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Suit: Muscle Guru Messed With Wrong Body

Joe Weider is accused of using someone else's torso in his logo without permission.

March 08, 2005|Melinda Fulmer | Times Staff Writer

Did the godfather of muscle magazines use a body double?

A former Mr. Universe, Robby Robinson, has filed a lawsuit claiming that Joe Weider is passing off Robinson's spectacularly beefy body as his own in the corporate logo for the Weider publishing and sales empire.

The suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court says that when Robinson, known as the Black Prince, posed for a sculpture in 1977, he believed his pectoral-rippling likeness would be erected as a monument to strength training in Weider's corporate headquarters in Woodland Hills.

When the bronze was unveiled, the suit says, "pride turned to humiliation" as Robinson realized that it wasn't his head crowning the torso, but Weider's.

The statue served as the model for the corporate logo that has been pasted on supplement and equipment advertising and in several of the seven magazines Weider founded. (In 2002, Weider sold his magazines, including Flex, Muscle & Fitness and Shape, for $350 million to American Media Corp., the Boca Raton, Fla.-based company that owns the National Enquirer. The purchase didn't include Weider Nutrition International Inc., a vitamin and nutritional supplement business.)

"His image has become the brand of Weider Publications and Weider Health," said L. Douglas Brown, Robinson's Los Angeles attorney.

His client, Brown said, never signed a release form that would have permitted his upper body to have been used as it has been by the defendant.

Robinson, who recently retired, didn't go to court until now because he feared "retaliatory exclusion from professional bodybuilding competition."

Weider -- who discovered Arnold Schwarzenegger at a bodybuilding contest in Europe in the 1960s and brought him to the U.S. -- is a weighty figure in the industry, sponsoring many competitions.

In a 1989 interview with The Times, Weider acknowledged that the muscles of the sculpture's torso were modeled after Robinson, whose shoulders and arms are famously sizable.

But Weider spokeswoman Charlotte Parker said that the suit, which seeks damages of an unspecified amount, had no merit and that Weider would vigorously defend himself.

"Joe is saddened by this suit," she said, "especially in light of all he's done to create an industry so people like Mr. Robinson could have a career."

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