Friday, April 17, 2015

A Conversation with IFBB Professional and Scandinavian Giant, Viggo Snoghoj. By Dr. Micheal Dusa

A Conversation with IFBB Professional and Scandinavian Giant, Viggo Snoghoj. 
By Dr. Micheal Dusa

MD: Hi Viggo. I'll start off by saying you sound just like Arnold.

VS: Ha. Yes, I get that often.

MD: One of the criteria I have for choosing interviewees is the maintenance of excellence over extended periods of time. You are 54 years old and still look like you did when you were trodding the IFBB boards. Tell me how you started out.

Viggo at age 16
VS: Thanks Michael. I knew at a young age that I just had to find a way to get the hell out of Scandinavia. It's socialist, you know. Mediocrity is encouraged. If you distinguish yourself in any way as being better or rising to the heights in any endeavor, you are not looked upon well. There is jealousy. You will be the target of hatred. People who are sad, struggling, do-nothings, they are embraced.

MD: I am afraid that this likely did not sit very well with one such as you.

VS: Oh no. I LOVE America!

MD: America! I love to yell this. I love it here too. People complain here, too, you know. Maybe they should try struggling for some bread in Bangladesh.

VS: They have no idea. You know, I was born in Denmark, and my parents divorced when I was very young-I was five years old. My schooling? It was mostly done in Norway. The Norway school system-let me tell you, it was very, very rigorous. Far tougher than the same levels here. Not now, though. Things have changed over there. Along with school, I'd study 20 hours per week at home. I was very motivated to learn-I still am, and I got very smart as a student.

MD: Man, we could use that here. Too many rights. Kids beat up teachers here and say whatever the Hell they want. It's unreal. Weakness abounds!

VS: I am sad to say this is true.

MD: So, along with studies, were you involved in athletics?

VS: Oh yes. Winter sports were very big. I was an ectomorph-kind of naturally ripped. I had the gift of being an all-around, great athlete. I was good at soccer and track and field events. I did the 60 meter sprint, the 10K, I was a cross country skier in the winters. For these sports, I'd also spend two to three hours per day training for these sports.

MD: So, you were going to classes, attending to your studies at home at a 20 hour per week clip, playing various sports AND training 2-3 hrs a day for these same sports?

VS: Oh yes, of course. Like I said, high school in Norway, back then? Much harder than what it has become now. But, as I am today, I am bent on excellence. I had that fire, just like Arnold, even before I knew of him or heard his Bavarian bark.

I did start lifting weights at about age 16, because, let me tell you, you may never think it looking at me today, but, at 16, other kids my age were way ahead of me in height, weight, strength, everything! I school, we had gym class three days per week. We'd do track, basketball, and once per week we'd go to the swim complex in town. Well, we were there one day, and I saw the lifeguard, who was a bodybuilder. I was like , "Holy shit!" I was 16 years old and 140 pounds, and I had never seen anybody so big. This guy? To me, he didn't even look real.

MD: So you approached him to learn all of his secrets.

An early front lat spread. April 1979
VS: (laughs) No. I was too scared at the time to talk to him. Right there, my friend and I decided to start lifting. My mother was sick at the time, so my sister, brother and I were split up into different foster homes-we were spread far apart from each other all around the country. I joined a local gym but it was one of those set-ups where men could only use the facility on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the women on the other days. It was a tiny place. My friend and I used our scholarship and student loan money to buy some equipment, and we moved my mother's bedroom furniture into the living room, and equipped her bedroom with our new exercise gear. We used the end tables and stacked up phone books for makeshift squat racks, that kind of stuff. When my mother came back home from the hospital, she stayed in the living room and we continued to workout in her bedroom.

MD: Wow. But how were you guided? Did you know what to do, inherently?

VS: Nobody in particular helped us. We were training six days per week. In Norway, there was Weider's magazines, and a magazine called Hercules in the stores. We'd order stuff from Weider. First thing I recall seeing was a black and white photograph of Arnold doing a double bicep pose. Between seeing him and rapidly gaining ten pounds of muscle in about two months, I was like, "Holy crap," this is what I'm gonna do! By the time I was 17, and was learning more and more, well, I had to choose someone to model myself after. There was Mike Katz, tall like me, but not really the shape I wanted. Ferrigno too, but somewhat taller than me. Arnold? My height exactly, we are both 6'1.5". I was looking for sameness. I must say this: I feel that bodybuilding is about height, not weight. C'mon. comparing a guy four feet two inches to me, at six feet two inches? It's just not fair when you compare Lee Priest to me. The 212 class at the Olympia? It's stupid.
Viggo and Arnold
MD: LOTTA things nuts today, Viggo. Stupidity abounds.

VS: Charles Clairmonte, Shawn Ray, Vince Taylor, these guys did not weigh much, but they were the best ever. I think Clairmonte was perfect. This is bodybuilding, it is an art. It's not boxing, its not wrestling. The tall guys hardly get noticed, as it is easier to look at the short, more compact guys. Remember, when you are under the lights, weight means nothing.

Charles Clairmonte was perfect
MD: I was talking to Charles Fautz, and he was saying he'd see Zane under lights, alone, and he was untouchable-he looked like the most dense, carved marble.

VS: Yes. You know, I got hooked on it. I'd be at home, and I'd suddenly start to see stuff. I'd look in the mirror and seemingly all of a sudden there would be new lines and definition. I was doing Arnold's routine, and, you know, I'd trained 3-4 hours per day for sports, so a two hour lifting routine was not so bad at all. My legs did suck, however. I'd always run alot, and I started with very, very skinny legs. They were long, skinny, and bow-legged from playing soccer. I always warmed up every workout with five sets of calves. I saw what Arnold did for his calves, and we did lots of donkey calf raises in the bedroom for calves.

MD: You mentioned Arnold, Lou and Mike Katz.

VS: Oh yes, of course. There finally came the day when I was able to acquire the movie Pumping didn't come to our country until well after it was released. (laughs) It was a BIG event in my area. Everyone came over to watch it. I had to keep shushing everyone , especially when Arnold would be talking, which was alot! I had to hear what he was saying! At a young age, I was endowed with Arnold's attitude. I would just flat out tell people that I was the best. Remember, Mike, where I told you I was coming from. It was socialism. Anyone here in America that thinks this nonsense works...well, it doesn't. They don't want you to think on your own. You certainly are not special. They want you hooked on the government dole. This doesn't go along with being an athlete. How do you think an athlete wins? By being the opposite of a socialist. There is jealousy, envy. Anyone like me in that part of the world, they get a tax shelter in Monaco or Luxembourg, and this is because they all want OUT.

1994 NOC weighing 270lbs
MD: Geez. Bodybuilding being a singular art, this is attractive to you?

VS: Of course. Track and field, skiing, bodybuilding, all of these things depend on self-reliance and the best that YOU can be. Soccer? Well, winning was certainly not important to everyone. Me? I couldn't win enough. I'd get pissed.

MD: Sounds alot like Michael Jordan.

VS: Yes. I HAD to win. I was born this way. I couldn't take it that most of the soccer guys couldn't give a shit, and I had to be part of that.

MD: So you wanted to pattern your physique after Arnold.

VS: Yes. But understand, my hips were wider than his, so I had to weigh more than him. I had to make my shoulders that much wider to create the contrast in the hip to shoulder ratio. Arnold's shoulders were so-so, his legs, unflexed, were slender, but great when flexed. These days he'd be considered a light bodybuilder. He had "movement" in his muscles. Guys now-they have clumps of unmoving, undetailed mass, slapped awkwardly here and there. We wanted tiny little fibers and details everywhere, butterflies, I call them. That is the look I like. The guy who just took second in the Arnold, Branch Warren. Now, Michael, just who in Hell wants to look like that? This Big Ramy fellow- the young fan boys may think he is "jacked," and "swole," but he will NEVER win the Olympia. Look at events like the FIBO. These guys, flocking around with all these ghastly tattoos, 25 inch arms. They are idiots.

MD: Viggo, I really think I'm gonna have to start pressuring you to tell me how you really feel....

VS: I avoid these gatherings. I never lie, Michael. In the 90's, I was top ten in the world. Me, Paul Dillett, Ferrigno, we were all in the same mold size wise. Did you know I was called "the Scientist?" I had access to HGH, I was the man. Look. Bodybuilding was my job. It was not a dalliance. I would not take a certain testosterone because I immediately got gynecomastia when I did. I am honest about what I did. Who is ever honest, about nearly anything?

MD: True. Once I finally started living a total life of truth, only then was I free.

VS: Right. In 1993-1994, everyone would ask about drugs. I'd explain it to them, and I was sponsored by Twinlab, who was very good to me. This was my full time job, I'd use any chemical available that I thought would further my career. I knew more about it than my doctor, he'd just write me the prescriptions. You know, before I ever did any steroid or bodybuilding drug, I read everything I could get my hands on for six and a half years. Chemistry, biology. My high school was very hard, and I concentrated on these areas there. I got accepted by three chiropractic universities in Canada back then, but didn't go, as I had gotten married at 20 and moved back to Denmark.

MD: I know we are jumping around a bit, but can you expand a bit about the pharmaceuticals?

VS: Of course. I lived at Ed Conner's house in Venice Beach and Paul Dillett lived nearby. I helped him with his schedule. We carefully went over his diuretic schedule leading up to the Arnold Classic show. It was exactly what I took four months earlier. I said, "Paul, you cannot take more than this!" I advised him on a Pedialyte concoction that I'd keep on the sidestage to drink if cramping up. Well, he went to the show with Charles Glass and some other prominent trainer-can't remember who right now.. Before prejudging, he thought he was holding a bit of water, and I advised him to take a tiny lasix shot. I told him to not be afraid to drink. Well, instead of 10mgs, he took 40 mgs of lasix! He cramped so badly onstage that he couldn't move, and, as you know, he was carried offstage in a most unceremonious way. He called me and said, "We fucked up." I was like, what do you mean "We?" He told me he followed my instructions. He didn't. They gave him IV sugar solution in the ambulance. The next two shows, in Europe, he did win, so he was in shape. It's just that he got very bad advice by his helpers at the Arnold.

I started steroids at 23 years of age. I had read that the safest time to do this was when the body had stopped growing, wisdom teeth had come in. I did a 6-8 week cycle of primobolin. Frankly, the results were not great. I won the 1982 Junior Scandanavian Championships at 21 years old with no drugs. I weighed the same as Zane, only I was taller. In 1983, I took the year off, but in 1984 I had read in Mentzer's book that he had taken dianabol, but I did not have this, so I took small doses of primobolin and deca durabolin.

There were none back then. People would get the steroids on vacation, and bring them back home with them. I started eating voluminous levels of food to get big. At the Danish championships this year, I took third out of three guys in my class. Man, I was SO pissed off. I was picked as the coach of the Danish team to go to the world championships in Las Vegas, but my guys did not place very well. We did have a high old time, however. We were there for 17 days, spent half our time at Venice. It was a huge learning experience. That show, the winners were Demay, Christian and Rich Gaspari. All the guys were training at Joe Gold's World Gym-Haney, Paris, Platz, Samir Bannout. It was a fun, great atmosphere. Arnold was there.

Mike, you know who Sven Ole Thorsen is? Arnold's very close friend of years. Well, he owned a gym in Denmark when I won the Scandanavian championships. This is a show where the five Scandinavian countries are pitted against each other. Sven had pictures of Arnold everywhere in that gym. It was like a shrine to him.

Mike, I never take anything away from anyone. If you don't have the discipline and genetics to win, why do the drugs? To pick up girls? This was my profession, bodybuilding.

I was actually caught cheating in 1988. The team that caught me was the same team that nailed Ben Johnson in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. They were the IOC team, and they were sent to Brisbaine where the World's Fair was being held, as well as the Amateur Mr. Universe. We were told that we could stop the Winstrol 30 days out and not get caught by a drug test, but dianabol would be ok. Me and 11 other guys got caught on the winstrol, and I lost my license to compete for two years. I had to pay a fine of $1,500-which was plane fare. Here's one for you. The previous year, you know, Ben Weider always wanted to get bodybuilding into the Olympics.
1985 World Games
MD: That was never, ever going to happen, nor will it ever. Go on...

VS: They had a test the previous year. Joe and Ben were smoozing with the president of the IOC. It was a dog and pony show. Yes, they had a drug test, and everybody passed. The truth is half the guys failed, and they just thew the tests into the garbage.

MD: In Scandinavia, how were you looked upon being a bodybuilder?

VS: I was looked down upon. In Denmark, I was in a Burger King commercial, my image eating a burger was on all the buses, I was on TV in 85, it was a fantastic year. I was getting cocky, and this is not good in a socialist country. I paid 300% more money for a Toyota Supra that I would pay for it here, I had my own tee shirts. I brought an entourage of 50 wearing my shirts and they sat in the front row at a show I was in. I sure had everyone hating me. I had a perfect score, but still half the people booed me. These were the Danish Nationals and I won, I was the big name. The Russian dianabol and harder training did it for me. I do wish I had maintained a lower profile back then.

MD: How did you finally find your way into the IFBB?

VS: Well, the Danish federation wrote a letter to Wayne Demilia, asking if I could transfer my professional license from WABBA/NABBA, to it's IFBB representative in Denmark. They said to Wayne, Viggo-you will just love him. I paid $200 for my IFBB license and then started touring and guest posing as an IFBB pro.

MD: So, big changes occurred for you?

VS: Well, I started competing in IFBB shows. I got 11th and 12th in my first two shows. Remember, I was going against the greats, Coleman, Priest. There would be 30-40 guys, but I'd make the top 15 so could pose at the night show. I was doing very well. You know, it helped very much that I always stayed within 5 pounds of my stage weight. I'd guest pose always, a thousand dollars a pop. I'd sell pictures, shirts. Twinlab, my sponsor, would get me work. But no really big paychecks.

All the while, I was preparing myself for life in the USA. Twinlab in Sweden transfered me to Twinlab in New York, so this was a great step for me. The Blechman brothers, ABB and Twinlab were very good to me. I started placing higher, fifth in Finland, seventh in France post Olympia. Clairmonte had won all of these post-Olympia shows.
Taking 5th place at the 1993 IFBB Finland GP
In 1993 I made my initial move to the USA. Jim Lorimer invited me to do the Arnold, but I got the flu and called Wayne, asking him what I should do. He invited me to do the famous Night of the Champions in NYC, and he set me up and flew me out. I got 15th out of 44 guys, there were so, so many good bodybuilders there.

MD: Joe Weider?

VS: He flew me out to California in 1994. I remember the really nice hotel and I actually met Roger Callard in the lobby there. I got to my suite and had a very long telephone conversation with Joe. Remember, I was with Twinlab at the time. Joe said he needed me in California, but I told him I hated it there. The air was horrible, and in Florida it was so much better. He said he needed me training at Gold's, taking photos, all that. But I told him I could come and go, and he had plenty of guys out there anyway. We went back and forth like this other times, too, for some time. Look. Many, many guys would kiss Joe's ass. I was respectful, but I don't kiss ass. I stayed with ABB and Twinlab.
Battling with Charles Clairmonte 
But I'll tell you, I supplied all the top guys, the IFBB pros, with Swedish HGH. It was the best in the world. I got it straight from the factory and didn't have to pay for my own stuff-it was expensive

By 1996, I may not have known it, but I was pretty much retired. I had married my new wife, an American, and she was demanding and wanted more cash flow. I started working for Lexus as a leasing director.

MD: So the money quandary, as it directly relates in its paucity to pro bodybuilding, reared it's ugly head.

VS: Yes. Look, I could go in the Master's Olympia and try for the 10K top prize. Or, take an offer of a lifetime. I became the personal trainer, in-house, and bodyguard for a billionaire.

I met a world of people having nothing to do with the bodybuilding world. Private jets, equestrian, everything was a new experience. Helicopters. It was a different world. I went from 265 pounds to 210, and wasn't taking testosterone or deca so my joints were killing me. But the sky was the limit. I was paid 5k per month, no bills, all expenses paid. The urge to compete evaporated. I was with him for three years until his wife served him with divorce papers.

Viggo with wife Elizabeth
In 2003 I married my current wife, Elizabeth, and she was tired of all the traveling anyway, so I got back to things and started training again. I did the 2008 Pro World Masters and did only 20% of drugs I'd do in the past. Darrem Charles won, X-Man was second. I got middle of the pack.

MD: How about your inspiration, The Oak.

VS: I never got too personal with Arnold-he was always surrounded by a throng of people. I trained with Sven in 1985 at World's, and we'd all show up at 7:30, including Arnold. It was so much fun. He was loud, funny, cracking jokes. He didn't train much, but he was there. He was skinny, too. About 190 pounds.

MD: Really?

VS: Oh yes. I was about 230, much bigger than him.

MD: The Great Green one?
Florida beach

VS: Ferrigno was training with Billy Smith, and they'd do cardio. I wanted none of that, so I didn't join them. If you train hard enough with weights, well, there's your cardio!

MD: Food?

VS: I'd keep carbs high. I'd eat lots of broccoli and fart alot. I ate tremendous amounts of food. Everything was measured in pounds. Cottage cheese, broccoli, chicken.

MD: You seem like you'd be a template for a movie guy.

VS: I did castings in Florida, print work, TV, infomercials, they called me Fabio (laughs). I was always the only tall, blond, muscular guy with blue eyes, as in Florida, folks were black or cuban. I got lots of work. I did some Spanish soaps. But, I sucked so bad. I was conscious. You can't be conscious-you have to BECOME the character. Like an out of body experience. If I had worked at it like Arnold did, I could have done it. Remember Hercules in New York?

MD: Also known in some confines as Hercules Goes Bananas. Since that was an insult to monkees everywhere, they changed the title. Yes, I remember.

VS: They dubbed Arnold's voice in. He is unique. He's not an actor. He knows this. Deniro, he's an actor. Arnold? He's a movie star.

Bottle-feeding son Simon in 1886
MD: You have a son and a daughter.

VS: Yes. My son lives in Denmark and he is working on his second master's degree at Copenhagen University. He was a skateboarder and is now into golf. We have the greatest relationship. My daughter lives in Sweden and is a model, beautiful like her mother.

MD: So, you live in the perpetually sunny confines of Florida, and have a personal training business. Tell me about that.

VS: We live in Lighthouse Point, near Boca Raton and Coco Beach. It's a very wealthy area, and we have a duplex on the water. It's beautiful-we look out on the water and see the boats and palm trees. The training business has gone well, but my club is currently in transition, so I will see how that turns out.

MD: Will you ever compete again? At 54, looks like you could walk in a show today and represent.

VS: If Ferrigno runs a master's division at his Legacy show this year, I would do the over 50 for fun. I will say I hate the direction of bodybuilding now. Well, there is no direction. It is already dead in the water, going nowhere. You know that Vacuum shot of Zane, the iconic photo you post? THAT. No one was ever drier than that. He didn't even weigh much. Frank had it all. I liked the look of Levrone at his best.

At the 2008 Atlantic Masters Pro World
Charles Clairmonte, Berry DeMey, that is bodybuilding. Tell me, would anyone want to look like Kai Green, Big Ramy? I know the fan-boys say he is "swole" and a "beast," but he will NEVER win the Olympia. Green and Heath were WORSE than they were in 2013. Heath's stomach looked horrible. C'mon man. Too much HGH, IGF-1, Insulin. They are eating 8-10 meals per day. Fat grows around their intestines, they grow, the ab muscles are pushed to the sides, you can clearly see this. Dennis Wolf looks even worse. These guys are eating themselves into oblivion. You know-they set their alarm clocks for every 2-3 hours so they can get up and eat twice a nite-they have to feed every three hours.

MD: Good God, sounds like locusts or something!

VS: Tell me, how do you get people to participate in that? Who in Hell wants that?
You know, Vince Taylor, great guy, he's my friend down here. But, it's true, he is the laziest bodybuilder in the world. He eats junk. I tried to get him to do a leg workout with me, and he was done after my warm up. I told him we had two hours to go, and he was like , "Not me." He has all this muscle mass without the training. Everything he did was with light cables. The most he weighed was 220. Bodybuilding is the most narcissistic sport in history. The positive, old day camaraderie, basement gyms, out of the way places, local shows, hard core fans, gone.

MD: Viggo, keep this quiet, but if I told you that there was still a place like that, and I could take you there, would you come with me?

VS: You know, somehow, Michael, I believe you could. We were like the Gods of the universe back then, the 80's and 90's were best in those senses. We walk around at all times as our own product, we look different than others. The USA is very positive, people approach you, want their picture with you. Very few ask about drugs. In Europe? They don't want to know about the hard work, just the drugs. They make good times out of feeling sorry for themselves back there. In my country, mediocrity is rewarded. Here? People should be grateful. It is like night and day here.
"I am 54 and nobody wants to do my leg workout with me"
You know, Michael, in its finality, no, I could not be Mr. Olympia. But I did what I came here to do, I have had a very fun life, I have fans all over the world, except for some bad bursitis, I enjoy great health. (Laughs) I am 54 and nobody wants to do my leg workout with me. Young kids? Well, they either wear those goofy board shorts or think they are gonna get legs without training.

I hope Arnold puts the pressure on Manion. These guys would do well looking like Cedric McMillan, Toney Freeman, those types. The other guys can't even hold their poses. They get big and ugly.

MD: I do get down to Florida on occasion. I'd love to do lunch. Or some Scandanavian food. get your secrets. Just not a leg workout. Thanks so much for the words as well as your cosmopolitan world view, my friend.

VS: Thanks Michael. I appreciate what you are doing in the service of kindling the ebbing fire that was bodybuilding when it was good. May we see it's return soon.

Thank You for the Interview Dr. Michael Dusa. 
Tak Viggo og alle de bedste fra dine fans pa
©,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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