One of the inconveniences of training for bodybuilding competition here in
the Northeast during the winter months is the difficulty of acquiring a tan.
Yes, I'm aware that dermatologists have been warning us for years to avoid
direct exposure to the sun, but every aspiring bodybuilder knows that a deep, even tan is necessary to give us that 'finished' look on stage.
By 1975 some of our crew at the Manchester, N.H. YMCA had begun
experimenting with different types of bronzing agents or skin dyes, dubbed
'tan in a bottle'. These didn't work very well at all, usually leaving you
with patchy, orange skin and brown palms.......definitely not the look of a
I was bound and determined to find a better way to tan, and immediately
set myself to the task of figuring out how to get a natural looking tan in
the depths of winter.
"I just know there's gotta be a way!" I said to my friends, as I gazed up
toward the roof of the 'Y' and got an idea. The main building here was built
back around the time of the First World War and resembled an old, brick
fortress surrounded on all sides by much taller office buildings which had
been constructed in the intervening years.
I can't recall who went first, but in short order several of us ran in
through the main entrance to the 'Y', past the front desk, and up to the
third floor of the residents' dormitory. Nobody tried to stop us. Then with
my friends in tow, I made a quick exit out a window, and climbed the
remaining one or two stories up the fire escape to the roof top. There before us, like the land that time forgot, was a perfectly designed tanning
deck, most probably dating back to an earlier era when the Manchester 'Y' was known as 'that muscle factory on Mechanic Street'. There was a gravel
rooftop, over which had been set a wooden catwalk and a series of at least a dozen 7' x 3' wooden platforms. Off to the side, attached precariously to a
brick wall, was a white sign with faded, red lettering that read:
HEALTH CLUB SUN DECK
The next thing we noticed was the warmth. This was in January and it was
well below freezing, but the combination of sun and shelter made that rooftop temperature somewhere in the mid sixties. Perfect! So from that day onward, whenever the sun was shining, my friends and I would be out on that rooftop in our skivvies sunning ourselves like snakes on a stone wall. But this ideal tanning scenario would be short lived.
First, we started throwing snowballs at people, cars, and trucks in the
streets below. About a block away in the alley running parallel to the 'Y' we
noticed a muscular guy strolling along toward the Manchester District Court
House. It was Deitz Heins. Deitz had won Mr. New Hampshire in 1969 and served as head judge at the state championships.
"Hey, you guys!" I shouted to my partners in crime, "Look, there goes
Then Frank Gingras and I picked up some snow balls and fired them off in
Deitz's direction. Our snowballs crossed each others trajectories and
impacted simultaneously, one knocking off Deitz's hat, and the other smacking him in the back of his head and dropping snow down his collar. Our group roared with laughter as Frank and I ducked down behind a chimney to escape detection.
Next, over the ensuing weeks, we soon noticed that groups of secretaries
had begun to gather in the windows of the nearby office buildings and were
obviously giving us the once over. We weren't the sort of guys who could take such an opportunity lying down, so of course we just HAD to pose for the ladies. While most of these young women reacted favorably to our show, somebody else had been outraged and called the 'Y' to complain.
Next day there was a notice posted on the weight room bulletin board
forbidding any of us to use the sundeck under penalty of expulsion. We took this notice as a challenge. Marc Provost ripped down the notice and threw it in the trash, laughing
"Hey, they can't do that to us! We're the Goons.......we can do anything we
That was so typical of him. He was 6' tall and squatted with 800lbs as
a superheavyweight class power lifter.
Immediately after we had finished training, he and I went back up to the
sundeck. Some of the other guys had left behind quite a bit of trash from our last visit up there, so before tanning, Marc and I gathered up all the
wrappers, boxes, papers, cans, and bottles into a big pile and then pushed it all off the rooftop into the alley below. Unfortunately for us, it came
cascading down outside Oscar's Barbershop, who very vocally complained to Dave Peoples, the 'Y' Fitness Director.
My first inkling that something was amiss came when I heard someone
breathlessly running up the fire escape. It was Dave Peoples.
"Mar..." he tried to shout, still out of breath as he reached the rooftop,
There in the center of the rooftop stood Marc. He was stark naked and was
trying to fix the draw string of his shorts. Marc did not respond, but just
kept working on his shorts without uttering a single word.
Dave Peoples hit the roof.
"Marc Provost!" he shouted yet again, "Oh, my God! You're naked! There are people in office buildings all around who can see you in plain view!"
Then he demanded that Marc pay attention to the thorough dressing down he was delivering.
"Look at me when I'm talking to you, Marc!"
Showing not the least bit of shame, Marc just dropped his pants onto the
roof and said, "Yeah, Dave.... Whaddya want?"
By this point Dave was so upset that he started to cry and ran back down
the fire escape from whence he had come.
Later that spring at the 1976 Mr. New Hampshire Contest, I had won my
class and was posing down for the overall title against Brad Prendergast from Nashua. All of my buddies from the 'Y' were in the audience, loudly screaming my name. As I was later told, a woman in the crowd turned to the head judge, Deitz Heins, and asked in reference to my hollering friends, "Hey, who are
Deitz, attempting to restrain his temper, remarked through clenched jaws
ala Kirk Douglas, "They're The Goon Squad. They throw snow balls at people!"
A moment later he announced that Brad Prendergast was the new Mr. New
Hampshire. Tough break.
There are a million stories in the world of fitness. This has been one of