You don’t get to be a legend not looking in a mirror.Vince Gironda
HOLLYWOOD – The Iron Guru eats steak and mustard greens for dinner every night. He has eaten steak and mustard greens for dinner every night for the last two years. They have done him no harm.
“This,” he says, tapping his chest firmly, “is the body beatiful!”
Vince Gironda does not intend the matter as a subject for debate. It is intoned as a benediction. He glares out through the fierce eyes of a chicken hawk, turning slightly so one might see that, despite his advanced age, his is a the physique of a 20-year-old.
BODY BEAUTIFUL is what the feisty owner of Vince’s Gym is all about, and he is its self-proclaimed perfect example.
“You don’t get to be a legend,” the Iron Guru likes to say, “not looking in a mirror” I got IQ, you know what I mean?”
Last month marked an anniversary of his durability. It was not only the 35th year of his gym, but also the commencement of what he likes to call his Third Comeback.
He numbers film and television stars by the dozen among his clientele, drying them out and-or tightening them up with a regimen or nutrition and exercise that can leave even a sober man gasping.
Gironda not only keeps up with them, he leads them, which is not bad for a man somewhere in his 60s. He will not say his exact age. “I did not go through the expense of dyeing my hair,” he snaps, “to tell you how old I am.”
He says it looking you right in the eye, not smiling (Vince does not smile often), playing the Iron Guru before shelves stacked with high-potency vitamins, fat emulsifiers, Norwegian kelp and Argentine liver pills, which is is pleased to sell at modest prices.
His 2,000-square-foot-gym is a dark and unimposing structure.
His body-building devices, most of which he designed, are made of wood and leather and dark metal. He has no need to emulate the gleaming spas and jazzy health palaces, Gironda says. “I myself am a flawless specimen of that I do.”
He snaps into a muscular pose, arms out stretched, body taut. “Like a Greek god, eh?”
HIS THIRD COMEBACK should be proof enough of his supremecy, Vince declared.
In Comeback One (age 40), he emerged from a long period of public retirement to demonstrate his physique around the world.
In Comeback Two (aged 46), he scored seconf in the Mr. Universe contest over sontestants 25 years his junior.
Comeback Three will entail photographic posing. “Not that muscle-beach crap,” he says. “Artistic stuff.”
At 5 feet 6 inches, Gironda weighs 160 pounds and has a 49-inch chest and a 29-inch waist. He exercises furiously every day, eats only natural foods and hangs by his heels for 30 minutes at a crack.
“I’m an expert at building muscles for the masses,” the Iron Guru proclaims. It’s a cosmetic business.” He wears a striped a collarless shirt, sweat pants, boots, a wide leather karate belt and beads made of seeds and wood chips.
“I’m not talking about turning people into steroid weathogs. I’m talking about beauty. More men want to look like Robert Redford than the Incredible Hulk.”
“The big advantage of Vince’s gym,” says Robert (Baretta) Blake, “is Vince. There are gyms and weights and 10,000 instructors all over town, but nobody knows the human body like Vince.”
Blake has been a member of the gym since 1966. He does not work out often. “It’s mostly for the kids beginning new television series who go in fat and come out looking like Donald Duck. I drink beer and eat chili dogs. When I get too far out of whack, Vince puts me together again.”
GIRONDA IS FROM a showbiz family. Bronx born, he has lived in Los Angeles since he was 8. He
likes to talk about the time he danced with Carmen Miranda in a long-forgotten movie or when he wore a turban and played bongo drums in “Night and Day.”
He opened the gym in 1946 “because I was always phsical.” His 500 clients include anyone who can afford to pay $300 a year, plus more for special sessions.
Erik Estrada works out there. And so, at one time or another, have Clint Eastwood, James Garner, George Hamilton and Cheech and Chong.
He treats everyone equally, the Iron Guru says. They are the same with their clothes off.
Body beauty is only 10 percent exercises, the Iron Guru declares. He is a nut on good nutrition. “God,” moans, “the crap we eat! We are digging our graves with knives and forks. You don’t get to look like me eating hamburgers at McDonald’s.”
Fish will not do it, Vince says, because the waters are polluted. Chickens are pumped full of drugs to make them look good.
Red meat is where it’s at. That’s why he eats steak – and mustard greens. Compatible foods. Never mix protein and carbohydrates. Detox with green beans. No doughnuts, french fries, kosher burritos or banana daiquris.
“Actually,” he adds whimsically, “the ultimate nutrition is cannibalism.” Vince does not explain. He is not asked to.
“I’m a Stone Age nutritionist,’ the Iron Guru adds. “I eat simply. Nature is balanced. You don’t find mega-anything in nature.”
Television’s Dan Haggerty (Grizzly Adams) is working out. He hears Gironda and looks up. “He put me on my first sensible diet,” Haggerty shouts. “Pizza and Diet Pepsi.” He laughs uproariously.
“Actors,” the Iron Guru says in mock disgust. “What a sorry lot.” He points to a young man on an incline bench. “Except for him. He’s a nice Jewish boy.”
“Hi,” the man says, “I’m a nice Jewish boy.”
“I’m a nude model, ” another deadpans, “and a male prostitute.”
The Iron Guru almost smiles.
GIRONDA HAS SOBERED up and unflabbed a lot of actors. The 19-day drunks who have crawled to his doorstep. The blobs who have begged to be saved from King Fat.
“But mostly what I do is feed their egos,” Vince says. “I spent so much time dping that with one actor he thought he was perfect. Never worked out again. Just stood in front of a mirror smiling and looking at himself.”
For the last two years, the Iron Guru has allowed women to use the gym. He likes women (especially 30-year-olds) but he kept them out of the gym before because he did not like their dependent attitudes.
“But it’s different now,” he adds. “They’ve learned to be independent. I know more men that whimper with pain than I do women.”
Gironda’s wile of 20 years died in 1978 of a stroke. “I try not to be sad,” he says softly. For a moment, the Guru is not made of iron. “I was in bad shape. I had to work hard. You have to fight that. You have to be strong.”
He looks out over the gym. At the legend he has built. At vibes of body beautiful shimmering over the incline benches, reflecting off the body-length mirrors.
“You wanna know what I’m all about?” he asks suddenly. He strips to a pair of black bikini shorts and strikes a pose, muscles rippling in the dim light. “No wonder I’m a legend.”
Someone whistles. The Iron Guru glares. The fierce-eyed chicken hawk is back.” Go to hell!” he shouts.
Then the man who danced with Carmen Miranda stokes another pose. And winks. “It a a nice place,” he says, No one argues.