Dead Man Talking
Lee Priest responds to the Dead Pool
by John Koenig
Here at Testosterone, we don't talk to many pro bodybuilders. We're not really fans of the "sport" and about the only time we hear from the pros is when we've pissed them off. Still, it's kind of hard to ignore them, especially when every other magazine on the market is filled with close up photos of their bulging torsos and smiling mugs. Plus there's always the element of morbid curiosity. How far can these guys push their bodies without becoming permanent roomies with Andreas Munzer and Jeep Swenson?
Being a bunch of sick bastards, we set up a little pool, a Dead Pool to be exact, that places odds on which pro is most likely to be "training with the angels" in the near future. Despite the fake names used by the author, it's pretty easy to spot Lee Priest in the lineup. Priest has made the pool for three years running, once coming in first place, the best he's done so far in a major competition.
It's no surprise that Lee wasn't too happy with that particular title. But instead of busting out his ass-whupping stool, standing on it and blacking every eye at T-mag, Lee was ballsy enough to do an interview with contributor John Koenig. Say what you will about pros, but at least Lee is open about what really goes on behind the scenes. For that, he deserves to be heard.
The Scene: Spring 2000, Arnold Classic Expo. Lee Priest has spotted me in my Testosterone T-shirt and press badge and starts walking toward me. He stops and immediately hits a big double biceps pose. Lee laughs and asks, "Not bad for a dead guy, don't ya think?"
Now there's an introduction! After talking for awhile about all manner of issues in the bodybuilding world, including the first Dead Pool article, he agrees to sit down for an interview. We keep talking about the interview but life gets in the way, including Lee's marriage early in July. The second Dead Pool article is published and this time Lee is upset. He doesn't think the anonymous author of the articles is fair, that Testosterone is hurting bodybuilding and pro bodybuilders by publishing the Dead Pool, and that much of the gossip/news in these articles is just plain incorrect.
His willingness to be open makes him an ideal candidate for a T-mag interview. Here's Lee Priest on a variety of topics.
T: Obviously, you're not too happy about the Dead Pool articles published here at T-mag. Go ahead and tell us what you really think.
Priest: This is the sort of press that gives bodybuilding a bad name. People are wondering now if we're all gonna die. How does the author of those articles know he's any healthier than me? Just because I eat junk food in the off season? Because I get a little bit overweight? My cholesterol has never been any higher than 116. At my heaviest weight (285 pounds) it was 113. The doctor couldn't believe it. My blood pressure is perfect. I have blood work done every couple of months.
Lots of that Dead Pool stuff is irritating. People say someone is going to die because of the gear he takes, but TC Luoma or anyone else could have a heart attack no matter how healthy they're eating. Look at Wayne DeMelia. He's had one kidney removed, but he didn't take any drugs. He probably used to sit there and say to himself, "Look at the amount of gear these guys take. Look what they do to themselves," but look at him. The Dead Pool writer can't point his finger and say just because this guy looks a certain way he's going to die. There are people at the gym who drink and smoke and have heart attacks in their mid-40s.
T: Are there any pros you think qualify for the Dead Pool?
Priest: Not really. In any sport, if you take it to the extreme, it's dangerous. Is there a Dead Pool for race car drivers, for example? They drive around 200 miles per hour; they could crash and burn, you know. Football players take drugs. They could get tackled the wrong way, hit their head on the ground, break their neck and die. If you're at the elite level of what you do, sure there are risks involved where you could die. You could get hit crossing the street; people go rock climbing and could fall off. Anything you do can be dangerous.
Marathon runners occasionally drop over dead. And even if I die of natural causes people will say, see, it's because of all the shit he's taken! And I'll probably be clean at the time! You can't win, no matter, in this sport. If we get sick or whatever, it's related to drugs, as far as other people are concerned.
T: You stand about 5'4". People say drugs stunted your growth. What's your response to that?
Priest: That's rubbish. I'm one of the tallest in my family. My mother's 5'3", my sister's 5'3", my father's probably 5'6", if that. My grandfather is 5'4" and my great grandfather was 5'4". I don't come from a family of six-foot people! I wasn't born that way.
T: Fair enough. Let's transition to other matters. You're one week into preparation for the Olympia and you told me the other day you lost sixteen pounds last week! How much did you weigh a week ago?
Priest: I think about 236.
T: So this is a different situation from your true off-season program when you get up into the heavier bodyweights?
Priest: What weight I get to depends upon how much time I have between contests. When I weighed 285, it was because I only did one show that year so I had the whole ten months to eat whatever I wanted. I don't necessarily try to see how heavy I can get.
T: But you obviously like to eat?
Priest: I just enjoy food! Life's too short to be on a diet your whole life. Eighty percent of the people you see on diets are always miserable.
T: Your approach has been called "old school."
Priest: Well, when it comes to dieting, when it comes to training, stick to the basics and you can't go wrong. Why try to mess up what's already been proven over and over?
T: I think you're one of the few top pros that really does get big in the off season nowadays.
Priest: I know, people say I'm going to get so heavy I'm going to die of a heart attack in the off season. Think about the old days, when all of them used to get heavy and put the extra weight on. But now, not many do it any more 'cause they always want to be near contest shape. They say, you eat all that food! You're so out of shape you're gonna die! Please. I've seen fat people who can run rings around people half their weight. Just because they're heavy doesn't mean they're out of shape. There are people who eat clean who are more unhealthy than some who are fat.
T: Do you think your routine, training and dieting this way, allows you to make gains without some of the different odd drugs others are using?
Priest: I've always read reports that said I've used insulin, for example. I've never used insulin. People think I have to, to put all that weight on. That's nonsense, I just eat a lot of food. I drink whole cream milk and eat a lot of dairy products. I retain a lot of fluid from that. In the off season I hardly take anything, other than something to keep my joints healthy. The majority of the time, six to seven months out of the year, I'm not on anything. Eat a lot, train hard. Every one of my best lifts have come when I've been off the stuff.
T: But you have to admit you have superior genetics. You seem to respond well to whatever you do to yourself.
Priest: I never had that "a little bit worked, so I'll take more" mentality. Each time I did a cycle, I stuck with small amounts that worked and it kept working. I know people here who are like, 3000 milligrams of this, four tablets of this, two more milligrams of this one? They end up taking six different drugs, so that ends up the very best cycle they've ever done. Then they think, well, I took this much last time, this time I've gotta take more. They keep doing more and more.
T: It sounds like they don't even know what's working.
Priest: No, they don't. People look at me, for example. I've only used growth hormone the last three years, and people will ask me if I think it works. To me, I didn't feel any different when I used it. When I've not used it, I've been just as good. When I've used it I didn't see any dramatic change. Maybe when you get into your thirties, or late thirties, you might feel it more then, but I think the whole thing is overrated, you know?
T: Did you try growth hormone just because you wanted to see what effect it would have on you?
Priest: Everyone was saying how it was great, how there's no health hazard, it drops body fat, does this and does that? but I ended up in the same shape anyway. The only change was I was a few hundred dollars lighter!
I found stanozolol [Winstrol] worked just as good as the growth, you know? People laugh, but a large part is genetics and mind power. I know guys who take drugs who look the same year after year. They use a lot, get puffy, but why bother? You've got to be in touch with yourself. Unless you're going to make a career out of it, why go crazy taking those drugs?
T: I've met guys who aren't competing bodybuilders who say they take phenomenal amounts of juice for long periods of time and they don't even look like they train.
Priest: I like the ones who take a shit load of gear, then they're like, look at Lee Priest. He's five times the size of me, so he must be taking five times the amount. That's why I get so frustrated, sometimes. When I do seminars, I tell people the truth about what I'm taking, and they're like, "Oh bullshit, you're lying!" I got nothing to lie about. If I took 10,000 milligrams of Test and 20 IU's of growth, I'd tell you. I don't give a shit if you know what I take. It makes no difference to me. What I use is what I use, but the rumor sounds more spectacular than the truth.
T: The Internet chat rooms have contributed to that, don't you think?
Priest: Yeah, sometimes I'll go online and say, "I'm Lee Priest and this is what I use," and they'll respond, "You're not Lee Priest." Somebody else will go on and say, "I know for a fact this is what Lee Priest uses." And I don't even know the guy!
T: What do you really use? What are your real cycles?
Priest: Last off season I didn't really do any, but the previous off season it was just Deca or Parabolan, or Deca and Primobolan, two cc's of each per week. That's it. People think I'm lying. The last contest I did, Night of Champions, I didn't spend over $1500 on drugs. I used stanozolol, I used clenbuterol, I used a little bit of growth, and one Anapolon-50 a day. The last couple of weeks I took a bit of suspension, but that's it.
I always laugh when I read these articles where they say bodybuilders spend $50,000 to $60,000 on drugs. You can call us bodybuilders dumb, but I'm not going to spend $60,000 when the prize money is ten grand! Come on!
T: Don't you think there are some people who are really doing that, though?
Priest: Well yeah, but the top pros don't. I'm not going to say what Paul [Dillett] uses, but I can tell you right now Paul doesn't use a large amount of drugs. People think Paul takes these large amounts, but there's plenty of times, like when he was getting ready for the Olympia in '98 (that's when he lived with me), we'd load up a Winstrol shot and it would sit for three or four days, because we wouldn't take it. We were like, "We'll take it next time or whatever." I always hear these rumors about what Paul takes, but I lived with the guy for eight months and I saw firsthand what he took.
T: You've got to admit, though, that he makes some poor decisions in his last-minute preparations.
Priest: One time it was the diuretics; the next it was the insulin. People say steroids kill you. I say, no, nobody has really died from steroid use; it's things like diuretics.
T: What about painkillers like Nubain? Do a lot of pros use Nubain while they work out?
Priest: I know a lot who do. I've never been one to try things like that. When I was twelve I tried a cigarette, that was it. Marijuana I've never tried in my life. I've never really been into that sort of thing. Lots of people have an addictive personality. Like Renutrient or GHB, I've never tried that. People say, "Lee, try it, it's good for this, it's good for that?" I say screw it. They say it's good for your sleep. Fine, sometimes I'll have a Tylenol PM when I have a little bit of pain, but some of these people get hooked on all this stuff. It's just one progression to another. They start taking Ecstasy and that "Special K." I say to them, "What's up with you guys? Why are you screwing around with all this crap?"
They think take this, take that, whatever. I've never had an addictive personality. Me, whenever I'm dieting for a contest, I can't wait to get off the diet, so I can't wait to stop taking shit so I can eat normal food! It comes down to hard work and dedication. It takes years. You can't build muscle overnight. Sometimes you do see guys come in quick, but where are they now? You see them for a second, then they've disappeared.
T: What do you think of Synthol?
Priest: It's ridiculous. I think it's stupid. What happened to hard training, you know? Like that one guy who's in Ironman magazine this month with those 27" arms. How stupid does that look? He has the forearms of a fucking girl and you got these big arms that look ridiculous. Where's your chest, back and legs? Your arms look stupid. His forearms are probably 14". You'd have to grow some pretty good forearms to handle the weight to grow 27" arms.
There's never been a long-term study on that stuff. How do these guys pumping all that oil in know what's going to happen in a couple year's time? It can't just sit there for years and years. Breast implants cause problems and they're in sealed bags. I can't see these oils being good for you, you know?
Everyone wants that quick fix, wants to get bigger overnight. It doesn't happen that way. Again, I hear rumors that I put that stuff in my arms. Fuck, look at my biceps and triceps. I have striations in them at contest time! I've never used it, but if I did I'd stick it in my upper pecs and my back 'cause that's where people always say I'm weakest.
T: It's pretty easy to spot who's using Synthol when they're dieted down.
Priest: Yeah, their delts are big lumps. Some of the top pros now (who are up there placing in the top three), some of them are getting bigger and bigger in the delts, but there's no definition anymore, no cuts. They look big and full, but that's it. I look like that a couple of weeks after a show when I fill out, but on the day of the show you should be ripped and striated. Then I'll read in the magazines about how "this guy's muscle is so full and round." Fuck, it's fake! Come on, give us a break.
T: Back to cycles. Let's get specific. When you do a cycle, how long is it?
Priest: When I'm dieting, I'm on the whole twelve weeks of the diet, then I'll be off for a couple of months. Then maybe in the off season I'll be on a total of six to eight weeks, that's it, then I'm off until prepping for the next contest. I'm not like a lot of people who say they're "clean" but they're still taking something. When I'm off, I'm off, that's it. When I did the Ironman and placed sixth, two years ago, I was clean; didn't take anything for eight months. Just went into the show that way.
T: Nobody believed you.
Priest: I know, people told me I couldn't do it clean. I said screw you, I'll show you I can. Now, I was a lot lighter and didn't look as great, but really, I didn't want to do the show anyway, so that was half the deal. But I still looked pretty good, kept a lot of size, but I wasn't as shredded as I normally am. It's more of a mental thing; I was pissed off at people and my mind wasn't into it. I told people who didn't believe me to test me. I'll give you ten grand if I come up dirty; put your money where your mouth is. I say I'm clean.
T: If you lost sixteen pounds last week, a good chunk of that must be water.
Priest: Nearly always is. Whenever I start dieting, I'm going from eating whatever I want to oatmeal, and my taste buds hate it. The first week I'm just picking at food, so I'm not getting more than 2000 calories per day. I go from 6000-7000 calories down to 2000. I'll have a whole plate of chicken breasts in front of me and I'll eat only a half a chicken breast, then pick at the vegetables.
My metabolism increases from the cardio, though, and I get to the point where my hunger pains get worse. So by the second or third week, I eat whatever is put in front of me; I get really hungry. The first week, I can't stand the taste so I'm barely eating.
T: How much cardio per day are you doing right now while dieting?
Priest: Only 40 minutes per day.
T: Do you increase it as you get closer to the contest?
Priest: Depends upon how I look and how I feel. This time I don't need to do as much because I'm not as heavy, but normally the weight just falls off me quick. I'll work up to an hour of cardio. People say I must do too much because I come down in weight so much.
T: You're in the Metabolic Thyrolean ads. Do you really use it?
Priest: Yes. I'm not big on the ephedrine-type stuff, anything that gets you that wired feeling. I always preferred the Thyrolean and the other one they have now. I tried some stuff once and got that jittery feeling, and I can't stand that.
T: Does clen make you shake?
Priest: Not really. The only one that used to was when I was in Australia and using the powdered form. It gave me a little bit of shake and made me cramp a bit in the hands and feet. In Australia they have injectable clenbuterol, too, which didn't give you any of that stuff. The tablets they have here don't have any of that, but they also make you wonder if they're fake. Half the shit around here is fake.
T: Lots coming out of Mexico certainly is.
Priest: Oh yeah. Or has bacteria in it.
T: How long do you think you'll compete?
Priest: I enjoy it. Probably when the fans don't want to see me anymore I'll quit. When I go to a show and I know I'm improved after the last one, I'm okay. If I get to the point where I'm looking worse and worse and the fans say, "He's had his day," I'll retire. Like Rich Gaspari, all those comebacks he shouldn't have done. Quit while you're ahead; why keep coming back?
Like Sammir Bannout, he's a great guy, but lots of people don't remember him as a Mr. Olympia winner. Every time he came back, he was coming in last, not doing well. People will remember him that way, yet he was great when he won Mr. Olympia. Not many people think back to those days.
I wish things would change in the sport. There are rumors going around that they're going to pay Sinbad $80-$120,000 to do some comedy at the Mr. Olympia again. What is this? Say they had the press conference and someone got up and announced they weren't going to have Sinbad. I don't think anyone's going to hand their tickets in! No one's going to see him; it's a waste of money! Like when my wife, Kathy, got the Ms. Olympia prize money breakdown by weight class. It's like $15,000 for first place, $6000 for second, and $4000 for third place. It's pretty disgusting.
If they really pay $120,000 for Sinbad, you're telling me he's going to get $20,000 more than Ronnie Coleman if he wins the show? It's crazy. Guys are training their asses off, almost killing themselves; that $120,000 or whatever it really is, should be broken down and given to the athletes. Look at Mr. Olympia; if you're not in the top ten you don't get a cent. There's normally sixteen in the show, so those from ten down through sixteen should at least get $5000 or something.
T: Why isn't this done?
Priest: They say they don't have the money. They have the money if they're giving Sinbad as much as reported. I don't understand why the guys don't all stand together and speak their minds. I speak my mind and get suspended.
T: Hey, Shawn Ray tried it and it didn't get him a thing.
Priest: It didn't even get him suspended. When I speak my mind I get fined and suspended. Think of it: athlete's meeting, the day before the Olympia, the show is sold out, I don't see why the guys can't stand together and say if we don't get this, we're not going on stage tomorrow. If this happened, you know they'd find the money in an instant.
The Mr. Olympia contract is so one-sided. This year a pro has to pay $175 for his pro card. Then we compete in shows to be eligible to compete in Mr. Olympia. I qualified and did what I had to do to qualify. For Mr. Olympia we have a contract. In that contract we sign away our rights to the TV rights, the internet rights, the Mr. Olympia video, the Battle for the Olympia video, and the Behind the Scenes at the Mr. Olympia video. If we don't sign the whole thing we can't compete and get suspended.
T: Sounds like one big waiver for all the marketing rights.
Priest: And if you don't sign it, you can't compete in the show. Give some of the money being made from the tapes back in prize money. Plus, we have to go to that VIP party the night before. It's ten o'clock at night before the show and we have to get dressed up. It starts late and people wonder why everyone look so miserable and tired. Hey, we've been dieting, we are tired, we have a contest tomorrow, we can't eat anything here, we're up at 11:00 at night, and we should be in bed!
What other sport would do this? Hey Mike Tyson, come here and meet the fans before your big fight tomorrow night!
T: Yeah, that'd be pretty funny, wouldn't it?
Priest: It's ridiculous. They charge $600 for VIP tickets and at our expense we have to go and make sure they get their money's worth. Going to the banquet and cocktail party after the show is fine. The pressure is off, the contest is over, we're more happy and whatever, but the night before we don't want to talk to everyone. We have to be on our best behavior or we'll be fined $10,000 and suspended. If you get sick you have to go to a doctor of the IFBB's choice at your own expense so they can verify you're really sick.
T: Do you think professional bodybuilding is growing, holding it's own, or what?
Priest: They keep running it the way they're running it, it's going to kill itself. People say, if you keep taking the stuff you're taking and doing the things you're doing it's going to kill the sport. It's not us who are killing the sport, it's the promoters. It's crazy.
T: Do you think the judging criteria should be changed, or should the judges follow the criteria set down?
Priest: What criteria? Sure they should follow it. Bring it down to symmetry, mass and definition. People tell me I didn't place because I'm short. Others guys who are short have done well. I've got the size, I come in in shape, I've got the symmetry, so why do some guys who are missing body parts, who are smooth and who aren't as hard, beat me? If they're judging by the criteria, well, I don't see it.
At this year's Night of Champions, people said Jay Cutler was harder in the glutes. His upper body wasn't harder, his arms weren't ripped, and his chest wasn't ripped. What's that all about? If I'm walking in the street and someone asks me to show them my arm, I'm not going to show them my ass! The day my ass becomes my best body part I'll fucking retire!
T: Speaking of asses, is there much hustling/prostitution going on with pro bodybuilders, especially in Venice?
Priest: I think it goes on here all the time, but I've never personally been approached. Well, one time this one guy asked me if I did this or that, and I told him I didn't do that sort of thing. He asked me to pose for him privately and I told him I didn't do that, but if he wanted to see me, I'd be at World Gym and he could watch me train. He showed up, sat there and watched me train arms, then gave me a thousand dollars! I said fine, I've got legs tomorrow if you want to come back. That's the only time I saw him, though.
I hear of guys doing this all the time, going out and posing nude, doing this, doing that. I've a couple of friends who've done it. But that's not me, I'm not into that stuff. Amateurs come out here and they're doing this stuff, buying all the drugs in the world etc. I'm a professional and I can barely afford stuff half the time, so how are these guys doing it? This is where they get all their money [selling themselves]. It goes on all the time, but you'll probably never stop it.
T: What's the oddest thing you've ever seen happen backstage during or before a show?
Priest: Those little fucking cronies running around like they're God. Just treat us like we're professionals backstage. If you're ever backstage at one of these shows, one of these jackasses in the suits who "helps" backstage are like, "Get out, you've got to do this, do that." Give us a break, we're professionals, treat us like we are. They're telling us, "Just get out there, hit your poses, get moving." Listen, if I'm going onstage, I'm putting my oil on. I'm not going out there looking like a jackass for people to take pictures of me that'll end up in a magazine. Give us time.
My wife Kathy, we train together, we live together, at the big shows I'd like someone like her backstage to help me. But we can't have one person, not a spouse, training partner or girlfriend, back there to help us. We have to use cronies. They bring all their friends back there and say, hey Lee, can you pose for pictures? But I can't have one of my friends to help? And they just slap on the oil; they don't give a fuck how you look onstage. It's ridiculous. Let us have one person back there we can be relaxed with and talk to.
T: Makes sense. It's a tense time backstage.
Priest: Exactly. A training partner helps you get all this way, then he or she can't go the last mile with us. Photographers running in and out, fucking bimbo whores all over, what's one person going to hurt?
T: Are there a lot pro bodybuilding groupies?
Priest: Oh yeah. Lots of the groupies come from within the industry itself. I'm sure there are some that are just fans, but most of them are in the industry.
T: Back to diet, what are you eating now on this diet cycle?
Priest: Six meals a day. Oatmeal and protein powder before going to the gym in the morning, then after I train I have steak and rice. The third meal can be tuna or chicken breast and vegetables. Then oatmeal and protein powder again, same as breakfast. For dinner, sometimes chicken breasts or tuna or sometimes turkey. Before bed I'll have a protein drink. I make sugar-free Jello with protein powder and put it in the freezer, so it's like a dessert.
T: You don't drink four or five protein shakes per day?
Priest: I might have two or three each day. I like food, but I get tired of eating chicken breasts, so sometimes I'll have two scoops of protein powder in water. In the off season, people say I eat a lot of junk food, but when I go to McDonalds I have probably three hamburgers, small fries, and maybe six nuggets, that's it. People think I go there and have ten Big Macs or something.
The thing with me is I don't like a lot of the same foods in the off season. I don't eat large meals; I pick at meals all day long. I may go to McDonalds and have two hamburgers and some nuggets, then an hour later eat some ice cream or something. It's not like I'm eating these large meals and stuffing myself. I eat clean and continuously. Off season I still eat vegetables and chicken and steak, but in between if I have a craving for chocolate, I go and have chocolate! I'm not going to deprive myself when I'm not dieting.
I see these guys who eat at the Firehouse [a popular bodybuilder restaurant in Venice Beach] or other places where the menu is clean, but look at them. They're fatter than me. They're eating clean, but it's like a big act for the public, isn't it? And you got these guys who carry the big fucking water jug around like they're going to dehydrate in ten minutes. These are the jackasses who give us a bad name! They strut around in their little tank tops and their baggy pants and whatever. It's like when I go in public I don't want to look like a fuckin' bodybuilder. I wear normal clothes; I cover up. It still looks like I train?
T: Oh yeah, you look "normal" in clothes. Who are you trying to kid?
Priest: But at least I come across as someone who's okay, not one of these meatheads who have to be recognized, showing their arms off, wearing skintight shirts which show everything. I don't like that crap; I like loose shirts. Even when I'm covered up, the forearms give me away, or if I have shorts on my calves are there.
I don't need to be looked at all the time. I hate it. When I go to the beach I'll go to the far end of the beach. I like being judged on how I look when I'm on stage, but in public I don't like crowds of people looking at me. I get self-conscious.
T: You do a good job in the public eye, for someone who doesn't like crowds.
Priest: I'm always friendly to people. If someone looks up to me or if I'm their idol, I'm going to be friendly. I won't tell them to fuck off. After the Night of Champions all I wanted to do was go back to the hotel and relax, but I spent an hour taking pictures, singing autographs, walking through the crowd. It got to the point where at the hotel door I was still posing for photographs!
These people paid their money, came to see me, so big deal, I'll pose for as many photos as I can and make'em happy. You can guarantee the one time I do say no, it'll be like, "I met Lee Priest and he's an asshole!" I've seen some guys get crabby when dieting for shows and tell fans no. Just because I'm dieting, why should I be shitty to the fans? It's not their fault.
T: Any special tricks in the last few days before a contest?
Priest: Last three days before the NOC I went very low on food, then that Friday I ate whatever I wanted. I figured, I cut fluids out, so I can't hold fluids. Whatever I eat is just going to fill the muscle out, and it worked. I suppose it's kind of a mental thing, 'cause you're eating cake and hamburgers and wondering, what am I doing?
T: All this depletion, carbing up and crap the last week?
Priest: I don't carb-up. Sometimes I'm at my best two weeks before the show. I'm full and I'm hard, but in the past I'd think maybe I should get harder, and so I cut back on food. But my metabolism is racing so much 'cause I'm still doing the cardio, and I start eating up the muscle and getting flat. I end up no harder, but flatter. So this time I figured, what the hell, I'll eat what I want the last day before the show. I looked great, so I'll do that again.
T: People say that was the best you've looked so far.
Priest: I think it was. I come in better each year, each body part improves. As long as I do my best, it's out of my hands. If they want to place me high, place me high. There's not much money involved anyway if you win, so it's not like I'm losing that much. The year I didn't compete in the Arnold Classic and I made seven or eight grand in the first two days of the expo selling pictures. Every time I competed in the show all I made was a thousand dollars!
T: But you have to compete to keep your visibility.
Priest: Sometimes you do. Look at Vic Richards. He never competed yet he had that aura. Everybody only judges you on your last contest. You could place second in several Mr. Olympias, but come in tenth at Night of Champions and people would say, oh, he's finished. We are human and don't always look our best. We get sick and our body chemistry can be off. Someone is great, then all of a sudden comes in smooth, and he's a has-been!
If I compete and I'm happy with the way I look, I'm satisfied. I may never win a contest. Some of these guys come in thinking they've got to place here or there to be happy. They take it so personal. Like Flex Wheeler when he has his little tantrums 'cause he came in second in the Olympia. He got second in the Olympia! I'd be happy! It would be just as good as winning.
They have it in their minds it's win or nothing. Come on, they should be thankful they have two arms and two legs and can get up. Many people are much worse off. Just have fun. I treat shows like guest posing. I don't treat it like a, "If I don't win, I'm going to die," situation.
T: Do you get paid when Weider magazines run articles "by you," when they obviously aren't written by you?
Priest: We don't get paid for articles, magazine covers, things like that.
T: You don't get paid for posing for a cover?
Priest: Nope. If you're with Weider, it's part of your contract that you have to do photo shoots and stuff like that. Because I've been with Prolab now for the last couple of years, the photo shoots I do are because I want to get my face out there. Magazine editors tell me they like me, the fans like me, and they sell magazines when I'm in there.
T: Any heroes in the sport?
Priest: Not really, it's more the body parts, like Tom Platz's legs, or Eddie Robinson's arms, but not really anyone I idolized. I used to idolize some guys, but when I met them they were assholes. Paul's a nice guy, Mike Matarazzo I get on great with, people like that. Some of these other people think their shit don't stink. They act like they're Michael Jordan, but they're just cocky-ass bodybuilders. Gives us a bad name. If you want the sport to change, change your attitude.
T: Do you hang with Shawn Ray at all?
Priest: At contests I sometimes see him. Shawn speaks his mind. At least Shawn says it to the right people. Half the people sit there and say this shit around a table, but as soon as someone comes in they're like, "Oh hi, how are you?"
T: If they have an IFBB blazer on, that is.
Priest: Give us a break! It's just crazy. When the Olympia was in Atlanta one time, I went with Samir Bannout. He was Mr. Olympia once, but he didn't even have a ticket to get in! He had to go to Ben Weider's room to get a ticket and they put him in the balcony. He was Mr. Olympia! Shouldn't he get in and have special seating? Mike Christian wanted to get in (we still laugh and give him a hard time about it) but they told him he could get in if he put on a blue blazer and worked security! These top pros have made so much money for you people and you want him to work the door?
T: Thanks for taking the time to talk and for the honesty, Lee.
Hey, I don't know about you readers, but we just became fans of Lee Priest's.
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