Believe it or not, there was a time when there wasn’t a fitness club near every shopping mall and if a man had muscles it was because he worked construction or a similar labor oriented type job.
Long before anything like our modern day health clubs and gyms existed, Joe Gold opened the first Gold’s Gym in August 1965, in Venice Beach, California. It featured homemade equipment (likely the only choice at that time) and clients included Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dave Draper.
A whole bodybuilding culture developed around Venice such as the famous Muscle Beach. In 1977, Gold’s was featured in the docudrama Pumping Iron. This put both the gym and bodybuilding and physique to the public attention and it has been gaining momentum ever since. To this day, Gold’s Gym is considered a landmark in bodybuilding culture and has achieved cult status. (Note: The location shown in this post opened after Pumping Iron was filmed. Read about the Gold’s Gym that opened in 1965 and where the movie was filmed here.)
Unfortunately, by that time Joe Gold was no longer part of it. In 1970 the gym was failing and Gold sold it to Bud Danits, an antique dealer, and Dave Saxe, a jeweler. They too found the gym was not profitable and were going to covert it to an antique shop. Instead, they offered it to a gym member, Ken Sprague, who purchased it in late 1971.
Sprague was the first owner of Gold’s to actually sponsor and hold bodybuilding competitions, and his promotional skills and film industry contacts helped build the establishment’s profile. It was Sprague offering to paint the windows to minimize back light and allow the film crew to mount a lighting grid on the inside ceiling that made Gold’s the primary location for filming Pumping Iron.
When the movie was released in 1977 Sprague also created the first Mr America Contest and held the Mr. America Day Parade in Santa Monica to further promote the gym and the industry. In 1979 it was again sold and at the time was the most famous gym in the world.
The new owners took it from the 5500 square foot facility into a 60,000 square foot building. It became the first health and fitness facility to start franchising locations and soon had over 534 locations.
Notable celebrities at Gold’s Gym include Jessica Alba, Jodie Foster, Morgan Freeman, Dwayne Johnson, Jim Morrison, Keanu Reeves, Hilary Swank, and Tiger Woods, among many others.
Gold’s Gym and Muscle Beach are both favorite places for health conscious fitness oriented people to visit when they come to Los Angeles. I don’t have the address of the original Gold’s Gym on Pacific Ave, but you can check out the one that replaced it at 360 Hampton Dr, Venice, CA. It’s right behind the Google Venice Offices.
Be sure to check out the other attractions in Venice Beach.
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