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Remembering Bill Reynolds

1945 – 1992

Friend Remembers Bill--Provides Photos

Niece and Sister Talk About Bill

Colleague Remembers Bill

I’m ashamed that it has taken me so long to write about our relationship with Bill Reynolds. The process of digitizing our extensive library of photos has driven home the huge impact he had on our lives. Without Bill many of you would not be reading this article. The bodybuilding world certainly would not know me as Mr. Ripped.

Bill was a dear friend of the Bass family. Our son Matt adored him. On his visits to Albuquerque, he would get down on the floor and play with Matt—something other visitors rarely did.

Bill and I became acquainted before I entered my first physique contest and before he began his 9-year stint as Editor-In-Chief at Muscle & Fitness magazine. Bill published his own Bodybuilding World newsletter and we corresponded from time to time. He knew of me from my involvement in the AAU National Physique Committee and an occasional photo which appeared in the original Ironman magazine. After two decades in Olympic weightlifting competition, I was preparing to enter the 1978 Mr. New Mexico and then the Past 40 Mr. America. Bill came to Albuquerque to photograph me. He taught me the intricacies of outdoor physique photography and photographed me numerous times in Albuquerque and in California. Bill also photographed my second aerobic capacity stress test and an underwater weighing at the Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque.

He took our famous “Fab Ab” photo in the Santa Monica Gold’s Gym with Mike Mentzer, Casey Viator, Lou Ferrigno, and others bodybuilding legends looking on; see our Wikipedia entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarence_Bass

But that’s getting ahead of our story.

Most importantly, Bill was instrumental in Joe Weider giving me the opportunity to write a monthly column in Muscle & Fitness magazine. Thanks to Bill, that made me known around the world.

Carol and I will never forget how that happened.

Bill was a superb wordsmith and we sent him the manuscript of our first book, RIPPED: The Sensible Way to Achieve Ultimate Muscularity. He had already written about 20 successful bodybuilding books and was the ideal person to evaluate our manuscript.

We were thrilled to get an excited call from Bill a few days later. He had stayed up all night reading the manuscript and said it was the best bodybuilding book he had ever read. Joe Weider wanted me to come out to see him. I don't think Joe read anything but the table of contents--he said it included everything bodybuilders wanted to know--but he trusted Bill's judgment. A few weeks later, Bill picked Carol and I up at LAX. We were soon having lunch with Bill and Joe. The meeting went well and Joe invited me to write a column to be called the “Ripped Department.” Joe could’ve canceled the column at any time. Instead he wrote frequently to tell me how much he liked the column. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I kept turning out columns—and new photos—for the next 16 years. It became the longest running column in the history of the world’s most widely read bodybuilding magazine.

Bill took almost all of the photos in Ripped, including the photos on the front and back cover. He also took many of the photos in Ripped 2—including this one taken in our living room the night before a day-long shoot.

I made several more trips to California to be photographed by Bill. A memorable session on what he called “Reynolds' Rock” produced what he said was his best-ever day of photography. Joe misplaced the negatives, but Bill sent us prints of the best photos. Joe later sent us prints he had made from the original Fab Ab shot, along with the negative used to made the up the print. He had more dark put into one of the prints "to bring out a little more definition." We never used that print; it's still in the file.

 This ripped-to-the-bone photo was taken during that magic shoot; Joe Weider loved the muscularity but always wanted me to be bigger.

Finally, Bill and I recorded an interview tape which became a best seller; even the laid back guy at the recording studio dug it.

After that Bill and I slowly drifted apart. He went on to become Editor-In-Chief of Joe Weider’s hard-core muscle mag Flex. He continued writing books, over 40 the last we heard, along with over 2,000 magazine articles. He was a writing machine with an encyclopedic knowledge of every aspect of bodybuilding. Sadly, he left us prematurely, passing away at 47. The coroner ruled his death a suicide.

We loved and respected you Bill and wish you were here to talk old-times—and new times. Matthew would like to talk to you about this photo with Lou Ferrigno; he says his underpants are showing. Bill pulled Lou out of Gold’s Gym for this priceless picture.

Special Note: We looked high and wide for a photo of Bill; he apparently didn’t like having his picture taken. If anyone knows of one we’d like to add it to this remembrance.

Old Friend Remembers Bill--Provides Photos

Jim Schmidt, who met Bill at the University of Washington and remained close until his untimely passing, saw our plea for photos and has come forward with some images of Bill as few knew him--and behind the camera where he excelled.

"Bill...always treated me right and never hesitated to include me in things around the L.A. bodybuilding scene even though I was just a guy from a small hick town in Washington state," Jim wrote. "Looking at the pictures has really brought back a lot of fond memories of my exploits with Bill."

"We quickly became good friends because of our common interest in bodybuilding and weightlifting," Jim continued. "He and my ex-wife went to high school together in Port Angeles, Washington. I used to go to Los Angeles to visit Bill and went on many of his photography jobs. I got to meet many famous bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Pearl, the Mentzer brothers, Ken Waller, the Barbarian brothers, Pat Neve, Robbie Robinson, Lou Ferrigno, etc., etc. because of Bill."

Jim shared some little known background information.

His wife divorced him and ran off and joined some religious cult while he was working on his PhD at Cal-Berkeley... [He was interested in other women after that] but I don't think that he ever had any really successful relationships.

Because of Bill, I actually got to spend time at Arnold Schwarzenegger's house in Santa Monica. This was shortly after he made the movie Stay Hungry and before he married Maria Shriver. Arnold was very friendly and welcomed me into his home like I was an old friend. His house was decorated with some massive furniture that had been made by Dave Draper.

By ghostwriting many, many articles [and books], Bill made a large number of bodybuilders appear to be much smarter and more articulate than the really were. Bill was a huge contributor to the bodybuilding scene and I think that you're right in that he's never gotten the credit that he deserved.

The first photo, taken in 1976 at Christmas, shows the two of them sitting on the couch at the home of Jim's then in-laws. We believe Bill would like it. They both look powerful. His beard adds a little mystery. Hints at his sensitive nature. Not many knew that side of Bill. (It may have been his downfall.)

The second photo shows Bill making friends with Jim's baby daughter. Our son Matt experienced that side of Bill.

The last photo, taken by Jim, shows Bill photographing 1977 Mr. USA Rod Koontz doing the triceps push down. Bill's eye for capturing the best possible angle was always right on the money. He would have you go through the full range of motion and find the most favorable position every time.

Thank you, Jim, for taking the time to dig out the photos of Bill and tell us about your long friendship. Good to know that you have fond memories, as we do. We'll never see his like again.

July 1, 2016

Niece and Sister Talk About Bill

Hi Clarence:

Thank you for sharing your stories about my Uncle Rock. My dad Jeff is his youngest brother. It was nice to find your tribute and learn a little more about him. I was 12 when he passed. My grandma gave me his first edition Complete Collection of O. Henry which I read many times until it fell apart. He had his name in the cover and I always thought of him when I read it.

Adrienne (Reynolds) Miles

(Prompted me to bone up on the works of O. Henry. Out of my ballpark, but I can see how his unique view of the world and mastery of word manipulation would appeal to Bill--and his niece. CB)


My niece sent me your Remembering Bill Reynolds article this morning. Rock, family nickname, was my brother. Few saw the gentle side of him. My sons did. They have photos of Rock & Lou [Ferrigno] together. Lou was in full Hulk make up. I miss him daily. I was always his favorite little sister.  Being his only sister, quite appropriate. Thank you for the tribute to him. 

Sharon Freeland

PS: My brother & I had a special bond. He called me Sissy Poo up until his death. It makes me happy to see your admiration & respect for him.

He started body building as a teenager. I would sit & count for him when he trained in our basement. At times I was his personal barbell if I talked too much.

I'm enclosing two photos I believe you will appreciate. He's 17 in the first one, shortly after he began bodybuilding. The other shows him at 22, leaner and further along in his bodybuilding--and posing.

One thing I'd like to clear up on his death. He was addicted to oxy and overdosed on it. He was found with 91 dialed into his phone. I went down to clean out his place and to bring him home.




Clarence Responds                                               

Hi Adrienne and Sharon:

Your emails prompted Carol and I to reread our "Remembering Bill."  Brought back treasured memories.

We are glad you came on it and took the opportunity to tell us more about Bill.

Happy to know that Bill is remembered fondly by his family.

He was wonderful in so many ways--and never fully appreciated in the bodybuilding world. Joe Weider recognized his encyclopedic knowledge of bodybuilding and amazing writing skills. I remember Joe standing behind him with hands on his shoulders, and telling us how proud he was to have Bill working for him.

Too bad more people didn't appreciate his many-sided greatness. And that Bill never seemed to feel completely comfortable in his own shoes.


PS: The bodybuilding photos show good muscle. He was clearly a serious trainer.

Too bad he got distracted and gave up on regular training. He might have felt better about himself had he kept training. Rubbing shoulders with the best bodybuilders in the world put him in an awkward position. He may have let himself go to avoid comparison.

I remember Joe Weider taking him to task for pouring sugar into his Coke. "Why do you do that to yourself, Bill?

He had no answer.

Thanks you again for sharing your memories of Bill.

We're glad to know that he tried to call for help at the end, that he had not given up hope.

He will always have a special place in our heart.

July 1, 2019

Colleague Remembers Bill

Hi Clarence:

I don’t think you know me, but I photographed and wrote for years for Robert Kennedy’s Musclemag.

It is funny but for some reason I was thinking about Bill this morning and Goggled his name and found your tribute to him. I really enjoyed reading it as I thought a lot of Bill. Back in the day he was responsible for me getting my first article published in Muscle & Fitness. I wrote an article entitled “In Defense of Zane,” where I talked about why Zane defeated Mike Mentzer at the 1979 Mr. Olympia contest. Bill liked it and pitched the article to Joe who published it.

I was very thankful to Bill for this opportunity and we became friends seeing each other for chats at the shows we attended.

Bill loved to greet me by calling me “Herr Bartlett!” It was in reference to a scene from the movie “The Great Escape” where the German officer would greet the captured English officer with the same salutation. I would respond with “Herr Reynolds,” which usually brought a big smile to his face. Bill and I got along great as we both had the same sense of humor along with our passion for Bodybuilding.

He was brilliant, and was the most prolific writer I ever encountered. I used to laugh as I would see him in the lounge at a show where he calmly joked around then I wouldn’t see him until after the competition. I would ask him where he was as I didn’t see him at the competition. He would chuckle and say he had stayed in his room and had a nap. I would ask, how are you going to cover it? His reply: “I don’t need to see the show to cover it, all I need is the placings and I can write it up. I have seen so many of these shows that it is easy for me to do the report!” I would just shake my head and laugh.

Bill had a wonderful heart as you know. If he liked you, he would do anything for you. I have nothing but fond memories of him and wish I could sit down and chat about the current Bodybuilding scene with him. I am sure his take on today's shows and monsters would be a very interesting one.

I hope you have enjoyed my recollections of Bill. I have enjoyed reading your books and articles over the years. Your common sense approach to training and dieting are much needed in this day and age of excessive drug use and quest for bloated freaky size.

All the best!

Garry Bartlett, Fitness Author & Photographer

March 1, 2020

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