Gunter was originally a farmer’s kid; he grew up in the small German village of Olfen, and, as a youngster, he had to do physical labour on the family farm. Fresh air, milk, and meat gave Gunter’s body a great foundation to develop high-quality muscle size.
In one of his German seminars, Günter said that he saw the action-hero movie Conan the Barbarian, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger played the titular role, and it was the first time that he came across bodybuilding. He was fascinated by Schwarzenegger’s muscle size and used him as a role model.
He couldn’t stop thinking about bodybuilding and started searching for more information. He found the German magazine Sport Revue, which exclusively interviewed the cast of Conan the Barbarian. Günter studied and learned how Arnold trained for the movie.
Luckily, I own that bodybuilding magazine, which was published in September 1982. I analyzed it for you, so you can get a better idea of Gunter’s thoughts and feeling as a kid.
Albert Busek was running that magazine and is still a close friend of Schwarzenegger’s today. All pictures in that magazine were taken exclusively by Albert Busek; nothing was just copied and pasted from other magazines! On the cover are the German headlines, “21 Color Pages of Conan, Plus Exclusive Interview with Schwarzenegger”, “Bavarian Championships,” and “Advice for Youngsters”.
On Page 3, Albert congratulates Arnold and pays tribute to him as follows: “Arnold made it onto the cover of a magazine for the first time in 1966 at the age of 18. No wonder that Issue 20 of Sport Revue is a sought-after rarity today. In the meantime, Arnold Schwarzenegger is the absolute cover record-holder of this magazine.”
Albert Busek is proud of Arnold and even prouder to document Arnold’s movie career. I’d love to present the rare pictures in the magazine, but I know that Albert Busek wouldn’t like the idea, so I suggest searching on eBay for your own examples!
The magazine consists of a lot of information, so I trimmed it down. On Page 4, there an article entitled, “Conan the Barbarian,” written by Paul M. Sammon. He tells the story of how Arnold idolized Reg Park, an old-time bodybuilder and successful movie actor from England, and how Arnold dreamed of following in his footsteps. Further, he lists some other bodybuilders who were successful actors, too.
Edward E. Press is a film producer, and in 1977, he contacted Schwarzenegger. At that time, Arnold had already acted in movies like Stay Hungry (1976) and Pumping Iron (1977).
Arnold successfully convinced the film producers to give his friend, Franco Columbo, a role in the film, as well. There’s a great picture of Franco Columbo on Page 6. They are painting his upper body for his role as a “mythical creature from Vanir.” Hats off to Arnold; he never forgot his friends or his roots.
Training for Conan the Barbarian
Schwarzenegger rode horses a lot and spent many hours watching samurai movies. He began to practice the basics of martial arts with swords, axes, and daggers. Arnold trained with a Japanese sword expert, who was nicknamed “The Mongol.” According to Arnold, “He came very often and showed me how to handle these big, heavy swords.”
In the spring and summer, Arnold would run close to seven kilometers in the early morning, go into the sea immediately after, swim a mile, and do an hour of weight training.
Conan the Barbarian was filmed in Madrid, and Arnold had difficulty finding a suitable gym, so he trained in a small weight room owned by a man named Baldo, but it seemed the gym was not equipped very well, so Arnold imported weights and machines from Munich to Madrid.
As I said, the magazine consists of a lot of information, and beautiful pictures of Arnold (e.g., at a Hollywood cocktail party; a rare picture of young Arnold, wearing a suit, and so on). No wonder that Gunter was hooked on training and living the bodybuilding lifestyle!
Decoding Gunter’s German Content
Schlierkamp’s life was not all sunshine and rainbows. The German site team-andro.com is doing an incredible job documenting Gunter’s fall and rise. Further, they filmed everything!
I tried my best to trim down all 5+ hours of video material of Gunter’s German seminars for you! You can watch them here: https://www.team-andro.com/tube/v/6940/. This seminar was sponsored by Multipower, and it was published in 2011.
At the age of 24, Günter was at Mr. Olympia and finished in 18th place. He received prize money of $1,000. Dorian Yates won that year. In 1995, Gunter met Ronnie Coleman for the first time at the Cannada Pro competition. Günter came second, Ronnie first, and Milo third. Then Gunter flew back to Germany and made the decision to live in America.
In America, at Arnold’s Classic, Günter finished 12th and thought, “‘This can’t be true.’ I went back to Germany and trained a lot. I wanted to get in the magazines, and I worked on myself to get more publicity, so the American judges would know who Gunter Schlierkamp is.”
Gunter trained very hard in Germany and met an American, who promised him accommodation and support. Gunter told the story as follows: “My ex-wife and I went to America. We had a very bad start and had to sleep in a warehouse. The warehouse was in bad shape and ready for demolition. Dogs slept there before we did and peed there. We had to sleep on a mattress, and the guy who invited us had financial difficulties and lost his house and yard. In addition, he also cheated us and never returned our money. I was about to give up. I had a great mentor at the time, Walter Klock, and he said to me, ‘Günter, you have to go through with it.’ I persevered and luckily got a sponsorship deal with Universal Nutrition and stayed afloat. Things started to look up, and I became friends with Ed Connors.
He asked me what I was doing in New Jersey and told me that I should go to California. I had no idea what to say to that. I only knew one American who invited me from Germany to New Jersey, and it turned out he was an asshole, and Ed Connors said to me that I could stay with him. For three months, I lived with him. At some point, Joe Weider heard about me and saw my pictures, so I got an invitation to his office, and he offered me a contract. I was just happy. I was happy about the contract, but many of my bodybuilding colleagues were not happy. Joe saw something in me, and a great marketing capability. I still hold the record for the best-selling Muscle and Fitness covers, which were in 1999 and 2002. Thanks to Joe, I got a lot of attention, and a lot of agents contacted me. I made 10 TV commercials and earned a lot of money on the side. In 2002, at the GNC Show of Strength competition in Canada, there was a lot of prize money up for grabs. I was there, and Ronnie Coleman was there. I trained hard to look great. Kevin Levrone told me I would beat Ronnie Coleman, but I said, ‘It will never happen.’ Surprisingly, I won first place! Kevin Levrone ran onstage and picked me up. He said to me, ‘For years, I tried to beat Coleman, and I never did. You’re the first to do it.’”
Three weeks before the competition, Günter was at Mr. Olympia and finished 5th place. The audience didn’t like the jury’s decision; they went wild and booed the jury. Günter had to talk to the audience to keep them calm.
Günter said, “This moment means more to me than when I beat Ronnie Coleman at the GNC. At Mr. Olympia 2002, people even stood up; it was really a commotion; people weren’t quiet at all. That was a beautiful moment. I had goosebumps. At Mr. Olympia, I never made it into the Top 3. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger said to me backstage, ‘What you represent, that’s real bodybuilding. I don’t know what the judges are thinking.’ You have to know how far you can push a thing, and I’ve known I can kill myself. I’m never going to get in the Top 3 at Mr. Olympia. At some point, I got to that point. I don’t want to do competitions anymore and would rather concentrate on making movies. It’s normal at the age of 20 to try things and realize, ‘Hey, this works; this doesn’t work.’ In your 30s, you’re at an age where you should know your path in life.”
Gunter and Arnold
After Gunter defeated Coleman, he was contacted by Schwarzenegger. They had a phone conversation in German, and Günter remembers it well: “I beat Ronnie. Arnold called me and said, ‘Go to Arnold’s Classic,’ but I said to him, ‘I want to do the Mr. Olympia title first. I mean, Arnold, you did the Olympia, too,’ and we talked to each other in German; it was very funny, as if I had known him for decades. My wife asked me who I had spoken to on the phone. I answered, ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger.’ My wife was amazed and wondered where he got the number, but he got the number from the Weiders. Arnold asked, ‘Does Joe Weider have anything to do with you going to Mr. Olympia?’ I said, ‘No, I’m doing the Olympia first, then I’m going to the Arnold Classic.’ Arnold said, ‘Okay. If you need anything, let me know.’”
To this day, Günter regrets not having taken the opportunity to ask Arnold for a favor. According to Günter, “I should have said something during that call. When Arnold became governor, you couldn’t reach him anymore. All calls were blocked. Ralph Möller finally succeeded as an actor because he knew Arnold well.”
Movie with Adam Sandler
Günter appeared in many movies, like Hulk, Kill or Get Killed, and Jack and Jill. There’s funny footage on YouTube from the movie Jack and Jill. Adam Sandler’s character, Jill, is beating Gunter Schlierkamp at the exercise “Preacher Bench Curl”.
A viewer from the seminar asked how he got the role for the movie. Gunter said, “I got a call from my agent. ‘We need a German bodybuilder for Adam Sandler,’ he said. It was quite spontaneous, then I went with my son to the casting. We sat in the waiting room; the women played with my son, Jake, because he’s cute. I was sitting there, and I asked a woman if she could watch my son, and I was looking around. Suddenly, Adam Sandler comes up and says, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ He punches me on my shoulder and starts a conversation with me. ‘Your son is cute; what’s his name.?’ Then we went in and did the audition. Then, after an hour, I was called again and had to do the scene in front of the director, and then I was booked. It’s very nice when I get to know people, and they are very personal, like the way Adam Sandler treats his team. He hired some of his friends for the film set. I like that.”
Gunter Schlierkamp Discusses Steroids
A viewer from the audience told Günter, “The cyclist, Armstrong, is officially doping because he has no testicles left, and he is celebrated as a hero.”
Günter replied, “Oh, yes, I heard that story and told it the people, and they asked me, ‘Gunter, how do you know that?’ You just have to know someone who supplies you with testosterone and makes sure that your testo limit is just right at the limit. So, you can pass any doping test.”
An interesting question was asked by the audience member: “Is it generally a taboo subject in America to talk about steroids? I mean, Ralf Reichenbach talked openly about his steroid use in his gym.”
Günter answered, “In America, the laws are very tough. Of course, people know that athletes do it; you just can’t get caught with it. It is not discussed publicly in America; of course, some American broadcasters have tried it; you know the story of Craig Titus; he got high on drugs. He and his wife lived in a shared apartment with three people. They invited a friend over, and they got into a fight. The media reported it and wrote, ‘Roid Rage,’ but that’s not true; they were using cocaine and crack; they weren’t thinking straight. I liked that the cop corrected the report after the fact and said they weren’t “clear in the mind.’ Titus and his wife were bodybuilders, and of course, the media blamed the steroids.”
An audience member made the comment, “My mother equates steroids with drugs, but they are medications.” Gunter agreed with this.
In a local news website, ruhrnachrichten.de, the topics of steroids and genetics were briefly touched upon.
Gunter said, “In bodybuilding, genetics is the most important thing; there is no drug or steroid that can replace genetics. You must have the genetics first. I met a lot of people who could never match me, and I said, ‘You guys are killing yourselves with your drugs. You are ruining the sport; you have no genetics. The most important thing in sports is genetics.’”
Gunter tried to remember a guy who used to make videotapes entitled, “Battle for the Olympia.” A German spectator immediately responded, “I think his name is Mitsuru!”
Gunter replied, “Oh, yes, Mitsuru used to make the bodybuilding videos called ‘Battle for the Olympia.’ He filmed me training with Charles Glass. Mitsuru filmed Ronnie Coleman last time; I was warming up. The first exercise was chest, then I took my shirt off and Mitsuru almost threw his camera away, due to his excitement. Mitsuru said, ‘Wow, that body can’t exist!’ I love reactions like that. When I was a junior, everybody ignored me, and when no one expects me, I blow people away, or they’re totally perplexed. It was a challenge for me to get it right every time. I liked the recognition the most. Charles Glass was perfect. He arrived with exercises with a new angle. I was wondering how he produced all the ideas.”
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