Friday, March 13, 2015

A Conversation with Master's AAU Mr. America and multiple title winner, Frank Capallupo. By Dr. Michael Dusa

A Conversation with Master's AAU Mr. America and multiple title winner, Frank Capallupo.
By Dr. Michael Dusa

MD: Hi Frank. Its a pleasure to be speaking with you. I remember you and your success in bodybuilding way back since my start in the game back in 1975.

FC: Michael, it's an honor to share my thoughts and stories with everyone.

MD: So, how did it all begin for you?

FC: Well, I was born in the Bronx, New York, and lived there until I was 10 years old when my parents decided to move to Chicago. I grew up on the North West side of the windy city, and, generally, there were not a lot of gyms around at this time. I was a good all-around athlete-I played peewee football and high school football and ran track. I was very fast. At the age of ten I won a bronze medal in the Junior Olympics in Phoenix in the 25 yard breast stroke. The swimming really helped me get a great starft on my upper body strength. But when high school years approached, I was all about foot ball and track. I played for Foreman on the north west side of Chicago. We had a lot of success as a team.

Teaching exercise to children at the age of 19
MD: So, you were born in 1946. Your high school years took place in the early 60's. Was the training with weights encouraged as a high school athlete?

FC: Well, my true love and passion was the weights. When my friend and I were 12 years old, he got a 110 pound weight set for his birthday. We'd lift together, two or three times per week. We didn't have a bench so essentially we'd just perform presses, curls, rows...the basics. My arms grew...his didn't (laughs)!

My father signed a waiver for me to join the YMCA when I was 13 years old. You had to be a bit older but they let me join. There were some big bodybuilder's training there. I remember the first time I walked in...I walked up to a fixed, 90-pound barbell and just pressed it eight or nine times. A guy approached me, asked me my name, and said, "You are strong!" This fellow ended up teaching me Olympic lifting. His name was Clyde Emrich and he actually won a bronze medal in Olympic lifting in the 1956 Olympics. Interestingly, he went on to become the Chicago Bear's strength and conditioning coach for about 30 years.

MD: Wow! Talk about being trained by the best right out of the gate...

FC: Yes, I was . I developed a great physique training under him. But, Clyde was strictly Olympic lifting. On my own I did curls, presses, benching. He didn't want to know about that! At the age of 18 I was a trained Olympic lifter in the 148 pound class, and I did a 265 pound clean and jerk overhead. I was the junior state champion.

MD: Very impressive. You had the knack. When did bodybuilding competition enter your consideration?

FC: At the age of 15 and a half I started out in small, local shows. At 16 I did the AAU teenaged Mr. America. There is an interesting story regarding this show that is generally unknown to most. Jerry Daniels won the show, and the great Harold Poole took second. I got 12th but that's another story. In those days, shows were run differently than today. The prejudging was done with the judges sitting at a table in a audience. They'd just talk to us using our names, tell us where to stand and which way to turn. Understand this...the points were not only given for were interviewed and were required to document or demonstrate athletic talent. They didn't want you to only be a had to be in high school, a graduate or in college.

Frank taking second to Boyer Coe at
 the AAU Teen Mr. America in 1966 
Well, Harold Poole had a tremendous physique. And yes, it's true, he had somewhat of a hard time articulating himself due to a pronounced stutter. Another thing...he was two hours late for the morning event...this did not earn him any favor with the powers that be. He was marked down for this. You know, the color of his skin may have kept him back...Bob Hoffman who was in control at the time wanted the "All-American Boy," on the cover of his magazine, and Poole didn't really fit the prototype according to Hoffman.

Harold went into an absolute rage at the announcement of his second spot. We had the top 12 onstage, including me. Poole was holding his runner-up award in his hand, looking blankly at Jerry Daniels. He proceeded to smash it on the floor into countless pieces. Part of the exploding shards caught the bottom of my leg and drew blood. Poole menacingly approached the judges table and proceeded to hurl expletive "F-bombs" at them, yelling "racism," and what not. Listen, physique wise, Poole may have indeed been superior to Daniels. But remember what I said...this was one of merely several components necessary to emerge victorious. You were interviewed, you had to have athletic achievements...

MD: Were Hoffman and John Grimek present at these shows?

FC: Oh yes, both were there.

MD: So you were only 16 in that show...difficult to defeat kids three years that span and at that age there is a huge, natural hormonal difference that would be difficult for you being so young to surmount.

With Bob Gadja at the 1965 Mr. Illinois contest
FC: Yes. From 1963-1966, I was winning several open Chicago-area shows. The mythical Sergio Oliva was counted among my good friends. In the Mr. Chicagoland show, Sergio won, a guy named Henry Vega took second, and I was third. And you know, all the guys were at least ten years older than me! I remember that day especially because both Sergio and I were entered in the Olympic lifting event as well as the bodybuilding show. We performed the lifts during the day, and the bodybuilding show was held late, late at night. That's how it was then, especially with Hoffman, who preferred lifting to bodybuilding. I remember being utterly exhausted.

1966 AAU Teen Mr. America
MD: Tell me more about your days training at the YMCA...

FC: The Chicago YMCA was great times for me. There was Sergio Oliva, Bob Gajda, who of course won the AAU America, and Bill Seno. There was the Division Street Ymca, the Irving Park YMCA and of course the famous Duncan YMCA. Bob was director and when he was moved to the Duncan all the bodybuilders left the other two and followed him. I myself was the youth director for the YMCA in 1966.

One funny story that pops into my head now was during the Mr., Sergio LOVED to pump up. He'd pump up for a full hour! He'd just get bigger and bigger before our eyes. He had a long sleeved shirt on, the cuffs were buttoned, he was sweating profusely. Suddenly we were asked to line up and file on stage. Sergio could not get his shirt off!. "Frank, help me...I can't get this off!" I joked with him, "You will be disqualified if I don't help you (laughs)." I helped him. He made it out on stage. He won.

MD: Awesome. Funny! That's what I'm talking about!

FC: There was an awesome, non-reproduce-able energy at the Duncan. I was training for the teen America, Sergio and Bob were training for the senior America. Sergio was quite a riddle. He'd eat meat, rice, potatos, beans, all in copious quantities. He was not scientific at all. (laughs)Two weeks prior to a show...he'd eat a large pizza!

You know, as far as Arnold goes, well, you know he suffered defeat to Sergio at the 1969 Olympia. But Arnold came back in 1970 to beat him because Arnold got much more defined. I'll tell you this...Sergio would have NEVER been defeated if he ever got serious about his diet. He had great genetics. At 198 pounds he could clean and jerk over 300 pounds. He'd had it tough. He defected here from Cuba as a member of their Pan American Games team. He was a really, really nice guy.

Jack Lalanne, an early influence
for Frank
MD: Frank, did you have any other influences early on?

FC: Oh yes. Jack Lalanne. He was ALL about health. He espoused taking care of yourself so you wouldn't end up ambulating with the use of a walker as you'd get on in years. That's what it was all about to him. He walked the walk. I do recall seeing him on TV when I was very young and thinking he was small. That opinion changed with time. He was remarkably developed. I have emulated him somewhat, I feel. At my current age of 68, I take absolutely no medications for anything. Not even blood pressure. My weight when I graduated high school was 148. Today, I am 149-150. I work very hard though, and have been consistent over time, which I know is key. You do lose muscle mass over time. Thank goodness for muscle memory.

MD: Yeah. My muscles have amnesia, it seems (laughs). So I understand you butted heads with the legendary Amazing Boyer Coe?

Runner up to Boyer Coe at the
1966 AAU Teen Mr. America
FC: Yes. I didn't do the teen America in 64 or 65. My father was a baker and I worked with him and concentrated on school. I said in 66, let me do this. Its my last chance. The York crew was there...Steve Stanko was the head judge. The show was held in West Patterson New Jersey, and I took a Greyhound bus there and stayed in, of course, the local YMCA (laughs). Imagine it. I'm an Italian kid...working in a bakery and dieting. There was temptation. Norman Zale was my friend and nutritionist and he wrote for Iron Man Magazine. He steered me away from white flour, sugars, heavy creams. Bob Gajda told me when dieting for a show, the best thing to do was look at the ingredients of anything I was eating. The first thing on the label should be protein, the second should be fat, then carbs being the lowest concentration of the three. I'd get cut for a show eating eggs, cheese and steak, some fruits and vegetables. That would be it.

Boyer won the show, and he was tremendous. However, Stanko told me, "You are amazing, you are natural, and we did have some judges who had placed you ahead of Boyer." It was a great experience.

MD: So at these times bodybuilding was not really embraced like it is's not really embraced anymore now, either...but that's another story. How did you deal with any of the naysayers you may have encountered?

FC: You know we didn't have all the form-fitting stuff these guys climb into today. Yes, we may wear a tight t-shirt once in awhile, and people would stop and stare. My wife of 37 years, who passed away 8 years ago, Linda, well, there's a story there that may answer your question. I picked her up for our first date-a trip to the beach at Lake Michigan. We sat on a blanket on the beach, and after a bit I suggested we take a dip in the water. I stood up and pulled off my sweat shirt, and she looked up at me and said, "Oh, no! You are not one of THOSE...everyone is staring at you!" She was shy and told me to go in first and she'd follow me (laughs). She got used to me though. In fact, she was always my biggest supporter, she was very understanding and prepared all my meals for me. She'd cook me two big turkeys each week, and there was my readily-available protein.

MD: You also served in the Marine Corps.

FC: Yes. I was attending college part time and working at the YMCA part time, I was classified as 1-A...which meant I was a prime candidate for the draft. Each day, I'd arrive home from school or work and my father would look at me and say, "Nothing in the mail today." Well I was so nervous about getting drafted that I couldn't sleep. I said the heck with it and went to the recruiting station and joined up. They loved me...I cruised through the physical tests. I ended up as a platoon sergeant for 81 mm mortars in Chuli, Viet Nam. I served 13 months, and I recall I thought I'd lose Linda because she was away at college and I was thousands of miles away. I tell you...she wrote me one letter a day, every day I was away, for 13 months! She didn't meet anyone else, I got her a ring at the PX and proposed when I got home. She accepted.

MD: Viet Nam. Wow. I thank you for your service sir. We are indebted to you and those like you forever. Wonderful woman, Linda. You are blessed.

FC: Thank you Michael. When I returned home, bodybuilding was now secondary for me...I had a whole, new mindset. My primary concern was to be the best provider for my family. I am very fortunate in my career that I started with a company, Lawson Products, on the bottom level of entry. I rose to vice president/ general manager. This was a 500 million dollar company. My wife was so very understanding when I was moved to New Jersey for 8 years, and then to Dallas for another 15 years. I was with them for nearly four decades.

Frank at age 60
MD: Its always great to hear of successful bodybuilders extending their success to other arenas, such as career, family and business. It doesn't always happen that way.

FC: I know. I retired six years ago. Life is just too short. I stay busy though, and of course I have always trained...never had any gaps from the gym. My son started lifting with me when he was 13 years old in our garage. He ended up turning out to be a fine, natural, title-winning bodybuilder. He's also a surgical nurse and quite successful. Of note is my son, Jon, was a great high school wrestler. The Tom Cruise movie, "Born on the Fourth of July," had wrestling scenes in the beginning. They used my son as one of the wrestlers and he did get a bit of screen time in the movie. I have a photo of he and Tom Cruise standing together. My daughter, who has given me two grandchildren, holds an executive position at Microsoft. My kids didn't disappoint, I am very proud of my family.

MD: You know, I put up a pic of you yesterday announcing this article's impending release. You quickly got over 100 "Likes." You are quite the popular bodybuilder. I think you are especially known for maintaining so much success, consistently, over time, seemingly laughing all the way at the aging process.

FC: Well lifting weights is the greatest way to preserve your youth. Its easier if you started out young, of course. There are many factors to consider for one getting on in years. You must get a physical. Are you on medication? What kind of shape are you in? You have to have a plan. Its never too late, but its also important not to let your ego take over your sensibilities. Gorge the muscles with blood...the pump equates to growth. Adopt a good, sensible diet. There are no secrets.

MD: Interesting what you say about the pump leading to growth. The same thing Frank Zane says.

Winning the Masters AAU Mr America
in 1991
FC: Listen, as a rule, I do about 15-20 reps for biceps. 10 reps is the lowest I go for any exercise. I go for the pump! Sometimes a bit lower in reps, but not often. Of course, I am super strict, I do complete range of motion, and I visualize the muscle or muscle group that I am working. I've never been injured in all my years lifting weights. I must be doing something right.

MD: Your best bodybuilding win?

FC: The 1991 Master's AAU Mr. America. Bob Gruskin, a famous photographer and a personal friend of mine, told me about a month before the event at a guest posing I was performing that I was more ripped than Frank Zane at that point. Of course, I'm not sure this was true, but the message was delivered. He strongly suggested I enter the Master's America. I did, and it's history...I won overall.
At the 1991 AAU Mr. America with Joe DeAngelis
MD: My opinion is that was the best you ever looked...and you were 45 years old! As the years bore on, did you change your training or food as you evolved as a bodybuilder?

FC: Thanks Michael. I added variety to my workouts, and still do so to this day. As you know as you age recuperation time is lengthened, and the seemingly invincible veneer of youth disappears. A pulled muscle at 50 takes two weeks to repair, at 25 maybe a few days.

Currently, I train 2 days on, one day off. Legs and back done Monday, Chest, Shoulders and arms on Tuesday. Wednesday off. And so on. This is my cycle of training and for me its proven to be ideal. I don't go overboard on my diet. I eat eggs, cottage cheese, chicken and turkey as my foundation foods. I don't get into this modern nonsense of eating repeatedly every couple of hours for six to eight meals a day...who the heck can do that? I mean, c'mon. You see these folks carrying their gallon water jugs everywhere they go. In the gym? Are you here to train, or to take a never-ending piss? (we both laugh here and i agree) You didn't see me, Sergio, Bob, Bill Seno or Arnold with a water jug. We went to the water fountain! Of course, we didn't weigh 300 pounds.

Frank being announced first place at the 2010
INBA Natural Olympia (Masters +60)
MD: So, pro bodybuilding now...?
FC: The IFBB is serving as the destruction of bodybuilding. It is now a freak show. You know, when I was a kid, I saw Charles Atlas. I said, "I can do that." Now, you see these 300 pounds's just not obtainable. It's unreal. I don't quite get all this "Beast Mode" stuff I hear. Look, I can shoot a basketball through a hoop., but I am 5'3". I can't play on a team...I know this. All Italians like to sing, and I do. Am I good? No. So I keep it in the shower. These giants of today intimate that you can look like them if you eat such and such protein powder. That's utter nonsense. I've been all natural for life. With these guys now its a whole different ball game. Jay Cutler? Ronnie Coleman? You CANNOT look like that in two years. Yet, the kids, they think they can. The first thing they ask you is about the drugs. Dorian Yates without drugs? He'd get 10th, 12th in the AAU America. With the chemicals...he's Mr. Olympia six times! We've gotta steer youth in the right direction. This is not being done.

MD: Frank, any closing words?

FC: I always know this: Focus on the Body, the Mind, and the Spirit. There is a real life to be had beyond bodybuilding. For these kids who actually entertain the notion of getting a "Pro Card" as a bodybuilder, I'd urge them to think twice. This is a rare, if non existent thing, to live off bodybuilding winnings. Don't let this endeavor be your primary focus. Remember, in the 60's, five or even six bodybuilders would be living in one, efficiency apartment, they'd be broke and eating every last bit of tuna out of a can. That's no life.

MD: Wise words Frank, and from a man who has done it all, and done it well and with aplomb. I thank you very much for your time and words, my friend.

FC: Thank you Michael. I'll leave you with this: "Let's all keep pumping."
 ©,2015. Bodybuilding Mauritius. Any reprinting in any type of media is prohibited. Interview article published with permission from Dr. Michael Dusa (North Haven, Connecticut). 
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  1. I have known Frank since we were teens in Chicago...we competed together in AAU meets. He is the real deal, and his words are worth 10,000 times more than the effin' internet gurus and drug monkeys who infest the web with their BS. Chemical clowns. End of rant. Notice Frank's total life without BBing being at the center of his every thought and word...a loving family, a good career. Way to go. Congrats, Frankie!

  2. Thanx for the great conversation...