Paul Solotaroff, the guy with the pecs in the above photo, lived through the age of muscle, which on one notable occasion found our hero shimmying for horny Long Island women, his dick in a Star of David rayon sling.
The following is adapted from Solotaroff's memoir The Body Shop: Parties, Pills, and Pumping Iron — Or, My Life in the Age of Muscle.
I had nice lines from the navel up, but below it I had made the blunder of slacking my quads. He put me on a monster course of lunges and hack squats, upped my calorie load with a midnight meal, and prescribed a two-week blowout of "catch-up juice" to maximize my protein burn. Comprising daily bumps of Deca and test cyp and twenty-mil tabs of Anadrol, the cocktail did its dirty work, turning me into a rabid thing. Ravenous and speedy, I'd sleep four fitful hours, then bound out of bed at six a.m. like a tiger smelling a warthog in the brush. I'd run a fast mile to the Four Brothers Diner, wolf a five-egg omelet clotted with bacon, then do pull-ups and push-ups in Riverside Park before waking up Kate around eight. She lent herself drowsily to my pawing exertions, then asked me, after a week, to give her a break. "It's great that I turn you on, but I'm getting blisters," she caviled. "And what's with all these bruises on your ass?"
But the jump-off, as Angel called it, brought swift returns. In a fortnight, I'd added ten pounds of mass and at 197 was within hailing distance of that most mythical of numbers, 200. Some of this, he warned me, was water weight that would melt off when I cut the Anadrol, and despite the new ripple in my lower quads, I had "far, far to go" in symmetry. Still, he said he was pleased with my progress: I was "serious as cancer," his highest praise.
And so here I was now, needle in hand in the filth-daubed confines of the john, poised for a second blast of Deca that day to steel me for my debut three hours later. The suggestion, of course, was Angel's: said the bump would calm me, smooth the case of nerves I was sure to have. "It's hard, poppin' your cherry. I was scared out of my mind dancing for fifty chicas on Fordham Road," he told me. "They were feeling on my hips, goin' ‘Feed me, papi,' and sticking singles in my G-string with their teeth. I wished I'd had somebody teach me game back then, but the other dudes were, Fuck you. Sink or swim."
The greater cause for worry, though, was my mood of late, a loop-the-loop of sentiment and short-fuse fury. I belly-laughed at things that had left me stone-faced before, blurted out "I love you" during a scalp massage from Kate, and blew my stack without warning or cause, then walked away, rattled and confused. The teens that pushed in front of me boarding the M5 bus, whom I chased down the rear steps two blocks later; the couple across the hall who woke Kate up with their crash-bang fights at three a.m. and who had to phone the landlord for a new front door after I caved theirs in with a kick — the steroid bump turned me into the goon I now resembled, seized by emotions I could only convey through big, teary hugs and property damage.
We got to the gig after nine that night, an hour-plus late and in ill humor. There were twenty women, minimum, in the big room on our left when we passed through on our way down to the basement. Most, as I learned later, had been drinking since seven, and Teresa, whose bridal shower and house this was, needed to throw the bolt on the cellar door to prevent their following us down. We could hear them through the ceiling, though, stamping their feet and chanting "We want men!" in giggly chorus. "That's what you get for being late," said Teresa, who was both sizzled and furious. A tall brunette with a metallic tan and the full efflorescence of Nass-ore County in every contentious vowel, she had her arms folded as she read us the riot act on the sanctity of Her Night. "This is the one and only toym I plan on getting married, and yuh not walkin' in heah to savatawge me on the week of my joyous occasion. To troy to make this up, you're gonna work an extra owuh, and tough to whoevuh you're sposedta go to next. And anothuh thing: I want you to be extra-special noyce to all my valued friends. They work hahd fuh their money and spent a lot to make me happy, so get up there, chop-chop, and make me happy!"
Tommy tried to argue, citing the outbound traffic, but Teresa, who said she dealt with liars all day as a sportswear buyer for Gimbels, wouldn't grant a word in edgewise. So up we went, not lions but lambs, trooping in in our thoroughly moot disguises. (Our cover as Con Ed men had been fatally breached when the woman who let us in yelled, "We got beef !") There were open bottles of wine on the white credenza, others sitting empty on the coffee table, and at least two joints going around the room, neither of which were doing us any favors. A thicket of hands came at us as we entered the room, sampling our rumps like fabric. I looked at Tommy, who swerved matador-style, trying to save his honor with fake cheer. "Easy there, ladies! You'll get plenty of chances later. Whoa, baby, the show hasn't even started." We huddled by the bench of the grand piano.
"Holy shit," he said. "This is out of control. How do we —"
"There's no space," hissed Spiro. "I got no room to dance. I fall on one of these chicks, they go after my father. Sue him for his diner and his house."
"Man, later for that. Just guard your fuckin' nuts — this is survival mode."
Agitated before, I was panicked now, my heartbeat kicking the bassdrum opener of Zeppelin's "D'yer Mak'er." My breathing galloped, short sips of air that didn't seem to make it to my lungs. Tommy was talking fast, but I — dizzy and damp-palmed, panting hard — barely made him out. He had an eight-track in his hand, the Isleys' "The Heat Is On," and was shouting at the woman in charge of the music to something-something play the something-something. But there was a record on already that the girls were wild to hear, and when he handed her our set list, she stuffed it in her pocket and shout-sang in unison with the thirty or so women the words of the tune being played. "These boots are made for walking, and that's just what they'll do, one of these days these boots are gonna WALK ALL OVER YOU!" Tommy turned to Teresa for guidance. "What am I, your choreographuh?" she cried. "Shtrip! Take those pants off, damn it!"
Bumblingly, then, with no fanfare or stagecraft, we began doffing socks and boots. We were bunched, like Custer's men, in a cul-de-sac, our backs against the piano bench, our left and right flanks blocked by women. Spiro asked them nicely to sit down, please, but only a handful obliged. Others saw an opening and pressed in closer, the scent of their posh perfume and cigarette smoke commingling with the musk of supermarket wine to create, if you will, confetti for the nose, a bouquet to the enhanced male form. I grabbed Tommy's arm to stay upright.
"What? " he said, looking frenzied himself. "I thought your people had class."
"Would you stop?" I croaked. "I-I'm really freaking out here. I need to go to the john and be —"
"You do and I'll beat your ass!" he seethed. "Don't you try pulling that tonight!"
He turned to face the crowd, mounted a crooked grin, and picked his way to the center of the room. Spiro bent toward me and, in an act of mercy, gave my arm a squeeze. "I don't like Scotch, but we are drinking hard stuff when we done. Meantime, do what I do." I staggered behind him, feeling a bit less stricken.
Tommy got the crowd to hush and the woman minding the music to turn it down. "Ladies, I know we're late and you kinda started without us, but we're gonna stay till each of you gets their . . . doors blown." He gave the two words a pelvic tilt and dropped his work-suit zipper to his waist. "I personally see loads of you I wanna throw a private show, including, of course, the gorgeous Tina herself —"
"It's Teresa," snapped the bride-to-be.
"As how can I forget?" He avoided her gaze, taking his zipper down to bare his thong. "But ladies, we need your help to make this a great show. We need you to all take five steps back and form a big V. Or a C. Whatever."
The women took three steps back, formed a polyhedron, and started a rhythmic clap. Tommy reeled us in and called an audible. "These chicks don't want to hear schvartzes from Teaneck sing about 'Fight the Power,'" he said. "Just follow my lead for three or four numbers, and then, when their panties're moist, we'll give 'em the finale."
I heard my heart again. "What finale? You told me to —"
He pulled away gruffly, said something to Spiro, and asked the friend in charge to start the record. "Um, the first song's not real with-it," she said. "You've got Nancy doing ‘As Tears Go By.'"
"Nope," he said. "No good. What's after that?"
"Um, let's see . . . Oh, 'Day Tripper'! Now, that she really gets down on."
"Perfect!" he said, with a note of evil. "Nancy Sinatra rocks out!"
And on it came, with high hat and horns: Frank's daughter burying the Beatles in a Vegas grave. To polyester chords and the blat! of a trombone, Tommy tugged his zipper the rest of the way down and let the work suit shimmy to the floor. In a stars-and-stripes thong, he did a medley of sixties dances, milling his arms in front of him to the Frug. "She's a big teaser," he mouthed, tossing his head. "She took me half the way there, now."
Spiro fell in with him, and I slid to Tommy's left, my soft tissue as taut as guy wire. After weeks of practice with a funk-soul groove, I was way off-kilter with Nancy's oompah cover and got so bollixed trying to find the beat that I clean forgot to strip as I went along. Several guests pointed this out to Tommy, who danced up on me and made a joke of nudging my zipper down. I was aghast, but he'd hit on something: the women yelled as the bit wore on. He went and stood behind me while he peeled my work suit off, adding a gay-sex hump gag just for laughs. This killed with the crowd, as did the G-string Angel had made me: a big blue Star of David on a bone white field.
"That's right!" barked Tommy over "It Ain't Me Babe." "Paulie's Jewish, ladies — and verrry single!"
I'd all but stopped dancing now, stump-legged with shame, but the women seemed not to care. They bunny-hopped in place, blowing kisses and throwing money. Tommy spun me around, bellowing, "Shake it for the shekels! Show 'em you put the he back in He-brew!"
Wooden and unwilling, I twitched a circle with my ass.
"More!" cried Tommy, whipping his arms. "Do it like I showed you — move it faster!"
A chant sprang up now. "Faster! Faster!"
"Put the pedal to the shtetl!" one girl hollered.
I glanced over my shoulder. The place was bedlam, a dense throng of shul-going daughters and sisters shouting like the sidemen at a fight. Several were barely upright, staggering against their friends. Others tossed their heads back or clinked cocktail glasses, spilling wine coolers on the expensive rug that, like everything else in sight, was snowflake white. There were late-arriving guests in the narrow hall, a couple of them shrieking "oohwuh-ooh"; two teenage girls hopping up and down; and somewhere in the back a woman standing apart, looking as if she might begin to cry. The song, in all its bebop kitsch, ended with a sax salute. Tommy pointed at the floor around me. It was littered with crumpled cash.
"And now," he cried as I bent to scoop, "who here knows the words to 'Hava Nagilah'?"
Reprinted from the book The Body Shop by Paul Solotaroff, with permission of Little, Brown and Company. Copyright © 2010 by Paul Solotaroff. All rights reserved. Paul Solotaroff is a contributing editor at Men's Journal and Rolling Stone. He has written features for Vanity Fair, GQ, Vogue, and the New York Times Magazine, and he was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2004. His work has been included in Best American Sports Writing. The author of two books, Group and The House of Purple Hearts, he lives in New York City.