Lou 'The Hulk' Ferrigno on His Rivalry With Arnie and Training Wacko

Another gem from the Jack magazine archive, TV's original wild green beast and former Mr Universe Lou Ferrigno squeezes Alex Godfrey into his frantic-paced life
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Another gem from the Jack magazine archive, TV's original wild green beast and former Mr Universe Lou Ferrigno squeezes Alex Godfrey into his frantic-paced life

He never was a man of many words, The Hulk. In the late Seventies/early Eighties, when his weekly TV show (starring Bill Bixby as David Banner) really was the biggest thing around, you were lucky to get a few roars and grunts out of him. Fighting his corner was the 85 per cent deaf Brooklyn body builder who played him, Lou Ferrigno, who would inform journalists that they weren't having enough of a good thing. The former Mr Universe was apparently frustrated that audiences were being deprived of their weekly recommended Lou quota. Only two "hulk-outs" per show? Not enough, he complained, suggesting the episodes should feature much more creature: "They could have him get involved with a woman or maybe make friends with a child", he suggested - then the show "could be hotter than Star Wars".

When it all ended in 1982, he predicted that as far as muscle boys were concerned, "it's going to be just me and Arnold in show business", went on to star in films such as Hercules and Seven Magnificent Gladiators, and made a bodybuilding comeback in 1994, aged 43. He is currently a personal trainer and motivational speaker, and cameos in Ang Lee's forthcoming Hulk blockbuster.

I have to sign books, I have clients to train, I have three kids, I have a wife, I have a whole life, I have so many other interviews to do, radio and TV. I just can't give you time. I cannot give you 20 minutes.

A devout Hulk worshipper as a small child, I eagerly called his office after he responded to my interview request with his phone number. Alas, it seems The Hulk still has little time for puny humans such as myself...

Hi, Lou?

Yeah

Hi Lou, it's Alex from Jack magazine

How you doin'?

I'm all right thank you. When would be a good time to talk?

Let's do it now because I've got too much going in my life.

Great, do you have 20 minutes or so?

No. Too long. Ten minutes.

You have a lot going on at the moment?

I have, I really do. I have to sign books, I have clients to train, I have three kids, I have a wife, I have a whole life, I have so many other interviews to do, radio and TV. I just can't give you time. I cannot give you 20 minutes.

That's fine.

Where are you?

London.

You're in London, OK. You wanna do the interview now?

Sure, but if you have any time in the next few days...

No. I'm leaving to go out of town in a couple of days and then I'll be gone for a week.

OK then. Are you still bodybuilding? I know you made a comeback in 1994...

No, I retired again in 1995, I competed for three years then I retired five or six years ago. I'm very active now writing articles for magazines, but I’m not competing.

Do you still do a lot of working out?

I work out five or six days a week, an hour and a half a day.

What's your daily routine? Six raw eggs for breakfast?

I do cardio for a half hour then I do dumb-bells and weight training for an hour.

I see you've got a Pumping Iron (Seventies bodybuilding documentary) sequel coming out on DVD.

Yeah, Stand Tall, it's available on LouFerrigno.com.

There's a lot of bitchiness in Pumping Iron. How personal was all the competitive stuff? Was there really a big thing between you and Schwarzenegger?

Well, it wasn't personal, we were competitive, and basically Arnold was the best man that day. But we had a lot of fun competing.

Did you stay in touch?

I see him two or three times a year.

In what capacity? Professional or friends?

We're friends.

There's a quote on your website: "Had Lou Ferrigno not retired in 1975 to pursue an acting career, critics argue that he would have been the most dominant competitor the world had ever seen."

Right, I would have dominated bodybuilding for the next 15 years.

What acting career did you see for yourself back then? Did you see yourself as an action hero?

Well, I was doing the Hulk TV series.

I know. Did you have a good time on that?

I had a lot of fun doing the series because it gave me the chance to meet a lot of people.

What's your fondest memory?

One day Cary Grant came to the motor home and asked me to pose for a picture with him and his nephew.

Hey, I have a signed photo of you as The Hulk that someone got for me when I was eight.

I'll be damned.

Yeah, you're jumping through a window.

You gotta be 33, 34 years old.

Twenty-nine. I didn't meet you, someone got it for me, and years later I started to worry that maybe the signature was fake. Maybe I can send it for verification.

Oh. OK.

Did you keep in touch with Bill?

Who?

Bill Bixby.

Yeah, I was friends with him to the day he passed away. We came back, we did Hulk movies in '87, '88 and '89. Then Bill died.

And you're back now cameoing in the new film. What did you do?

I play the head of security, I have a couple of scenes with different actors. I'm surprised you didn't come to see me, I was in London all week last week.

I didn't know you were here.

I was signing in the biggest shopping centre in the world. I was there for four days!

That's a shame. Maybe next time. So I hear you were Michael Jackson's trainer at one point?

Yes I was. People can get hold of me on my website, LouFerrigno.com.

Right. When were you working with Michael Jackson?

On and off four years. I like Michael.

What were you doing?

Toning and flexibility, so he would be able to keep performing and not feel out of whack.

Was he a good worker?

He's a great guy. I like Michael.

And you’re a motivational speaker too?

Yeah, I do it all over the world.

What does that involve?

I talk about how to motivate people. What I've been through, all the things I've overcome - mainly convince people they can do the same and maximise their lives.

What sort of feedback do you get?

Overwhelming. Overwhelming.

Have you changed people's lives?

I convince them, I motivate them. From negative to positive.

What's left for you now?

I'm doing a series, The King of Queens, a recurring role. It's one of the top 20 shows in the country.

I don't think we have it here.

Well, you'll see it eventually.

Right. Well, I guess that's 10 minutes then. Thanks very much for talking to me.

You're very welcome. Bye. (Click)

A few minutes later - I call the office again. A lady answers.

Hi, Alex from Jack, I just spoke to Lou.

Hi Alex.

Do you have any photos of Lou we could use for our article?

No, I don't think so.

Nothing?

No. Take some pictures from the website. And I have another long distance call coming through.

Oh right. Thanks. Bye. (Click)

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