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J.M. Manion Interview

Article care of www.star-interviews.com

For those of you who do not know what NPC and IFBB are, here is a brief. Joe Weider basically put bodybuilding on the map and made it a professional sport. He did this by founding the International Federation of Body Building. Thus, the IFBB. That is the pro division of bodybuilding. Like in baseball, there is an amateur division, and a minor league, the NPC. Also known as, AKA, The National Physique Committee. Joe Weider is the final voice in all there is in the IFBB. Jim Manion is the final voice in the NPC. (And VP of the IFBB... These letters are making me dizzy.) Jim Manion is J.M. Manion's father. Now you can understand the rest of the interview. I met J.M Manion around the time my Grandfather passed away back in 1996. Right, I know, great way to start off a presentation. Anyhow. I knew a few of the athletes he managed and wanted to somehow work them into a video project I was doing for QVC. Considering I was in Ohio visiting at the time I figured it only made sense to drive down to Pittsburgh for a few hours and meet the guy. I was almost late. Went out with the boys the night before (hey, I was on vacation). I think I showed up in a trucker's hat my dad gave me, a tank top, old shoes and even older jeans. I couldn't have made a better impression...? Laughs, I think the first thing I asked was if I could buy a Metrx bar from him (you KNOW I must have been starving)! Metrx is a junk food passed off in the fitness industry as a health food). But we hit it off nonetheless. Next thing I knew I was off meeting his dad and uncle over at the NPC warehouse and was scheduling to film a series of exercise videos in Jim Manion's private gym! Cool for me! So, I called Las Vegas and said I wasn't coming back for a while, Pittsburgh is where we were filming. Soon after that I was following his lead and doing conventions and circulating in the fitness industry. So either way. You can thank him, or send him hate mail, but it is all his fault I am here today! Let me introduce you to a great guy, J.M. Manion.

DON: Many people know you just as Jim Manion's kid. Let me ask you, how long have you been Jim Manion's son? Just kidding. You're a photographer. When did you make the decision to become one?
JM: I started out by taking a photography class in high school as a blow off to just goof around.  But I really got into it & started taking pictures of any thing & anybody.  After I graduated, my dad gave me an option.  He said I could either have a graduation party or he'd buy me a camera system.  As probably the only smart decision I made as a teenager, I figured that regardless of whether I had a party or not, my relatives would buy me gifts & I knew that I didn't have the money for a camera system, so I opted for the latter!  I loved that camera.  It was the latest technology at the time, a Canon AE-1!

    Since my dad was already the President of the NPC at the time, I was constantly traveling with him to attend many NPC & IFBB bodybuilding events. This was in the early 1980's, well before women's fitness. And it was at the 1985 IFBB Night Of The Champions that the editor of FLEX Magazine, Rick Wayne, approached me.  I had become friends with his son Kevin, who, of course, was working for his father at FLEX.  He said to the affect of, "Look, you're at all these contests as it is & you have the same camera system as Kevin & you seem to know what you're doing.  How would you like to work for FLEX?"  How could I refuse? My first assignment was to travel with the NPC/American Team to Wembly, England & shoot all the candid photos for the 1985 IFBB World Games.  Chris Lund was the contest photographer, shooting all the stage shots.  That was July, 1985, & I have worked for FLEX since then.

    I contributed to Rick's infamous "Muscleaneous" column, with Kevin for a while.  I even had my own photo features.  It was great. I was only 22 years old then, so it was a real kick to be able to have my hobby become my job! Later, in 1986, I was set to photograph the NPC Collegiate USA Championships in Miami Beach when the writer FLEX had hired didn't show up because he was caught in a storm somewhere.  My dad & I called up Rick in California & explained the situation.  I offered my services as a journalist.  Initially Rick was skeptical until I explained to him that I had a Minor in Writing from the University Of Pittsburgh.  He told me to give it a shot & he liked it.  After that, FLEX felt confident they could send out just 1 person to do the job instead of both a writer & photographer. Once Rick left, the new Editor-In-Chief, the late Bill Reynolds, offered me two of my own monthly columns.  The first was called "One-On-One With J.M. Manion" & the second was "Rising Stars".  I still contributed contest reports & to the "Muscleaneous" section that they continued after Rick left.

DON: That's all pretty cool stuff. I honestly didn't know Rick Wayne was the editor. About fitness, not bodybuilding, I have worked with most of the women you represent at one point or another on either a video or whatever. Who was the first to sign with you? What was the process that got you into management?
    JM: The first fitness competitor to sign with me was a former bodybuilder named Michelle Talboo from Ohio.  She was making the switch to NPC Fitness when the NPC & IFBB were starting fitness in 1995.  She was basically an unknown commodity until we started promoting her. How I got into management was because of my wife Debbie.  As a photographer, I had many company's calling me for photographic assignments & they would inevitably ask if I knew of any fitness models that could be used for the various shoots.  I would ask the basic questions of how long, how much, what to wear, etc. I was already brokering for them & all I was getting in return was  "Hey, thanks." Debbie suggested that if these women wanted to get work, that they should sign with me since I was doing all the ground work any way.  So that's how we started JMP Management.  Once the NPC & IFBB started fitness, it became my policy that I would only work with the NPC and IFBB athlete's & not any other organization's fitness women.

DON: Especially seeing as to who your dad is. The other organizations are competition so to speak with the IFBB and NPC. But I bet that working with fitness women has it's perks and querks too.
    JM: Well, contrary to popular belief, JMP Management is a team of Debbie & myself.  Just because she doesn't travel to all the contests with me, she still has a grasp on the industry, plus she comes from a marketing background.  Unless we both agree on something, it doesn't happen. So she puts them place when necessary.

DON: Of the women not signed with you, who is the best to photograph?
    JM: Tough question.  There have been so many.  Off the top of my head, I have worked great with IFBB pro Min Yung Kim.  Most recently, I would have to say competitors DJ Wallis & Kelly Ryan.  For fitness models, without a doubt, it's Grace Grimes.

DON: Did you know Grace Grimes is my sister? Tell me without mentioning names a horror story about any particular shoot that comes to mind.
    JM: Many bad shoots occur when a person that I'm photographing has a friend or significant other there with them telling them how to pose, telling them what to wear, and even telling me how to shoot them because "this is when he/she looks good."  Usually, I prefer to have the model leave their significant other somewhere else, unless I invite them to help on an outdoor shoot by holding a light reflector disk or something.  But if I'm shooting in the studio, especially if it's a woman, I always have a woman make-up artist present, so it's never just me & the model any ways.  If it's a man, there's usually no worry. Their girlfriends either never come or wont talk when they do. In speaking with many other photographers, they've run into the same problems.

DON: Good tip. I was hoping for some dirt, but that's cool. The best shoot ever was ____ and why?
    JM: There are 3 that immediately stick out in my mind.  The day after the 1988 NPC USA Championships in Las Vegas when I shot overall winner John DeFendis in front of Caesar's Palace between 7 - 8 a.m.  Everything just gelled perfectly.  The sky, the clouds, the Greek architecture & DeFendis' physique.  He hit the classic 'archer' pose & I have that photo blown up to a 30"x40" print in my office.  The DeFendis photos ended up in a 2 page spread in FLEX.

    The next was in San Juan, Puerto Rico at the 1988 IFBB Women's World Amateur Bodybuilding Championships.  Again, the ocean & weather were just perfect & I took competitor's Janet Tech & Lisa Lorio over to an old castle on the ocean & we got some of the most awesome photos.  The Tech photo became a cover of the NPC News.

    The third was New Orleans in 1995, with Michelle Bellini.  This was the first time we had worked together & I had just signed her a month prior to JMP Management.  She was a natural & we got this unbelievable array of photos.  The most famous became her first poster of her against a mirrored sculpture wearing an American Flag print sling-shot bathing suit where you could see every angle of Michelle - front & back.

DON: And those are nice angles. I remember seeing all those pictures. Here is what I know. Your father used to body build. What was that like as a kid?
    JM: I didn't know any differently.  It's what I grew up around.  I do remember that when he used to compete, it wasn't until 11 or 12 at night, after the power lifting events.  I was usually asleep by that time.  Bodybuilding didn't have any respect back then.  I didn't know that until I got older.  I remember meeting Arnold Schwarzenegger when I was 11 years old though.  Of course, nobody outside of bodybuilding knew who he was back then.  But I did!  I used to think my Dad was big, until I saw Arnold's arms.  (Sorry Dad!)  Did you know that since 1976, I have seen every Mr. Olympia except for the contests in 1980, 1982 & 1983?  I have seen every Ms. Olympia from 1983 until 1997 too.

DON: Why did you miss these shows?
    JM: The 1980 Mr. Olympia was in Australia, which just happened to be Arnold's comeback.  I was still in high school & my dad just wasn't about to fly me down there for the heck of it, although I did miss a piece of history.  I  wasn't doing this full time either. The 1982 Mr. Olympia & 1983 Mr. Olympia (Chris Dickerson & Samir Bannout  were the winner's respectively), were both in Europe & I was attending the University Of Pittsburgh at that time & couldn't take the time off from  college to attend & again, I wasn't into this full time. Both of the Ms Olympias conflicted with NPC contests I was scheduled to cover.  The NPC contests are my priority except when it comes to the Arnold Classic, the Mr. Olympia & especially now the Fitness Olympia.  Plus, it was just easier for the NPC News to buy photos from a photographer that was there instead of flying me in & paying for my travel expenses.

DON: Now, JM! That basically says that you don't consider the Ms. Olympia a priority contest, or it looks like you don't care for it.
    JM: Not true.  But, after watching the sport of women's bodybuilding progress over the years, the current Ms. Olympia's have just lost that certain something that made me anticipate watching them before. The years when Cory & Lenda competed & won - those were exciting years. There always seemed to be somebody chasing after those 2. Although they were the odds-on favorites, it wasn't a guarantee that they'd win. Now, it just seems like nobody can catch up to Kim Chizevsky. I was there the year she beat Lenda & it was one hell of an exciting contest. The following year, the rematch, which turned out to be Lenda's final outing, was also very, very exciting.

DON: I haven't seen the Ms Olympia since Atlanta 94 when Lenda was looking beautiful but Laura should have won. Sorry. That ended it for me. Plus there is something wrong when the women stop looking like women. I am not talking for beauty, I mean, they stop looking even like 'the living' anymore. They get so withdrawn in the face. I dunno. But I see your point in the excitement. At least with Yates competing, as great as he was, you never knew how big Levrone, Nasser or even Shawnie Ray would come in. With the women.... Kim's just too B.I.G.
    JM: I don't see that excitement in the Ms. Olympia any more. That's all.  To me, there's plenty more excitement at NPC national-level women's bodybuilding events.

DON: Back to your dad.
    As for my Dad, he competed in & won many titles.  Back then, it wasn't uncommon for him to compete 4 weekends in a row.  That's unheard of today.  But it wasn't back then. Many people don't realize that in my father's next to last contest, in 1974, he was the favorite to win.  It was some National title who's name I have forgotten.  Anyway, he went there & came home with the 2nd place trophy.  It turns out there was this new bodybuilder that came up from Florida to compete that nobody had ever heard of.  Even my Dad told us how impressive this guy was & that he deserved to win the contest.   That competitor's name?  Robby Robinson.

DON: That's great. Your uncle told me that once. Then, correct me if I am wrong, he opened a gym and did a lot of personal training too. Who were some of the cool people to flow through that gym?
    JM: The gym was only open from December, 1979 until he sold it in the summer of 1984. Lou Ferrigno immediately comes to mind.  Pete Grymkowski, Robby Robinson, Mike Mentzer, John DeFendis, Lee Haney, Samir Bannout, many of the 'older' bodybuilders.  You always knew when the WWF was in town because they always came in to train.  Jesse "The Body" Ventura used to cut promo's wearing Manion's Gym t-shirts on t.v.!  He was always in to train.  Older WWF wrestlers like Ivan Putski, "Superstar" Billy Graham, Tony Atlas & many others.

DON: WOW! Next it turned into the NPC home office, right? At what point did the clothing line come along? I know when ever I talk to John Albert who runs it, the place is a mad house. Did it take a while for it to progress to being so busy?
    JM: The NPC home office is actually in the city of Pittsburgh.  The clothing line was actually started in 1986 with just a few t-shirts, sweat pants, sweatshirts & spandex.  It didn't move back up into the space where my Dad's gym was until 1989.  We've been there ever since.

DON: OK. So where it is now is where the old timers used to play. The equipment is all new there though. Mostly Hammer Strength stuff. On to more JM stuff. With JM's women taking 6 of the top 10 in many of the pro fitness show finishes, some say it's because of who you and your family are. Would you like to clear that up?
    JM: Yes.  First off, they are NOT "J.M.'s girls".  They're not girls, they're women & they're athlete's.  Secondly, their not mine.  My girls are Debbie & my daughter Cassie.  But I know that's how any competitor that signs with us is referred to within the industry.  It's really a dig at them & me.  In my opinion, it's born more out of jealousy than anything else. As far as our athlete's competitive records & who I am & who my father is - that has no bearing on placing's.  If it did, let's use the 1999 IFBB Jan Tana Classic Fitness for an example.  It was a 2 way race between Jenny Worth, whom JMP (my and my wife's company) manages & Kelly Ryan, whom we do not.  It turned out that the 2 of them tied for 1st.  Dead even!  If there was ever going to be favoritism, then when the IFBB judges did their tie-breakers, Jenny would have won.  She didn't.  Kelly did & Jenny was 2nd.

DON: And Kelly actually crossed over from another competitive organization, correct? So she really should have for political reasons, definitely been nudged down instead of placed ahead if it were 'all' politics.
    JM: Exactly. In my opinion, like I said before, a lot of it is just plain jealousy.  As I like to say, the reason our women do so well is that Debbie & I have chosen to keep our clientele exclusive.  We try to chose athlete's whom we feel are very, very good.  I do stress to them that if they don't win, that's O.K.  It's not the be all to end all.  Publicity is the important thing to sustained longevity in this industry.  So, even if a competitor only places in the top 5 of all her events, that still keeps her in the magazines & hopefully procures her some photo shoot's with the sport's other photographers, gets the interest of some sponsor who may want to use them in ads, at their booth's, or even give them an endorsement contract.  The fact they are winning is just a bonus.  We do take a beating with the 'family name' thing because of some of our current high profile athlete's like Mary Yockey, Susie Curry & Mandy Blank & in the past, Carol Semple, Karen Hulse & Theresa Hessler. All of whom have won the high profile NPC and IFBB fitness events.

    If you go to our web site & look over the women's competitive history, there are quite a few that have not won a contest for some time, or not at all, but have come very close. Regardless of what I do say though, people are still going to believe whatever they want to believe.  I'll just roll with the punches as I've done the past 5 years and for the next 25.

DON: I know. I have had some headaches with other managers as well. It's a joke. Seems these days everyone is a model. Time for some of these girls to compete! Put up or shut up! So, do you still keep Met-Rx bars in your fridge? I haven't seen the new office since you moved. How does it differ from the old? I don't think many people realize you also run a prosperous photography studio for family, wedding, senior portraits and the like.
    JM: No, I don't keep MET-Rx bars in my fridge any more.  (Laughing) I lost my connection for free product, that's why!  (More laughter) If you'd look in there now, you'd find Iron-Tek Cool Vanilla Coconut bars & SportPharma Honey Peanut & Lemon Chiffon Pro Max bars in there now.

DON: Nothing but candy in other words. Laughs.
    JM: Shut up Don! Laughs. In terms of the studio, I actually have 2.  One is my bodybuilding/fitness studio, which also includes the NPC Photo Gym.  The 2nd studio is my portrait studio, or professional studio, if you will.  I had to separate them just because of the negative stigma still attached to the sport by the general public. Anyway, in my portrait studio, we photograph high school senior portraits; family & children's portraits; modeling portfolio's; engagement & bridal portraits; weddings; passport photos; sports leagues; pre-school's & glamour portraits.  We have a make-up artist/hair stylist available too.

DON: I never met your new make up artist. How do you plan weddings and bodybuilding events since they are both weekend things?
    JM: I have a team of photographers that sometimes shoot the weddings.  This is what they specialize in & are a proud part of J.M. Productions Photo Studio.

DON: Since I am the current controversy in dieting, I must ask. What diets have you used?
    JM: Lots & lots of them.  It sometimes gets difficult to diet correctly being on the road as much as I am.  There's a lot of not eating all day and very late night eating, just because of time constraints.  When I'm at a contest, I live off of protein bars. I like the idea that as long as you remember to eat, you can really pick and choose whatever you want if you follow the guidelines on this Know How system of yours. That's great.

DON: Thanks. You didn't need to say that. Tip for the model: What to do and NOT to do at a photo shoot OR what to do to get you to shoot them. Besides paying of course.
    JM: What to do?  Come prepared with plenty of outfits to choose from.  Keep your appointed time.  Don't cancel at the last minute.  You wouldn't believe how many fitness competitors and/or bodybuilders have just totally blown me and other photographers off for scheduled photo shoots!  At the 1999 NPC USA Championships, I had scheduled to shoot from 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m.  (I had a late check-out of 5 p.m.)  I had 7 people scheduled to shoot throughout the day & only 4 of them showed up! I know darn well they were there too.

DON: No kidding. Did any of them ever explain?
    JM: Of those that didn't show up, at least 1 of them called to explain why they had to cancel.  The other's just didn't show up & never called to say why they couldn't make it, or why they didn't make it either.  Even if they'd called me a week later, that would've been O.K.  Nothing!  Also, as I stated, leave the significant other back at the hotel, or in the gym, unless they are invited by the photographer.  Especially with the women fitness & bodybuilders, they get very stiff when their significant other is around.  There's no creativity or freedom to try things. Not regarding nudity. I am just talking about general relaxation. I like to make the photo shoot's fun.  I want both of us to have fun & be able to create some great images.

        To get me to shoot them?  Call me.  Ask me.  Schedule an appointment at the studio in Pittsburgh, or call me in advance of a contest I am going to be covering.  I can't guarantee I'll have time at the contest, but if I can make the time, I will.  If not, I'll work on trying to find a time it at all possible.  Sometimes it doesn't work out because have specific shoot's to do but we'll at least discuss it.

DON: Since you manage the biggest names in fitness right now, what does a girl have to show on her resume in order to be considered as a potential client? There are only a handful of pro shows each year and with a dozen women to manage, they can't all win or benefit can they? Not that they have to, but like you said, being very, very good matters. What is that?
    JM: Show me some professionalism in your presentation. Send a video.  Also, send real photos or comp cards.  No Xerox copies of photos.  If you want your stuff returned, put it in a self-addressed, stamped envelope.  Otherwise, we do not return the material. In answer to your second question.  No, they can't all win.  Reference above concerning my thoughts about winning. Talent is the key. It is not what you have done but what you can do.

DON: Well put. If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
    JM: With my father's position in both the NPC & IFBB I think I'll take the 5th Amendment on that question.

DON: Laughs. Without coming right out and busting on anyone, what are some of the strangest characteristics it seems ALL bodybuilders have in common? And fitness women? Female bodybuilders?
    JM: They're Nomads!  Constantly moving from 1 place to another & changing their phone numbers.  An address and/or phone number you have this month might not work next month.  That is so true with all bodybuilding & fitness competitors.

DON: Why hasn't men's fitness taken off? Is it because it took so long for bodybuilding to shake the 'homosexual' thing and they are afraid this will bring it back? Everyone at one time thought if you body built, you had to be gay. If you dance in your underwear on stage and train hard, you're definitely gay?
    JM: No. I just don't think that people know much about it or what to make of it.  I know I have never seen a men's fitness competition. The NPC sanctions a few of them though. Who knows.

DON: What do you think mainstream America should know about bodybuilding to take a second look at it?  Steroids, women with facial hair and deep voices turns us off.  All the silicon and posing turns women away. Men walking around flaring their lats out acting like they weigh 50 pounds more than they do is embarrassing. What gives? It's hard to take it seriously anymore. What could be done so it is?
    JM: Hmm.  Another loaded question.

DON: Bang!
    JM: Laughs. Here's where my last name comes into play again.  Many people will assume & do assume that whatever I say or my feelings are, that my father feels the same way.  So, if I wanted to make a constructive criticism of something or praise something, it's assumed that's what my father thinks too.  Hey, we might agree on it or we might not, but people tend to believe I am my father's mouthpiece, which is so far from the truth.  So again, with my father's position in both the NPC & IFBB, I think I'll take the 5th Amendment on that question.

DON: You wuss! Laughs. What ever happened to some of the women I worked with in my videos? Those nomads keep moving and disppearing! After Teresa Hessler pulled her stunt in Ohio at the one shoot, no matter how often I tell her it's alright, she won't face up to it all. Is this typical too? Tell me about their contracts? Career changes?
    JM: You're the wuss! Laughs. Whew. You used them all.

    Michele Ralabate: Personal problems that she had to sort out.  She quit competing after the 1997 IFBB Fitness Olympia and let her contract ran out.  We're still on friendly terms & still partners on her video project.  She's living in Florida doing personal training & consulting & choreography.  She was a great talent that never fulfilled her potential in pro fitness.

    Theresa Hessler: She was a problem in Ohio and everywhere else. I've held back on this for a couple of years, while she's told her side.  This time, I am going to set the record straight.  What it came down to was that she breached her contract with us numerous times.  She accepted quite a few jobs behind our backs & didn't tell us. How I found out was I saw the print & video work she did.  I don't know how she thought we'd never see this?  At the time, she was living in the Baltimore area, then she met someone & moved out to L.A.  While she was in L.A., before she moved, she accepted these jobs without consulting the management company.  Actually, from the time after the 1998 IFBB Fitness International, she basically stopped communicating with us.  Right before that event, in December, 1997, we had set it up where she was offered an endorsement contract with a supplement company that would have made her the highest paid fitness athlete in the industry at the time!

DON: No way? Theresa? No..... But, but, she was so... Innocent.... Sweet...  Honest...
    JM: I still have the contract to prove it.  Actually, the company wanted Michelle Bellini first, but she was under contract to another company at the time.  So they came back wanting Theresa.  But she decided that she wanted to stay a 'free agent' in that she could work for many company's.  That was her decision & that was fine.  Trust me, as I have the proof to back this up, this woman made more money in 1997 through us via appearances, not including her prize earnings, than any other fitness athlete at the time.  Once Theresa bailed out, we set upon getting Bellini released from her other contract & she got the contract since she was their first choice anyway.  After the Fitness International, I tried contacting her via her pager, her work number, via faxes (which I still have copies of too) but nothing.  Total silence for months.  Next thing I know, she finally calls & said she's engaged & moving out to California.  It was after this that the work started to appear.  So we consulted our attorney & set up terminating her contract, but not without getting our proper commission first.  She immediately had a small mention in MuscleMag where she stated something to the effect that since she moved to California, JMP Management "couldn't" promote her any more.  Anybody with any brains would know that Michelle Bellini lives in California & we were managing her at the time so why wouldn't we be able to manage Theresa?

DON: That sounded like a desperate plea for work since she was moving thinking everyone would jump at the chance to work with her there. Most companies are NOT in California.
    JM: Well. She & Michelle Bellini were the first fitness competitors ever featured on the cover of FLEX Magazine. TOGETHER. We even came out with a successful video of her that still sells to this day.  Suffice it to say, Theresa had her most publicity while signed with us.

DON: Next, Karen Hulse. What a pleasure to work with. She was cool. And had a real job outside of fitness, which I think is a point of real character.
    JM: Karen Hulse: She had an endorsement contract for 1-1/2 years with Bodyonics Pinnacle, which expired in 1999.  Then, she became more involved with a gym called Centrex Club in New Jersey with her boyfriend.

    Carol Semple-Marzetta:  Again, another athlete I've held back on discussing that breached her contract.

DON: What? Carol? Be honest. What did I tell you about her when you first signed her? You said she was cool and came to you, not you going to her. Wow. I only worked with her because she had the Olympia title at the time. Sorry. I jumped the gun. Tell me. What happened?
    JM: As with Theresa, after Carol won the 1997 IFBB Fitness Olympia again while still being managed by us, she decided to do some appearances on her own without consulting JMP Management.  I have every one of them documented & again we consulted our attorney.  Since her contract was about to expire & she couldn't compete anymore due to a back injury, we let her go.  Just like Hessler, Carol enjoyed her greatest publicity while signed with us.  It's a shame she injured her back. To me, I thought we had a pretty good working relationship, as Carol opened up to us about a lot of personal subjects.  I was wrong.  But, she was good for JMP Management & we were good for her at the time.  You're right. Carol had the reputation of not being easy to work with at the time & after signing with us, I think we helped to erase that stigma for some time.  And yes, contrary to belief, it was Carol who approached me at the IFBB Jan Tana Classic about signing her & she followed that up with numerous phone calls.  You can ask any number of IFBB officials who were at that victory banquet how she basically cornered me to speak with her.  It's still a quite funny tale to tell. Recently however she co-promoted her own successful NPC fitness event.  As far as I'm concerned, if she can draw more women into NPC fitness via her name and/or contest, then it's good for the sport - regardless of any personal feelings.  I wish her success in that venture.

DON: Susie Curry. My favorite because she is a fantastic at gymnastics! She makes fitness really look like a sport.
    JM: Susie Curry: Still going strong.  Besides Michelle Bellini, we have been managing Susie the longest.  She's one of our 2 veterans!  Her career speaks volumes.  The only 2-time IFBB Fitness International winner.  NPC National Fitness Champion.  NPC Jr. USA Fitness Champion.  IFBB Pro World Fitness winner.  Has placed 2nd in the 1998 IFBB Fitness Olympia & was 3rd in 1999 by only 2 points.  In my opinion, she really raised the bar as far as fitness routine's were concerned.  Her routine's have always been innovative, high energy & very well choreographed.  Right now, we have her under an endorsement contract with Champion Nutrition.  She's also the co-owner of a training facility with her sister & brother-in-law called The Gym in Brenen, Georgia, about an hour outside of Atlanta.  She's set her sights on the 2000 IFBB Fitness Olympia.

    Michelle Talboo: As I stated earlier in the interview, here was a competitor that was virtually unknown.  I knew that if I could get her known nationally & in the major magazines such as FLEX, IronMan & MuscleMag, then I had succeeded & could probably do that with more athletes.  I even got her an endorsement contract with MET-Rx that was renewed for a 2nd year.  Basically, if it didn't work with Michelle, then I don't think I would have continued with JMP Management.  Michelle didn't have a classical look, but I think she had a very exotic look that wasn't mainstream at the time.  We took her to the mainstream.  How?  We made her the main subject of my first Alluring Fitness Women Poster Series.  There was a shot of her in black lingerie from the back against a yellow wall.  She was in the classical police-up-against-the-wall-pose & of course the lingerie was nothing more than a string up her glutes.  To date, I have sold over 2,000 of those posters!  The only poster to rival it is the Michelle Bellini mirror poster. Once she earned her IFBB pro fitness card at the 1995 NPC National Fitness Championships, she went on to place well in IFBB fitness contests over the next couple of years.  Where she really succeeded was on the burgeoning Internet scene.  Back in 1996 & 1997, she was definitely the queen of the Internet in terms of she was the first fitness competitor that I know of that posed nude for a web site.  Nowadays, just about every fitness competitor or fitness model has their own web site doing the same thing.  But back then, nobody else was doing it.  The company was willing to pay a handsome amount for her to disrobe.  They also wanted me to shoot the photos, so it worked out perfectly.  Once the first set of images hit their site, people were buying them like crazy.  So we were contracted again for a 2nd shoot & a 3rd shoot & so on.  Of course, I could see the potential in this form of photography on the Internet & kept raising the price for every shoot.  And they kept paying!  Michelle made quite a bit for those photo sessions.  Each time, we tried to be more & more creative.  I literally have thousands of nude images of Michelle Talboo on file.  I even have an alternate version of the 'yellow poster' with Michelle totally nude.  It was done at the request of the web site.  She attracted enough attention through those photos that even a very respected gentlemen's magazine contacted us to have her do a test shoot for them.  There was only 1 problem though.  She never told her husband about any of this.  Whoa!  Eventually the popularity of the Internet became big enough & of course more & more people were accessing these images.  Her husband eventually found out & all hell broke loose with her personal life.  That was back in the beginning of 1998 & I haven't heard from her since.  We eventually dropped her when she stopped communicating with us.  I don't even know if she actually got our paperwork or not. Regardless, she worked out well for you in your video & she got a lot of work in the industry & we have some absolutely innovative & beautiful images of her from all those photo shoots.  As a matter of fact, you can still see quite an array of those images on-line even now at www.erotic-fitness.com.

DON: You managed those women but the next two, you didn't. They fell off the Earth. Where are they now? Dale Tomita and Ericca Kern?
    JM:  Dale is back in Seattle & has actually been judging NPC events up there.  Errica is living in Florida & working for World Wide Sports Nutrition.

DON: Wow. Nomads. How many web sites are you affiliated with now?
    JM: Besides promoting the 4 individual web sites of Mandy Blank, Melissa Frabbiele, Mary Yockey & Timea Majorova, I promote the main JMP Management site.  I want to mention that site was started in 1995, well before any of the other sport's agency's or management firm's started theirs.  We were the 1st!  That all goes back to seeing the potential & power of the Internet/web.

DON: It took me two years later than you to get online. Listen. We didn't touch on the NPC News. Tell me about that.
    JM: The NPC News was started as a 4 page newsletter in 1986 & has now grown into an 80 page, bi-monthly publication.

DON: When did you get involved with that? You were working for FLEX?
    JM: How I came to be involved wasn't late 1987/early 1988. Now I am the senior writer, official photographer, copy editor & do the layout of every issue myself.  I write & photograph at least 80% of every issue too, in addition to my work with FLEX Magazine, which now includes writing 2 columns a month - the NPC column & the Talent Round-up column.

DON: See, now, that's a lot of stuff. FLEX. The NPC News. The portrait studio. The management company. A family. That's a lot. Do you think bodybuilding would be better accepted if the amateur ranks got mainstream coverage? The NPC bodybuilding and fitness events of today do not get t.v. coverage do they?
    JM: We are on t.v. Every month in fact & have been for years.  All of the NPC national events are featured on FOX SPORTS NET via the program MuscleSport USA & anyone can find out when the shows are airing in their particular area by accessing the MuscleSport USA web site at www.musclesport.com.   The NPC USA Bodybuilding & Fitness Championships & NPC Team Universe Bodybuilding & Fitness Championships even have 2-one hour shows.  1 hour for men's & women's bodybuilding and the following month, 1 hour devoted just to the women's fitness event.  The NPC National Bodybuilding & Fitness Championships have 3-one hour shows too.  1 hour each for men's bodybuilding & women's bodybuilding and a 3rd hour devoted solely to the NPC National Fitness Championships.

DON: Speaking of trends. Aren't the fitness competitors just getting a little too muscular?
    JM: This past year, the NPC & IFBB had decided that the fitness competitors were yes, starting to get a little too muscular looking, almost on the verge of looking like women bodybuilders did about the mid-1980's.  So they decided to inform them via meetings & letters going out, that starting in the year 2000, the look they are going for is to be firm, with abdominal's but no deep striations in the thighs & delts like these women were getting.

DON: Becoming muscular is what happens when you lift weights, I realize that. But I did notice some of the women started getting 'softer' this year.
    JM: Well, a few went into shows like the Fitness International this year and their type of physiques didn't place that well this year.  They ended up in the bottom half of the competitors.  Some entered the next couple pro events.  Again, placing low, but some better considering there were more competitors in these events.

DON: What if some of the athletes get frustrated with all the politics and rule changes and decide to jump to a competitive organization and compete there?
    JM: They have spoke with several about that.  They all said, no, that they were done for the year & were going to wait for the rule changes on the women's fitness physique to come into play next year (i.e., 2000).  Many of the ladies have some guest appearances lined up and wanted to wait it out & complete. Seeing how the changes were going to be, this would be smart as they have a chance to place quite well in 2000, which would help especially if their other downfall was their routines. 2000 will be an excellent year for the IFBB.

DON: Kind of like Carol and Theresa trying to take jobs without consulting the manager. Who was it?
    JM: No names. People will know soon enough. About 1-1/2 months ago, there's rumors flying around L.A. that someone is going to compete in another organization in 1999.  A bunch of NPC officials asked her about it, even some that had her booked for appearances in 2000, because if she's not an NPC/IFBB athlete, they can't use her.  She totally denies all of this to their respective faces.

DON: Not cool.
    JM: Now, it's no secret our rival competitors and NPC/IFBB doesn't get along with.  The other associations award cash prizes.  If you want to maintain your status as an amateur in NPC, you can't compete in those other associations. Simple. So sometimes a competitor moves over to NPC competition because they haven't won.  Once you crossover, you can't go back.  Since the person in reference did compete in the finals of another organization in 97 while with the NPC first, she was promptly suspended .  She claimed she didn't know the rulings, wrote a letter & was given a 6 month suspension anyhow where she couldn't compete anywhere during that time.  She competed again in 1998 with us & won, then moved on to turn pro in the IFBB. So, she was warned again so there were no excuses in a letter that if she went back to another organization, she would be suspended yet again.  Now that she was a pro however, there would also be a fine attached.

DON: Not unusual. Regulation in any professional sports organization.
    JM: Back to  1999. The NPC officials in Southern California who attended another organization's event to check out the competition, low & behold, saw her on stage competing after she out & out lied.  An IFBB Pro on-stage at another organization's contest and she didn't even place in the top 3!

DON: No way! BAD idea I guess. I think I know who you are talking about.....
    JM: She is now banned from competing in the IFBB.  No NPC promoter can hire her now because she's a non-NPC/IFBB athlete & the promoters that had hired her can sue her if they want for breaching their contract. A notice was sent out to all the Weider magazines as well stating she is no longer an IFBB athlete, which means they'll stop using her, except for some stock images they might have on hand.

DON: I wonder what she was thinking & where her career will go from here? The Fitness America champs I know are Laurie Donnelly and Madonna Grimes. Good person. There isn't much to offer in the other competitions are there? Has anybody ever won another organization's crown twice?
JM: Well the sad thing is, not only has nobody won twice, but the person in reference has never won it at all  She placed better her first try though. So, she placed worse this time than her last attempt. Also, as a side note, if the NPC is so political, why didn't one of my athelte's beat her for the overall at the show she went IFBB pro at since they were both their 2 class winners?  If there was ever going to be politics, as I stated before, that would have been another time.  Especially since it was NPC wear I write the News Mag & not even IFBB.  All it would have taken was a nod or word from my dad, right? WRONG.  Hell, my step-mother was on the judging panel for goodness sake! Well, she got what she deserved that day. The overall crown. And it looks like she got it again. Good for her! A lesson to be learned for all athletes.

 

FOR MORE INFO: All Inquiries Visit J.M. Manion at www.jmpmanagement.com

Don Lemmon's Nutritional and Exercise Know How

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