Updated: Aug 22, 2020
The gym business is all about celebrities and famous people. As a matter of fact, even in Venice, this represents just a small percentage of what a work day looks like. What's much more common, and is actually the best part about working in a gym, is the comradery you form with your co-workers and members. I literally have friends for life now from my time working in gyms. I will write another article later focused directly on gym culture, but this blog post deals specifically on those friendships I made, and something many of us still laugh about to this day. This is a story of the MUSCLEMAN.
TIt takes place on Main Street, Venice at Powerhouse Gym. We had so many characters coming in and out of that gym on a daily basis - it's truly hard to describe. Characters ranging from LA's finest attorney, to a guy who lives in his car but still has a membership to Powerhouse. We had Arnold's and Shaq's agent work out there every day. As a matter of fact, Shaq would come in and mess with me while I was working behind the front desk. The desk had a huge floor to ceiling glass window behind it and my back would be to that window. One day, I remember people were gathering around the front desk looking at me and just laughing and I couldn't figure out why. I finally turned around and caught Shaq imitating me from behind my back, and not in a complimentary way. LOL. He was a big kid that liked to have fun. A gentle giant, and a real treat when he would stop by. OK, back to the story.
At Powerhouse, each staff member performed multiple rolls, unlike most other gyms. We ran lean and preferred it that way. It meant that if you worked the front desk, you also did sales, and some front desk workers were even managers. Just because you were a manager didn't mean you wouldn't ring up a drink or a pro shop item if a customer wanted it. We did it all, and actually loved it because it kept us busy. The only time we didn't like it was when we were alone and had a gym tour come in.
Of course, thanks to Murphy's law, as soon as you had a person walk in wanting to see the gym and buy a membership, a member would walk up to the front desk to buy a water. Usually, between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., we would split time, based on seniority mainly, so the other guy(s) working would go home for the night. We would only need one guy at the gym between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m., and 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. Many strange occurrences would take place in these odd hours, like our encounters with the "The Muscleman."
My first experience with the muscleman was late one night, maybe a half hour before we closed. I was working by myself and the phone rang. Now normally, if the phone rang this late, it was the owner calling in to see how the day went and to get the numbers. Other than that, it was rare for anyone else to call at that time. But on this particular night, when I heard the phone ringing and ran to the front desk from racking weights to answer it, I heard a low, strange voice ask:
"Are you the Muscleman?"
"I'm sorry, what?" I replied.
"Are you the Muscleman?" the voice said again.
The first few times this happened, I just hung up on the clown, assuming it was just a prank call or something me. But the calls kept coming, and once I found out it was happening to my other staff members, it turned into something fun.
Another person who answered the phone on this guy, I guess out of pure boredom, didn't hang up and started talking to him, and then next time I answered one of his calls, I gave it a try, just to see what the hell he wanted. Every time he called, it was like clockwork:
"Are you the Muscleman?" he'd ask.
"What exactly is it that you want my friend?" I replied this time.
"How much do you bench?" he asked. "How big are your legs?"
LOL, obviously this guy was getting off on this. Our conversation ended with that. But on another night, when I was working late, saw one of my work friends laughing hysterically while on the phone. I gave him the "what's up" sign, and he signaled to pick up the phone. All the phones had different lines, and we could hop on a line with someone else if we wanted. My buddy was asking him questions back, like "What are you wearing?" Or "How much do you bench?" and the guy was getting irritated. But this was the fun part for my friends. Their philosophy was, if you want to call in to prank us, then we will give it right back.
This guy called for years. He was incredibly persistent. You could hang up on him 5 times in a row, and he would just call back the next night. Once he knew we were all savvy, he had to change up his presentation. For example, he might call with a different voice and ask about membership prices what type of leg presses we have. I wouldn't know its him for a few minutes, then he would go off course with a line like "Do you use oil?" WTF, we were just talking about something else and now you're asking me about my pecs, or oil? This would literally go on every night, and with different guys working the gym. I tried a million times to shake this guy, nothing worked, back then I don't think it was easy traceable as now a day’s prank calls.
And then one day, just like they started, the calls stopped. We didn't know if he got busted or just moved on with his life.
About a year later, I had left Powerhouse and was working at Gold's Gym, where we have a front desk team who would screen the calls transfer them on to whatever department. One late night, when I was the only sales guy at the gym, the front desk guy looked back through a glass partition and said I had a call. I told him to send it back, and when I picked up the phone, I couldn't believe it what I heard
"Are you the Muscleman?" that same, creepy voice asked me.
LOL, I laughed so hard. I said "Dude I thought you were gone!?" but then I hung up on him, not in the mood, and the front desk guy was dying laughing. Apparently that guy had been calling Gold's as well, and for years all the front desk team would joke around with him.
The funny thing is, to this day, a very small circle of my friends will still say to each other "Are you the Muscleman?" with that distinct, perverted voice. Even if we haven't seen each other in years, we instantly laugh remembering those times. This was 25 years ago, and “Are you the Muscleman?" still lives on in the strangest of ways.