Daily News from New York, New York on January 30, 1977 · 296
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Daily News from New York, New York · 296

New York, New York
Issue Date:
Sunday, January 30, 1977
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SUNDAY NEWS, JANUARY 30, 1977 Lou Ferrigno's biggest fans are his parents, Victoria ar.d Matt. When Lou flexes a muscle. Matt feels the ache. Brooklyn boy grows up and OUT "TTEY, SKINNY!" the ads began, and gene-XX rations of scrawny kids sent away for the free booklet that promised to transform them overnight into men of iron. Nowadays, most of these same men sneer a little at bodybuilding. To them, the sport belongs in the sleazy world that also promises topless waitresses and magic potions to restore hair. No doubt, these were the same men who snickered a little at the first showings of "Pumping Iron," a new documentary film about men who devote their lives to pumping up their muscles and parading them before the crowds. But in working class neighborhoods like Benson-hurst, every other kid wants to grow up to be Charles Atlas. These kids adore "Pumping Iron," and what they love best about it is Lou Ferrigno, a two-time Mr. Universe from Bensonhurst, who is featured in the movie. The film's official star is Arnold Schwarzenegger, who, in 1975, beat out Lou for the title of Mr. Olym-pia. the sport's top honor. But when Bensonhurst boys plunk down their $3.50 at the box office, it's Lou Ferrigno they come to see. A shy gianf They come, too. when Lou shows up at the bodybuilding store on Bay Parkway his father started for him a month ago, and gasp when they first see him: a shy young giant whose sensitive face is an incongruous contrast with his thick, muscular body. "God, he's big," breathed Maurice Castaldo, a 14-year-old who looks like a younger, smaller version of his hero. Lou really is enormous. The biggest maa in the sport, he stands 6-foot-5, weighs 270 pounds, and has a chest that swells to nearly five feet around. His muscles feel like lumps of steel. Little kids get scared. Johnny-boy Errante, 6, won't come too close; he's afraid Lou might step on him. But the older ones crowd in, bubbling with questions. They cross-examine Lou about eggs he eats eight a day), jogging (he does a mile a day), about lats, squats, steroids and supersets. He tells them he can lift 700 pounds, and their eyes shine. "He's my idol," says Maurice. "I knew he used to be skinny like me. I figured, If he can do it, so can I. " When Lou was Maurice's age, he was a shy, puny kid with a hearing aid and speech problems (a By CONSTANCE ROSENBLUM childhood illness left him almost totally deaf) who found his, dreams in comic books. He bought them 200 it a time, mostly the ones with muscular strongmen on the covers. One day he picked up a muscle magazine. "Those guys were so big and strong," Lou remembers. "I always wanted to be big and strong. I wanted to be great at something, the best at something. Most of all, I guess, I wanted to be respected." 1 )r - . News photos by Bill SUM Jr. Getting a lift from a strong fellow like Lou is a big thrill for a pint-size admirer. So he started practicing with his father's weights in the basement of the Ferrigno home. Later, when Lou moved to a professional gym in Queens, he and his father got up at 4 every morning so Lou could squeeze in a few hours of practice before going off to his job as a sheet metal worker. It paid off. In 1973, Lou won the Mr. America contest, and in 1974 and 1975, he came out first in the Mr. Universe competitions. In October, he will go to Ohio to compete for the Mr. Olympia title. By his side on that trip, as on all his trips, will be his father, Matt, the ultimate stage mother. Matt shepherds his son to every contest, psyches him up for competitions, pushes him on during training sessions. When Lou gave up his job last year to devote himself to bodybuilding full time, Matt did the same. He quit the new York police department, where he'd worked for 26 years, to give full attention to his son's development, and to running the shop that bears Lou's name. Doting father? Matt denies that he interferes with his son's life and says the doting father scenes in "Pumping Iron" are an insult But there's that moment in the movie when Lou finishes a particularly grueling practice session and Matt heaves with relief, "Oh, boy, what a workout," and you know Matt's muscles ache every time Lou hoists those barbells. Since Lou moved to California two months ago, he has been more on his own. He determines his own diet, (4.000 calories a day, plus a handful of vitamins) and follows his own schedule, one that includes four hours of workout a day, plus playing sports, doing exhibitions, practicing his posing, and suntanning his muscles to a shiny bronze. He has also become a fanatic opponent of the sport's "all brawn, no brains" image. Proudly, he tells how he turned down a guest appearance on the Mary Tyler Moore Show because he was asked to play a musclebound jock who did nothing but clench his fists and drop his jaw. "Bodybuilding is a good sport," he insists. "Doctors do it. Lawyers do it. Some day, it will be as big as football" Until that day, Lou Ferrigno will swing those barbells, gobble those vitamins, and work hard to encourage the spindly -armed kids of Bensonhurst, because he knows there's nothing like a chestful of muscles to give a man confidence.

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