Denny's Big Night
Manchester, New Hampshire June 1978
Dennis Desmarais had come close to winning the Mr. New Hampshire Contest more often than he cared to admit. He had taken second place in his class in 1975 and 1976. In 1977 he had won his class but just missed out on taking the overall title. In 1977 he and I had helped his friend Charley Gaines promote the movie Pumping Iron by guest posing with Mr. Universe, Frank Zane at a contest Gaines had promoted at New England College in April of that year. By 1978 Denny no longer wanted to win......rather, he needed to win, and had structured his whole life for the major portion of that year toward that end.
At that time he was going to college studying architectural engineering. He was living with his girlfriend Florence, whom it appeared had been supporting him as well as paying his way through school. Florence was divorced, had several daughters from a prior marriage, and was considerably older than Denny. She was employed by a local massage parlor as a masseuse, not to be confused with a licensed massage therapist. She well, you know......she gave the OTHER kind of massage, and was supposed to have been pretty good at it, at least according to what Denny told us.
Up to this point winning the Mr. New Hampshire Contest had been difficult unless you were from Nashua, N.H. This was because the contest had always been held at the Nashua YMCA and the majority of the judging panel was from the Nashua area. In what appeared to have been an unexpected turn of events, Florence had made personal contact with regional AAU and IFBB official Ed Jubinville, who had turned over promotion of that year's approaching contest to her, raising more than a few eyebrows in the process.
About a week before the contest, Denny and Florence stopped by my apartment late one night to pay me an unexpected visit. I could tell immediately that the stress of hard training and strict dieting had begun to wear on Denny, for his normally affable, laid back demeanor had been replaced by a very palpable tension bordering on paranoia. He claimed to have been experiencing problems with the other guys at the 'Y'.
"Red Hog and Frank have been making funny noises and faces behind my back," he angrily reported to me, "They're also telling all the other guys down there that I'm on the juice!" (AUTHOR'S NOTE: "Juice" is street jargon for anabolic steroids.)
I just laughed. "Well, are ya?"
"NO!" Denny shot back as Florence shook her head from side to side, looking concerned. "I swear to ya, Jimmy......I've just been training heavy and dieting strictly!"
Despite my attempt to sooth his jarred nerves by explaining that looking like he was on steroids without actually being on them was a good thing and a testimony to his dedication and discipline, he continued to use me as a sounding board.
"Yeah, yeah, I know......but there's another guy with unbelievable arms who's now training at the 'Y'.....and this guy really is on the juice!"
I told Denny to quit worrying about what all the other guys were doing or saying and just focus on playing his own game.
"What are you using for posing music," I inquired, trying to get the discussion moving in a more positive direction. Denny paused for a moment as if in thought.
"I was planning to use Saturday Night Fever by The Bee Gees...... It was Florence's idea, but I don't really like it."
I left the kitchen for a quick search of my musical archives and returned with a record album in hand.
"At least half a dozen other guys will be using that Bee Gee crap.
"Here, use this," I told him dropping the album on the kitchen table.
"Scheherezade by Rimsky-Korsakov.........The best tract is The Sea And Sinbad's Ship.
It'll help you stand out from the rest of the competition."
The 1978 Mr. New Hampshire and Teenage Mr. New England Contests were held in Manchester at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Coliseum. There was a big turn out among both the spectators and competitors. As it was to develop, Denny was a hands down favorite, having posed to The Sea And Sinbad's Ship. The effect was devastating. After having decisively won his class, he went on to win the overall title over short class winner Tony Kingsbury, unbelievable arms or not.
The contest featured a guest appearance by Charles Gaines, at this point basking in his 15 minutes of fame for his involvement with both the book and movie, Pumping Iron. Charley had come to serve on the contest judging panel as had Bob Klez and Dave Mastorakis, a couple of top national competitors whom most of us had competed with at one time or another. Bob had won the IFBB Junior Mr. America Contest in 1972 and had been prominently featured in Gaines' book. We knew him from Hampton Beach where, buffed and polished like the Farnese Hercules, he used to strut the sands with his wife. Klez had a rather sinister appearance, resembling the archetypal outlaw biker. He looked like a much younger, muscular Wolfman Jack. Ed Jubinville was at the contest as the head judge. In addition to having been an international judge and contest promoter for the IFBB, Ed also operated an exercise equipment manufacturing company out of Holyoke, Massachusetts and had a muscle control act that was, well.....weird. He gave an exhibition that night that was memorable, though not because of its artistry. Picture a seventy something guy with dyed black hair, lily white skin, and black Speedo on stage before a crowd of at least 1,000 people as he isolated and twitched every one of his muscles in rhythm to the latest disco hits. Ed would alternately pop out his sterno-cleido mastoids, roll his rectus abdominis in a wave-like manner, make his quadriceps appear to zip up and then unzip, individually roll and separate his scapulae as well as the involved muscles, twitch the long and short heads of the biceps and gluteals up and down........With the exception of Jubinville's music, the coliseum was draped in silence, the majority of the spectators just sitting there gawking at the odd exhibition unfolding before their eyes. This was more like something one would expect to find in a 42nd Street peep show, not in Manchester, New Hampshire's JFK Coliseum.
The post contest soirees had become tradition among our group from the 'Y', and it wasn't long before more than twenty of us found ourselves trying to gain admission to The Vault, a classy restaurant set up in the building that had served as the old Manchester Bank in the first half of the 20th century. The Vault was owned by Bobby Stephen, Boxing Commissioner for the State of New Hampshire as well as a former welter weight champion. Bobby had been a boxing coach to Greg Joseph, one of our 'Y' gang and a welter weight champion in his own right. Although Bobby Stephen was glad to see us, he knew us well enough to realize what we were capable of and wisely offered to give us our very own function room. Bobby was a smart businessman in this regard, but in dealing with the likes of the YMCA Goon Squad his acumen would not go far enough.
As he hustled to make arrangements for our seating, he offered us the following sage advice: "So Denny just won the Mr. New Hampshire Contest, did he? That's great! Y'know sports can also teach us so much about life.....and about people as well. When you're the champ...... everybody loves you and you can do no wrong.........but when you lose, well..... it's as if nobody knows you anymore." Very perceptive.
The problems started almost as soon as we had been seated. While most of us were in the midst of a veritable feeding frenzy inhaling vast quantities of pizza, lasagna, spaghetti, red wine, beer, ice cream, etc., some of us had other priorities. For starters, Bucky picked up a dinner roll and heaved it out of our function room and into the lobby, beaning a complete stranger. We all cracked up laughing. Then The Apeman guzzled an entire liter of Chianti, jumped up on the table, and very loudly broke wind. But this was apparently only a warmup. Then he mixed up some mustard, beer, catsup, more wine, salt, and pepper into a large tumbler and poured its contents down his gullet, immediately projectile vomiting all over our waitress, tables, and walls. As Marc Provost observed at the time, laughing heartily, "The Apeman......you can dress him up and give him a shower and shave....but you still can't bring him anywhere." A moment later we were politely asked to leave.
As we made our way to our cars that had been parked along Elm Street, Manchester's main thoroughfare, The Apeman once more put on one of his gorilla acts, scampering over a fifteen foot high, chain link fence and into a construction site for the new Amoskeag Bank. There, atop a monstrous D-9 Caterpillar, he removed his shirt and began posing to the passing cars. What a wild man!
Florence had asked me to go with her and Denny. She explained that we would be going with Bob Klez and his wife to The Kaleidoscope Disco over on West Central Street for a continuation of the post contest party. The trip to The Kaleidoscope was strange indeed. Bob Klez drove along mumbling apparently to himself about the minutiae of bodybuilding, always prefacing every sentence he spoke with I and ending with me. Periodically he would take very long hits off of a cigar sized 'jazz cigarette' passed to him by his wife. Denny and I wondered where this adventure was heading.
"I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto," I remarked in a jocular tone, but apparently nobody got my joke or, if they did get it, chose to ignore it.
The Kaleidoscope was New Hampshire's attempt to have it's own Studio 54 kind of night spot. It featured flashing colored strobe lights and the driving beat of the disco scene. The place was packed with people in their twenties and thirties dressed and made up to the max. A look of consternation registered on Florence's face as she gazed into the club's interior and noticed that the rest of The Goon Squad had found out about where we were going and had beaten us there. The Apeman was dancing on a table by himself. Marc Provost was staring at the wall, laughing for no apparent reason. Bucky was screaming out "Oh, my yes! Oh, my yes!" Red Hog was reciting one of his obscene limerick poems to an obviously befuddled female bartender, concluding with, "I'll give you a tip......don't take rides from strangers." Bob Todt was off to the side admiring his own reflection in the dance floor mirror as he danced with a girl who couldn't have been more than fifteen. In what was far from the last straw in wearing out our welcome here, Bucky tossed at least a half dozen stink bombs onto the dance floor, saturating the air with the stench of rotten eggs. Then he called out to one of the bouncers, "Hey, what's that smell?" When the bouncer remarked, grimacing, that he didn't know, Bucky retorted: "Time to change them disco pants.......Right, Stinky?"
Denny just walked off by himself into the midst of the crowded dance floor and disappeared, not to be seen again for the rest of the night. I recall thinking at that time that he appeared awfully subdued for a guy who'd just won the state bodybuilding championship. After the rest of us had found some tables and chairs, we sat down and tried to listen to what Bob Klez had to say, basically a continuation of what he'd been mumbling about during the ride over. The loud music severely compromised our ability to understand what he was trying to tell us.
"I have thick, striated pecs.........for me.......I always......for breakfast.......I plan on winning......... my lats......to me......I'm on......I always....for me.......my outer thighs......I wish I was shorter........with me......Silva Mind Control.......I never......vitamin B6 for me."
Sometime later that evening all of the guys stood up and walked toward the men's room, motioning for me to tag along. Once within the rest room, Bob Klez pulled out a bag containing some kind of green vegetative matter and began rolling it into several cigars. Marc Provost was holding the restroom door shut so that nobody else could get in. Before long the interior of the rest room was obscured by smoke and the smell of burning leaves.
We could hear angry men outside in the hallway screaming for us to open the door. Provost just laughed and told me to take over his job of holding the door closed. Most remarkable to me was the fact that I was holding the door closed with only one hand and experiencing no great difficulty in doing so......but when we eventually opened the door and rushed out of the men's room enmasse, we were shocked to find out that the club's whole staff of bouncers had been trying unsuccessfully to pry that door open. The head bouncer, who resembled a fedora-wearing Telly Savalas, began screaming, but Provost just shoved him out of the way and walked off laughing.
Then Bob Klez, smiling malevolently, walked up to the bouncer and remarked softly as he put his arm around his shoulder, "Excuse me, sir....may I please speak to you in private?" Then they walked a short distance away for a very brief verbal exchange. Klez came back to me smiling. The bouncer, obviously shaken, appeared ashen and scurried out of sight.
"What'd you tell him?" I asked Klez.
"Oh.....I just told him that you guys had come off several months of hard training and dieting for a muscle contest."
"That's all?" I asked incredulously.
Bob started chuckling in an evil sort of way. "I also told him that he could avoid an unnecessary blood bath by staying out of our way."
By now it was obvious to me that The Goon Squad was spiralling out of control. Marc Provost and Tim Lamy were loudly shouting pejorative terms to the other patrons and took turns putting their fists through the walls. It was then that I noticed Florence walking out the door with Bob Klez and Ed Jubinville. I ran home.
When I eventually reached my apartment it was nearly 1 AM and my girlfriend was up waiting for me.
"How was that party?" she asked curiously.
I opened the refrigerator and pulled out a half gallon of skim milk.
"Oh," I said after having taken a swig from the container, "the usual."
There are a million stories in the world of fitness......This has been one of them.
Copyright © 2008 Jim Ganley