Dave Draper: A bodybuilder of whom you’ve heard and whose pics you’ve definitely seen, but you’re not sure you could pick out in a lineup was America’s real-life Captain America, Dave Draper. You’ll recognize him simply because the Weider empire turned a shy, unassuming East Coast lifter into the tanned, golden boy of a bodybuilding surf god known as Dave Draper, and they put him on the cover of everything, all the time. Draper became the face of 1970s bodybuilding, as his ridiculous good looks and sick build were the perfect look for popularizing a marginalized sport.
Dave Draper never won the Olympia, but when Draper was competing the Olympia was a tiny contest on the fringes of bodybuilding. The Olympia was held simultaneously with the Mr. World, Mr. Universe, and Mr. America, so the titles rotated through the hands of a few men from year to year. In 1966 the Mr. America title went to Draper, and the Mr. Universe the year after that. In ‘67 the previous year’s Mr. Universe, Mr. World, Mr. America, and the Olympia’s runners up all battled for the Olympia crown, and Draper fell to fourth in a field of true superstars.
During that time, Dave Draper had been hosting a “sword and sandal” movie on a local TV station and had bit parts in film and TV shows like The Beverly Hillbillies. After meeting Arnold, Draper was invited to travel with Arnold, Franco, Zane, and Boyer Coe on an exhibition tour, which put him squarely in the thick of the bodybuilding world again. At 6’0” and 235 pounds, Draper had the size and shape to stand side by side with Arnold, plus the ridiculous good looks to outshine the rest of the Gold’s crew.
Dave Draper competed three times in 1970 to close out his competitive career, winning the IFBB Mr. World over Franco and Rick Wayne a couple of weeks after taking third to Sergio and Arnold at the AAU Mr. World. Feeling as though he’d proven all he needed to, Draper quit competition but continued to train like a wildman. He went on to own and manage a World’s Gym in Los Angeles and Draper’s maintained his insane condition even into his 70s- he’s still walking around at a lean 210+ pounds at age 77.