We traveled to Columbus, Ohio for the annual Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic where 125,000 fans come to see the spectacle, we traveled to Alaska, and to Brazil. There’s much more to that story but I’ll keep this version short. I was excited to bring my then 14-year-old son, Vaughn with me so that we could share this adventure together. I knew it would be the trip of a lifetime and I wanted to share it with him. We arrived in Los Angeles late at night, Wednesday, July 3rd. We waded through the airport crowd to find our hotel shuttle and relaxed during the 15-minute drive arriving at the Hilton around 11 pm (1 am Texas time). The next morning we hit the hotel buffet and then took an Uber to the Muscle Beach area arriving around 10:30 am. We walked out on the Venice Beach pier to get a better view of the ocean and saw lots of fishermen trying to catch different types of fish including perch, mackerel, white sea bass, leopard shark, tiger shark, and stingrays. A couple of fishermen landed stingrays which caused a commotion as they reeled them out of the ocean and onto the pier. Next, we walked a few hundred yards to Muscle Beach where we met up with Lee. It was fantastic catching up with him and introducing him to Vaughn. Vaughn has heard most of the stories but actually meeting Lee was the icing on the cake.
We hung out at Muscle Beach and enjoyed the ocean breeze. The smell of the boardwalk food, the music, the relaxing vibe of the beach made for a wonderful way to just watch the world go by. There was basketball, volleyball, weightlifting, surfers, and the bodybuilding contest all going on at the same time. Eventually, the smell of lunch caused us to get up from our shady bench and head over to the boardwalk. Lee and his group had eaten at Jody Maronis so we figured we try it too. Vaughn had a Cheeseburger (dry), fries, and a Coke and I had an Avocado Bacon burger and water. It was so good. We headed back over to Muscle Beach, talked with Lee and Doc some more. We watched the action all around us and enjoyed the afternoon. Around 4 pm, we decided to head back to the hotel but promised that we’d be back to Muscle Beach the next day. Here are some random shots from that day.
We took an Uber back to the hotel, cleaned up, and rested. A couple of hours later, our friend Doc, sent a car to come to pick us up and drive us over to his house in Hollywood. Doc is a photographer, videographer, director, and editor who works primarily in the fitness industry. As mentioned, he and I are working on a new Lee Priest documentary. Doc has shot personalities such as Robert Downey, Jr, Sugar Ray Leonard, Richard Gant, Loni Anderson, and many more. Doc was our host for the trip and took great care of us. Once we arrived in Hollywood we visited for a while and then set up to shoot my part in the documentary. It was nice for a change to be on the other side of the camera and to watch Doc work. Lighting, sound, background, framing, positioning, technical, and dialogue are just some of the things being juggled by the videographer. Doc had Vaughn help him out with a lot of the little things that all go into video production. I’m glad Vaughn got to participate and to help a top-notch videographer.
After the video shoot, Doc offered to take us on a trip through Hollywood using the rail system. By now, it was 930pm so Hollyweird was in full effect. Questionable characters hanging out underground near the rail stations, messed up and drunk partiers, so much so that Doc brought along his taser. After taking 3 different trains, we exited the train and climbed the flight of stairs to ground level, out the doors, and onto Hollywood Blvd. We walked along the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Doc took us to the exact spot where the paparazzi go to shoot the celebrities when they come out for events. I got a Starbucks and then we went to the old Mann’s Chinese Theatre where we had a midnight showing of the new Spiderman movie on IMAX. Armed with popcorn and soda, Vaughn followed me to our seats. We basically had the whole theatre to ourselves. The movie came on and we watched and laughed for the next 2 1/2 hours. By now it was 3 am and time to head back to the hotel.
“Just received (BodyBuilders Reality) DVD 4 and as always the content is top-notch. If the DVDs were a book it would be a page-turner for sure. Of course, other programs could try to emulate the DVD of the month but to no avail as none of them have the versatility that Lee demonstrates in all walks of his life. Can’t wait for (BodyBuilders Reality) DVD 5 and 6 and 7 and on and on and I am saying this after being involved in the iron game for 45 plus years and having read and heard almost everything relating to the iron game."
- Dennis Weiss, Alaska
Our Uber dropped us off near Pacific Avenue in Venice. I began to grow more and more excited. This is a big moment. This, for me, is like finding a dinosaur bone, like holding Jimmy Page’s Gibson Les Paul guitar, like smoking a cigar with Arnold Schwarzenegger. This is Mecca. Going off my memory of the YouTube video that I had watched, I knew what to look for. I just couldn’t find it. I checked my phone, watched the video again and remembered that there are these little alleys that weave and wind their way through the area. Bingo. I looked to my left and there was 1006 Pacific Avenue. The original Gold’s Gym building. I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me and just stood quietly while Vaughn grew restless. But Vaughn understood. In 1985, I walked into my first Gold’s Gym in Waco, Texas while attending Baylor and I found my passion. The gym. Building my mind and my body. Being inspired. Overcoming a lack of direction, a lack of purpose, and low self-esteem. Finding something that was healthy and something that I enjoyed.
I could have hung out here for the afternoon just taking it in, thinking about what it must have been like in the ’60s and ’70s here. I had read that there was a park nearby that the bodybuilders would hang out at after their workout and on the way to the beach. It was a grassy tree-shaded area. I had seen the pictures of the park. But as Vaughn and I made our way down the walkways towards the beach, the only thing we could find was now a dog park with lots of dirt instead of grass. As we walked from the original Gold’s Gym building to the beach, the ocean breeze grew stronger. Not too little, not too much but just right. There’s nothing like a cool rush of ocean air on a hot Summer California day. It was like having your own portable air conditioner blowing on you at just the right strength. Once we crossed the boardwalk, we found a grassy palm tree-shaded area where we could just lie down and take in all of the sights and sounds. We spent most of the day here yesterday but we just had to visit one last time before we caught an Uber to Griffith’s Observatory.
We were ready to eat and wanted to find something memorable for our last night in Los Angeles. We had heard from some of our Uber drivers that we should try “The Pantry” for a classic, iconic Los Angeles dining experience so off we went. Located in downtown not far from the Staples Center, we were dropped off and stood in line for about 20 minutes before getting a table inside. By now it was 12:30 am (2:30 am Texas time). We ordered eggs, bacon, sourdough toast, and chocolate cake. It had the feel of a greasy spoon and although the food was good, it’s the atmosphere and history that keeps this place chugging along. They only take cash – luckily I was prepared.
The Original Pantry Cafe is a coffee shop and restaurant in Los Angeles, California. Located at the corner of 9th and Figueroa in Downtown L.A.’s South Park district, The Pantry (as it is known by locals) claims to never have closed or been without a customer since it opened including when it changed locations in 1950 to make room for a freeway off-ramp; it served lunch in the original location and served dinner at the new location the same day. This claim is also attributed to the fact that Dewey Logan never refused a customer even if he or she was short on money. It was, however, closed briefly at the order of health inspectors on November 26, 1997, and reopened the next day. The restaurant is currently owned by former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan and has served many celebrities and politicians. The next morning, we got to the airport early, passed through security, and then conked out at our gate until it was time to board. Our flight back to Texas was smooth and uneventful. My wife picked us up at Austin Bergstrom around 12:30 pm on Saturday. Sporting our newly acquired California tans, we hugged, and then headed home to The Mighty Northshore. Thanks for being my co-pilot on this trip, Vaughn. We packed a ton of activity into a 2 day period. It is a lifetime memory between father and son.