Thursday, March 12, 2015

Conversation with WBBG Pro Mr. America Anibal Lopez. By Dr. Michael Dusa

Conversation with WBBG Pro Mr. America Anibal Lopez
 By Dr. Michael Dusa
North Haven, Connecticut March 1, 2015

MD: Anibal, thanks for taking time to speak to your many fans. I remember seeing you when I was a kid as you were prominently featured in Dan Lurie's magazines. You seemed perfect to me- like Zane. And always ripped! How did you get your start?

AL: Mike, I thank you for this opportunity. When I was 12 I saw the Tarzan magazines and I wanted to be strong. I actually started off in gymnastics and boxing. My cousin who was a good bodybuilder, Raul Pacheco impressed me. His cousin, Ray Jiminez, another good bodybuilder, took me to my first show. The guest poser here was none other than Leroy Colbert- I was shocked by his size.
Leroy Colbert

MD: Did you know Leroy?

AL: Oh yes. He is one of my biggest inspirations in the sport and we are good friends to this day. I just was out in California last year and saw him just before he closed his nutrition store. He's not well these days- he is in his 80's. He's a great person. He could have gone farther as a champ if he hadn't had that horrible motorcycle accident early on- he was crippled by it for some time.

MD: So speak more on your early training.

AL: Well, I grew up in the Bronx- the Throgsneck Projects. I trained in my bedroom on a homemade bench made of wood. I saved my money by working in a grocery store and bought Dumbells from a Weider magazine. I learned early on not to believe the advertising in these magazines ( laughs).

Later, the projects opened a youth center and teachers donated their time to help us kids learn to exercise. The first trophy I won was a weightlifting award at the center when I was 15.

I didn't compete in bodybuilding competition until I was about 22 or 23 years old.

MD: So what did you do when you finished high school?

AL: Well, I entered the army for a two year stint. I was an airborne paratrooper. Then we had Kennedy and the whole Cuban situation, so I was sctually extended in my obligation by six months. It was a good experience.

MD: So, your first show was in your early 20's. What kind of success did you have?

AL: Mike, I must say I am a very humble person. I hail from a very poor background. I won the AAU Mr New York City and this was like a dream to me. After winning this I didn't care if I ever won again. This is when I became known and somewhat of a force in bodybuilding.

MD: So then you went in bigger shows?

AL: I did. Back then the most prestigious show was the AAU Mr America. 3rd overall was my best placing in this ever.

But, I've got to tell you some things that others like to avoid mentioning. There was a lot of prejudice in the AAU back then. Did you know that an interview was part of the scoring back then? Yes. This was part of how you'd place. I was asked why I wanted to be Mr America:

" I want to be the first Puerto Rican Mr America."

You know, this one judge turned my question around, and said:

" Well, you must understand, there is no such thing as a Puerto Rican Mr America."

That was it right there. I felt I'd gone as far as I could in the AAU. There were many injustices committed against blacks in the AAU. Several blacks should probably have one prior to Chris Dickerson's win in 1970.

MD: So what was your recourse? You were in your prime- one of the best.

AL: I switched to competing in Dan Lurie's shows.

MD: How was your relationship with Dan?

AL: Unfortunately, our relationship turned sour. It seemed everyone's main concern was what they could get out of me- you know- how could they use me to sell products. I never sued Dan. To me it wasn't worth it. Later, he apologized and we were on good terms, thankfully, when he died just a short time ago.

MD: Any dealings with Bob Hoffman or the Weider brothers?

AL: The York guys ( Hoffman) were always fair to me.


Same as Dan. They wanted total control. After I had won Dan's WBBG Pro Mr America and went overseas to compete in the NABBA Universe- which was a huge thing then-I was invited to compete in the New York Night of the Champions IFBB show by Joe. I was excited and honored- this was like validation for me. At the show, I was met in the hallway by Ben Weider. He welcomed me. But, in the same breath he demanded total loyalty to the Weider's by me. I'd have no opportunities outside of their auspices. You know, Mike, this didn't sit well with me. Firstly, I must be loyal to myself.

MD: Seems this is a familiar refrain that I've heard before...

AL: Yes. There was an ifbb show in Louisiana that I went for. A writer for Weider did an interview with me. I firmly told him that I wanted to see it before it went to print. I read it and there was nothing in it that I said! It was like, " This is how Joe Weider built my body...". I didn't give them my permission to run with these lies. The writer said, " Are you crazy? You will lose your opportunity with the IFBB..."

I told him, " Let it be."

MD: So that was it with the IFBB?

AL: The final straw came at the next NOC show in New York. I was in top condition, but guys who years ago I easily beat in the AAU America were now gigantic pros- much bigger than me. A great man and friend, Bill Pearl, was a judge. He pulled me aside and said we must talk. He gave me the facts and said the only way I could ever compete with these guys is if I immersed myself in the murky world of steroid use. He advised me against this. I thought it was especially not fair because like I said, I used to beat these guys.

Bill was helpful because he said I'd already made an indelible mark in bodybuilding. I didn't have to do anymore. " You don't have to take a backseat to anybody in the history of the sport...," Bill said.

MD: So, the show...?

AL: Look Mike. They were not competitions. They were shows in the respect that all the guys were paid to compete... Like appearance fees. Most people don't know this, but it's true.

Anibal and his good friend Chris Dickerson in 1968
MD:Who are some your good friends in the sport?

AL: Chris a Dickerson and I have been friends prior to either of us having any success in bodybuilding- he is like family to me. He learned much from Pearl that he gave to me, too.

When I started, Chris pushed me. The famous photographer, Chris Lund, sent my pic into Strength & Health and I won " Man of the Month." ( Laughs). We were so excited over this when the issue came out!

Sergio Oliva and I were friends too. The night I won the Pro Mr America, Dan ran the Mr Olympus the same night. By the way, it's no secret he created this show to compete with the Olympia. Sergio won it uncontested. Dan had me hand him the winners trophy...that was a big deal to me. Sergio hugged me onstage and he was so big it felt like I disappeared ( laughs)!

MD: Ok Anibal, just what is the secret to being on such fantastic condition?

AL: Ha! The secret is to have different genes from different parents!

You know, how can you follow a champ's program and expect to look like them? You are gonna look like YOU.

We all have our own identity. God gives everyone the gift of uniqueness. Me? I have a very fast metabolism. I never had to diet hard. We did low, low carbs then which I don't suggest. Simple sugars? Avoid them.

Back then, there wasn't much info on training- we all basically did the same thing. We'd do what the stars did- Grimek, Reeves. 3 or 4 days a week. We did know that rest was important .

MD: How about supplements?

AL: The problem today is the marketing and the lies. Who knows about this stuff now? In my day food came first, vitamins maybe second. You know, I had my own line of supplements, but it didn't do well. You want to know why? Because I couldn't lie!

MD: I understand you were training partners with Steve Michalik...

AL: Yes, for years. He wasn't really crazy like you hear. I do wonder how I survived the workouts, though!

MD: So, take us to the present.

AL: I got married very young and had 2 girls. Bodybuilding took it's toll and I got divorced.

I have two sons with my current wife and they are both bigger than their dad! One is a cop, the other in the service. And seven grand kids!

MD: So you also have a great personal training business?

AL: Yes. I built a seperate, free standing building on my property here in Florida that houses my gym. I have nautilus and all top of the line equipment. I was friends with the great Arthur Jones but never did make it to his compound in Deland. He was a genius and I feel he should have been given a Nobel prize for his ideas on exercise. He had it right.

MD: You train only athletes?

AL: Oh no. Anyone who wants to improve. I espouse the tenets of Arthur Jone's HIT system of training. It's very time efficient. No client trains longer than a total of 1.5 hours per week. Many only train two days per week. Of course, it takes a certain mentality to buy into the " less is more" mentality.

You can train hard, or you can train long... But you can't do both.

MD: I got your awesome book, " You Personal Training Guide, Then and Now."

AL: It gives the reader an idea of how I think.. Written in layman's terms as though I am speaking to you. Goes over my personal life, bodybuilding, exercise and firsts- then and now.

MD: It's a great book with many photos. You can visit to order a copy. Any parting words Anibal?

Buy the guide online
AL: Well, I revealed things about the Weider organization, Dan Lurie, and conversations with Bill Pearl that I never told anyone and drove me to stop competing.

I later thought about going for the NABBA Universe again. I considered steroids. A doctor told me if I was careful I'd not hurt my health if I did. Ultimately, the wisdom of Bill Pearl won out and never again did I compete.

Today, I am 72, still training, I take no medications but still do what I love the best and that is directing others to living a rewarding, healthy life that everyone deserves. Bodybuilding is gods for you.

For the last 22 years I have been a devoted Christian- best decision of my life. I have the opportunity to speak to Christians and all others about the importance of taking care of your spiritual life and also one's physical body that we claim to be the home of the Holy Spirit.

MD: Anibal, it's been a true honor and pleasure. You are one of the good ones.

AL: Thanks Michael. I am honored that there are those interested in my words. Be blessed my friend

©,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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