Zabo Koszewski: One of the most ripped and compelling men in 1950s and 60s bodybuilding has to have been Irwin “Zabo” Koszewski. Zabo Koszewski’s freakish leanness in a time when most guys were softer than baby crap in a light rain made him stand apart as one of the wildest physiques, and as the manager of Gold’s Gym Venice in bodybuilding’s heydey, Zabo was central to the bodybuilding scene that produced Arnold.
A fixture of Muscle Beach from 1951 to the end of his life, Zabo Koszewski pulled down more “Best Abdominal” awards than anyone in history, likely owing to the fact that he dieted and trained more fanatically than anyone had previously. At 5’10” and 185 pounds, he was hardly the biggest or strongest man in Venice, CA, but he was the bodybuilding world’s answer to a CrossFitter in the 60s. Ripped and ready at all times, Zabo pulled weird and frequent stunts like clean and strict pressing 220lbs, then clean and jerking 270lbs in slacks and a button down, shoeless… just to prove that he could.
.Ever the showman, the story of Zabo’s life reads like a bucket list for the Dos Equis man. Former training partner of Arnold and publisher of Iron Man magazine, John Balik, said that even in an era as cartoonishly outlandish as 1960’s Muscle Beach, Koszewski “was the embodiment of the spirit of Muscle Beach.” After high school he made three combat landings in WW2, he returned home to pursue a career in professional wrestling that rapidly turned into bodybuilding. He then joined the most famous male review not called “Chippendales,” became the “Marlboro Man” (the face of Marlboro cigarettes), managed the original Gold’s and World Gyms, and had bit parts in massive Hollywood blockbusters like the original Planet of the Apes and Spartacus.
And perhaps most entertaining of all, Zabo Koszewski is considered the grand world champion of partying in the 60s and 70s. So much so, in fact, that when Tommy Chong was released from prison on drug paraphernalia charges, Zabo immediately hired him to work the front desk of Gold’s Gym to satisfy his parole requirements. Thus, people might not remember the fact that Zabo Koszewski competed in at least 31 bodybuilding competitions and won “Most Muscular” and “Best Abs” in almost every competition that had either trophy- they just remember the hilariously chill bro who was friends with Arnold, was constantly flashing his abs, and reeked of weed while working the desk of Gold’s Venice.