Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger; born July 30, 1947) is an Austrian-born American former professional bodybuilder, actor, businessman, investor, and politician. Arnold served two terms as the 38th Governor of California from 2003 until 2011.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was born in Thal, Austria, a small village bordering the Styrian capital Graz, and was christened Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger. His parents were the local police chief, Gustav Schwarzenegger (1907–1972), and Aurelia (née Jadrny; 1922–1998). Gustav served in World War II, after he voluntarily applied to join the Nazi Party in 1938.
Gustav served with the German Army as a Hauptfeldwebel of the Feldgendarmerie and was discharged in 1943 after contracting malaria. They were married on October 20, 1945 – Gustav was 38, and Aurelia was 23-years-old. According to Schwarzenegger, both of his parents were very strict: “Back then in Austria it was a very different world, if we did something bad or we disobeyed our parents, the rod was not spared.” He grew up in a Roman Catholic family who attended Mass every Sunday.
Gustav had a preference for his older son, Meinhard, over Arnold. His favoritism was “strong and blatant,” which stemmed from unfounded suspicion that Arnold was not his biological child. Schwarzenegger has said his father had “no patience for listening or understanding your problems.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger had a good relationship with his mother and kept in touch with her until her death. In later life, Schwarzenegger commissioned the Simon Wiesenthal Center to research his father’s wartime record, which came up with no evidence of Gustav’s being involved in atrocities, despite Gustav’s membership in the Nazi Party and SA. Schwarzenegger’s father’s background received wide press attention during the 2003 California recall campaign. At school, Schwarzenegger was apparently in the middle but stood out for his “cheerful, good-humored and exuberant” character. Money was a problem in their household; Schwarzenegger recalled that one of the highlights of his youth was when the family bought a refrigerator.
As a boy, Arnold Schwarzenegger played several sports, heavily influenced by his father. He picked up his first barbell in 1960, when his football (soccer) coach took his team to a local gym. At the age of 14, he chose bodybuilding over football as a career. Schwarzenegger has responded to a question asking if he was 13 when he started weightlifting: “I actually started weight training when I was 15, but I’d been participating in sports, like soccer, for years, so I felt that although I was slim, I was well-developed, at least enough so that I could start going to the gym and start Olympic lifting.” However, his official website biography claims: “At 14, he started an intensive training program with Dan Farmer, studied psychology at 15 (to learn more about the power of mind over body) and at 17, officially started his competitive career.” During a speech in 2001, he said, “My own plan formed when I was 14 years old. My father had wanted me to be a police officer like he was. My mother wanted me to go to trade school.” Schwarzenegger took to visiting a gym in Graz, where he also frequented the local movie theaters to see bodybuilding idols such as Reg Park, Steve Reeves, and Johnny Weissmuller on the big screen.
When Reeves died in 2000, Schwarzenegger fondly remembered him: “As a teenager, I grew up with Steve Reeves. His remarkable accomplishments allowed me a sense of what was possible, when others around me didn’t always understand my dreams. Steve Reeves has been part of everything I’ve ever been fortunate enough to achieve.” In 1961, Schwarzenegger met former Mr. Austria Kurt Marnul, who invited him to train at the gym in Graz.
He was so dedicated as a youngster that he broke into the local gym on weekends, when it was usually closed, so that he could train. “It would make me sick to miss a workout… I knew I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror the next morning if I didn’t do it.”
When Schwarzenegger was asked about his first movie experience as a boy, he replied: “I was very young, but I remember my father taking me to the Austrian theaters and seeing some newsreels. The first real movie I saw, that I distinctly remember, was a John Wayne movie.”
In 1971, his brother, Meinhard, died in a car accident. Meinhard had been drinking and was killed instantly. Schwarzenegger did not attend his funeral. Meinhard was due to marry Erika Knapp, and the couple had a three-year-old son, Patrick. Schwarzenegger would pay for Patrick’s education and help him to immigrate to the United States. Gustav died the following year from a stroke. In Pumping Iron, Schwarzenegger claimed that he did not attend his father’s funeral because he was training for a bodybuilding contest. Later, he and the film’s producer said this story was taken from another bodybuilder for the purpose of showing the extremes that some would go to for their sport and to make Schwarzenegger’s image more cold and machine-like in order to fan controversy for the film. Barbara Baker, his first serious girlfriend, has said he informed her of his father’s death without emotion and that he never spoke of his brother. Over time, he has given at least three versions of why he was absent from his father’s funeral.
In an interview with Fortune in 2004, Schwarzenegger told how he suffered what “would now be called child abuse” at the hands of his father: “My hair was pulled. I was hit with belts. So was the kid next door. It was just the way it was. Many of the children I’ve seen were broken by their parents, which was the German-Austrian mentality. They didn’t want to create an individual. It was all about conforming. I was one who did not conform, and whose will could not be broken. Therefore, I became a rebel. Every time I got hit, and every time someone said, ‘you can’t do this,’ I said, ‘this is not going to be for much longer, because I’m going to move out of here. I want to be rich. I want to be somebody.'”
Schwarzenegger served in the Austrian Army in 1965 to fulfill the one year of service required at the time of all 18-year-old Austrian males. During his army service, he won the Junior Mr. Europe contest. He went AWOL during basic training so he could take part in the competition and spent a week in military prison: “Participating in the competition meant so much to me that I didn’t carefully think through the consequences.” He won another bodybuilding contest in Graz, at Steirer Hof Hotel (where he had placed second). He was voted best built man of Europe, which made him famous. “The Mr. Universe title was my ticket to America – the land of opportunity, where I could become a star and get rich.” Schwarzenegger made his first plane trip in 1966, attending the NABBA Mr. Universe competition in London. He would come in second in the Mr. Universe competition, not having the muscle definition of American winner Chester Yorton.
Charles “Wag” Bennett, one of the judges at the 1966 competition, was impressed with Schwarzenegger and he offered to coach him. As Schwarzenegger had little money, Bennett invited him to stay in his crowded family home above one of his two gyms in Forest Gate, London, England. Yorton’s leg definition had been judged superior, and Schwarzenegger, under a training program devised by Bennett, concentrated on improving the muscle definition and power in his legs. Staying in the East End of London helped Schwarzenegger improve his rudimentary grasp of the English language. Also in 1966, Schwarzenegger had the opportunity to meet childhood idol Reg Park, who became his friend and mentor. The training paid off and, in 1967, Schwarzenegger won the title for the first time, becoming the youngest ever Mr. Universe at the age of 20. He would go on to win the title a further three times. Schwarzenegger then flew back to Munich, training for four to six hours daily, attending business school and working in a health club (Rolf Putzinger’s gym where he worked and trained from 1966–1968), returning in 1968 to London to win his next Mr. Universe title. He frequently told Roger C. Field, his English coach and friend in Munich at that time, “I’m going to become the greatest actor!”
Schwarzenegger, who dreamed of moving to the U.S. since the age of 10, and saw bodybuilding as the avenue through which to do so, he realized his dream by moving to the United States in September 1968 at the age of 21, speaking little English. There he trained at Gold’s Gym in Venice, Los Angeles, California, under Joe Weider. From 1970 to 1974, one of Schwarzenegger’s weight training partners was Ric Drasin, a professional wrestler who designed the original Gold’s Gym logo in 1973. Schwarzenegger also became good friends with professional wrestler “Superstar” Billy Graham. In 1970, at age 23, he captured his first Mr. Olympia title in New York, and would go on to win the title a total of seven times.
Immigration law firm Siskind & Susser have stated that Schwarzenegger may have been an illegal immigrant at some point in the late 1960s or early 1970s because of violations in the terms of his visa. LA Weekly would later say in 2002 that Schwarzenegger is the most famous immigrant in America, who “overcame a thick Austrian accent and transcended the unlikely background of bodybuilding to become the biggest movie star in the world in the 1990s”.
In 1977, Schwarzenegger’s autobiography/weight-training guide Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder was published and became a huge success. After taking English classes at Santa Monica College in California, he earned a BA by correspondence from the University of Wisconsin–Superior, where he graduated with a degree in international marketing of fitness and business administration in 1979.
Schwarzenegger is considered among the most important figures in the history of bodybuilding, and his legacy is commemorated in the Arnold Classic annual bodybuilding competition. Schwarzenegger has remained a prominent face in the bodybuilding sport long after his retirement, in part because of his ownership of gyms and fitness magazines. He has presided over numerous contests and awards shows.
For many years, he wrote a monthly column for the bodybuilding magazines Muscle & Fitness and Flex. Shortly after being elected Governor, he was appointed executive editor of both magazines, in a largely symbolic capacity. The magazines agreed to donate $250,000 a year to the Governor’s various physical fitness initiatives. When the deal, including the contract that gave Schwarzenegger at least $1 million a year, was made public in 2005, many criticized it as being a conflict of interest since the governor’s office made decisions concerning regulation of dietary supplements in California. Consequently, Schwarzenegger relinquished the executive editor role in 2005. American Media Inc., which owns Muscle & Fitness and Flex, announced in March 2013 that Schwarzenegger had accepted their renewed offer to be executive editor of the magazines.
Schwarzenegger’s goal was to become the greatest bodybuilder in the world, which meant becoming Mr. Olympia. His first attempt was in 1969, when he lost to three-time champion Sergio Oliva. However, Schwarzenegger came back in 1970 and won the competition, making him the youngest ever Mr. Olympia at the age of 23, a record he still holds to this day.
He continued his winning streak in the 1971–74 competitions. In 1975, Schwarzenegger was once again in top form, and won the title for the sixth consecutive time, beating Franco Columbu. After the 1975 Mr. Olympia contest, Schwarzenegger announced his retirement from professional bodybuilding.
Months before the 1975 Mr. Olympia contest, filmmakers George Butler and Robert Fiore persuaded Schwarzenegger to compete, in order to film his training in the bodybuilding documentary called Pumping Iron. Schwarzenegger had only three months to prepare for the competition, after losing significant weight to appear in the film Stay Hungry with Jeff Bridges. Lou Ferrigno proved not to be a threat, and a lighter-than-usual Schwarzenegger convincingly won the 1975 Mr. Olympia.
Schwarzenegger came out of retirement, however, to compete in the 1980 Mr. Olympia. Schwarzenegger was training for his role in Conan, and he got into such good shape because of the running, horseback riding and sword training, that he decided he wanted to win the Mr. Olympia contest one last time. He kept this plan a secret, in the event that a training accident would prevent his entry and cause him to lose face. Schwarzenegger had been hired to provide color commentary for network television, when he announced at the eleventh hour that while he was there: “Why not compete?” Schwarzenegger ended up winning the event with only seven weeks of preparation. After being declared Mr. Olympia for a seventh time, Schwarzenegger then officially retired from competition.
One of the first competitions he won was the Junior Mr. Europe contest in 1965. He won Mr. Europe the following year, at age 19. He would go on to compete in, and win, many bodybuilding contests. His bodybulding victories included five Mr. Universe (4 – NABBA [England], 1 – IFBB [USA]) wins, and seven Mr. Olympia wins, a record which would stand until Lee Haney won his eighth consecutive Mr. Olympia title in 1991.
1963 Steirer Hof Competition in Graz, Austria (runner up).
1965 Junior Mr. Europe in Germany
1966 Best-Built Athlete of Europe in Germany
1966 International Powerlifting Championship in Germany
1966 Mr. Europe – amateur in Germany.
1966 NABBA Mr. Universe – amateur in London, England
1967 NABBA Mr. Universe – amateur in London, England
1968 German Powerlifting Championship in Germany
1968 IFBB Mr. International in Tijuana, Mexico
1968 NABBA Mr. Universe – professional in London, England
1968 IFBB Mr. Universe in Miami, Florida (tall class winner)
1969 IFBB Mr. Universe in New York
1969 IFBB Mr. Olympia in New York (2nd place to Sergio Olivia)
1969 NABBA Mr. Universe – professional in London, England
1969 IFBB Mr. Europe – professional in Germany
1970 NABBA Mr. Universe – professional in London, England
1970 AAU Pro Mr. World in Columbus, Ohio
1970 IFBB Mr. Olympia in New York
1971 IFBB Mr. Olympia in Paris, France
1972 IFBB Mr. Olympia in Essen, Germany
1973 IFBB Mr. Olympia in New York
1974 IFBB Mr. Olympia in New York
1975 IFBB Mr. Olympia in Pretoria, South Africa
1980 IFBB Mr. Olympia in Sydney, Australia
Official website: http://www.schwarzenegger.com/
Arnold Schwarzenegger IFBB Pro by Evolution of Bodybuilding | Bodybuilding Archives | Mr Olympia History