From the Archives: I Smoked Pot With the Governator! (2009)

By Tommy Chong

I met Arnold Schwarzenegger at Gold’s Fitness center in 1968, when he first arrived from Europe. He was 21 years outdated and will barely converse English. He was the speak of the bodybuilding world and had already gained his first Mr. Universe title, within the 1967 competitors sponsored by NABBA (the Nationwide Novice Physique Builders Affiliation)—a contest he would dominate for the subsequent three years.

Steroids and Arnold arrived on the similar time, and Arnold took large muscle groups to new heights. However as large as Arnold was (20-inch arms!), he nonetheless managed to lose the Mr. Universe contest sponsored that 12 months by a rival group, the Worldwide Federation of Physique Builders, to an American named Frank Zane. Based on the gossip at Gold’s Fitness center, Zane was a grasp in using steroids, and it was this ability that propelled him previous Arnold for the IFBB title in ’68. However Arnold was a fearsome competitor—as anybody who noticed him on the gymnasium may inform you—and the next 12 months he went on to take each Mr. Universe titles.

On the time, Gold’s Fitness center was actually the most effective males’s membership on the planet. Finally, as increasingly more individuals flocked to the tiny gymnasium, the success really turned Joe Gold off. He actually simply wished a spot the place he and his bodybuilding pals may have exercise with out being bothered. He had began the gymnasium in his storage, and his expertise as a welder/machinist got here in helpful constructing the early dumbbell and barbell units, together with the benches for presses.

Then the storage turned too cramped, so Joe discovered a storefront in Venice and opened up the primary Gold’s Fitness center. The constructing continues to be standing with the unique signal, though it’s now a residence. This was the gymnasium the place all of the greats gathered. And this was the place Zabo (a.okay.a. “the Chief”) lived for a number of months, sleeping on the sit-up board.

Zabo was the supervisor and co-creator of Gold’s Fitness center, and he was already recognized all through the bodybuilding world as “Mr. Pure,” a residing legend resulting from his unimaginable physique and devotion to the game. And though Zabo by no means took steroids, he was very a lot into marijuana. A devoted pot smoker, the Chief had a transparent mission in life: to work out, get excessive, lay within the solar and “service” the women.

Once I arrived in Venice Seashore in 1968, I had the identical targets, besides that I’d added “writing songs” to the checklist. I turned pals with Zabo as quickly as I joined, as a result of he may by no means bear in mind if I’d paid my membership dues, which had been a complete of 30 bucks for 3 months. Every time I appeared on the gymnasium, Zabo would ultimately come up and ask, “Are you a member right here?”

To which I’d reply: “Yeah.”

Then he’d have a look at me for a second and go: “Oh, yeah—Tommy, proper?”

Again in these days, the mantra given to every new buyer was “$30 for 3 months, no instruction, and put the weights again the place you discovered them.” And that was it! “No instruction” meant Zabo wasn’t about to child anybody within the gymnasium. In case you did an train incorrect, or in the event you did an train that was dangerous for you, reminiscent of facet bends with a dumbbell—that was too dangerous. Giving instruction in these days was a waste of time, as a result of solely devoted bodybuilders used the gymnasium, and people guys didn’t want it. Most of them already knew what they had been doing, having learn the accessible literature and realized the routines utilized by champions.

However Zabo took a liking to me and would, every now and then, appropriate what I used to be doing, as a result of he realized I used to be one of many few guys there who would really pay attention when advised what to do. This put me into Zabo’s interior circle, which included all the highest guys on the time, like Dave Draper, Frank Zane and, after all, Arnold. Zabo ultimately moved into a bit cottage inside strolling distance of the gymnasium. It was at this home that a number of the greatest males within the sport gathered to smoke the herb.

Zabo had a hookah with one pipe stem that he used each time he had company over for a toke. He would load the bowl with a giant pinch of bud (1 / 4 of an oz) after which fireplace it up, taking an enormous bodybuilder’s toke. The trick was to ultimately pull so laborious that the burning pot can be sucked down and explode within the water. That meant taking an unlimited hit, which might be held in these wholesome, outsized lungs for a very long time with out coughing.

The pot was normally old school Mexican weed with seeds. (This was earlier than the seedless selection.) However one pressure—most likely Colombian—was potent sufficient to place you to mattress. My recollection is that the nasty stems-and-seeds weed was accessible for $20 to $50 a kilo on the time, however I’m not actual positive about costs, as a result of I by no means purchased weed in these days. I smoked no matter was handed to me, and sufficient was handed to me that I used to be regularly smiling on the world.

Arnold liked the competitors at Zabo’s, so he would attempt to outdo Dave Draper, who, after taking a fair larger toke, would maintain within the smoke even longer. When the pipe was handed to me, I knew I couldn’t even come shut to those guys, so I politely took the tiniest toke, then proceeded to cough my lungs out, to the merriment of my fellow tokers.

I wasn’t embarrassed within the least, as a result of I used to be blissful simply to be included on this once-in-a-lifetime second. Understanding in the identical gymnasium with these guys was a thrill, so sharing a bong with them was a dream come true. And the truth that I used to be a no person again then additionally exhibits the humanity and love these particular males possessed. I used to be the one man within the room that hadn’t made his mark on the bodybuilding scene. Most of them had gained at the very least one main contest of their younger lives; in the meantime, I used to be a thin little gymnasium rat who did his exercise on the lighter finish of the load rack, attempting to not get in anyone’s approach, particularly when the giants did their supersets.

An instance of a superset was for these guys to begin at one finish of the load rack and do as many reps (repetitions) as attainable with the lightest pair of dumbbells, then transfer on to the subsequent heavier pair, till they had been curling 190 kilos in both hand. This was completed nonstop; the ache was so intense that the screams popping out of their mouths had been animalistic. The misunderstanding that by some means bodybuilding is just not a sport, and that every one these supermen needed to do was inject steroids into their our bodies to magically turn out to be large and muscular, amazes me to at the present time.

I used to be there: I noticed their exercises with my very own eyes. These wonderful males additionally had as a lot data of the physique—and doubtless extra data of vitamin—than most medical doctors. And but they took outing of their hectic exercise schedule to smoke pot. I feel that claims all of it with regards to the propaganda and lies that the U.S. authorities has been spreading for years concerning the well being dangers of marijuana.

Zabo additionally cleaned the gymnasium at evening earlier than closing store. I labored out late, so I’d assist him put the weights away. He’d at all times vacuum the place by hand and by no means used an extension; as a substitute, he would stoop down low to choose up the grime. Once I instructed that an extension would make the job simpler, Zabo replied, “Come on, we come right here for a exercise. A little bit bending gained’t damage—and apart from, I misplaced the extension months in the past.”

On one event, Zabo invited me for a “little run.” I accepted the invitation—which was a mistake, since that “little run” turned out to be a fucking marathon. He stated, “We’ll simply go across the block a few occasions,” and added that the rationale he was operating was that he was feeling sick and couldn’t work out.

I discovered later that Zabo had been a scout throughout the Second World Conflict and had contacted malaria within the jungles throughout the 12 months he was behind enemy traces. The virus was in his blood, and he would have assaults every now and then and couldn’t elevate weights, so he would run “a number of miles” as a substitute. However Zabo ran like he labored out—quick and insane.

He took off like a shot, with me operating as quick as I may to maintain up with him, however quickly he was a speck on the horizon, so I stated fuck it and slowed right down to my customary crawl. I hobbled again to the gymnasium and waited for Zabo, however he was gone like a cool breeze, so I did my little exercise and hung round. I wished to see how lengthy Zabo’s “little run” would take. I lastly gave up after two hours.

Zabo labored on Issues Are Robust All Over, the Cheech & Chong film the place Cheech and I performed humorous Arabs. Zabo was my double, so he did numerous work within the movie. We shot Zabo’s half in Las Vegas.

In the future, once we had been taking pictures some desert stuff that didn’t require Zabo’s presence, he joined us for lunch anyway: He ran 25 miles out to the situation, had lunch, then ran 25 miles again to Vegas, the place he most likely did a exercise with weights earlier than he ended his day.

Zabo had gained so many trophies throughout his lengthy profession that in the future Steve, his buddy and landlord, got here dwelling and located them out on the sidewalk, stacked in containers alongside the rubbish. “What’s happening right here?” Steve requested. Zabo replied, “I don’t want that shit.”

Steve—who, like the remainder of us, was a giant Zabo fan—determined to rescue a number of the extra vital trophies. One purpose that Zabo had so many: When bodybuilding contests first started within the Nineteen Thirties (BS—Earlier than Steroids), the judges would award a distinct trophy for each a part of the physique, reminiscent of finest arms, finest legs, finest again, and many others. This was as a result of totally different males had been properly developed in numerous areas, and the general trophy was given to the all-around best-proportioned man.

Zabo had injured his shoulder in a diving accident, so he lacked shoulder measurement, however he had the whole lot else after which some. He maintained a particularly nutritious diet, however he additionally loved life to the fullest—and when it got here to his legendary physique, the dimensions prolonged to all of the vital elements. In truth, one of many causes a few of us thought Zabo by no means used steroids was the rumor that it decreased penis measurement. This was one physique half that, if it had its personal class, Zabo would’ve gained in a heartbeat, with out having to reveal your entire monster.

Zabo is 83 years outdated now, and he nonetheless has common clients visiting him (together with many beautiful ladies). I may write a e-book on the legend of Zabo’s monster, however that is an article about getting excessive with the Governator, so possibly subsequent time.

I not too long ago bumped into Arnold on the Starbucks in Brentwood the place he has breakfast, and he acknowledged me instantly. He smiled as if remembering these carefree occasions and stated, “We each had desires, didn’t we?” I smiled again and thought to myself: “Yeah, we each did.” I dreamed about turning into a profitable author, and Arnold about turning into a well-known film star. We each fulfilled our wildest desires. We each began with nothing and have become insanely profitable.

The query is: How a lot of a job did pot play in our success? It performed an unlimited half in my success, clearly, as a result of I went on to make films like Up In Smoke and Good Desires. However though Arnold smoked a joint in Pumping Iron, his success has not been pot-related—or has it? In any case, when the Beatles landed in New York for his or her first American tour, Bob Dylan turned them on to pot—and everyone knows what that began.

When Arnold landed in America, Zabo turned him on to pot, and now Arnold is the governor of California—after an enormously profitable profession in bodybuilding and Hollywood. So is there one thing about pot that modifications individuals? Does it faucet into some unseen non secular facet, serving to to attach us with the true world the place the whole lot and something is feasible? I’m satisfied that it does. I personally really feel related to the non secular world each time I smoke pot—however possibly that’s as a result of I’m already conscious of the non secular world. No matter!

In the long run, what I do know for sure is that I smoked with the Governator, and he remembered … and that was so candy!

Excessive Occasions Journal, March 2009

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