Bodybuilding icon Ben Weider dies
MONTREAL — Ben Weider, the Canadian who helped turn bodybuilding into a worldwide sport and who was instrumental in launching Arnold Schwarzenegger's career in the United States, has died. He was 85.
Weider died Friday after being taken to a hospital in Montreal, family spokeswoman Charlotte Parker in Los Angeles said Saturday. The cause of his death wasn't immediately known. Parker said Weider hadn't been ill.
"He did work out every day until his death," she said.
Weider and his brother, Joe, turned their love of bodybuilding into a billion-dollar business that includes nutritional supplements, gyms and magazines such as "Muscle & Fitness."
In 1946, Weider and his brother co-founded the International Brotherhood of Body Builders, which sanctions thousands of amateur and professional bodybuilding competitions around the world.
Weider was president of the organization until he resigned in 2006.
In 1968, the Weiders brought Schwarzenegger, a then-unknown Austrian bodybuilder, to California.
"Without them having done that, I mean I wouldn't have known how to come over here. I sure didn't have the money. So that was a very important kind of stepping stone for me," Schwarzenegger told The Associated Press.
Schwarzenegger, in Capitol Park in Sacramento, Calif., for the annual Firefighters' Memorial on Saturday, said that the two had been friends ever since, working together to build the sport of bodybuilding all over the world.
"Ben's responsibility was always to run the federation and he built the federation from literally nothing to a federation that is literally now all over the world, where every country has organized bodybuilding championships. ... It's all because of his work and his brother's work," said Schwarzenegger.
Schwarzenegger, who became a movie star and governor of California, also recalled Weider's preoccupation with Napoleon.
"He was a fanatic about Napoleon," Schwarzenegger told the AP. "He was the number one expert on Napoleon, his history."
Weider, a self-taught but noted Napoleonic scholar, co-wrote a 1982 book called "The Murder of Napoleon" that argued, on the basis of hair samples, that Napoleon was poisoned with arsenic. However, a recent Italian study found high arsenic levels in hair samples throughout Napoleon's life, suggesting he had picked it up from the environment. Other researchers have concluded that the original autopsy results were correct and Napoleon died of stomach cancer.
"He wrote books on Napoleon, has written screenplays, he actually wanted Jack Nicholson at one point to play Napoleon in a movie. So he was a very interesting guy," Schwarzenegger said.
Weider won the French Legion of Honor for his investigative work into Napoleon's death.
He died less than a week before a new permanent gallery of his Napoleonic artifacts was set to open at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
The funeral will be held on Monday in Montreal.
AP reporters Robert Jablon in Los Angeles and Juliet Williams in Sacramento, Calif., contributed to this report.