Friday April 3rd, 2009
Where Are They Now
In 1983, Rick Valente came onto the Bodybuilding scene like a Tornado! He was training at Gold’s Gym in Venice Beach, California he had just won the Tall Class of the NPC Mr. Los Angeles Contest and ultimately landed on the cover of Flex Magazine. Later he would go onto date IFBB Pro Sensation, Tonya Knight and later become the host of ESPN’s Body Shaping all while appearing in Television Commercials and training high end clientele through his Personal Training business.
Still in great shape, here’s what Ricks been up to as of late…….
SR: Rick, you came to Venice Beach from Florida back in the Golden years of Bodybuilding, why?
RV: Actually Sean, I was born in New Haven, CT. I grew up in the Italian neighborhood where the famous Pepe's Pizzeria has been for over 100 years. I have a picture of it as my screensaver. I moved to Florida and became a lifeguard during the day and worked the door at a nightclub where I entered my first body building contest and won it. I then won Mr. Gold Coast and took second in Mr. Golden Glades, which was actually in an institution. After taking third in Mr. Florida, I was pissed off and moved to L.A. to train at the Mecca of body building.
SR: After winning the Tall Class at the Mr. Los Angeles in 83’ (I placed 3rd in the Middleweight Open at 18yrs old, losing out to Bob Paris' boyfriend, Matt Bitetti who won the class) things seemed to take flight for you. How significant was that moment in time for you?
RV: It was extremely significant. Moving to L.A. and winning Mr. Los Angeles was a dream come true. Now I was in Gold’s Gym, where it all happens. I was like a kid in the candy store and it opened doors I didn’t even know existed for me.
SR: You were a fixture in Gold’s Gym during the 80’s and through the 90’s, hell you’re still there! How has the “Mecca” changed over the decades?
RV: I love Gold’s Gym. Like you, Shawn, I have traveled the world and trained in hundreds of gyms. There is only One Gold’s Gym! You have professional athletes, actors, body builders and people of all walks of life. The energy is second to none. I think the biggest change is the owners. I really got along with Pete Grymkowsky, Ed Connors, and Tim Kimber. They were very good to me. Derek Barton, Paul Grymkowsky and Rich Minzer were in charge of marketing and helped make the place what it was. I have yet to meet the new owners but I am good friends with the new manager, Josh Fuglsby, who is very passionate about keeping the tradition alive. The other biggest change is the personal trainers; they’re everywhere.
SR: You spent some good quality time training with greats like Robbie Robinsonnot to mention your good buddy Mike Quinn from back in the day. What were those workouts like?
RV: The workouts were absolutely brutal. Drop sets, negatives, forced reps, super sets, hell we did every type of workout you can imagine. Back then it was all about moving around the heaviest weight possible and I think we were over training. That’s probably why I tore my Pec and my hamstring. I have to mention Mr. Tom Platz. His workouts were so intense that you would puke at the end, but I loved every second of it.
SR: I believe the year was 1988; you hooked up with a Female Prodigy of sorts by the name of Tonya Knight. How was dating a Female Pro Bodybuilder different from dating your average girl of which we know you have infinite wisdom?
RV: Well, Shawn, with my “infinite wisdom” I can tell you that the only difference is there is more to love. I met Tonya doing a gym opening in a small town and I told her to give me a ring if she ever wanted to come to come to California. She called and we ended up dating for a year and a half. You are right, Tonya was a prodigy and God was in a good mood when he created her; she was genetically gifted.
SR: You landed on the cover of several magazine, you worked as a Fitness Model and Personal Trainer, what did you most enjoy out of being involved with the sport compared to what was a drag about the sport?
RV: What I enjoyed the most was traveling, meeting interesting people, and helping others get in shape. Doing things like the 5150 Van Halen album cover was an honor. Those guys were a blast to work with. Talk about a party!!! Always dieting and not being able to eat the Italian food I grew up with was the biggest drag. I really missed Ferraro’s Cannoli!
SR: We know you were good friends with Cory Everson and made many appearances on the TV Show, “Body Shaping.” How did it happen that you became a regular on the show and what was that experience like for you?
RV: I auditioned for the show at Gold’s Gym and landed the gig. That experience was another life changing opportunity. Where body building was mainly magazine coverage, Body Shaping was on television twice a day, five days a week, all over the world. I do have to say that at times it was a lot of work. We would shoot up to five shows a day in the sun, seventy-five at a time. But I would do it all over again because the bond with the cast was hard to replace. We had a blast partying together after a hard day of shooting. We laughed our ass off! It also gave me a lot of opportunities to work with charities like P.E.T.A, Special Olympics, and MVF.org, headed by my friend Shad Meshad. We recently did a big fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion.
SR: How old are you now and has being a “daddy” slowed you down or changed you over the years?
RV: I’m 50 years old and I feel that life is made up of chapters. At fifty you’re not that “Young Buck” anymore, so you have to reinvent yourself. It’s exciting to know that I’m getting started with a new chapter. As far as my kids are concerned, I have two daughters Breanna & Giovanna, they went from babies to twenty at a blink of an eye! Having kids teaches you what unconditional love really is. So, Shawn, take lots of pictures and spend as much time as you can with those adorable little babies. Before you know it, they will be asking you for the keys to your car.
SR: Tell me a story about your life and times in this industry you haven’t told anyone that needs to be told or shared?
RV: Something that comes to mind that I think has to be told is what I witnessed after Joe Gold passed away. World’s Gym closed and all of the old timers who had made it a home for about forty years had their world turned upside down. These were legends like Zabo, Roy, Seymore, Chuck and Dave. Some of these guys had known each other since they were kids and drove out together from places like New Jersey. What I admire the most is the way they bonded and the love they have for each other. After some persuasion I was able to introduce them to Josh at Gold’s Gym and he welcomed them with open arms. Now that Zabo has passed I can see the pain and loss in their eyes. We should value and learn something from what these special guys represent. They are a treasure to our sport.
SR:What are you doing these days and how is life for you now?
RV: These days I’m involved with a technology company that is making environmentally friendly products. One of them is called Icrete, a technology to make concrete lighter, stronger and more durable with less carbon emissions. I’m also getting ready to launch a reality workout show with a huge website. I am blessed to have three extremely bright and aggressive partners; Ilya Pozin, owner of Ciplex, Matt Winnick, who is like family to me, and my lawyer Matt Bilinsky. I would love to share more details once we launch. On the other side of life, I recently lost my brother Chaz, who was only fifty-four. My mom fell, broke her hip and had a failed surgery and is now crippled for life. My father is on oxygen with Emphysema and they both need twenty-four hour care. So, even though I have amazing highs on one end, I also have extreme challenges. I think that the last lesson our parents teach us is the one about our own mortality. The time has come when I am honored to be there for my parents. I am blessed to have the support of my cousin Mark and his family, my niece Angie, and a great nurse named Gina. I am definitely at the point in my life where I understand that you have to live in the present.
SR: What advice would you have for someone who is thinking about getting in the game Rick Valente Style?
RV: I would tell them this: “Live In the moment, surround yourself with positive and creative people, take lots of pictures, and have as much fun as possible.
SR: If you could change Two things about Bodybuilding what would they be and why?
RV: I wish that body builders would put on more of a performance the way you did when you posed to Luther Vandross’ song “If This World Were Mine” in the ‘86 Junior Nationals in Niagara, NY. That was a true performance! The other thing I would change is the perception that people on the outside have that you just take a pill and you can win Mr. Olympia. I wish they would understand and respect the hard work and discipline that it takes. It is one of the toughest individual sports in the world.
SR: Who from the old days are e you still in contact with and who from the old days did you lose track of but would like to hear from again?
RV: I still see Charles Glass every day at Gold’s. He’s a true legend of the sport and everyone knows that if you work with Charles you’re more likely to win a show. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Rick Wayne, who gave me the first opportunity to do a cover for Flex magazine. I would love to say thank you to him for believing in me. I would also like to thank Ronny Magnum for motivating me to pursue the sport.
Thanks for your time and contributions Rick, on behalf of Steve Blechman we’d like to wish you all the best from TEAM MD!