Not ‘a regular person’: Grandpa bodybuilder toned, tan at 65
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) – The ad showed a scrawny weakling getting beach sand kicked in his face by a muscled bully.
That was all it took for 12-year-old Stan Bishop, who sent a check in the mail for Charles Atlas’ 1960s fitness program and plastered it to his South Louisville bedroom wall near a new set of weights.
Fast forward more than five decades, and Bishop is now a 65-year-old grandpa and among the oldest Kentucky bodybuilders to compete in this weekend’s Kentucky Muscle competition, an annual Louisville event that requires training difficult for people half Bishop’s age.
The lifelong pipefitter doesn’t look anything like a typical retiree, with his shaved head, earrings, weathered skin that has endured years of spray tans and the bulging muscles of a three-time national bodybuilding champion. At his age, he said, it takes discipline.
In his Dixie Highway-area home early Thursday morning, he made his breakfast – 12 egg whites fried on the stove and topped with a mountain of creamed rice. It was the first of the six carefully measured meals he eats daily off paper plates. He explained his strict diet in between large spoonfuls, sitting near a three-dimensional picture of a patriotic eagle as music speakers played Led Zeppelin.
After showing off a collection of wall-mounted medieval broadswords awarded as bodybuilding prizes, he jumped into his gleaming blue Hummer and drove to a gym in a Louisville industrial park.
“What I like most about it is you change your body. It’s like a metamorphosis or whatever. Your veins stick out, your muscle striations show, your body fat drops to like five percent,” said Bishop, who is 5‘6 tall and 166 pounds. “I’m not that big of a guy. So I have to go in kind of shredded. You know.”
Hundreds of competitors from different states and counties are expected at the 17th annual event at the Kentucky International Convention Center, which will include bodybuilding and figure competitions as well as powerlifting, arm wrestling and strongman events, promoter Brent Jones said.
Jones said the number of bodybuilders competing in 50-and-over age categories has increased in recent years, along with a growing number of women, though those older than 60 are still relatively small in number.
“They aren’t ready to be a traditional retiree,” he said.
It takes Bishop 10 weeks to prepare for these competitions. He pumps iron daily, does cardio, weighs meals of chicken and red potatoes to the ounce and drinks gallons of water. Forget eating out. He hasn’t had a Coke in 15 years.
“Believe me, I could down two dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts in two seconds flat,” he said.
Bishop said bodybuilding was in a heyday when he attended high school in Pleasure Ridge Park, graduating in 1971. One of his coaches was later featured in the influential 1977 documentary “Pumping Iron,” featuring the competition between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno for the title of Mr. Olympia.
After high school, Bishop unsuccessfully tried out for the Cincinnati Reds and spent six years in the Kentucky National Guard before working and traveling as a pipefitter and plumber. He left bodybuilding for years while raising kids, he said, but returned to competitions about 15 years ago.
On Friday, he’ll go to Kentucky Muscle for another spray tan. When it’s time to compete on Saturday, he will walk on stage and do a series of poses and flexes before judges and the crowd. His music of choice has varied from AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” to the band Imagine Dragons, he said.
Bishop’s girlfriend, 51-year-old Barbara Embry, has to become accustomed to the attention he gets, pretty uncommon for a senior.
“You have to be confident. Because they’re up there, and they look good. And they’re in their posing trunks. And women will say stuff,” she said. “Once we were coming out of our old gym and these young girls wolf-whistled at him.”
Bishop said he doesn’t use anabolic steroids, only a strict diet and workout regimen. But Embry hears about it when they’re out in public.
“I overhear comments all the time. ‘I know that guy’s on steroids.’” said Embry, who gets angered because she knows how hard he works.
Bishop will soon turn 66, said he plans to keep at it until injury sidelines him. He has seen men and women compete in their 70s.
Meantime, retirement means he’ll have more time to spend with his grandkids and do more projects around the house. On his list: Using a chainsaw to make a backyard sculpture of a bodybuilder out of the trunk of a dead box elder tree.
“People think I’m radical,” he said. “I’m just not satisfied with being a regular person.”