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Bodybuilding Record of Bob Paris

1981 Mr. Los Angeles 1st

* 1982 Mr. California - NPC 2nd, Lightheavyweight

* 1982 Nationals - NPC 4th, Heavyweight

* 1982 IFBB North American Championships 3rd, Heavyweight

* 1982 NPC USA Championships 3rd, Heavyweight

* 1983 NPC Nationals Overall Winner

* 1983 NPC Nationals 1st, Heavyweight

* 1983 IFBB World Amateur Championships Overall Winner

* 1983 IFBB World Amateur Championships 1st, Heavyweight

* 1984 Mr. Olympia 7th

* 1985 Mr. Olympia 9th

* 1986 IFBB Los Angeles Pro Championsips 7th

* 1986 IFBB World Pro Championships 6th

* 1988 IFBB Chicago Pro Invitational 5th

* 1988 IFBB Grand Prix (England) 6th

* 1988 IFBB Grand Prix (France) 4th

* 1988 IFBB Grand Prix (Germany) 6th

* 1988 IFBB Grand Prix (Greece) 6th

* 1988 IFBB Grand Prix (Italy) 3rd

* 1988 IFBB Grand Prix (Spain) 5th

* 1988 IFBB Grand Prix (Spain) [2] 4th

* 1988 IFBB Niagara Falls Pro Invitational 3rd

* 1988 IFBB Night of Champions 3rd

* 1988 Mr. Olympia 10th

* 1989 Arnold Classic 5th

* 1989 IFBB Grand Prix (France) 3rd

* 1989 IFBB Grand Prix (Germany) 6th

* 1989 Grand Prix (Melbourne) 3rd

* 1989 Grand Prix (Spain) [2] 3nd

* 1989 Grand Prix (Spain) 3rd

* 1989 Grand Prix (Sweden) 4th

* 1989 IFBB Night of Champions 4th

* 1989 Mr. Olympia 14th

* 1989 IFBB World Pro Championships 3rd

* 1990 IFBB Night of Champions 14th

* 1991 Arnold Classic 16th

* 1991 IFBB Grand Prix (Italy) 5th

* 1991 Ironman Pro Invitational 10th

* 1991 Ironman Pro Invitational 11th

* 1991 Musclefest Grand Prix 3rd

* 1991 Mr. Olympia 12th

* 1992 IFBB Chicago Pro Invitational 10th

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Bob Paris Takes Off His Gorilla Suit
by Jim Provenzano

c. 1998

Matter is only energy condensed to slow vibrations. Think about it. It's a scary thought, that our bodies are no more than atoms swirling around faster than other collections of atoms. Scientifically speaking, the electricity in our bodies, sometimes called soul, is the only thing that separates us from coffee tables and rocks.

But what glorious matter we are.

Take Bob Paris. He's an author. Bob Paris was Mr. Universe. They used another term by the time he won it, but hey, he was Mister Universe. Bob Paris did not get as far as he should have in bodybuilding, because it is not a fair sport. Being honest in the face of blatant corruption and stupidity usually just gets you in trouble.

Bob Paris pissed off some people for a lot of reasons; gays for a marriage that got national airtime, but did not last, even people in the bodybuilding community for daring to stand up for the rights of athletes. Yes, they are athletes. Not your cup of human growth hormone, perhaps, but athletes.

Bob Paris pissed off Joe Weider and his minions by being the first openly gay competitive bodybuilder on the planet, and by speaking openly about it. He always looked better than any of the freaks that win awards in the bizarre world of techno-drugs and uber masochism and layered flesh. That is the medium of this art, and Bob Paris stands accused of not using excess paint.

As a troubled teen, Paris tried to blow his head off with a rifle. Fortunately, he failed. He went on, years later, to speak at schools and do what he thought he could do to talk to young kids and convince them not to hurt themselves.

But for a time, Bob Paris was a pothead loser sleeping in his car, kicked out of his Illinois home. But he survived, and became our Apollo, and we know what happens to Apollo. While being a hero, he also suffers. Fortunately this time around, his girlfriends didn't turn into trees and his boyfriend didn't get bonked in the head with a discus.

Bob Paris's recent book is called Gorilla Suit. If you are interested in his life, and an inside look at competitive bodybuilding, read it. He doesn't include everything we'd like to know about his life - his other love interests, why and how he broke up with Rod Jackson - but he does talk about his use of drugs and the evasive way in which, as a gay athlete, he was shut out of a profitable industry. Like the trained bodybuilder he is, Paris is good at isolating parts for his own aesthetic purposes.

Q: How's the reaction been about exposing the problems of the bodybuilding world?
The response that I've gotten from the bodybuilding so far has been good. I didn't think that I did anything all that courageous, just that it needed to be talked about, and that the sport's been going through some very difficult times for quite a while and that the issues that I raised needed to be talked about.

Q: Have other people been so specific in their complaints, specifically referring to Joe Weider's "megalomania?"
I don't think so. You know what happened with the sport is in an odd position of being completely controlled by such a small group of people, that I think people who still want to be involved in the sport are scared to say anything. What happens is that the whole issue snowballs. People who are in charge assume that since no one challenged them, their power is unchallenged. The old concept that the more power is in entrenched fewer hands, the deeper that entrenchment becomes. Bodybuilding for me beyond the actual story is sort of a metaphor of how too much power in too few hands becomes a very corrupting factor.

Q: You compared it to the old film studio system. Have you seen, since your experience, have other athletes taken a stance, in negotiating contracts?
With contracts I just don't think there's that much choice for a lot of athletes. Having not been involved - the last time I competed was over five years ago - I do know that the drug situation has grown worse. The IFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilders) turned their back on the drug testing that they promised the athletes, which I pushed for very hard for a number of years. But the publicity goes to those who play along. Anyone who raises contrary opinion has, for all intents and purposes, disappeared.

Q: You have many incidences where you've had to tell people off. It seems like you knew it might hurt you in the long run.
My life seems to be - I didn't set out that way - but it seems to be, in so many ways, to be a demonstration against injustice. I have such a hard time keeping my mouth shut when I see things that are so blatantly...I feel badly for the guys who don't feel that they can speak up, who give away the rights to their image. They're just forced to accept that promoters make a bunch of money while they're barely paying their bills. It's not in my nature to sit back and let those things happen. I've never been one who sort of said, well, I'm gonna cut back on my own ability to make money if I open my mouth, I have it better than most so I should just keep my mouth shut.

Q: Does being the only openly gay world-class bodybuilder carry a burden of being a sort of representative?
Absolutely. That splinters off in so many directions. In that sport, the whole concept of the powers that be want so badly to overcome the myth that all bodybuilders are gay, presuming that's a negative thing, on their part. Then you have the top faces in the sport evolve into an activist and they don't know what to do with that. Especially in sport where judging is involved, they can just pick someone else. My whole take is that the whole concept was so subtle and blatant at the same time. A lot of people figured I would just get frustrated and go off to do something else, because I have so many other interests.

Which you do.
A lot of my, I guess, grieving process in that sport was so attached to my growing up process and growing into a man, there was a grieving that had to take place when it didn't turn out to be this whole clean deal.

Q: You're known as being the Renaissance man, known for your aesthetic form and style. What's happening to the sport with the goals of "freak" proportions?
I think that's a strong element that plays into this. I used my body. It was the perfect place to blend the athletic side of my self and the artistic side. It was the ideal I always chased. When the sport was dominated by so few people it began to reflect and mirror their ideals. A lot of people in charge of the sport are frustrated bodybuilders. They're guys who came up in working class situations. So did I. But their ideals are these massive freaky bodies. They've been able to influence the sport in that direction, so all the artistry has died. Even people nowadays who are called artists used to be freaks.

Q: With the current problems, do you see any progress in making it an Olympic sport?
The sport very nearly has to crash and burn first, and then rebuild. It's coming down to entrenchment of power. Where the place where the sport is right now, there are some very poor decisions. But the thing that has prevented bodybuilding - which is in its own world, a large sport - what's really prevented it from breaking to becoming an Olympic sport, for many years, has been the shift to much more radical drug use in the last few years. When the IFBB made a very calculated decision to do away with drug testing, after it was promised, it made a huge mistake, one that could have potentially have damaged the ability of the sport to ever enter the Olympics.

It takes on a strange science fiction quality. You mentioned some guys who risk their lives with these drugs.
It's a question that's pertinent in all sports as we develop more scientific breakthroughs. The whole field of what used to be Sports Medicine is having more outlets in world at large. Adults having tremendous benefits from Human Growth Hormone, people with HIV using anabolic steroids as part of their drug cocktails; you have positive and negatives on each side of the argument. But my line has always been in sports we need to find a way back to the purity of that sport. In thinking about a comeback, how do I go from being Joe Citizen, beating my head against the wall if I don't do the drugs or breaking the law if I do the drugs. It became very complicated. As it exists right now, the sport says to its athletes in a very subtle way, "Break the law, or don't do well." The ones in charge of sports will vehemently deny it and say that's how the athletes want it. They can't claim to be the leaders of the sport and then shirk their responsibility at the same time.

Q: Gay Games officials released a list of banned drugs for competition in physique and power-lifting. How do you see this being applied, what with some athletes having HIV and needing these drugs?
That is such a difficult question, and one that has so many layers to it. Does a person's health come before the considerations of sport? I have not thought about that.

Q: Have you thought about going? Have you been invited as a judge or exhibition athlete?
I haven't been approached. If I could fit it into my schedule, it would be great.

Q: Can you talk about what you're seeing in gay and lesbian athletics, groups expanding all over. It's just so amazing to see adults reclaiming their bodies, sort of the Ugly Ducking syndrome.
That's absolutely correct. I think for a lot of us, we closed out possibility because of that queer element in our early lives and in the myth we grew up with that said, 'You can't do this, You can't do that,' whatever the limitations were. So many of us grew up with ideas of limitations. For a lot of us those ideas of limitations where expressed in athletics. People discovering their athleticism later in life is a wonderful thing, especially if they feel that outlet was denied to them. The success of the Games has been tremendous.

Q: Total aside: there's a new movie coming up. Nicholas Cage is starring in a "dark" version of Superman. The first idea I thought was, why wasn't Bob Paris asked, because he's the only guy who really looks the part.
I hadn't thought of that.

Q: I mean, Nicholas Cage as Superman? Somewhere on the Internet there are pictures of you posing that some guy used Photoshop to paint a Superman uniform on you. It's very flattering!
(laughs) They seem to be colors that I wear well. My interest in acting hadn't shifted. I haven't taken a traditional route in anything in my life. It seems that wouldn't be traditional either. My route in bodybuilding hasn't been traditional. It would be very interesting to play out the sort of subtle context of the superhero from a gay perspective.

Q: Or even if there were a film version of Northstar, the Canadian gay superhero in the Alpha Flight group. It seems that would be an ideal project for you.
I'm open to it.

Q: What was the process of writing the book? Did you focus on bodybuilding from the beginning?
As far as the process of the book, I've been writing since I was a kid. It was a back door into publishing, having already written three fitness books. My one experience with co-authoring a book (Straight From the Heart) was what it was, but I also had always known that I would write and that would be a part of my career. I'd written a lot, just for myself. Michael Denneny (a prominent gay editor at St. Martin's Press) pretty much let me have free reign with the structure, the stories, the style. I pretty much turned in a clean manuscript. This was pretty much my work; he was very helpful in a lot of directions. The approach I took was as if I were writing a novel, as if I were outside the story and playing a character.

Q: The structure has two time lines. How did that come about?
In the beginning it was even more experimental. There were even more leaps in time. I get very into the projects that I'm doing. Then I start having dreams and it just sort of fell into two linear lines. It ended up being too taxing for a reader. It was something I'll experiment with in another work.

Q: It has a very cinematic edge to it. A Gorilla Suit film? I really can't think of any actors who could get as muscular as you, though.
It's been approached, but I'm not sure yet how I feel about it. I'm in a process right now of re- inventing my life. I'm not sure how much I wanna tread back over that old ground. Especially when early reviews came out, there was some interest. I'm trying to figure out the course of where my life is headed right now. I would want to have a very strong hand. I wouldn't just hand it over.

Q: In the ending, you use the idea of a mountain, climbing the wrong one, perhaps, but still achieving.
Exactly. What I'm hoping that people will see it's not just a bodybuilding story. The entire concept of climbing to the top of something and then perhaps discovering that you climbed to the top of the wrong mountain. The efforts are the same.

Q: Do you have another book?
I have a book coming out next June with Warner. They're short essays with 20 most pertinent gay rights questions I've been asked over the years. It's called Generation Queer.

People might look at you and not even expect you to use that word!
Isn't that funny? I find that rather ironic, actually, that I've lived my life kind of in a radical way, but a lot of people have this picture of me as a staid conservative guy.

Q: You're really taking on parts of the culture, particularly your tours of schools, talking to young adults.
That seems that's the part of being a public figure. I've found something to work for. It gets difficult sometimes. You know, Mark Twain said, "Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel." It's difficult to have things you've done be misunderstood. The sense I get sometimes is that there was sort of a demarcation point of coming out in the media. Before that in my sport I was seen as the Renaissance man who just happened to be a world champion, an artist. After coming out in the media, I was seen as this dumb piece of meat who could do nothing else. It's gets a little frustrating.

Q: You've been involved in a public career for well over a decade, sometimes literally naked. How do you combine these aspects of being so public with your own life? I'm coming out of a period of having lived on a very remote island for almost three years now. It's interesting. I don't know how where I'm headed with it. It's a strange thing to be so incredibly private but at the same time have your life be very much in the public eye in a lot of ways. It's a very elastic love/hate dynamic. I take responsibility for choosing careers like that, but that plays into how I approach whatever I do in the future.

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