An Exclusive Interview with Roger Callard

By Irene L. Hause , Muscle & Bodybuilder, May 1983 (w. permission)
Roger Callard began bodybuilding at the tender age of five. His father, who was interested in weightlifting, encouraged him to train his chest as a possible means of overcoming childhood asthma (obstructed breathing). It worked, and Roger has been into weight training ever since. He began competing in his home state of Michigan and, approximately a dozen contests later, won the 1978 Mr. USA title. Despite his obvious success and the heavy publicity he was receiving, he suddenly stopped competing shortly thereafter. He was still seen as an actor and advertising model, but not as a competing bodybuilder.

Roger grew up in Chesaning, a small town near the same part of Michigan that produced Tom Platz and Kent Kuehn. His father was a farmer and a construction worker, the descendant of a hard-working family of six brothers who emigrated from England in the 1880s to open a furniture factory. From them, Roger inherited his love of carpentry and his basic philosophy of life: “Hard work! There is profit in all toil!”

He was an all-around athlete in high school, as well as a member of the National Honor Society for academic excellence. Going on to Michigan State University, Roger graduated with a pre-law degree. Then, in 1972, bodybuilding led him on the inevitable journey to Venice, California, as a member of the Weider Research Clinic.

Over the years, Roger has interwoven three careers: he is self-employed as a general contractor, specializing in solar-heating-system installation; he conducts bodybuilding seminars; and he has been seen in numerous movies, print ads, and television shows. His long list of television credits includes such diverse programs as Laugh In, Barnaby Jones, Wonder Woman, and Phil Donahue. He appeared as a weightlifting champion with the legendary Mae West in her final movie, Sextette, and as a champion bodybuilder in the TV detective fantasy, Charlie’s Angels. When asked what it was like working with several of the world’s most glamorous women, Roger muttered, “They’re just ordinary people,” and would say no more.

This interview took place at Roger’s home in Los Angeles, shortly after he had begun training with renewed intensity, with plans to enter The Event. [The Event was a bodybuilding extravaganza that had been scheduled for August 1982 in Las Vegas, but was abruptly canceled.] Roger is married and has a 2½-year-old daughter.

BODYBUILDER: What made you stop competing?

ROGER CALLARD: I was tired of the political machinations of bodybuilding. Bodybuilding had suddenly split into two camps, two gyms—Gold’s Gym and World Gym. There was a lot of backbiting, dissension, and jealousy. It had become too commercial. All of a sudden, people who had no credentials—who didn’t really know anything about bodybuilding—were coming up, having ads, being chairmen, being on committees. Competitions were arranged with no regard for the athletes. Contests like the Grand Prix were scheduled one after the other, in such a pattern that the guys would actually be endangering their health. These guys were on steroids for a year! That’s why they burn out! Contests should be patterned for the athlete! That hasn’t been done, because it’s merely business now. And business always excludes the vehicle, which in this case is the competitor.

BB: Do you feel that the situation is the same now as it was then?

RC: Yes.

BB: So why are you returning to competition?

RC: Because I’m a fighter.

Because it’s in my blood. And because I’m at the prime age to compete. I’m in my early 30s, and your 30s to 40s are your best years in bodybuilding. There’s no question about that.

BB: Did you still work out during your four-year layoff?

RC: Oh, yeah, sure. I’ve always trained. It’s just a matter of intensity.

BB: When we talked briefly at Gold’s Gym a few weeks ago, you said that you feel you’ll be able to approach competitive bodybuilding with more maturity than before—that you feel you’ve matured a lot since you last competed. What makes you say that?

RC: Because now I know what to expect. Knowing that bodybuilding is a political sport, accepting that you’re being judged by five or six people on a somewhat subjective standard, knowing that when you compete you must have your own personal level of excellence rather than defining yourself solely by other people’s opinions of you. The guy just coming in doesn’t know about the political aspect, the jealousies, the envies that occur. He doesn’t know all the little subtle things that are going to happen to him because he’s a bodybuilder. Unless he’s prepared for that, it can make him or break him.

BB: What is your definition of “playing politics” in bodybuilding?

RC: You can either be a “nice guy” and be sincere with people, trying to make an attempt to get along with them, or you can go 180 degrees the other way and make a fool out of yourself trying to do it. I play it by ear. If I sense something about people that I like, I’ll talk to them, regardless of their position. They might like you more than they like John Doe. If they don’t, there’s really nothing you can do about it. So I never really played politics. I just tried to be myself as much as I could.

BB: Do you think that a bodybuilder has to play politics to get ahead?

RC: No! No, he doesn’t. Of course, he can’t be obnoxious, but he can keep to himself. As a matter of fact, he will get further if he does.

BB: What is your biggest fear as you start training again?

RC: I have no fears.

BB: As you look around the bodybuilding scene, what things are the same?

RC: The names are still the same. Bodybuilding has not yet gone beyond the era that really made bodybuilding—the ‘70s. Names that were prominent in the ‘70s are still the names that are prominent today.

BB: What’s the biggest difference?

RC: You see a lot of new guys that come and go real fast. Boom, gone, because of the heavy use of steroids and because they really aren’t sure of what to do.

BB: What type of training are you using now, and how does it differ from your training when you were competing before?

RC: It really doesn’t differ at all. I’ve always used a high-intensity, low-time duration workout. I keep the sets low—maybe ten or twelve sets per body part—keep the intensity high, the weights as high as possible for perfect form. I don’t train more than six times a week, and I don’t train for more than an hour and a half per session. I’m in the gym, and I’m out of the gym. The only thing that’s different is that I have more confidence in what I’m doing. I don’t worry and anticipate what’s going to happen—is this going to work, or should I try this exercise? I know what works. And I just do it. That’s a nice feeling, to have confidence in your game plan.

BB: What are your feelings when you’re actually competing?

RC: When I’m on stage, I think only of the audience and what I’m trying to do, never about my competitors. I try to relate to the audience, because I realize that it is a show and that the audience is there to have a good time. I feel a sense of responsibility to be at my best when I’m competing on stage.

BB: One bodybuilder told me he doesn’t even hear the audience when they clap!

RC: Well, I hear them!

BB: What’s a bodybuilder supposed to look like when he’s on that stage?

RC: He’s supposed to have a high-speed look while he’s standing still. He’s supposed to be the epitome and the embodiment of all of masculinity and of all athletics. He is supposed to look like he could do anything. He also has to have a sense of grace and dignity, and if he imparts that, that’s what makes a champion.

BB: What do you like best about bodybuilding?

RC: The people you meet, the camaraderie, the friends that I’ve made over the years, the traveling. But the very best thing is seeing the progress in bodybuilders who have asked me to help them train; I’ve helped them, and they completely change, gaining maybe 40 to 50 pounds. I’ve had hundreds—literally hundreds—of people that I’ve done this with, and each time it’s great! I finally turn them loose, then they’re on their own. Sometimes I wonder if they remember me, but I think they do.

BB: Who are your best friends in bodybuilding?

RC: I have quite a few, but in particular I’d have to say Arnold, Manual Perry, Denny Gable, and Pete Grymkowski.

BB: What is the most difficult part of bodybuilding for you?

RC: Dealing with the mentality that does not understand why you’re in the gym, training in a business-like way; people who don’t understand that intensity, that total involvement. All they see is that you’re a famous bodybuilder, and they walk up to you while you’re training and start talking. They just do not have the insight into that intensity, because they’ve never wanted or had the discipline to try that hard at anything in their lives. So it is something they’ll never understand, because they cannot push themselves to that limit. It takes special kinds of people to want to push themselves. That’s like when a coach sees athletes who really want to work harder and want to learn, so he helps them a little more. He doesn’t do it with everyone because he knows there’s no sense in it; not everyone has that desire.

BB: Do you handle interruptions differently today than you used to?

RC: Yes. Before, I would tell people, “Look, I’m training. I don’t want to talk about it.” Now, maybe I’ll say something and casually walk away and get back to my business. I’m a little more patient with people now—a little more tolerant of their lack of understanding.

BB: What do you feel is the biggest negative aspect of bodybuilding?

RC: Getting involved with all the gossip, with all the little interplays that are going on—this one’s mad at that one, do you think this guy’s any good, what do you think of his arms, what do you think of his back, do you think he’s going to make it, what’s he taking, what do you take, what are you going to compete in? Try to stay away from all the petty involvements, because it really goes nowhere. Know what you’re going to do—go to the gym, work out, go home! Don’t use the gym as a social club, because if you’re going to get involved with a lot of things that are not really associated with competitive bodybuilding, you get sidetracked.

BB: Since you operate your own solar-heating business and also work as an actor and advertising model, do you find it difficult to schedule your training time?

RC: No. Training does not consume a great deal of time. Most people waste two hours a day—more, I would think. So take that time you waste and use it! The problem is that most people use a great deal of time to train, but you grow in the shortest, not the longest, period of time. At my level you can train an hour a day and win any title. I don’t care what anyone says. The hardest thing about working out is getting up and going to the gym. Not training! The hardest part about running is putting on your shoes. What is difficult is getting emotional time away from people who see training as showing selfishness to them. In other words, some people view it as time that could be spent on them rather than time on yourself.

BB: What about bodybuilders who become very irritable around contest time? Is that true about you?

RC: No. Their problem is dieting. You should never diet! You can’t diet when you’re training for a contest. You have to have good nutrition. There’s a difference. Dieting is cutting down, restricting, depriving your body of essential things that you need. That’s why those people become irritable—don’t win contests. Because they’re trying to get from A to Z without going through the alphabet. They’re trying to get there in a hurry.

BB: How do you cut up then?

RC: It takes time, just like everything else takes time. It’s a gradual process. It’s not something where you drop 20 pounds in a week, because your body can’t handle it. You have to have good nutrition! Your body has to have energy to grow. You can’t continue to grow if you’re not eating right, if you’re depriving your body by cutting out all carbohydrates and calcium-containing dairy products.

BB: To you personally, what is the price of bodybuilding? What is the payoff? Do you have doubts that the payoff is worth the price?

RC: There is really no price, if it’s something you truly want to do. For a person who is a bodybuilder, who enjoys training, there is no price. That’s a part of his body. That’s a part of his life which is essential for him to be himself. If I don’t train, I cease to be Roger Callard. I become someone else. The price is that I must train to be myself! The payoff, call it whatever you want, is fame, maybe fortune. When you’re old you can sit back and say, “Okay, this is what I did.” But the main thing is that personal satisfaction from your accomplishments, and what you’ve done for other people, other bodybuilders.

BB: If you do really well in your contest, what are your plans? If you don’t do so well, what are your plans?

RC: Well, my plans are always the same: I will train. I know it’s just a matter of time.

BB: You sound very determined. Have you always been like this?

RC: Yes. I’m very intense. At times, very aggressive. When I want something, I go after it. Ten years ago, the intensity and aggression were more volatile. Now that I’m older, I have more of a sense of direction. The intensity and concentration are still there, but the priorities are more clearly established. When we’re initially striving for something we sometimes get lost in minor things, and they get mixed up in things that are important, and this is where friction occurs. But keeping a clear-cut picture of what really means something and what really doesn’t can come only through time, through falling on your face and picking yourself up.

BB: What’s important to you now?

RC: My family, my friends. Money and titles really don’t mean anything. They’re only an indicator of what kind of person you are. Those titles show discipline and leadership qualities, but they don’t necessarily mean that someone is a good person in his heart or that he’s a person who loves and cares about other people, or any of the things that you’d want others to think about you rather than “great bodybuilder” or “great actor.” Those things are nice, but when everything else is gone, the only things that mean anything are love and respect.

BB: Now let’s talk a little about your work as an actor.

RC: I’ve always had the inclination toward acting. As a kid, my sisters and my brother would always want me to imitate Jerry Lewis, or I’d have to sing a song for my dad’s friends. I was in Christmas plays, high school plays. Comedy, drama—it was always something I enjoyed, and I always knew it was something that I enjoyed, and I always knew it was something I would do. Having an older sister, I would look at her movie, teen, and glamour magazines. From that I developed an appetite for show business, and I even won my high school’s dramatic award one year.

BB: Did you win for a specific role?

RC: Yes, for playing “General Snippett” in The Mouse That Roared, a satire about a tiny country that has the most destructive bomb ever created.

BB: Do you know that your eyes shine when you talk about acting and show business?

RC: Really?

BB: Yes. Your eyes look totally different than they did five minutes ago.

RC: Oh . . . well, I enjoy it. I get a great deal of satisfaction from it. Bodybuilding is show business too, and I enjoy the show. I don’t enjoy the drudgery of the gym and all of the interplay that we were talking about before. I don’t enjoy that at all . . . . Anyway, I like show business because it is the end product of everything you’ve ever done.

BB: How does a person advance in show business?

RC: You have to produce. There’s a lot of money in show business, perhaps more than any other business. Unless you produce, you’re costing the production company hundreds of thousands of dollars. And, of course, you have to have talent. Someone can’t just say, “This is my friend; put him on the series.” Acting looks easy, but it’s very hard. You have to be able to read and remember dialogue; you have to memorize what you’re going to say, and at the same time think about projecting the appropriate feelings. There are a lot of other factors too, like where do you stop, where are your marks—a camera doesn’t go everywhere! Also, there’s every type of ethnic background, every type of religious background in show business, so you have to be able to get along with all kinds of people. But mainly, what show business is all about is having the ability to make other people feel when you do what you do!

BB: Have you taken acting lessons, or do you consider your talent natural?

RC: Pretty natural. I don’t like the word “lessons.” You can practice acting in class, but there’s really no substitute for being in front of a camera with a crew. The only way you learn in bodybuilding or in anything else is the actual act of doing it. It takes this contest, that contest, this performance, that performance. Then, if you have talent, you start interjecting your individuality into it. That’s when you start becoming good at what you do.

BB: How do you evaluate your own work as an actor?

RC: It’s difficult. I don’t like a lot of people around when I watch my shows, because I want to watch very objectively. I try to pretend that I’m not that person and see what I see in that performance.

BB: To whom or to what do you look for guidance in your career as an actor?

RC: I look at other performances when I’m watching a movie, making a conscious effort to remember certain things that I like. And in life, I’ll be doing something, and I’ll remember how I acted, how I felt, and I’ll use that. You’ve got to remember embarrassment, excitement, hatred, and all the varying degrees of each emotion, and you have to remember what imparted that emotion and try to pull it out.

BB: Do you prefer working in TV, movies, commercials, or print ads?

RC: Movies, because you have time. You can shoot a scene two or three times, and that gives you a little more lateral movement as an actor. In TV the director shoots an episode in a week—that’s it—and he’s on to the next one. If you said, “Well, I think if I said this word a little slower or if I walked a little faster . . . ,” the director wouldn’t even be listening to you. His mind is way down the line, maybe two or three shows ahead.

BB: What about commercials?

RC: Commercials are the same as movies, with a lot of time taken to explore different approaches. The more outrageous the approach, the better it is.

BB: Have you been in a lot of print ads?

RC: Yeah. To me that’s the worst. You’re just standing there, and if you’re the only one, it’s like a photo session.

BB: When you see pictures of yourself in magazines or on the screen, do you ever get the feeling that you’re looking at another person?

RC: Oh, yes! A lot of times. And I’ve had dreams where I’ve seen myself and have wondered if that was really me.

BB: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

RC: I really don’t think that much about it, you know. I like myself. I don’t think I’m ugly, but . . . .

BB: When you see pictures of yourself in magazines . . . ?

RC: Talking about facial or body?

BB: Facial.

RC: I don’t think it’s anything special. I think the body is more special than the face.

BB: Do you ever feel that you are the object of jealousy from other men because of your looks?

RC: (very softly spoken) Of course.

BB: How do you feel about this?

RC: Frustrated. What can you do? It’s their shortcoming, not yours. You can’t carry their guilt. Sometimes the only thing you can do is be an example. Instead of reacting to them in a negative and slightly hostile way, trying to turn their heads around, I’ll do something nice to them, and then put it onto them, so they have to think about it.

BB: Please comment on the following quotation from Sophia Loren: “Beauty is a handicap for a woman. It takes a lot longer for people to get to really know you, the person inside, and to find out that you have other qualities other than good looks. A beautiful woman takes a man like thunder. Overwhelming, so they are inclined to say, “She’s beautiful, but stupid, because they never get to know her.”

RC: (long pause) It’s probably even worse for a man. Because then they think he is egocentric, in love with himself, a gigolo, selfish, conceited. It can be a handicap, because people are very vindictive and inherently very jealous, envious animals. It becomes difficult, because people like to rationalize things so they can understand and relate to them. And sometimes they can’t relate to someone who looks totally different from the norm. They have to deal with it negatively, because that’s the only way they can understand it. They’ll say, “Yeah, he’s conceited, he’s in love with himself. That’s why he’s not speaking to me.” Not because he’s busy, he works hard, he’s disciplined, he’s organized—none of those other things. It’s just because he’s selfish. That why people who are good-looking and have great bodies sometimes have to carry the burden of other people’s shortcomings. You have to be kind of callused about it; you really can’t worry about it, because it is a mentality gap.

BB: What questions do you wish interviewers would ask you?

RC: (long pause) I think you already asked the most important questions, but in a different context. “How do you feel about yourself when you look in the mirror? How do you see yourself?” Those are the most important questions, because how you see yourself is directly proportionate to how well you will do. If you see yourself slightly differently than most people do, you have a slightly distorted perspective on yourself and on everything else. So through peer appraisal, through your own self-analysis, through our own experience with ourselves, we become, in varying degrees, gifted in understanding and evaluating ourselves. The degree to which we succeed in that is usually the degree to which we succeed in life, because we realize and deal with our shortcomings rather than trying to ignore or hide them.

– end

1 thought on “An Exclusive Interview with Roger Callard”

  1. It was funny when near the beginning of the article, she mentions that Roger was a member of the Weider Research Clinic. The “clinic” was an inside joke and just another one of Weider’s many marketing lies. Weider put a “Weider Research Clinic” sign on the door of a broom closet at his headquarters.


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