Rich Gaspari on 1989 Arnold Classic Win: ‘Arnold Called Me’ to Compete

In bodybuilding, it can be hard to be known as the first to do something important. If you’re the first bodybuilder or physique athlete to accomplish something in this sport, you stand out. Rich Gaspari is considered a bodybuilding legend, in part because he is the first Arnold Classic Champion. The 1989 winner of that prestigious title joined Bob Cicherillo and Shawn Ray on this week’s episode of “Monday Night Muscle.”

Fans who follow the sport know that the New Jersey native was the victor in that contest, but Gaspari revealed a fact that many don’t know:  He was going to skip it. It would take Arnold Schwarzenegger himself making a phone call to Gaspari and asking him to compete before he agreed.

“Actually, Arnold called me. I was told that I was one of the only people that Arnold has ever called to go in a show,” he says. “So he did call me personally and said, ‘I would love to get you into the Arnold Classic.’ See, I was going to skip the Arnold Classic because I had went through the Olympia in ’88, and then I went through seven Grand Prix tours (shows) to just battle with Lee Labrada, and I was very burnt (out). So I had to take a short break. The other guys skipped the Arnold because it was such a grueling Grand Prix tour.”

Gaspari would take the call. He ventured to Columbus, OH, and left with the title, trophy, check for $55,000, and the honor of being the first winner of a contest that is now considered a major title in bodybuilding.

Gaspari also talked about training with Lee Haney in the early 1980’s, how he became known as the “Dragon Slayer”, and several other interesting topics. You can see this week’s episode of “Monday Night Muscle” as well as every episode on the Digital Muscle YouTube channel Mondays at 6 p.m. EST/3 p.m. PST.

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