Better Bodies, Better Life
“The mirror is not you. The mirror is you looking at yourself.” George Balanchine
“What you need to do is get that tape measure out, and start measuring that gut. Then you start working out, and you start eating properly till that gut gets down close to it was when you were in your 20s. Then you’ll find out what your weight should be.” Jack Lalanne
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“We all possess capabilities beyond our reality.” Charlotte Pendragon
Back in the ’70s and '80s, R.J.’s for Ribs, an exclusive Beverly Hills restaurant, was known more for its giant portions of food rather than quality, but all the same, it attracted the rich and famous in Hollywood. We met the owner, Bob Morris when he hired Jonathan to perform restaurant table magic at one of his other food establishments, Gladstone’s 4 Fish, in Pacific Palisades, where Jonathan’s good friend Jason Randall also performed close-up magic. Jonathan and I had developed a good relationship with Bob, and throughout the decade of the 80s, Morris booked our illusion show for private events. It's through Jason, whom Bob treated like a son, that we met him. Jason and his wife Kristine were close to Morris, and Kristine worked as a server at R.J.’s during the late ’70s and early ’80s, serving the well-known Hollywood in-crowd. Often, she’d engage in friendly conversation with many …and sometimes not so warm, like when Arnold Schwarzenegger and his fiancé Maria Shriver came into the restaurant and sat at one of her tables. R.J.’s was known for its ribs and oversized chocolate cake, which I loved and never missed having when I visited. Kristine wanted to impress Arnold because of Jason’s love for fitness and bodybuilding. Everything was going well, and they ended their meal that evening by ordering cake for dessert. After serving it, Arnold motioned Kristine over to the table and asked her to sniff it because, to him, it smelled rancid. A concerned Kristine bent down to do so when Arnold played a practical joke on her and shoved her face into the giant-sized slice of cake. As Arnold and Maria laughed at the incident, Kristine, wiping cake off her face, said, “I better get a good tip for that.” No extra tip for the humiliation, and the chance for her to introduce Jason to Arnold gone. But tides change, and one night, the King of the Muscle Empire, Joe Weider, sat in her section. She was apprehensive because of the previous experience with Arnold, so she didn't immediately warm up to Joe. But she found in Joe, a very kind man who was interested in meeting Jason and encouraged her interest in the sport and offered her an opportunity to be a guest writer for his widespread magazine Muscle and Fitness. It was through my friend Kristine that I met the sport of Bodybuilding.
At home, Kristine delved into back issues of Muscle and Fitness magazines stacked up in the corner of their Marina Del Rey apartment, doing research for her article. As she observed the beautiful bodies presented by many of the female contestants in the brand-new sport of Women’s Bodybuilding, she thought of me because of my dance and athletic background, thinking I’d be a perfect match for this sport. As an aspiring photographer, Kristine contacted me for a photo session. She wanted to take photos of me to show her new friend Joe and the staff at Muscle and Fitness magazine. I am not sure I would have been interested in bodybuilding except for Kristine‘s excitement and encouragement to try it out. She drove me out to Joe Weider‘s in Woodland Hills. Upon entering his luxurious office, I was first met by Susan Fry, who assisted him. Then, I was introduced to Joe Weider, who welcomed me with warmth and friendliness before I changed into a bikini for critique. Both Weider and Susan highly encouraged me to participate in the sport after observing my body type represented what the magazine preferred to promote. So the next day, I went with Kristine to my first workout at Gold’s Gym in Venice Beach, where all the big-name muscled bodybuilders spent their workout time. This is where I met guys like Casey Viator, Rachel McLish, and Chris Dickerson, all three sports champions. They all became my friends and motivated me to participate thoughtfully in the sport. Rachel, whose goddess-like physique with a face to match graced the covers of magazines at grocery store newsstands nationwide, attracted thousands of women to enter the sport. Here I was, meeting her in person and not knowing her influence as she told me I reminded her of herself. Inspired by what she had accomplished with her body and mind, I decided that day I would engage in bodybuilding. If not to compete but to improve my physique for stage performances.
Jonathan and I became regulars at the gym as workout partners, improving our physical appearance and following a bodybuilding lifestyle at home, where we changed our food habits to support our eventual transformations. Like an intense magnet, bodybuilding pulled me in, and I signed up to compete in my first bodybuilding contest, The California Gold Cup, held ironically at Jonathan’s high school alma mater auditorium at Fullerton High School in Fullerton. As a complete novice who had only been working out for about three months, I placed third among about 30 contestants. Mostly, I received accolades from those who had made bodybuilding their career, like writer and photographer Steve Wennerstrom, who interviewed me following the show and featured me in Muscle Training Illustrated magazine, an industry publication. In a few months, I was swept up into the fitness subculture, becoming a model for popular fitness publications like Muscle & Fitness, Flex, Strength Training For Beauty, and Muscle Training Illustrated, among others. The titles of the articles fit the look I’d created... The Perfect Body, Magic Muscle Metamorphosis, Stretching For a Better Flex described in a 2015 article by Steve about me at the height of my fitness days. During that time, Jonathan and I were still Jonathan and Char, so I was known in bodybuilding circles in those early days as Charlotte Yarbrough- my married name. Just so the reader isn’t confused when reading Steve’s article.
Link here https://tinyurl.com/yr3cbx8n
One contest led to another, and the next time I competed, it was at the Anaheim Convention Center for the Bodybuilding Expo III, where I placed first in the lightweight class along with Cory Everson, who would someday win Ms.Olympia placed 1st in the heavyweight class. I also competed in the couples with my partner Mike Sable, in which we won first place. Cory and her husband placed second. So, I can honestly claim I placed higher than Ms.Olympia at one time. Cory’s body was similar to mine, except she was much taller and had more prominent bones. But we shared symmetrical-looking physiques. At this event, Including befriending Cory, I met two lifelong friends, Brooks Wachtel and Heidi Miller.
Brooks was a photographer at the Expo, and Heidi was a judge. I noticed Brooks because I’d seen him at the Magic Castle, where he was a member, but I’d never been introduced to him. Heidi and I made our acquaintance after the show. I remember walking up to Brooks and saying, “Hi, I’ve seen you at the Castle. I’m Charlotte.” He responded by introducing himself, and we chatted for about an hour that day. I found Brooks intriguing because besides being a magician and magic enthusiast, he was also a photographer, filmmaker, Emmy-winning writer, graphic artist, and cartoonist, among other things. We arranged for a photo shoot at his friend’s studio in Hollywood. I think it was Hollywood. I can’t recall the exact location because I have done numerous photo shoots with Brooks throughout the years, and I’ve posted a few favorites here. One of the opportunities I had through Brooks was appearing as a guest on the Jack LaLanne Show - a successful show from 1951 to 1985. I remember how in awe I was of him because I’d only seen him on TV, and he was a regular in our living room since I can remember from the time I was a toddler.
“I have always loved photography and studied lighting and composition and was fortunate to have friends with studios.
At the very dawn of woman’s bodybuilding I’d been approached by a gentleman who had been selling photos of a lady body-builder he represented and wanted to go into business with me. I’d shoot and he’d sell. Sadly, he passed away unexpectedly.
I loved the idea of photographing fitness ladies. It combined glamor photography with my love of strong women. I was fortunate to start with the best … Charlotte Pendragon.
We did that first shoot at a friend’s studio and, I believe, it was your first body-building studio shoot. I still love the results.
Later shoots were more polished.
Charlotte, you are so easy to photograph; the camera loves you, you hit poses like the consummate pro you are and make life exceedingly easy for the person behind the lens.
We later shot not only bodybuilding shots, but, with Johnathan, publicity and promotional shots for the Pendragons.
Thank you for some of my fondest memories in photography.” Brooks Wachtel
My Mom used to watch him and follow his exercise program. I think of my TV appearances; my Mom was most excited about this one on the LaLanne Show. When Jack discussed fitness, he was direct and to the point. I asked him about his eating habits, and I was told, “Fill a plate of food with what you normally eat and cut it in half.” Practical, easy-to-follow advice. I didn’t see him again for years until I lived on the coast and ran into him at the Avila Beach Club, where he read the daily paper and worked out. He also liked socializing, so he spent about 30 minutes talking to me. He said he remembered me, but he may have been being polite. But, he was a good friend of Brooks so we had that friendship in common. It was Brooks who recommended me as a guest on his show. What amazed me most about Jack was that he was in his late 80s and worked out that day like he was in his 30s. Fitness was his life, and his life was fitness.
After the Bodybuilding Expo III, I was excited to receive positive responses from seasoned professionals in the business. Still, it wasn’t until the completion of the contest I met Heidi Miller, one of the judges that day and a highly-ranked bodybuilder herself. I can’t precisely remember the moments we met, but I recall Heidi’s exuberant encouraging personality. She was very approachable; she complimented my presentation that day and was excited to have me competing in the sport. We were instant friends, sharing the same goals in the sport. We both wanted women to create a feminine physique promoting qualities that uniquely make a woman by using bodybuilding exercises. It was the late 70’s and early 80’s, and women’s bodybuilder was in its infancy and without a rudder. So there were those guiding the direction of the new sport towards focusing on the essence of femininity in the sport and those enthusiasts who took a more muscular approach—eventually, the sport fractured into two directions. The more classical ladies with a feminine athletic physique enter physique contests, and the hard-core bodybuilder women enter the bodybuilding muscle contest. Heidi and I agreed, and we championed the feminine physiques exhibited through the sports bodies, which muscle building enhanced the sensuality of their look. Our philosophy was chorused by others in the sport who preceded us, the most notable being Joe Weider, whose magazine Muscle and Fitness was a household name. The magazine's popularity can be partially attributed to Joe encouraging a classic athletic female body type. But at the end of the day, bodybuilding is all about packing lots of muscle. The muscle-builders won that race. That can be seen by just perusing the current bodybuilding periodicals.
I was in the right place at the right time in history for magic and bodybuilding. The late 70s was a unique period for women in history. Participating in two male-dominating activities, in some ways, gave me an edge. The ladies in magic before me were glamorous and well-coiffed. The ———-Pendragon’s style presented it was impossible to keep up this impeccable look. I need freedom in my performing to most fast without restrictions. A perfect hairdo and nails only interrupted my process. Also, I was going through a few expensive fishnet tights a week! At one show, Bill Dobbins, writer, and photographer at Muscle and Fitness magazine suggested I not wear tights because my legs spoke for themselves. The fishnet tights were only covering up their natural beauty. Although it is standard in sports for women to bare legs and feet, that's not do got most stage performers. When I spotted bare legs in a magic show for the first time, it was immediately applauded by my peers. However, it was not without criticism by those motivated by envy. The naysayers were soon silenced by the success of my minimalist stage look, which became my signature or footprint, still copied today. That was the crossroad in my career - when magic and bodysculpting intersected. Combined, they gave me a powerful stage identity.
One of my next contests was a national contest - the USA held in Las Vegas at Caesars Palace. Jonathan and I had been on tour abroad, so I left early to prepare and enter the contest, and he joined me later. This was my very first national contest, and I stayed at the home of the parents of close friends of mine, Dr. Nelson Lassiter and his wife Karen, who gave me much moral support because success in competing in athletic events can often be attributed to your psyche. Staying with them gave me the confidence I needed, which helped earn me 4th place in that contest in which my friend Heidi competed alongside me. With so many outstanding contestants, I was thrilled to place so high. What I remember most, though, and found most endearing was the camaraderie between contestants. Besides Heidi, several other of these gals remain my friends today. One time several of us got together was on the set of ice Pirates where we all played roles a movie. Jonathan was the stunt coordinator for Ice Pirates, starring Robert Urich. The script called for about a half dozen well-sculpted women to play roles in the film. He looked no further than myself and the women, and I had made acquaintances. Heidi and I, of course, were two of his ladies. Ice Pirates is still available for viewing with a quick Google search. In that film, I got to wrap my leg around Urich’s neck. This was not the first time I had worked with Robert. He was the host of the show Houdini Unlocking the Secrets, which I talked about in one of my previous articles
Link here https://tinyurl.com/mww2c8y4
“Bodybuilding in the 1980’s was inspiring. Fit, interesting, intelligent women all together for the love of fitness. Charlotte was one of the competitors I remember fondly for her grace, symmetry and dedication. Always kind & supportive. We were in a movie ICE PIRATES in the 1980’s and were chosen for our look of strength and beauty. Our friendships have lasted 40 years now. Distance may keep us from seeing each other regularly but our bond is everlasting. I remember Charlotte for her natural beauty, grace and personal style. “ Fitness like friendships are lifelong habits. Stay close to both “ Heidi Miller
Those days were a whirlwind as I tried to balance my successful growing magic career with bodybuilding competitions. I mentioned earlier the influence bodybuilding had over my stage style and vice versa. I’d bring magical moments to my competitions by employing the same magical magnetism of my stage persona in my bodybuilding routines. I was a successful entertainer, so my engaging lifestyle often brought publicity opportunities. For example, when I competed in Las Vegas at Caesar’s Palace, I was featured in an article about the competition for The Las Vegas Review-Journal. Bodybuilding for women was in its infancy, so I rose through the ranks fast. Believe it or not, I stopped competing because one summer, while preparing for an essential national contest, we were touring Europe by car, starting in Vienna, Austria, traveling through the Swiss Alps to the French Riviera, and ending in Spain, where I decided it was better for my soul to enjoy our magical tour than to compete in another contest. Of course, Viennese chocolates, Swiss fondue, French crepes, and Spanish paella were not part of a bodybuilder’s competition diet, so the once-in-a-lifetime travel experience won my heart.
I never regretted my decision to chose the European tour because, during past trips abroad, performing magic while competing was a challenge. This was my typical day: Morning 8:00 to 9:00 morning stretching, yoga, and or pilates. 9:00 to 11:00, eat, shower, and complete work around the house. 11:00 to 2:00 workout at the gym, including one hour of aerobic training followed by lunch and a few hours for errands, etc. In the evenings, we usually performed, but on our non-performance days, we’d work out for two more hours—usually a swim and weight workout followed by a sauna. On our performance days, we would often work out following our show. I remember performing at Trump's Castle in Atlantic City, getting my aerobic exercise by climbing stairs between shows. And in Las Vegas, working out from midnight until 2 a.m. in one of the all-night gyms. If you try to fit that in while also touring, you find no time for recreation, which is a vital role in life. So, bodybuilding as a competitive sport was all-consuming for me. After that summer in Europe, although I stopped competing, I continued to exercise in bodybuilding to retain my physique.
When I returned from Europe, I attended the Ms. America Contest, which would have been my first professional contest. I was supposed to compete and expected to do well, so going was a little bittersweet. Although the trade-off to spend the time of my life in Europe was well worth the sacrifice of not entering the contest, the bittersweetness didn't last long once the contest began. As I watched the contest, I noticed how many women I had competed against just months before this event had gained an unusual amount of muscle mass. The sport of Bodybuilding is about sculpting your body by adding extra muscle symmetrically to your entire physique. For me, my goal was to design a lean, muscular, sexy body to complement a woman’s feminine anatomy. Until then, most of the women I knew shared my goals, but on that day at the Ms. America contest, something changed. The women's bodies placed higher that day were far more muscular than I wanted to take myself. Had I entered that contest by giving up the fun I had in Europe, I would have been deeply disappointed. I commented to one of the ladies, a friend of mine, about the quick increase in muscle size. I received the same answer from her as from several of the other contestants I knew, and that she was on a new eating, nutrition, and workout program. I didn’t mention to any of them I also noticed their new masculinized faces. No one wanted to own up to taking sports-enhancement drugs. So, for me, it became a waste to spend my time on preparation for these contests. That's when I left competitive bodybuilding, but I continued my fitness regime because it was part of my lifestyle, and I enjoyed my workouts more because the fitness lifestyle I led improved my overall wellness.
There was another side of bodybuilding during those days. Although the sport improved my well-being, before competitions the dieting was extreme. The goal is to eat and exercise in a way to lose as much fat before a contest so your muscles are displayed serrated and cut. If you eat the wrong food like too many carbohydrates right before a contest the muscles will lose their detail and appear smooth and bloated. As a competitor you learn what foods will affect your shape. You become a scientist of your own body. For instance tomatoes contain enough salt that eating one can add enough water to bloat your muscles, smoothing out the needed cuts to win a contest. So foods like tomatoes are not eaten. Fat is also an enemy so I was left eating salads and meat except for a small amounts of potatoes or rice. Like many other female bodybuilders during preparation for competition my diet disrupted my menstrual functions and caused me to lose my breasts. Once I stopped competing my body functions returned to normal. Menstrual dysfunctions aren’t exclusive to bodybuilding, it’s experienced by women athletes in other sports as well. It comes with the territory for those making the decision whether to compete or not compete.
Ultimately I took away with me from bodybuilding good things - a better body, a new healthy based lifestyle and most important understanding first hand the importance of utilizing mind over body. I may have increased the overall muscularity and strength of my body but ultimately my mind is what became stronger. I learned from this sport the true meaning of mind over matter. We all possess capabilities beyond our reality. The human potential is greater than we can imagine.
Follow your dreams within God’s will , and believe in yourself. The sky is the limit.
Thanks for reading The Charlotte Pendragon Diaries by Charlotte Pendragon ! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.