Interview with Dr. Pete Samra

Interview with Dr. Pete Samra
“The Origin of Natural Bodybuilding”

Eugene: When did Natural bodybuilding start.
Pete: The first Natural contest I heard about was the Natural Bodybuilders Association “Natural Mr. America” in Las Vegas Nevada in 1978. The winner of the professional was my good friend Dennis Tinerino, who had won, Jnr MR America, Mr America and Mr Universe.This was Dennis’s third Mr. America. He later called himself ‘The Natural Champion”. The promoter of the event was Mr Universe Chet Yorton.
” The Father of Natural Bodybuilding.”. He has the distinction of beating Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1966 Mr Universe in London,I think the only other person to beat Arnold was Frank Zane in the IFBB Mr Universe in USA.Chet must be given all the credit because he went out on a limb, and through his vision and insight we have Natural bodybuilding today. 

Eugene: so how did it grow in to the sport it is today:

Pete: First we need to get some basics out of the way. The AAU was the controlling body of amateur Bodybuilding in the USA. All winners of the Mr.America were then sent to London to compete in the Nabba Mr Universe. Some of the greatest bodybuilders won the Nabba Mr Universe including .Chet Yorton, Dennis Tinerino  (Amateur and pro), Arnold ( won it twice as well) . Boyer coe, Ken Waller, My training partners, Roy Duval (England) and Paul Grant (Wales).Reg Park of South Africa won the NABBA Universe three times in 21 years, winning it every seven years.. Fannie Du Toit , Franz van den Berg both South Africans won their height divisions and Elias Petsas a Greek South African, who was a baker, and did most of his training in his Bakery. Became the only South African other than Reg to win the Overall title in London Mr Universe.
The AAU had a monopoly on title. The Weiders Joe and Ben had the IFBB and also had a Mr Universe and MR America.Dan Lurie in New York had the WBBG and also promoted contests.
So when Chet started promoting, he faced much opposition from all the other associations.

Eugene: It seems that the Other associations had the whole thing tied up.!

Pete : Exactly, Yorton was a Gym owner in Las  Vegas and had some pull in the town, so his contests were held in one of the casinos, and he gave away good prize money to the professionals. I judged one of the Natural Mr America contests in 1981 .

Eugene: So how did Natural bodybuilding get to the place it is today as Worldwide association.

Pete : Enter Clay Quinn, a gym owner in Independence Mo. Clay had been promoting many contests with either the AAU , but when Natural Bodybuilding came to town he wanted to go Natural. A former Biker and gang leader, Quinn found salvation in Jesus and wanted to clean the sport up. As the editor of “Power Magazine” a natural Bodybuilding magazine under the Christian Bodybuilders Association. because he could not get a sanction for his contests as he was going Natural, He approached The CBA  and asked if he could promote The Natural USA under their banner. The CBA was not ordained to promote contests, but rather send teams of Natural Athletes to natural contests  and then give them coverage in “Power”  which went all around the world. But because there were no sanctioning bodies in the mid-west. Clay Quinn was allowed to use the CBA banner. Clay Quinn was one of the shrewdest promoters in Natural Bodybuilding, took on both the AAU and the newly formed NPC, which had become the amateur body of the Weider’s IFBB. Quinn found the help of the Kansas City University to do the blood testing and also obtained the help of the Civil liberties, who fought on his behalf stating that an amateur athlete , can enter any contest he or she chooses without repercussions. He promoted the Natural USA, Natural Mid-America and the Natural  North America. Because of his strict steroid testing in his first contest 40% of the athletes were disqualified on the stage, humiliating the athletes. His tough tactics in disqualifying atheletes led to many legal issues and in a bid to get away from them, he bought an old bus took out the seats and moved his gym and family out of state one cold night. He moved to Chicargo, where he promoted again.

Eugene: Interesting. Like the mafia ?

Pete: Yes Eugene, like the mafia. The next key player was non other than Jack O’Blenis, a racing car driver, biker and weights salesman. Jack was a lifter and owned the Monster Maker gym in Southern California.He had been a memebr of the AAU and had promoted many contest with them, but now just like Clay Quinn, he wanted to promote Natural and the AAU would not let him. So he started the ABCC. He faced even worse, opposition, his dog had its eyes pooked out and his truck was burnt. He had a lawyer full time on the payroll helping him fight the other associations. I promoted the first ABCC Natural contest with him .THE NATURAL NATURALS – and this we promoted right in the heart of bodybuilding capital “Santa Monica”. Clay Quinn was the MC that night and opened the contest with a prayer. Jack promoted hundreds of Natural
 contests and had a ready supply of trained atheletes from his Monster Maker Gym, where he did miracles in training. 

Eugene:I had no idea the history of natural bodybuilding was so interesting;

Pete: It sure was. The turn around came , when Tom Ciola an Italian from Utica New York started the NBBA – Natural Body  Builders Association. Ciola Owned   ” Natural Health Products” and formulated a product just for natural Bodybuilders called “Hot StuFF” . He also promoted The “Natural Mr. America”. Which was won by Natural Bodybuilding superstar Bob Gallucci. Ciola also published a glossy newspaper called “Natural Bodybuilding” . People like Clay Quinn and I wrote for him and he was very supportive of other NaturalBodybuilding associations.

Eugene: So how did Denny Kakos get started.
Pete: Denny was an owner of Gold’s Gym in Corona California. By this time the opposition knew that “Natural Bodybuilding” was a force to be reckoned with. The promoters Like Clay Quinn, Mid-West, Tom Ciola East Coast, Andy  Bastento, also on the East Coast,Che Low on the East Coast, also put out a top natural bodybuilding magazine. Jim Evans in Mininsota , Jack O’Blennis on the West Coast 
The bible says the little foxes, destroy the vine and there were enough little foxes, destroying the vine. Denny Kakos went to the NPC and asked them to sanction the first ever Natural Mr California , 113 Atheletes competed in this historic event , the contest went on until the early hours of Sunday morning. when Kakos went back to the NPC to ask them if he could do other contests, the door was closed.
Eugene: So How did ABA get started,
Pete:Wally Boyco was a top promoter of Bodybuilding and Fitness Trade shows. He did many “Body building Expo’s at the Disneyland Hotel , where he would stage bodybuilding shows, seminars and many companies would buy booths to show their fitness products. Wally started the Ms Fitness and also started his own Professional Bodybuilders Association, using a clapping odometer to see who would win the contest, total audience participation. Because he needed an amateur association. He approached  Denny, and I to start the ABA. At first the ABA was divided into two groups, Natural and open( meaning no testing). because of my total commitment to natural bodybuilding I was voted in as president of the Natural division, Clay Quinn flew to Anaheim California to be our Vice president Natural and Mid West ( Chicargo) promoter, also at that meeting was Jack O’Blennis who was the president of the ABCC, but because one of his previous foes from the AAU was going to be our head judge, Jack pulled out.I promoted some big shows The Souhtern California and World cup with big sponsors and top Movie stars giving out trophies. Denny promted both natural and open, but as time went on he put his whole support behind Natural bodybuilding. Clay Quinn , promoted some big shows in Illinois and we had a few shows outside California. Wally stopped the PBA and I went full time into ministry back to South Africa. Denny took over the ABA and has made it into the largest Natural Association in the world. He did many contests with Jack O’Blennis in later years.I am still very friendly with Clay Quinn and Denny Kakos, they are both my good and close friends. I lost contact with Jack O’Blennis in later years and he recently passed away. Chet Yorton is still training and was inducted into the Natural Bodybuilders Hall of fame. Tom Ciola , is no longer involved in bodybuilding.

Eugene : Thank you for your time Pete. We look forward to your visit to South Africa this year.