The Loss of Heroes
By M. Doug McGuff, MD
It is very difficult for me to post on an international venue a grief that is so deeply personal.
Very few people know what a profound influence Mike had on my life. Right now, in my parents house in San Antonio, Texas, there still exists, for lack of a better term, a Mike Mentzer shrine. Mike was a major influence to me as a teenager and served as my first source of hero-worship. I have just about every article ever written by or about Mike. I know intimate details about him from the most obscure of sources. I know that he loved the movie "A Clockwork Orange". I have a magazine article that shows he and his then girlfriend Cathy Gelfo looking at the album cover from the movie soundtrack. I know that he is blue-green color blind, and this prevented him from selecting the correct liquor that would give him the best buzz... "like sparklers going off in your head". I could go on and on, but I just wanted to illustrate that as a teenager I was absolutely enamoured with the Mike and his brother Ray.
During a time in my life when there was a complete lack of heroic figures to emulate, Mike Mentzer was presented as a lone, shining star. He represented to me the fully actualized man. He didn't just have one of the most amazing bodies ever seen, he had an equally impressive intellectual life. He read extensively, particularly in the realm of psychology and philosophy. He inspired me, as a teenager, to read the works of Nietsche and William James. My high school teachers were flabbergasted to see me carrying around such books at school. During the late 70's and early 80's it was frequently mentioned that Mike was striving to go to medical school. He described the ordeal of preparing for contests while studying for organic chemistry and other pre-med requisites. It was this, along with the writings of Arthur Jones, that first inspired me to go to med school. It is embarrassing for me to admit that my teenage hero-worship of Mike was a major determinant in my decision to pursue a medical career. But that has been Mike's greatest gift to many different people... the inspiration that can only be produced by someone who pursues the human ideal.
The other thing that greatly impressed me about Mike was his refusal to betray the convictions of his mind. During a period when bodybuilding was dominated by Arnold and the Weider Publications touted ridiculous double-split routines, Mike refused to misrepresent the cause of his success in exchange for money. The powers that be certainly tried to shout him down, but the logic of his arguments and the impressiveness of his physique could not be squelched. Ultimately, Mike would have his venue in magazines that would probably have preferred him to just go away. He was the first bodybuilder to openly admit that genetics plays a dominant role in bodybuilding success and that the ridiculous routines of the day were designed to produce the kind of frustration that would fuel supplement sales. The heat that followed this display would have turned the average man into a pile of cinders, but Mike just glowed white-hot.
My knowledge of Ray is much less than of Mike, but I do have one profound recollection. I believe it was 1979 when I attended a Ray Mentzer seminar at Olympic Gym in San Antonio. Ray was dressed in khaki shorts and was sipping a cup of black coffee. I was awestruck by the most powerfully muscular legs I had ever seen. During the question and answer period, I asked him how he trained his legs, and he replied... "one set of squats, performed 12 weeks ago. My genetics are such that my legs grow very easily". This planted the first seeds in my mind about the issue of workout frequency and strength decompensation. I was also impressed that he would admit so openly to his genetic gifts.
As I look back and review all the material Mike has written, I am amazed how much ground-breaking thought he has produced. As I review his writings I find that almost every revelation that I thought I had come up with about exercise, had actually been written by Mike a long time ago. This will be the legacy of Mike Mentzer. His writings are classic and must be preserved. You can read every book on self-help in the bookstore and they all will not add up to "Aristotle's Ethics". You can read every publication ever written by Objectivists scholars, but nothing will ever touch "Atlas Shrugged". I hope that you continue to run this web site so that future generations can have the source of inspiration that I did.
In pursuing his own self interest, Mike provided more good to more people than any altruist could ever dream of. Mike and Ray had a profoundly positive influence that has shaped the course of my life...for that I will always be greatful.
With Deepest Sympathy,
M. Doug McGuff, MD
President, Ultimate Exercise