70 Is the New 40

70 Is the New 40

Congratulations on maintaining your Mr. America
physique into your 70s -- it’s truly
inspirational and proof that bodybuilding is a
pathway to living long and living well. How have you
managed to stay motivated all this time?
Staying motivated is not a problem because once
I realized I could be as healthy as I was willing to
work for, I could never do otherwise. All the
functions of day-to-day living are the same functions that
determine the aging process, all of which are under
our control. Aging and living are one and the same
process; therefore all of the processes of living, which
we control, are controlling how we age. So staying motivated
for my lifestyle not only is not hard, I cannot
do otherwise. Bodybuilding serves me on many levels. One is as
a refuge from life’s problems. I tend to beat
myself up over things, and the focus and dedication of
training for some goal always pulls me through the
resulting depression. It also allows me to express my
creativity from which I get the most pleasure of
anything. I have never been good at training as
maintenance. So I can relate to my clients in that respect.
There are long periods of no training, but something always
comes along to get me fired up again. What allows me
to sustain a degree of fitness during these lax
periods is my lifestyle, which is relatively
stress-free, and the vegan diet, which includes no processed
or refined foods.? ?

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Joe Gold among others (by Jim Morris) | Advocate.comFrom left: Jim Fraracci, Zabo Koszewski, Chet
Yorton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Joe Gold. "There was a
lot of good-natured, although very gay, fooling
around at the original Gold's," Morris says of
this shot he took in 1969. "Here Arnold
plants a kiss on the forehead of Chet as Zabo cops a
feel. Note that Chet is holding Arnold around the waist."
This creation last year was the result of my not
knowing of anyone in their 70s who I felt could match
what I knew I was capable of. Being the first to
achieve a heretofore unseen level of development was an
attraction and challenge I could not resist. Setting a
standard also appealed to me. When people say I look
so good for my age, my response is, “I
don’t think so. I think this is what the 70s should
look like.” I think competing and status are part of being
human, and as a child I was not coordinated and never
participated in sports, and I find through
bodybuilding I am able to satisfy my need to compete and
establish my status with other males on my terms. Bodybuilding satisfies my need to compete for
sex and my need to be admired.

How do you deal with the chronic injuries that seem
to plague so many bodybuilders?
The body has a remarkable ability to heal itself
if given the right materials (nutrients) and care
(treatment). My joints have from time to time flared
up from overuse, but I have learned to allow them time
between exertions to heal. Now I do not have any pain or
even discomfort in any of my joints or muscles, which
is one of the major reasons I am able to train hard
enough to attain my current condition. I attribute it
mostly to my eating habits. When I dropped processed and
refined foods, all of what remained of my physical and
health problems went away completely. Most had already
disappeared when I became vegan.

Tell me a little about your exercise regimen now --
it must differ drastically from when you were competing.
Or does it?
There are three main differences. I use a
fraction of the poundage I used to use, but that is as
much because my goal is different now as anything
else. Heavy poundage is necessary to increase muscle size,
which is no longer my goal and has not been in
decades. Once I reached the maximum muscle mass for my
frame, I backed off on the poundage. After that it has
been a matter of refining and detailing. I have developed a routine of
“flexing,” which I do at home and
devote as much time to as the actual gym workout. It is
basically the old Charles Atlas “Dynamic
Tension” method with a twist, which more than
makes up for the lower poundages I use in the gym. I can get
as intense a pump and break a sweat with this workout. Third, I am no longer rigid about my workouts;
namely, I no longer absolutely must do certain
exercises on certain days with a definite number of
sets and reps. I have learned to listen to my body and I do
whatever I “feel” like at the moment. It can
range from not working out at all to going in twice a
day depending on my mood. It is very loose now.

In all fairness, do you think you could have won
the Mr. America title had you been a vegan back in the
’70s? I thought building muscle required
protein -- and lots of it.
Not only would I have won, I think I would have
been spectacular. I won the Mr. America with the
largest winning point margin in the history of the
contest (30 points, and the record still stands), and I know
the margin would have been even larger had I been a
vegan. What I have always had going for me is
symmetry. It would have emphasized those lines even
more by eliminating the “bloat” that comes
from eating animal products, especially dairy.
Vegetable protein is infinitely better quality protein
for humans and is available in more than sufficient
quantities in vegetables. 

Jim Morris at his biggest (Ramon Garcia) | Advocate.comAt his heaviest weight ever: 233 pounds

 Jim Morris with mother Mr. America (from subject) | Advocate.com

Morris's mother congratulating him onstage at the
1973 Mr. America contest

I know building and maintaining muscle takes
testosterone, hence the explosion of hormone replacement
therapy among the boomer generation. Do you follow
such a program?
The only therapy for men I am aware of is
steroids. I started regular use after the 1996 Masters
Olympia. Prior to the Masters I had not used them for
17 years and was experiencing what I considered the
“normal” decline of aging as I went from
age 44 to 61. When I started training for the contest
and resumed my steroid regimen, those aging symptoms cleared
up. I felt wonderful. After the contest I continued on
very low dosages and the feeling continued, so I have
kept it up. Explosion is right. I think the genie
is out of the closet and usage will become commonplace
in very short order. Just the fact that there is so
much interest is an indication. Being in my 70s qualifies me
for prescription supplemental testosterone, so I take
100 milligrams per week of cypionate and 100 of
nandrolone decanoate. The body is always in a state of movement. It is
either improving or declining. It never stands still.
I believe that to whatever extent we can promote the
state of growth we are slowing the aging process.

Have you noticed any lasting effects on your
overall health from your earlier steroid use?
I have no way of knowing what of my current
condition I can attribute to my previous use in the
’60s and ’70s. My sense is that is positive.

You claim to be the only out gay man to ever win
the AAU Mr. America title. Are you saying there were
closeted gay men who won the title or simply that
no other gay men reached that pinnacle in its
60-year history?
I know of at least one closeted winner and I
suspect a couple of others. In response to this
interview I called him and we discussed it for the
first time ever. Just the fact that we had never had
occasion to discuss it says to me it just
wasn’t an issue. He said although he did not feel
the public at large knew, he was quite sure that the judges
and officials in the game knew. He agreed that he too
had not experienced any problems due to his sexuality.
He feels he was judged fairly on his body. He also
feels that an out gay competitor would not have any problem
whatsoever today.

When you won the title of Mr. America in 1973, few
gay men could even visualize themselves pumping iron in
a gym alongside other bodybuilders. Now the
buffest guys on the street seem to be gay. How do
you think this change came about?
I think it is part of what I have seen as the
maturation of gay men -- an ongoing process of
striving and achieving and moving toward a goal of who
and what we truly are and not what we were labeled and
perceived to be by society and the church. In 1955,
when I turned 20, I was living in New York and working
in lower Manhattan, so I spent a lot of time in
Greenwich Village. The prevailing attitude about being gay
was negative among both straights and gays. In the ‘60s the civil rights,
women’s rights, and gay rights movements,
culminating in 1969 with Stonewall, combined to cause a
tremendous reassessment of our own self-perception and
what we were going to stand for and who we were going
to be. In the ’70s we literally took
responsibility for our own condition and took things
into our own hands as a group. Part of that was to move away
from the notion that we are naturally feminine and could not
look masculine or be muscular like straight men. I
received letters telling me how my Mr. America win in
1973 caused them to change how they thought of gays
and themselves. The ’80s caused us to
focus on health issues as never before. The incorporation of West Hollywood caused a
noticeable change in the psyche of all in my circle.
It was almost as though we had a homeland. It became
all right to stick out your pecs and pull back your delts
because now you had a reason to -- plus it got you
laid more.

Despite the fact that so many gay men participate
in bodybuilding today, though, does it seem that
disproportionately few of them ever take it to the
competitive level?
I think what attracts us to bodybuilding is the
aesthetic character of it. Plus, I don’t think
we want to look like the current crop of competitors. The poster for the Iron Man Pro show was on the
wall at World Gym in the Marina last year. Without my
glasses the only word I could read from the far wall
of the gym was “MONSTERS.” It is all about
size. Bigger is always better. I cannot see any gay
sensibility finding that look appealing enough to go
through what it must take to get there. Plus, we are nowhere near as exhibitionistic as
straights. Photographer Jim French once told me 86% of
his models have been straight. Straight guys are much
more “open” about themselves in locker rooms
than gays. At Black’s Beach the straights must
outnumber the gays 100 to 1. A straight guy will have
no problem coming up to me and posing for me. A gay guy
never would. ?

Jim Morris shot by Lon of New York (provided by subject | Advocate.comAn art shot of Morris by Lon of New York

  Jim Morris with Mae West in Sextette (from subject) | Advocate.com

Morris played a captain of the U.S. gymnastics team
in the last Mae West movie, Sextette. In
this scene he is introducing the team mascot to
Miss Marlowe Manners.

In the course of your life, you’ve held down a
variety of jobs, from LAPD officer, to personal
bodyguard for Elton John, to gym owner. Did your
sexual orientation have anything to do with your
leaving the LAPD?
It had everything to do with my joining
the LAPD. My sexual orientation greatly influenced my
choice of jobs. I thrive in all-male situations. As
for why I left the LAPD, I’ll tell you a couple
of things that happened, and you can draw your own conclusions. I was living in New York when the LAPD notified
me that I had passed all of the tests I had taken
while here on vacation. At their suggestion I rented a
garage apartment in Altadena from a black officer. On at
least two occasions I am absolutely positive my place
was searched. At the academy I was constantly reprimanded for
not being aggressive enough. Though in P.E., whenever
my partner and I competed as a team against the other
teams, we usually won. The final phase of the academy
was to go out in a car with a veteran officer. At the end of
each shift the other officers would have averaged
around 15 citations or FI’s (field
inspections), and I would have five on a good night. But I
think the final straw for them was at the end of the
academy training. A few days before graduation I
brought a drop-dead gorgeous white 20-year-old (I was
34) I had met at Gold’s to the family and friends
social, where we got to show them around the
academy. The official reason they put in my
records for my dismissal was “lack of aggression.”

Jim Morris, Elton and his entourage (from subject) | Advocate.comThe 1974 tour was Elton's first big American tour
and began a 15-year relationship.

What’s the most outrageous thing that happened
during the years you were in Mr. John’s employ?
The last night of the 1975 tour was at Madison
Square Garden in New York. We were staying at the
Sherry Netherland, and John Lennon was across the
street at the Plaza. Divine and Liz Taylor were also at the
Sherry. It had been two weeks of 24/7 partying. EJ
always did a costume change for the encore. This night
it was a Bob Mackie creation with a 12-foot snow-white
cape trimmed with white marabou feathers. To keep the cape
from dragging on the floor and getting dirty, EJ suggested I
carry him out on my shoulders and stand him up on the
piano. When I stripped down to my bugle-beaded posing
strap (also from the Mackie studio), everyone was shocked. Elton and Lennon had been in the studio that
week recording “Lucy in the Sky With
Diamonds.” Madison Square Garden has a wooden floor,
and the 20,000-plus crowd had been roused to insanity
at the end of the regular show. For the first time I
thought a venue was in imminent danger of collapse. I
stood EJ on the piano and hit a few poses, which raised the
decibel level beyond what I believed possible. As soon as I
left the stage Lennon walked on, and the whole place
totally lost it. The spotlights turned to a trapeze
hanging in the center of the ceiling holding Divine as
“Lucy” in a silver-sequined sheath, dripping
with the biggest rhinestones ever. They lowered her to
the stage and did a 10-minute set of “Lucy.” After the concert we went to one of the clubs
and ran into Bianca. She said Mick was at their
apartment at the St. James, which was only a couple of
blocks north of the Sherry on Fifth Avenue. Elton, Lennon,
and I left the club and went to the St. James around 1
a.m. Mick had been sleeping, but he welcomed us, and
we spent the rest of the night drinking wine and
singing Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, and other
songs from that era. Around 7 a.m. the coke was wearing off
and the wine was having its effect, so we left and
walked down Fifth Avenue to our hotels. Shockingly, no
one bothered us. Oh, what a night.

Jim Morris Gym was the gym in West Hollywood
during the ’80s, and as a member of your
gym, that’s when I first realized you’re
gay. However, I didn’t know you ran the gym
with your life partner of 20 years, Jimmy Brown.
Tell me about him.
Jimmy was actually the driving force behind the
creation of the gym. After winning the Mr. A, I tried
for five years to raise money to open a gym, but the
attitude was “Gays will not go to a serious gym in
any numbers that would sustain a viable
business.” Jimmy finally withdrew his savings
and pension and borrowed from his parents. He found the
building and plowed through all the paperwork the
banks and city needed to get things going.

Jim Morris and Jimmy Brown (from subject) | Advocate.comIn Hawaii with Jimmy Brown, his life partner of 20 years I opened the gym at 6 a.m. and worked until 2
p.m. Jimmy came in at 2 and closed at 10 p.m. He said
the after-work crowd was like having his own party
every night with the hottest guys in town. He loved people
and partying, and the gym was his joy. I met Jimmy in December 1973 at a Christmas
party in West Hollywood. Jimmy was a party animal and
he genuinely liked people. I had just won the Mr.
America a few months prior and came to the party with a
model I was dating. The model told me he was 18. I was
37. Jimmy was 30, living in San Francisco, and working
for HUD as an investigator of discrimination in
housing. Jimmy was wearing suede cowboy pants that
night, a leather vest, and a huge turquoise-and-coral squash
blossom necklace, with hair down his back. No shirt. He
was a knockout. He came over and sat on the couch to
my left, as my date was on my right, and started
talking. He never let my date get in another word all night. A few months after meeting Jimmy I left for my
first ever EJ tour. In the middle of the tour we
stopped for a two-week break in Maui. Jimmy took his
vacation and joined me there. I proposed, and it became our honeymoon. Jimmy passed away from AIDS in 1992.

Have you ever been tempted to open another gym? The gym was one of the most cherished times of
my life and it could only have happened at that time
of my life and West Hollywood’s life. So many
things came together to create a very special place that I
could never repeat.

Are you partnered now? No. But I’m counting on this article to
change that.?

Learn more about
Jim Morris's past and present accomplishments at his
website, gymmorris.com. Jim can be reached at
jimmorris@gymmorris.com.

Tags: World, World

Latest videos on Advocate

From our Sponsors

READER COMMENTS ()