|They Call Him Vince
By Chuck Irving
(From MuscleMag, November 1988)
To his fans,
hes "The Iron Guru." To his detractors hes the man they love to
hate, an egomaniac for more decades than Schwarzenegger has muscle. But to a growing
contingent of Hollywood actors, hes all of the above and more: hes the guy who
gets them in shape for the movies and television and keeps them that way. While "Body
by Jake" Steinman, Jane Fonda and her training philosophies, and the big-time former
bodybuilding champion types like Franco Columbu continue to garner much of the publicity
surrounding the training of celebrities and "stars," Vince keeps pumpin
em up at his torture chamber in Studio City, California. Hes cornered the
marked at whittling off unwanted inches, adding needed ones, and churning out tuned-up
bodies of "Beautiful People."
While readers of this magazine are familiar with "Dr.
Gu" (as actor/client Gary Wood affectionately calls him), some might be surprised to
learn that hes operated out of the same location since 1938. In an age where
training fads change on an almost monthly basis and where fitness "authorities"
crop up overnight, its nice to know that there is a standard, a constant, a
tradition. That, in fact, is one of the reasons that many of Hollywoods finest wind
up at Vinces gym. As they say in the movie business, the guys got
John Schneider, known to television audiences from a
high-profile stint on The Dukes Of Hazzard and a popular country-western singing
talent, first went to Vince over ten years ago. In person, John is quite a bit taller than
you might expect and is currently sporting a big-shouldered, trim-hipped physique that is
a direct result of hours of one-on-one training with Vince. As John explains it,
"Vince is a man of many moods, talents, and ideas." The thing that attracted
John to Vinces particular methods and madness was a combination of the physical and
mental training involved in the Gironda mystique. "He is never at a loss for words,
suggestions, and orders that are guaranteed to improve your overall performance in the gym
as well as your life in general. Discipline to him is more than a word. It is a constant
state of mind. Vince Gironda is the man of stone with the heart of gold."
The awesome Rowdy Roddy Piper,
wrestling-superstar-turned-actor, star of the upcoming John Carpenter movie, They Live!,
echoes Johns sentiments. In fact, Roddy needed to drop 20 pounds and get ripped up
for his role in the Carpenter movie. He turned to Gironda to perform the needed muscle
magic. Vince placed him on the infamous "Any Meat Any Water" all-protein
competition diet to strip the excess body fat off Pipers body. As movie fans will
soon see, the result is great. Roddy calls Vince "the only man in history who made
Roddy Piper scream."
Erik Estrada has trained under Vinces tutelage on and
off since 1973. Estrada credits Vince for his physique. "He gave me the C.H.I.P.S.
look", Estrada says with a wry laugh. It was Estrada, in fact, who literally laid the
groundwork for Vince. Several years ago Vince made a passing remark that he needed new
carpeting in the gym and Estrada, as a gesture of appreciation and friendship, had new
carpeting delivered and installed the next day.
Gary Wood, the star of the movie Hardbodies and the
upcoming Soldier of Innocence, credits Vince with "helping to create the
illusion of size by concentration on shape rather than adding on a lot of extra poundage
which would be undesirable for the camera." Gary also has Vince to thank for helping
to strip the fat off which he gained during seven grueling months shooting Soldier
on location in South Korea. "I came back from that location completely out of whack,
diet-wise. Id trained with many of the popular trainers here in L.A. but hadnt
gotten the result. For me, thats what Vince is all about result!"
Jared Martin (Dusty Farlow on Dallas and currently
starring in the new series War of the Worlds) and Doug McClure (formerly of the Virginian
and lately of Out of This World) have both been Gironda disciples for years.
Martin, who lives in Canada now while shooting War, first went to Vince in 1981 and
still tunes up at Vinces when hes in Hollywood. He says jokingly,
"Hes too hard on me. He makes me leave town." In a more serious vein he
adds, "There are really two men who have had a major impact on my life. The first is
Lee Strasberg. The second is Vince Gironda." McClure jokes that "Vince has a
unique way of seeing if youre serious and will stick to it: he doesnt talk to
you for at least the first two years." The truth is that Gironda is notorious for a
mercurial temperament which changes in direct proportion to the amount of commitment and
intention a student possesses. Hes not easily pleased, but then the guys a
perfectionist. And thats why his opinion is so highly valued by those he trains.
They know that if they can please The Iron Guru, theyve accomplished something.
The Gironda touch works not only for men, but for women as
well. Greta Blackburn, who appeared on Dynasty as "Jennifer" and in the
mini-series V: The Final Battle as "Lorraine," first started weight
training for a role in the movie 48 Hours at Golds Gym in Venice. She later
worked her way through what she calls the "Yuppie trainers" at places like
Nautilus Plus in Los Angeles and the exclusive Matrix One club. Miss Blackburn needed to
get in top shape and fast last winter for a lead role in a soon-to-be-released motion
picture entitled The Party Line in which she appears in several workout sequences.
She followed husband Gary Woods lead and signed up with Vince. As she tells it,
"I had always been tall and lean. What I wanted was to build more muscle density, to
pack a little muscle on these bones. When I saw the itty-bitty Nike workout clothes I was
going to wear in Party Line I knew I had to get cut up. Vince dramatically changed
my body in less time than all the other trainers I had tried. Plus I liked the idea of the
Mileage Vince has. After all, when you really want to learn something well,
dont you go to the source, if at all possible?"
Gretas enthusiasm soon caught on to her friend and
current training partner Jane Badler (Diana on V and the current female star of
NBCs The Highwayman). Jane also needed to get in shape for a movie that she
was soon to star in in Spain and sought Vinces diet and training secrets to give her
a "quick fix." Within two weeks she noticed results. Jane says, "I
wasnt getting the tone I needed from aerobics classes and I didnt have a clue
about the dieting aspect of it all. I cant believe it, but Im hooked on weight
training. I know whats possible now and I cant imagine not doing it".
Word of mouth is a mainstay for Vinces business
within the Hollywood community. In a profession where its as competitive as it gets
and where looking fabulous is the norm rather than the exception, everyone wants an edge.
And Vince provides just that. Kimber Sissons, Ron Elys co-star on Sea Hunt,
and an actress known to many for her "Spuds MacKenzie" and Lean Cuisine
commercials, went to Vince to drop about ten pounds that had crept up on her. She was a
serious contender for the new Charlies Angels and needed to be in top shape.
Vince whittled her back down to what she calls "The old Kimber, the one I knew was
there under that little bit of extra weight." Out of thousands of girls who
auditioned for the new Angels, Kimber got right down to the finals and also
immediately landed a string of national commercials. Her results were so dramatic, in
fact, that her friend Leah Ayres Hendrix asked her the secret to her new silhouette. The
answer? "Vince Gironda!"
Leah, whom audiences will remember as Valerie Bryson on The
Edge of Night, as Jill Schrader on First of Ten and as the female lead opposite
Jena-Claude Van Damme in Bloodsport, beat a hasty path to Vinces sanctum.
There, she experienced a much different result than the hours of aerobics classes she had
been taking. As she puts it, "I didnt like the way I was looking and feeling
from aerobics. Then I saw Kimber and said, Where have you been?" Leah
studied dance for many years and sees a relationship between that and the work she is
doing now at Vinces. "I used to be a dancer and I think this is very refined
and specific like dance." She smiles slyly when she adds, "I feel more
Newcomer Heidi Thomas, seen briefly as a dancer on Days
of Our Lives last year, hopes that the Gironda touch will give her that added magic
that is mandatory in Hollywood success stories. "Im into it. I was looking at
the back of my hair the other day in the mirror and I noticed these cuts starting to show
on my back. Im gonna get ripped!" The Gironda touch has already turned to gold
for Heidi. Within three weeks of training at Vinces, Heidi landed a Cherry Coke
commercial in which she frolics on the beach in a bikini, "a little string thingy,
the kind I could never bear the sight of myself in before," she adds.
The ladies at Vinces gym will put up with pain,
deprivation, and occasional disappointment. What they will not tolerate is becoming
"Wide loads." As Vince himself puts it, "You know how sometimes at night on
the highway you see these trucks pulling a house or an oversized cargo and they have these
little follow-up vehicles with a big sign with flashing lights which says Caution:
Wide Load! Well, as soon as any of these movie actresses put on a few extra pounds
all I have to do is say, Look out! Wide load comin through the door and
youd be amazed how fast they get back to meat and water."
Talking to Vince, it becomes obvious that he has a great
deal of affection for all of his clients and, in particular, those in the movie business.
When asked how he stays interested in training people after all these years, he says,
"I like to think of myself as half madman, half magician. You have to be a little mad
to deal with people on such a personal level day in and day out. I see people at their
best and at their worst. And I also have to work magic. The magic part is only possible
when the guy laying on the bench waiting for that next set is as motivated as I am.
Thats why I like movie people so much. Theyre the most highly motivated group
of people alive. That inspires me!"
The list of people who have inspired and been inspired by
Vince is longer than a workout on "Hell Day." (Thats any Friday at
Vinces gym and if you can walk out the door unassisted, post-workout, you
didnt work hard enough!) It includes: Cher, David, Bobby and Keith Carradine, Tommy
Chong, Brad Davis, Clint Eastwood, Lou Ferrigno, William Holden, James Garner, Brian
Keith, Jack LaLanne, Michael Landon, Burt Reynolds, David Lee Roth, Richard Roundtree,
Kurt Russell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, O.J. Simpson, Carl Weathers, and Denzel Washington,
Vince is a real one-of-a-kind, as those who have met him
will be apt to point out. But he gets results. Ask the Hollywood celebrities. After all,
they should know. Their livelihood depends on looking and feeling good. Ironically, one
gets the feeling that its not just the physical result that keeps them coming back
for more. Its also an almost intangible mental set that helps them cope with the
rigors of an emotionally demanding and competitive business. John Schneider sums it up
best when he says, "Vince is a philosopher of great magnitude that I am honored to
know and proud to call a friend."