by Matt Weik
When you think back, Lou Ferrigno and Arnold Schwarzenegger were doing battle for as far back as we can remember. It started on a bodybuilding stage and then moved onto the acting stage. Yet, it seems as if their legacies are moving in different directions, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing for one of the two.
Now, this article is going to be my own personal opinion and take on everything that has taken place over the decades with these two men. You may agree, or you may disagree – both are fine. But, it’s disheartening to see the direction that one individual has gone with his career and I think it’s going to tarnish his legacy.
The early battles
If you are a fan of Pumping Iron, then you already know that Lou and Arnold have been battling on the bodybuilding stage for quite some time. Arnold always seemed to come out on top, regardless of what his physique looked like. And if you watched the movie, you would know that Arnold treated Lou like a child and always seemed to put him down and get in his head.
I’m not saying what Arnold was doing was right, but it certainly helped give Arnold a little extra “edge” on Lou (as well as the other competitors that he did the same thing too). And if you take Arnold’s actions and shift them into today’s society, it would most certainly be considered “bullying” by today’s standards.
I think the beatdown that Lou took at the hands of Arnold has mentally changed him. I don’t believe that Lou has ever gotten over the fact that he couldn’t beat Arnold on stage. Arnold was like the Phil Heath of today where he would enter a show and win it hands down. I think it was for this reason that Lou made a change got into showbiz for a change in scenery.
Let’s take this to another stage
I’m hoping that I don’t need to go through the laundry list of movies and television shows that Arnold has been in (doing so would turn this article into a 15-minute read). Yet, not everyone knows all of the movie roles that Lou had outside of The Incredible Hulk television series. Lou was slotted in more television roles than movies but was still outshined in every way by the enormously popular Arnold Schwarzenegger.
I think coming second to Arnold in yet another comparison further hurt Lou (mentally). Other than The Hulk, Lou never had a main role like Arnold always received.
Both Arnold and Lou have done more than their fair share of public appearances in the fitness and bodybuilding industry. I believe both still love the industry and want to make sure whatever they do is in the best interest of the industry and those in it. That being said, Arnold and Lou went in different directions for their fans.
If you frequent the Arnold Classic in Columbus, OH, you will see Arnold walking around with his posse shaking hands with people and taking pictures. I commend Arnold for taking time out of his busy schedule to make the Arnold Classic a priority of his every year (I guess it doesn’t hurt that the show is named after him). I’ve met him several times backstage when I was presenting trophies for the Arnold Amateur alongside guys like Rick Collins and Rich Gaspari.
What strikes me as odd, is the way Lou handles his fans. It’s as if Lou can’t separate business from reality. People who appreciate what Lou has done in the industry generally want an autograph or picture with him. If that sounds like you, then be prepared to cough up some dough. Lou charges for EVERYTHING. Heck, the first time I shook his hand in passing before the Arnold Expo opened several years back I thought I was going to have to reach into my pocket just for that (luckily my handshake didn’t cost me a shakedown for money).
After the Arnold Classic ended on that Sunday, I was sitting at the Columbus Airport getting ready to fly home. Wouldn’t you know, up walks Lou. Next thing I see is a little girl (no older than five) run up to him while he’s standing in front of me. She asks if he’s The Incredible Hulk which he confirms, and she asks him if she can have a picture. What happens next will forever change my view of Lou. He looked down at the little girl and told her to go back to her daddy and get money. And off he walked towards his terminal. I literally had to drag my jaw onto the plane as it was on the floor the entire trip back home.
Now, I could be wrong, but I have never seen or heard that Arnold made people pay for pictures or autographs. Is Lou that hard-pressed for money or does he think he’s actually worth the cost associated with a picture or autograph? I’m not the only person who thinks Lou’s actions are a little crazy either. A simple Google search will have many others complaining about their encounter with Lou – which honestly, totally bums me out that he’s turned into that type of person.
Back to the bodybuilding stage (only in a different fashion)
Both Lou and Arnold are at a point in their life where competing on stage isn’t a priority or something they would ever consider. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to engage with the competitors and help them pursue their dreams. We already know that Arnold helped create, fund, run and organize the Arnold Classic. But, Lou too threw his hat in the ring when he started the Ferrigno Legacy.
The Ferrigno Legacy has been gaining some huge traction with some of the top bodybuilders gracing the stage for one of the best paydays in the industry. That being said, Lou decided in early 2018 to cancel the Ferrigno Legacy and no longer hold the show. Why? He mentioned that due to his new television series, he no longer has the time to focus on the show and in an Instagram post thanked everyone for their support of the show and wished the competitors all the best.
Honestly, that really bothers me. I mean, bothers me to my core. This sport is what gave him the platform at which he continues to make money today. Bodybuilding created his name. And let’s be honest, he’s no Arnold on the big screen. His name is what’s getting him in television series these days. The fact that he bailed out of a show that contained his name… a show that gave back to the industry and the sport of bodybuilding which he was a part of… that he is now saying he doesn’t have the time because of a television serious to me is completely mind-blowing.
Last I checked, Arnold was working on movies, television shows, running the state of California as Governor, yet ALWAYS had time to work on the Arnold Classic and make an actual appearance at the event. The fact that Lou doesn’t even want to hire people to orchestrate his show to maintain the name and prestige has my blood pressure elevated.
It honestly seems like Lou is under some financial constraints that he wouldn’t just delegate the responsibility of the Ferrigno Legacy to someone and pay to have a company run it on his behalf and then take a day out of his “busy” schedule to make an appearance at the show.
Battle of legacies
It’s my opinion that generations to come will not know who Lou Ferrigno is. I don’t think he’s done enough to place him in the same arena as Arnold on any platform you match them up together. Arnold has outshined Lou in everything.
Arnold will be one of those celebrities that will go down in history as the most mesmerizing and influential people from his era. His time in the bodybuilding industry paved the way for thousands to live out their dreams of being on the competitive stage. His time working as Chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports paved the way for helping American’s make better, healthier choices with their lives. His time on the big screen proves that you don’t need to speak perfect English to entertain people and make a living. And his time as Governor proves that regardless of your background, you can be whatever you want in life. Dreams do come true, but nothing works unless you do. Work is one thing we never questioned when it came to Arnold.
To finish this up, and with all the information mentioned above, it is my opinion that the battle of legacies is most definitely handed the “The Oak” himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. I don’t think there will ever be another Arnold.