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The Return of Paris
by Greg Zulak
Photography by Steve Douglas

Bob Paris Is Back Hotter ‘N Ever!
*from Muscle Mag International February 1988

The Return of ParisBob Paris is quite an exceptional individual. Both physically and facially he is virtually faultless, possessing not just a handsome face but wide shoulders, narrow hips and breath-stopping shape. Watch him in World’s gym, Venice where he does most of his training. Heck, the man looks good just loading a barbell! He has perfect posture and seemingly everything sits right. His clavicles are perfectly horizontal. His lats are neither too high nor too low. The natural shape of his pecs and shoulders are enough to make grown bodybuilders cry. The Paris thighs sweep out magnificently only to tuck in neatly at the knee, below which his huge calves balloon out to perfectly formed diamonds. You just cannot fault the Bob Paris body!

You haven’t heard too much about Bob lately because he has been concentrating on his one-on-one training business and his acting career. In fact, Bob deliberately took his bodyweight down to around two hundred pounds for some show business parts earlier this year, but his burning desire to return to bigness has struck once again.

Life can be a bitch sometimes. Just ask Bob Paris.

When Bob Paris left Indiana in 1981 to move to LA to train at the famous World Gym in Santa Monica, he was a complete unknown. But he had a dream—to become a great bodybuilder. Quickly coming under the tutelage of one of America’s top amateur bodybuilders, Rory Leidlemeyer, he trained for a year and in 1982 he entered the NPC American Championships. Weighing only 200 pounds and not at his best, he placed third. A fellow by the name of Lee Haney happened to win while another newcomer to the National ranks at the time, Matt Mendenhall placed second. Still, third place at your first National ain’t nothing to cry in your protein drink about.

Bob with barbellWhile Haney shocked with his huge size and density and others lamented that Matt has mis-timed his peak, the youthful Paris impressed many, many people. Sure, he wasn’t that big or hard enough to over-take the two Goliaths, and his inexperience showed onstage but the shape. Man, the shape on this kid! Already the later-to-be world famous shape and symmetry was clearly evident and taking form. Some were already calling him the “new” Steve Reeves, what with his ultra wide shoulders, narrow hips and waist, natural good legs and his model good looks. Men were envious and women drooled.

People started paying Bob a lot of attention after that, Articles were done on him and he made the cover of some magazines. He was called a future Mr. Olympia if there had ever been one. To be sure, this was heady stuff for a shy, sensitive, quiet kid from Indiana. But it have him the confidence he could be a successful bodybuilder.

The following year, training under Dan Howard and then later, former Mr. America Jim Morris, Bob added 20 pounds of muscle in all the right places to his shapely physique and became NPC heavyweight champ, beating in the process Rory Leidlemeyer and Mike Christian. Not long after that, he was World Amateur champion, displaying one of the most beautiful and aesthetic physiques to ever grace a posing platform. It seemed he had the bodybuilding world in his hip pocket. He was sure to take the pros by storm. Bring on the Olympia!

But despite all the adulation and fanfare, Bob had his detractors too. No matter how symmetrical and perfectly proportioned his body, no matter how handsome his movie-star face and even though he stood 6 feet tall and weighed 225 pounds of rock hard muscle at the World’s (and Bob Kennedy told me that no one but no one looks bigger, wider or more impressive training in the gym before a contest than Bob Paris) some judges and hardcore fans complained he just wasn’t big enough. Or freaky enough. Not enough veins and vascularity. Not enough lumps, bumps, bulges and striations.

But Bob Paris has always marched to the beat of a different drummer. He had often said at his seminars and in print, his goal in bodybuilding was not to build the biggest, freakiest physique he could but rather to make the male physique look as beautiful as possible. He trained with shape and aesthetics in mind as he was an artist and his body was his choice of medium—an artistic expression of his beliefs on bodybuilding. To build a physique contrary to his beliefs would be an act of self-betrayal.

Bob in tank topBut it wasn’t just his type of physique that put people off. It was his attitude and views on life and bodybuilding. He wasn’t your usual dumb-jock bodybuilder. In a short time he had established himself as one of the more intelligent and cerebral persons in the sport. He was a deeply private person who thought deep, different thoughts. And he was a loner, he kept to himself. Some people misinterpreted his shyness for arrogance. But most people just couldn’t figure Bob out. He was an enigma and an aura of mystery surrounded the man. Why couldn’t he act or talk like other bodybuilders? But he was articulate and bright and used words like “efficacious” when he spoke. He had a philosophy on life, that there should be balance in all things. Balance in his physique and balance in his life.

Another thing that bothered people about him was he didn’t just think about bodybuilding all the time. He had other interests. He had an appreciation for the arts, was interested in acting, designed his own line of clothing and wrote poetry. His writing was a form of self-exploration, a way to self-knowledge which he felt was as important as building a physique. The more muscle he built on his body, the greater need for growth in spirituality and intellectuality. There seemed to be an almost kind of Zen spiritualism in his thoughts and the way he lived his life. Paris’ holistic approach to life permeated his training philosophy, the diet he followed, how he handled stress, recuperation and all the other things a bodybuilder must be concerned about.

Unlike most bodybuilders who only think about themselves constantly, Bob thought of others. He did charity work for the Cancer Society, The American Diabetes Association and Paul Newman’s Drug Abuse program. Bob would do seminars and give the proceeds to fight diabetes and often visit hospitals to talk to diabetic children.

As one writer put it, Bob Paris was dedicated to making the most of his potential to live life to the fullest and to improve the lot of those lives he touched. And that’s not how most world-class bodybuilders live their lives.

Heading onto the Mr. Olympia contest in New York in 1984, great things were expected from Bob, although most of the pre-contest hype centered around the return of The Myth, Sergio Oliva. We heard through the grapevine that Paris was at his all-time best and would definitely threaten for top spot. He looked like a larger version of Frank Zane but with size. How could he fail?

But to his great shock and dismay, Bob placed only 7th, ahead of Sergio and a lot of great bodybuilders but far below what he expected. Again the complaints were familiar but dubious. He was hard, cut, symmetrical, proportionate, tanned and absolutely beautiful to look at but he just wasn’t big or ripped enough, especially against Haney, Beckles and the top bodybuilders of the contest.

Bob jogsUnderstandably upset at his poor placing, Bob put in another year of high-intensity training getting ready for the next Olympia in Belgium. Gunnar Sikk who was in Santa Monica a few weeks before the Olympia saw Paris performing super-sets of 500 pound full squats and 400 pound hack squats, 12 reps a set! And he was up to 235 pounds in contest shape! Who said Bob Paris wasn’t big or strong?

Somehow Bob had managed to add pounds of muscle to his body without compromising his own artistic ethics. He would present to the judges the type of physique he wanted to show only bigger than the year before. Unfortunately, Haney, Christian, De Mey and Gaspari were bigger or harder or both. So again the judges ignored the absolute beauty of his flawless physique and scored him down heavily for not being ripped. To his utter shock, Bob placed only 9th, worse than the previous Olympia. It would be a gross understatement to say his placing devastated him.

But that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Bob had had it with bodybuilding. He was fed up with the critics, the judges, the excess steroids and totally disillusioned about the sport he once loved so much. He decided to drop out of the sport altogether.

Instead, Bob put all his energies into acting. He took acting lessons for 30 hours a week and appeared in various TV and movie parts. Just recently, he graduated from class. As well, Bob continued to work on his clothing line. Unfortunately, the line fell through due to manufacturing problems but currently, Bob is negotiating with another manufacturer. During the year and a half he took off serious training, his bodyweight dropped to only 175 pounds and most people speculated that Bob’s competitive career was over.

But once a bodybuilder, always a bodybuilder, as those bitten with the iron bug can attest. The flame for competition still burned within and after some soul-searching, Bob decided to return to competition. Due to not competing last year, he is ineligible for this year’s Olympia in Sweden but will make his return at one of the Grand Prix’s after the Olympia contest.

Bob says his mind is now clear. He feels that bodybuilding is what he does best and he should not waste the gift. He thinks there is a market for his type of physique and that his body can be a link between bodybuilding and the mainstream world. If anybody can accomplish this feat, Bob Paris is the man.