Winnipeg muscle man devotes his life to becoming next Arnold Schwarzenegger
Pop artist, Andy Warhol, had it partially correct when he suggested that everyone can be a star for 15 minutes.
Warhol might have more accurately suggested that everyone would settle for being a star for 15 minutes.
There’s a difference between intent and realization.
Mark Dobrohorsky, for one, learned a little about how onerous the difference can be. But, not until after he actually accepted the notion that someone could transform him into a star.
It’s a curious notion, this deity of celebrity, this “stardom.” It’s a kind of American siren anthem. In Dobro-horsky’s instance, it wasn’t the song of the ’60s: “Hey kid, play your guitar and I’ll make you a star.” It was an ’80s refrain: “Hey kid, build that deltoid and I’ll put you on celluloid,”
Dobrohorsky was convinced by a fast-talking slick in Montreal that he was the next Arnold Schwarzenegger, now that the Teuton has forsaken the’ iron pumping, baby oil and steroids of professional bodybuilding competition for the high art of cinema,
Not that Dobrghorsky doesn’t have the requisite qualities. An inch or so over six feet tall, about as heavily muscled as it’s possible for a 215-pound person to be without turning into a Clydesdale, his open, ingenuous features even resemble Schwarzenegger’s.
But, Dobrohorsky wasn’t transformed into a star, though not for lack of trying.
Almost half of last year, while in the thrall of one Jimmy Caruso, “the Albert Einstein of bodybuilding,” as Mark refers to him, Dobrohorsky was in a Montreal gym from 9 a.m. to II p.m. daily, working himself into a state of peak physical form and near mental collapse.
And, had he hung in with his Svengali of sweat just three more weeks, for the 1981 World Cup bodybuilding competition in Atlantic City, Dobrohorsky might have known whether his ambition to succeed Schwarzenegger as the dominant figure in bodybuilding was fanciful or not,
“But, I was existing on 700 calories a day, about the equivalent of a normal lunch,” Dobrohorsky says. “I was training six, then eight hours every day, trying to squeeze in posing training, TV appearances, preparing for specific competitions and taking two injections in the hip a day of multi-vitamins and steroids. It was breaking me right down,”
To understand this kind of devotion to something as ostensibly narcissistic and mindless as bodybuilding is to recognize that, in a time of unquestioning personal aggrandizement, bodybuilding isn’t considered aberrant. It
is, as it were,’ a growth industry. A-billion-dollar dream-world where,appearance has been elevated to substance.
And to understand Dobrohorsky’s obsession, one has to retreat to Flin Flon in 1972, where Dobrohorsky was a 95-pound, 13-year-old, hanging around his Dad’s poolhall after school looking at glistening pictures of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Weider empire muscle magazines. Pictures, he would learn a decade later when he struck the same poses, in the same spot, in the same Montreal studio, for the same photographer that Jimmy Caruso shot.
Arnold, as he’s known to serious bodybuilders, is a kind of doppelganger in Dobrohorsky’s life, a constant thematic presence emerging from and fading into his conversation like punctuation.
“I was this little kid drawing pictures of comicbook superheroes, the contours of their muscles, you know. I saw Arnold in one of the muscle magazines. I said, ‘God, is it possible to look like this guy?’ I was painfully skinny. So, my Dad bought me some weights. People used to laugh at me. But,” he recalls, “by 15,1 was determined to be a carbon copy of Arnold.”
Before he was 16, through a correspondence with a writer for one of the Weider magazines, Dobrohorsky was able to make a pilgrimage to southern
California, to work out with the great man himself. “I didn’t learn anything. But I worked’out with Arnold. It was like sparring with Muhammad AIL”
And, by 17, entering his first formal bodybuilding competition, Dobrohorsky won the Mr. Manitoba of 1977 title. Then, in Montreal, he finished 5th in the Mr. Canada.
“I was too.young and I couldn’t take losing so soon. I had this fixation of being able to replace Arnold. I thought someone would notice me and sponsor me the way someone had done for him. It didn’t happen.”
Returning to Winnipeg, he got a job and forsook all iron. “Then, I don’t know, I just started again in 1980, doing the same as everyone else in the weightroom at the YMCA. I still qualified for the Mr. Canada and I went down to Montreal and this time I finished 6th. I still lacked the look of each muscle flowing into the other to make that complete physique. I was really depressed.”
But, he met an executive of the International Federation of Bodybuilding, the myth-making apparatus for bodybuilding stardom.
“He said, ‘listen, Jimmy Caruso saw you in both the Mr. Canada contests and thinks you look like Arnold. He wants to offer you a contract to train in Montreal with him.’ I knew that Jimmy had trained Arnold for a while, takes photos for the Weider magazines and is big in bodybuilding. But, I didn’t know him. The guy said Jimmy had a’ revolutionary new training method, an accelerated growth program that would change everything for me.”
So, Dobrohorsky came home, quit his job, liquidated everything he had, at a loss and moved to Montreal,
“Jimmy is this little, 5 foot 2 inch Italian guy in incredible shape. Very dynamic, very convincing. We talked . and I signed his contract. It was for five years. Basically, it says that any money I earn through bodybuilding, Jimmy Caruso gets 20 per cent of. In return, he provides me with training, promotion and expenses. In fact, I’m still under contract to him for about four years.”
And, with the suspension of critical judgement that marks all acts of faith, Dobrohorsky turned himself over to Caruso, clay in the hands of his recrea-tor.
“At first it was great,” he says, “As I was training, I could see myself changing almost daily. I trained down from 245 to 215. Within a month I had corrected the weaknesses in my build. His methods are very involved and contrary to everything I’d learned before. Basically, he trains the whole body as a unit instead of working separate chunks of muscle groups. And, every day, instead of alternate schedules. It takes you past genetic limitations. You actually achieve what you want twice as fast. Jimmy didn’t explain anything. He just told me what to do and I’d work my ass off, twice a day at three hours a crack.”
For several months, there was symbiotic harmony. Caruso paid Dobrohorsky’s expenses. And, Dobrohorsky simply trained. “Jimmy told me that, within a year, I’d be in Arnold’s league. It was working.”
In addition to the training program, though, there were the vitamin and steroid programs. “Everything was injected into the hip. I’d get 14 injections a week of steroids and B-complex vitamins.”
And, the fantasy realized began to fade. “It started to tax my mind so that I couldn’t think. Physically,it got to the point where I could hardly walk. I used to crawl home hurting. It wasn’t just the pain. I couldn’t comprehend anything anymore. It was staggering. Jimmy was counting on me. I was his 100 per cent investment. All he said was “train harder, train harder.’
“The steroids were making me irritable. I had no time to myself at all, the pressures began tq frighten me because Jimmy’s money was low and he had me lined up for a series of competitions, But, he wasn’t covering my basic costs. My rent was behind three months.”
Bodybuilding, which Dobrohorsky had regarded as “my sport, the sport I
cherished, I started to hate. All I knew was that I was drained, confused and Jimmy had me covered like a jailer. He couldn’t understand human emotions and anxieties. He knew how to mold a body, but he didn’t know anything about the mind,”
The star-maker and the star-gazer, their sights on the same constellation, were galaxies apart.
Finally, four months into the regimen, three weeks short of the World Cup competition, Dobrohorsky confronted Caruso with his problems.
“I laid it out for him. Everything. He just said, ‘whattya mean? You gotta do it.’ I said, ‘no, I don’t. My head’s busting apart. I’m broken down.’ He just thought I was kidding. And, it was all over. I had to quit and get a job to pay off my debts. I had to quit my dream.”
Dobrohorsky returned to Winnipeg, became a salesman for Brunswick Office Systems and Machines and consigned the entire Montreal episode to part of a childish caprice that should have been^left in a Flin Flon poolhall.
“1 became a normal person again,” he says unconvincingly.
The corollary to Warhol’s dictum about stardom, of course, is that 15 minutes is never enough. Getting close is never enough.
Dobrohorsky is star-gazing again. He gets up at 5:30 a.m. and gets home about 10 p.m., sandwiching his job between two intensive training sessions in the Y weightroom. Two hours in the morning, three at night. Just like the old days, except “that he’s using Jimmy Caruso’s arcane methods.
“I’m a salesman, now, but my bodybuilding goals are the same. I guess they just don’t fade away. I’m only 23. Arnold stayed in competition until he was 35. All I know is that the feeling is back, that butterfly feeling when it’s going well. I’m working toward the Mr. Western Canada competition Aug. 7. I’m quietly convinced I’ll do well.
“Then,” he says, his voice only slightly self-mocking, “there’s the Mr. Universe in Belgium …”
Winnipeg muscle man devotes his life to becoming next Arnold Schwarzenegger