steve’s Universal Gym that he worked out on in his garage until the day he died
- Steve’s 1977 Jaguar XJS V-12. Rock Hudson walked into the Beverly Hills, California dealership and wanted to buy the car. The salesman said to Rock, “You can’t have it, it’s reserved for Steve Reeves.” Rock says, “I know Steve Reeves, he’s in Europe filming and he won’t mind if I buy it.” “No”, says the salesman and kept the car for Steve.
- Steve’s trophies – including Sandows
- Steve’s dining room table that he ate at as a boy
- “The Wall”. The section of garage wall that Steve marked his standard workout on as a teenager, growing up in Oakland
- Clothing, Saddles, Watches
- The Hyperextension machine that Steve trained Bo Derek on
- Steve’s bicycle
- Steve’s books
- Steve’s Directors Chair with “Steve Reeves” branded on the back. He took this chair everywhere with him when filming
- Steve’s dumbbells that he worked out with on movie sets
- And much more
If you’re a bodybuilding fan, you could spend hours in Joe’s gym looking and admiring all of this stuff.
And Lou is. He’s a fan and was immensely inspired by Steve Reeves. This is the reason for the trip. To check out the Steve Reeves collection and have dinner.
As we drive down the highway, we talk about a million things – Steve Reeves, George Reeves (played Superman and was another hero of Lou’s), bodybuilding. I asked Lou if it was true that Joe Gold kicked him out for yelling and his answer was an emphatic “No”. I wasn’t going to argue that I had heard from a source firsthand that it was true. Whatever. Let sleeping dogs lie.
At one point, Lou asked me to “speed up”. It still kind of makes me laugh because I’m not sure why. The highway was busy with rush hour Friday traffic. We weren’t late or anything. Maybe he was getting hungry. Maybe I was talking too much 🙂 We turned off to exit the highway and drove the last several miles through the hill country to Wimberley. It began to grow dark as the farm and ranch lights began to come on.
We arrived, met Joe who hugged Lou and immediately went over to check out the Jaguar. Lou was in awe – which was cool to see. Lou has seen a lot in his life so to see him in awe was inspiring. After spending 10 minutes or so with the car, we made our way into the gym. There Lou encountered the Universal and some of the other pieces mentioned above.
Lou spent a lot of time looking at “The Wall”.
After spending time in Joe’s gym admiring all of the Steve Reeve’s collectibles, we headed into the house to see more – the table, clothing, trophies. Finally we went up to Joe’s office to see even more – pictures of Steve, more trophies, statues. Lou was blown away. Joe’s office is dripping in luxury from collectible books, guitars, pictures and paintings. Lou sat at Joe’s desk and took it all in. You could tell he felt at home. Lou asked surprisingly in-depth questions, such as, “What is your greatest fear?’ Joe spent so much time thinking about his answer that Lou nudged Joe by saying, “You know what it is.” After Joe told him about fear of failure, he confessed he doesn’t know how to swim. He fears going down in a plane over water.
We could have spent more time here but we felt our stomachs grumbling so off we went to dinner. We ate in the “Vitale Cigar Room” at Bruce Colleys restaurant in Wimberley. Bruce is a former pro football player and has 13 kids with his wife, Holly. Thirteen! Bruce is a giant of a man too, so it was fun to see Lou and Bruce meet for the first time.
Bruce talked about how Lou had inspired him early on in life and came to tears at one point. Lou was flabbergasted that Bruce and Hollie had 13 kids and at how well behaved they were as they helped to serve the meal.
I sat next to Lou at the dinner table. We had appetizers, Steak, baked potato, salad and wine. Lou kept it clean and didn’t overindulge. I had the Vitale steak which is a 20 oz monster fit for the biggest bodybuilder or famous fitness celeb.
After a 3 hour dinner, we said our goodbyes and headed back to Austin. It was late around 10pm. I drove Lou and Brad back to their hotels. We talked about Arnold, Sergio, Steve Reeves, the fun that we had just had and plans to hang out again. Next on our list could be the Joe Weider Museum in Austin on the University of Texas campus. Lou asked me about my family, my wife, kids, about what I do for a living. He showed genuine interest in all of it. During the drive back, I mentioned that my former boss, Frank Capallupo was a Mr AAU MR America Masters winner and had placed 2nd to Boyer Coe as a teenager. He trained at the Duncan YMCA in Chicago (same as Sergio). Lou showed great interest in all of this. I couldn’t help myself, I dialed Frank’s phone number and handed the phone to Lou.
Frank got the shock of his life, when all of a sudden Lou said “Hello, this is Lou Ferrigno”. They talked for about 5 minutes. Frank and I used to watch “Pumping Iron” over and over again in the 90’s when we were both competing. We couldn’t get enough of all of the quotable lines and memorable scenes.
Once at the hotel, I got out hugged Lou, shook his hand and watched as he walked quickly to the hotel. I smiled all the way home – it was a night filled with great stories, great times and great food.
P.S. I have a ton of stories like this with various people in the bodybuilding and fitness industry. Be sure to enter your email for future articles like this so you don’t miss out!
P.P.S. I hope I didn’t talk him to death!
In 1978 I saw the largest, most intimidating “creature” that my 14 year old eyes had ever encountered.
That big green muscle bound “creature” was, of course, Lou Ferrigno in the TV classic, “The Incredible Hulk” and more recently, Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice”. Yesterday, I met the man in San Antonio for 1 1/2 hours over breakfast.
We talked fitness, bodybuilding, business, and relationships. And at the end of the best breakfast of my life – Lou told us that he would like to come down to Austin and visit again for a full day later this year. Life can be amazing! I’m a huge fan of Lou Ferrigno because of the obstacles that he’s overcome, because of his bodybuilding career, and because of his TV/Movie career.
Here’s a recap of the day, Sunday, June 24th 2012:
My alarm is scheduled to go off at 530am but I’m so excited that I wake up on my own at 445am. I find out later that my friend, Joe Vitale, woke up at 330am.
Joe is my long time friend who is going with me today to meet with Lou. Joe is a bodybuilding fan, a fitness enthusiast, an author, appeared in the movie “The Secret” and is a collector of Steve Reeves memorabilia. A friend of Lou’s and ours in California, told Joe that Lou was going to be in San Antonio, Texas on Saturday, June 22nd. Our friend told us that Lou is a huge Steve Reeves fan. Steve was Lou’s second major influence after George Reeves (George played Superman in the 50s). Our friend in California told us that he could set it up so that we could meet Lou. Never did we imagine what was to become of this!
The Day Before
The day before, Saturday, June 23rd, Joe and I drove to San Antonio to meet Lou at Comic Con. We expected to shake hands with him and perhaps spend a few moments talking about Steve Reeves and bodybuilding. We knew Lou would be busy with his fans, signing pictures, taking pictures and chatting. We drove up in Joe’s all electric Fisker Karma (which is another story altogether).
The line outside of the events center was long and we figured upon an hour or so wait. Wrong. After 15 minutes or so, we had paid our $15 and were inside looking for Lou. There he was, wearing a black short sleeved shirt and slacks. My first impression was how lean and vascular he was.
There was a line of 10-15 people waiting to buy photos, chat and take pictures with him. Joe introduced us. And then she asked us if we wanted to meet Lou.
Yes. We did.
Lou finished up with a fan and then turned his attention to us. His first comment was “So you bought Steve’s car”. He was talking to Joe about Steve’s 1977 Jaguar. Joe had bought the Jaguar a few years back, along with a ton of other Steve Reeves treasures. We chatted for a few moments more and then Lou turned to see his fans waiting patiently in an ever growing line. We didn’t want to hold him up and we certainly understood so we sat down behind his table and took in all of the goings on at the event. I asked Lou’s friend if it would be possible to buy Lou lunch so that we could spend more time with him. Next thing I know, Joe and I are being invited to breakfast the next morning.
Of course, we jumped on the opportunity (note – always jump on opportunities!).
I turned on the coffee, got dressed and packed my food for the Sunday drive back to San Antonio to meet with Lou. While I downed 2 cups of coffee, I hit biceps and triceps in my home gym. Afterwards, I triple checked the directions to the Hotel and then headed South to pick up Joe along the way. I was listening to Bob Dylan as I made my way through downtown Austin on a beautiful 76 degree Texas morning. As the sun began to rise outside of Dripping Springs, I downed a protein drink mixed with water and creatine and wondered if I had heard correctly and perhaps wasn’t just dreaming up this whole experience. When someone is such a huge inspiration as Lou is, you can’t help but freak out a little. Just at that moment, “Thriller” by Michael Jackson came on the radio.
I hadn’t heard this song in years and thought how ironic that was playing now of all times. Lou, of course, was Michael’s long time trainer. At 900am Sunday morning, the agreed upon time, we arrived at the Hilton hotel. We head inside to the hotel restaurant and look around to see if Lou is already there. He is not. We don’t wait long though. He comes from around the corner wearing a black short sleeved shirt and green (of course) pants, walking with purpose heading straight towards us and into the restaurant. No hand shakes or greeting – you can tell Lou is focused on sitting down and ordering.
Lou wants to sit at a table in a private room, the hostess tells us that it will take 10 minutes before we can, to which Lou says he wants to “eat right now” and points at a booth in the main room of the restaurant. The busboy quickly cleans the table, heads are turning in the half filled restaurant as people begin to notice Lou. We sit down at a booth and Lou starts asking Joe rapid fire questions about Steve Reeves, “how did you get his car?”, what else does Joe own of his, how long has he been a fan, etc. Lou is very focused and intense. He has a celebrity auora. He’s wearing a large wristwatch with a black band and his wedding ring. He’s very lean, I would guess his body fat to be around 12%.
At 12 years old, Lou first noticed Steve Reeves in a New York Paper. There were pictures of Steve in a double page section of the paper. Lou’s father noticed Lou staring at the pictures and pegs this point as the beginning of Lou’s love of bodybuilding.
The waitress comes to take our order. I decided to eat the EXACT same thing as Lou. I haven’t had a cheat day in a month – no sweets, no pizza, no cake, nothing. But I’ll break my diet for this opportunity. I secretly hope he doesn’t eat too much 🙂
He orders coffee, orange juice, water, and 4 scrambled egg whites with diced tomato cooked in Pam. No salt, no butter.
4 Egg Whites With Tomato
He also ordered the buffet. The eggs were hot, as they cooled we talked some more. He asked Joe what were the 2 books that he found the most inspirational. Joe’s response was “The Book Of EST” and Claude Bristol’s “The Magic Of Believing”. I showed Lou pictures of some of Joe’s Reeves memoribila on my phone – the hyperextension machine, the dumbbells, the directors chair.
Lou was in awe.
Lou was finished with his egg whites by now, stands up and announces that he’s going to the buffet. So am I. I follow him closely.
Here is what he got:
Greek yogurt, muffin, cottage cheese, pineapple, cantaloupe. He asks the waitress for 4 packages of strawberry jelly as he’s going to mix them into his yogurt. He doesn’t eat fast, in fact he didn’t even eat all of the this food. He ate half of the muffin. He says he only eats around 50 grams of carbs a day. He eats like this for breakfast, meat and vegetables for lunch and salad, baked potato, meat and wine for dinner. He enjoys wine. I enjoy hearing that because so do I.
I ask him what supplements he takes. He says, “Thanks for reminding me” pulls some pills out of his pocket and washes them down with water.
He uses a probiotic, vitamin D (goes on a tangent about vitamin D and why you must take it for your immune system) and I forget to ask him what else he has.
As we wind down breakfast, Lou tells us that he’s coming back to Austin later in the year and would like to get together again to check out the Steve Reeves memoribilia at Joe’s house and to visit the Joe and Betty Weider Museum in Austin, Our jaws drop. We have another opportunity to meet with Lou privately for a full day!
Amazing. We talk more about business, bodybuilding and then we begin to wind things down. We take some pictures of with Lou, he hugs Joe, shakes my hand and pats me on the back.
He leaves his personal address and email with Joe and then we go our separate ways. Joe and I are beaming all the way back home.
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