Bob Paris: The most oft-discussed bodybuilders of any area come in three varieties- the winningest, the most massive, and the most aesthetic. For better or worse, the latter group seems to find its way into the “it’s nice he/she tried” and “it’s cute they bothered to show up” realm of the discussion, because those athletes usually lack the size to truly compete on equal terms with larger competitors. Every now and again, however, a competitor packs enough mass onto their frame that they’re not completely out-massed onstage, which makes posedowns inherently more interesting, as it begins a discussion of whether bodybuilding will return to “its roots,” which people seem to thing is pure aesthetics.
Why they think this is a mystery- even dating back to the sculpture of the ancient Greeks, there were two ideals at war- the “Herculean” mass monster physique versus the “Apollonian” aesthetic. And just as mass doesn’t always carry the day in the modern era, nor did it in the ancient era either. Thus, “a return to aesthetics” is a misnomer- it’s just a shift from one ideal to another rather than a return to a golden age of a sport that has existed since the times of ancient Greece and ancient India.
One of the main men to bring this battle to the forefront of people’s minds was Bob Paris (b. 1959), a superstar of the sport in the 80s in spite of the fact he never finished on the podium at the Olympia. Standing 5’10” and 225lbs, Paris’ physique was a paean to the Apollonian statues of yore, with each muscle group balanced against the size and shape of the others. Though unrewarded with first place finishes, Paris found a great deal of success as a model… at least until he came out as gay.
As the first active male professional athlete in any sport to publicly come out as gay, Bob Paris found his opportunities and sponsorships dry up quickly unpon revealing his sexuality. After receiving the exact types of death threats and horrible abuse that occurs on modern social media in the form of letters and phone calls, Paris withdrew from the sport and focussed on civil rights activism and acting, which he continues today.