Joe Weider, who, with his brother Ben, built the biggest bodybuilding empire in the world, died March 23 at age 93 in Los Angeles.
Weider, the Montreal-born son of poor Jewish immigrants, left Montreal for New York in 1947, and had lived in California since the early 1970s.
His younger brother, Ben, who remained in Montreal, died in 2008.
Joe Weider became famous for having discovered an unknown Austrian hunk named Arnold Schwarzenegger, who would go onto be an international superstar on the bodybuilding circuit, a Hollywood actor and governor of California.
According to their autobiography, Brothers of Iron, Joe Weider began lifting weights to put some muscle on his scrawny frame.
Building his strength and improving his appearance boosted his confidence, and he realized that many others would also benefit from such training.
In the depths of a depression and with only a few dollars, the teenaged Weider launched a muscle magazine that he put together himself on his family’s dining room table. That modest periodical laid the foundation for the brothers’ multimillion-dollar publishing business, which expanded to include fitness equipment and nutritional supplements.
The Weiders transformed bodybuilding from what was then the obscure pastime of a few physique-obsessed people into a respectable sport, organized under its own international federation.
Weider also created the Mr. Olympia contest, which his protégé Schwarzenegger won seven times. Weider, who developed a rippling masterpiece of a physique in his heyday, was the trainer of many other bodybuilding champions.
The honour Weider said he was most proud of was the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Boy Scouts of America in 1991, which hailed him as “the father of fitness.”
In the foreword to Brothers of Iron (2006), Schwarzenegger, then still California governor, wrote: “One word sums up Joe’s role in my life – father. After my own father passed away, Joe more than filled the gap… Joe’s generosity to me knew no bounds. I honestly don’t know where I’d be or what I’d be doing if Joe had not come into my life.”