Iron History

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09/11/2008 Entry: "9/12/2008: Letter from Charles A. Smith to Joe Roark, Nov 3, 1987"

Letter from Charles A. Smith to Joe Roark, Nov 3, 1987 pages 1-2:

Dear Joe,
Thanks for yours post dated 29th which arrived on the 31st. As for the saga of the Wonderkind�s mum, as the king of Siam would say- It is a puzzlement. My thought on the matter is that Ben thought, �Any publicity is better than none�. If he bothered to think deeply, he�d see it is stupid to say such a thing since this is so easily checked. Like his claiming he has been decorated with the Order of Canada. He only has the Canadian Medal. If I may explain here.

This sort of nonsense is still a dinosaur from the era of class distinction in England. During the war there were various decorations handed out for bravery to members of the armed forces. Frinstance. A Soldier, for some particularly piece of derring do would be awarded the Military Medal. For the same act, no more or no less bravery, an OFFICER would be awarded the MILITARY CROSS. In the Navy, an enlisted man for an act of bravery would be awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. An officer, for the same act, the Distinguished Cross. The only award that was exempt from this particularly nasty piece of nonsense was the highest decoration awarded�the VICTORIA CROSS�the same as our Congressional Medal of Honor.

It was the same among civilian awards. In England some particular piece of outstanding service of devotion would be, to the ordinary man the British Empire Medal. To the Hoi Arristoi�or �Gentlemen� as they were called- would be awarded the ORDER OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE. I guess you get the drift by now�that Ben isn�t regarded in Canada�which still retains some of the class distinction of the British- as a �gentleman�. It is not only a sloppy piece of reporting, but stupid on the part of Ben to claim he was awarded one thing when he wasn�t. But that is where pretension will get you.

I am not at all enamored with XXX. I am beginning to think he is a phony and a brain picker, such info appearing in his books or articles. He seems also to have that �Look at me. Ain�t I GREAT� attitude, as if being a book producer will get him rides on city transportation without having to pay the fare called for.

[He asked me for] info on arm wrestling. I sent him some exercises that he could have figured out for himself without asking anyone. Which goes to show what sort of an expert he is when it comes to bodybuilding. In my letter to him, I let him know that I saw through him by saying that any mention of what I had told him, in any article or book, had to have me as the source. It might not pass for subtle, but then I never was a subtle man, preferring to use the bludgeon rather than the rapier.

His mention that he is in heavy communication with me, gave me to laugh as the French so quaintly put it. He writes at intervals of six weeks to two months. Frinstance his last letter was dated September 26th. This was the one in which he asked for info on exercise for armwrestling exercises�among other things�and the one before that July 14th and the one before that stretching some farther into the past. Every letter he writes is a brain picking one. He always wants something, some sort of info on how to exercise this or that part of the body. One would think that a man who writes books on the subject of bodybuilding would �know his stuff� and the only info needed would be of an historical nature.

He even once asked me how TO WEITE ARTICLES, how to write the �lead� and how to wind up with a heavy punch. I sent him the book �ELEMENTS OF STYLE� by some bloke with the lovely name of STRUNK. No thanks from brother XXX and no smoked salmon either.

In my last letter I made the somewhat pointed, bludgeony remark that the smoked salmon, when it arrived, would taste mighty good. It must be arriving by Indian Pack Carrier, portaging his canoe around the many hundreds of rapids that exist in the great North West and Wilds of Alaska.

I think that the next time he writes asking for info, I shall send back a reply querying him on the effects of the moon on fishing, or if he thinks jam fancying should be encouraged among the islanders of microAsia. But no info.

To belabor the argument, XXX is a �people user�. When he has squeezed the lemon dry, he discards it.

[TV show] Sixty Minutes has covered the muscle business, so be amazed no more. This was some few years ago, I can�t remember when now. But lo and behold, the sweet faces of both Ben and Joe appeared on the silver tube. First Ben, who opined, when asked, that the Weider Company did a gross business of TWO MILLION A YEAR. Then on comes Joe�immediately after and the same question is asked of Joe. Think not that Joe replied out of honesty, but honest he was�he replied that because of the violently shoving of his ego. Joe replied TWENTY MILLION and even at that he was way below the mark. Mayhap you can find out when this interview took place. It was either in the very very late seventies or the early eighties.

I have no doubt that Joe, when he said he was bringing me to his lair when he �arrived back from Europe� meant what he said, but Joe is impulsive and what impulses him one second un-impulses him the next. I WILL NOT hold my breath. No sir.

Joe called me because I had sent him a stinging letter in which I took him to task for the odor of the barnyard what wafted from the pages of his mag. In particular I said that to get through one of his mags, one had to wear hip high waders so ones brogans would remain unbesmirched by all the bovine bowel movement. Some of his high powered PhD�s who tell you how to get muscles in your maturation- already yet- hadn�t even lifted a weight themselves�in short, Joe was dazzling you with science. I also hollered at him for calling his Mr. World in Japan in 1986 the 40th of its kind. Taking it back year by year, that would bring you to 1946 when Joe hadn�t even thought of running contests and, in fact had just published the first edition of his first mag- YOUR PHYSIQUE.
[Roark note: Charles is in error on this pount, that title began in 1940]
continued next week�