“Give me 15 minutes a day and I will give you a new body”  Those were the confident words of Charles Atlas of perhaps the most famous of all the musclemen, ever, who became the first Celebrity Bodybuilder in the 20s, with his new dramatic body-building technique called Dynamic Tension.

charles altas advert

Ripped is a new word in the modern lexicon and it describes the body beautiful that you have built for yourself through intensive training and exercise. It used to be that Arnold Schwarzenegger was the leading body-builder in the world, with Sylvester Stallone not far behind, but now every Tom, Dick, (one of many) and Harry in Hollywood, has contributed to the hijacking of body-building and trivialising it to the point that there are no envious glances attached to it anymore. Every actor in Hollywood is ripped to the max and we have to listen to them spouting cant about their abs and their six packs into the bargain.

charles atlas sand cartoonCharles Atlas had a very famous ad, which was presented in the form of a comic book story, which pictured a 97 pound weakling being. The skin-a-malink is humiliated in the presence of his girlfriend, when he has sand kicked in his face, by a bully with a bodybuilder’s physique. Angry but determined, the weakling goes home, does the course of 12 Dynamic Tension Lessons and returns to the beach, where he exacts his revenge on the bully and is rewarded by admiring glances from all the girls.

Unfortunately for the genuine, old stock body-builders, the ripped look is de rigeur for the male participants on tv reality shows, such as Talifornia, Geordie Shore, The Valleys and Jersey Shore. geordie-shore-official-greg-lake1Shameless producers fill a house with a gaggle of the most foul-mouthed, repulsive girls, who binge drink, inevitably puke and allow themselves to be mauled and manhandled by a bunch of knuckleheads, whose only distinguishing features are the identically overdeveloped abs and six packs on their ripped bodies.

Watching the antics of these buffed up apes is proof positive that the one muscle they are definitely not developing is their brains.

Confusingly, a ripped body is not exclusive to the hoi polloi alone. I was following the fortunes of our Under-Age Irish teams rugby on television this week and the young players were a variety of shapes and sizes, but nothing compared to the professional squad, who are ripped to a man. There was an attempt made in some schools to start doling out creatine to teenagers, to give them more muscle mass and it helps players to recover quicker.

The professional players are built up to the size they are now, with supplements and weight training, because they are required to take ferocious punishment, especially in what’s called “collisions;” The ferocity with which the game is played now will carry on, as is, until an almost certain fatality will occur in a major game. Then the ordure will hit the fan.

Part of the problem with pea-brained body-builders becoming as ubiquitous as Lord Mayor, Naoise Murray, is that in these egalitarian times, stripped of their clothes, it is hard to tell a rugby player apart from a body-builder, reality show contestant. I hope there will be no blood spilt in Krystal, or Copperface Jacks

This is probably the only time that tattoos are useful, as reading the designs can gives hints that point to the wearer’s emotional response to the world. For instance he might have a large heart with a dagger going through it and the word RAGE underneath.  Don’t invite him to Donnybrook Fair for Sunday brunch.

Or he might display an odd bit of Roid Rage, when the old steroids up the ante. Or if he’s cranky while doing a door security gig down in Temple Bar, he might give someone a few slaps.


The only Irish strongman of any great importance, was the legendary Butty Sugrue, who hailed from my mother’s hometown of Killorglin, Co. Kerry.

Butty owned a couple of pubs in London and engaged in a variety of stunts to publicise his premises. There is a great photo of him pulling a red London bus with his teeth.

I was that 97 pound-weakling in the Charles Atlas advertisement when I worked for him, once, in the Duke of Wellington Pub in Shepherd’s bush. I lasted one torturous night and I can still hear him saying” I won’t be using you tomorrow night.” I didn’t know which of us was gladder.

BUTTY with aliButty was as broad, as he was tall, the Danny DeVito of South London. I had the temerity to hang around next morning, on the basis of the Killorglin connection. When he eventually came to talk to me, I said politely, “Mr.Sugrue, I know you won’t be using me tonight, but will I get paid for last night?” He leaned in close to my ear and said “if I were you, I’d get out of here as quick as you’s can. You’re lucky to be getting away with your life.”

Article Written by Shay Healy
First Published in The Irish Daily Mail,
Saturday 15th June 2013  
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About shayhealyblog

Shay Healy is a multi-media artist from Dublin Ireland, who has been in the music business all his life. His song “What’s Another Year”sung by Johnny Logan won the 1980 Eurovision Song Contest. He has written two musicals, The Knowledge and The Wiremen. As a television host, Shay is famous for a cult chat show, Nighthawks and on the other side of the camera, he has made over 12 documentary films, including “The Rocker-A Portrait of Phil Lynott” ,“First Lady”-A Portrait of Tammy Wynette ” and “Roy Rogers-King of The Cowboys. The Danny Boy Triangle (3 Books in 1) is now available to buy on Amazon
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