Published by permission of Millionaire Magazine South Africa and William Rankin
Reg Park in his prime I waited patiently in the fat burning arena, amidst the allure of heavy breathing and rejuvenation. Toned and burly bodies swaggered past me as I tapped my foot in anticipation of my long-awaited introduction to the Legend of Buff; the man who once held the Universe in his hands’ Hercules. And then it happened: the world went quiet and the earth seemed to quake with the power of his footsteps treading towards me. He has a presence about him, a certain captivation that overwhelmed me. It became clear to me at once that at 77 years old, you could take the youth out of Hercules but you most certainly could not take the Hercules out of Reg Park. Reg Park was born 7 June 1928 in Yorkshire, UK, and grew up with a fascination for the human physique. He admits that at the tender age of six he grew fond of a black and white picture portrait that hung in his grandparent’s home. The picture was a romanticized portrait of a young Greek betrothed couple, on their wedding day, centuries long ago. And although Reg recalls the bride being an exotically attractive women, her appeal- according to Reg- was no match for that of the groom. With his mop of black hair, strapping features and the most astounding physical build that young Reg had ever laid eyes on, the portrayed heroic groom became Reg’s lifetime inspiration. ‘I wanted to be just like him’, says Reg of the pictured Greek mythical like God, ”he was wearing a Greek toga with a red belted sash, physically buff and he had a beautiful girl on his arm. Soon enough, Reg Park set out to reinvent his fictitious hero by aspiring to be just like the Hellenic like God he saw in the picture, and so much more, it wasn’t long before opportunity presented itself in 1948 Olympic Games, in the form of the very first bodybuilding competition of its kind called The Mr. Universe. Back then, brawny body building competitors like Steve Reeves, John Grimekand Andre Drapp were the talk of the town, and the ambitious Reg Park became their biggest fan. With the picture silhouette of a Greek God to motivate him, and three of the world’s best developed physique men to inspire, Reg grew ravenous for the coveted title of Mr. Universe. He was just twenty years old when he set up his own make-shift gym in his grandparent’s back garden. Whilst he attended College by day, he trained alone by night for three hours at a time. Motivated by those three bodybuilders superstars of that era, ‘ I would train outside at night, wearing three tracksuits in the winter,’ says Reg as he shakes his head in disbelief ‘if you can’t work out like that, outside in the winter, in Yorkshire, then you either have to be ambitious or just plain crazy,’ he adds. Regs tenacity could not be diminished by even the sub-zero Yorkshire temperature, and that was just the beginning of his success.
When Reg Park stole the title of Mr. North West Britain in 1949, his ruthless ambition compelled him to tell the world of his sole objective that one ‘I’m gonna win the Mr. Universe title,’ he proclaimed. Weighing in at 225 pounds of well defined mass and at just twenty-two years of age, the all-natural, all dauntless Reg Park, took second place in the first ever NABBC Mr. Universe competition on 24 July 1950, standing beside his one time American hero, Steve Reeves, who won.
Believing that he should have come in first place, Reg came back the very next year leaving all competitors wallowing in his shadows when he realized his life’s ambition by taking the prestigious title of Mr. Universe, in 1951, Reg repeated this amazing accomplishment yet again in’58 and then once more in ’65. His innate strength was unwavering, his success was perpetual, and everyone wanted a piece of the famed Reg Park, including those in the glitz and glamour of the motion picture industry. Between 1961 and 1964, Reg exhibited his Mr. Universe physique for all-the-world to see as the newest muscle man in the critically acclaimed Hercules motion picture epics, shot in Rome, Italy. Not only had Reg won the Mr. Universe competition, as he promised he would, but he also won the hearts of many body-building fanatics and aching heart women around the world. Clad in the iron and brass frills of the world’s best man, Reg so closely replicate the hero of his childhood, the suave Greek groom in the picture, when he adopted the role of the Greek God, Hercules. It came to fruition that Reg Park really did own the Universe. Although his acting career was short lived, the rugged, buffed and handsome Reg Park acquired copious amounts of young fans, most of whom wanted to be as buff and as popular as their Hercules idol. Amongst these fans of plenty were the now famous Rocky Balboa film star, Sylvester Stallone, and one of the latest Mr. Universe turned-actorturned US Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzeneggar. Schwarzeneggar even went as far as writing a letter to Reg asking that his idol train him to be a bodybuilder icon. Reg agreed and invited Arnold to stay at his home in South Africa to train. Arnold moved in, and soon, an unmatched respect between teacher and pupil was born.
Today, Arnold Schwarzenagger still idolizes Reg as one of the greatest icons of all time, publicity given him his accolade on numerous occasions. ‘And why South Africa?’ my patriotic ultra ego just had to ask” I married a girl form South Africa,’ answered Reg, he admits almost bashfully. His South African legacy began just four weeks prior to the 1951 Mr. Universe title. Three South African businessmen wrote to ‘the worlds most perfect man’, as Reg Park was branded at that time, requesting his appearance as an onstage weightlifter and poser, in City Hall and theatre show tours throughout South Africa. ‘They were going to pay me 50 pounds a show’, says Reg, ‘and so I went to South Africa’, says arriving at the Palmietfontein Airport on 5 July 1951, ”and if I tell you, you wont believe me, but the city halls were packed for every one of my shows. Reg shakes his head again in disbelief with a disarming coy smile. And at that moment, I caught a glisten of delight in his eyes. The legend was just so overwhelming by all his victories as I was. And his modest nostalgia began to warm my heart. Whilst Reg continued his circuit appearance in South Africa in 1951, he also took to courting a South Africa belle. And what started as a tourist crush, if you will, between the tenacious Yorkshire bodybuilder and a petit ballet dancer, Ms Mareon Isaacs, developed into a beautiful love story of the world’s most perfect man who found his perfect women. This is a love story that has lasted a lifetime, and continues to this day, as they have been married now not quite 53 years. Today, the 77 year-old Reg Park, who sports one of the healthiest and vibrant physique and stature I have ever seen a man of his age(of any age), still resides in South Africa in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs sharing a lifetime of achievement with his wife, his children and his grandchildren. But his passion for a good physique and physical fitness has not yet been packed away with his trophies and memorabilia scrap books. Reg is currently a fitness trainer at the Virgin Active Gymnasium in Morningside, where he can boast (but he doesn’t) some of the most affluent clientele in the city.
And nearly everyday now, Reg trains and inspires those individuals who are serious about Body Intelligence, Fitness and Health. With the youngest of his clients being 12- years old and the oldest ranging from between 70 and 80 years of age, Reg still maintains his faith in the rewards of determination. Reg Park remains an inspiration to many, as it doesn’t seem to matter how young or old you are; as long as you have the gutzpa of a tenacious bodybuilder in a bitterly cold Yorkshire Winter, then you too own the Universe. And with all that Reg Park has achieved in his life, he needn’t be concerned about any regrets that encumber many in the twilight of their years, for The Legend of Reg Park lives on still. And perhaps again some day, if not already, his black and white picture will be the object of desire for the next greatest bodybuilding legend the Universe has ever seen.
The Legend’s Fact File:
‘ 1949-won Mr. Britain (21-years old)
‘ 1950- Won Mr. Europe and America’s Best Developed Athlete
‘ 1951- Won NABBA Amateur Mr. Universe
‘ 1958- Won NABBA Pro Mr. Universe title
‘ 1952 – The Reg Park Journal was launched (60.000 worldwide readership)
‘ 1961-1934 Starred as Hercules in 5 films all shot in Rome
‘ 1965-Won NABBA Pro Mr. Universe title, again1
Millionaire Magazine is very proud to announce that The Legend, Mr. Reg Park, will be gracing our pages in the upcoming issues, beginning here, a featured guest writer imparting his experience and knowledge of Health, Fitness and Well-Being to our readers
Thank you Mr. Park!