The day Lee Haney saved Rich Gaspari’s life

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After his first Mr. Olympia contest in 1983 where Lee Haney placed second to Samir Bannout, Haney decided to devote the next year exclusively towards training for the 1984 Mr Olympia, which would take place later that year in New York. At the same time, the then 21 year old Rich Gaspari was gearing up for the NPC Nationals and the IFBB World Amateur Championships. Rich had moved to California that year and ended up training with Haney. Gaspari even lived with Lee and his wife Shirley for a period of time in Woodland Hills near Weider headquarters when he first moved from New Jersey to California. Haney and Gaspari became good friends as well as training partners. Lee describes Gaspari’s intensity in the gym as “out of this world” and considers him one of the best training partners he’s ever had. According to Lee, “If you knew anything about Rich, it was that he was intense, from bodybuilding to business. He always wins or he’ll find a way to win”.

Haney felt that, as far as the Mr. Olympia was concerned, Rich had some of the least genetic gifts bodybuilding-wise but that he had the biggest heart and the most determination. Concerning Rich’s intensity, Lee claims that Rich was not a nice guy in the gym and if you got in his way he’d say “Get away from here, bum! Move out of the way!” Lee would offer Rich advice, “You can’t do that, you’ve got to calm down a little bit.” Regarding Rich’s disposition Haney offer that “He’s got that Italian blood, he’s always wired. He had a job to do and a vision and he let nobody get in his way”. Sometimes that attitude could lead to trouble.

One evening Lee goes to his gym, ready to train. He walks into a crowd of big gentlemen at the gym who are stirred up about something. Lee asks what’s up and they inform him that they’re talking about Lee’s training partner, Rich Gaspari. The first thing out of Lee’s mouth is ” What did he do now?” They proceed to inform Lee that they’re “going to get him this evening” because they’re tired of the way he talks to people and they’re going to put an end to it. Haney tries to diffuse the situation, “Look guys, don’t beat him up. He’s just a kid. Let me talk to him. Give me a chance”. “You’d better talk to him ’cause, if not, it’s going to be ‘it’ for him”, was their swift reply.

Lee attributes his own diplomacy for sparing Rich from a beat down. Rich didn’t even know the incident ever took place until Haney mentioned it at the 2014 “Legends” seminar. Although not mentioning the gym members animosity towards Rich at the time when it happened in 1984, Lee did advise him at that time to change the way that he communicated. “When you’re at the gym, you’re not the only one there, so you have to use diplomacy. You’ve got to be courteous. If not, that’s not only going to impact you at the gym but its going to impact your business life because it’s your fans and the people that like you that will buy your products.”

According to Lee, his advice changed Rich’s whole mind set, “If you look at the Rich now compared to the Rich back then, its two different people.” Lee jokes, “Still, somewhere inside of him lurks a monster. He just knows how to control himself better.”

Rich Gaspari formed Gaspari nutrition in 2001 and in March 2014 his first book “51 DAYS NO EXCUSES” was published by Dunham Books. The book is more than a diet and exercise guide. It features stories of overcoming personal obstacles by Rich himself as well as “tips and insights on how to let go of excuses and start transforming”.

About Yegor Khzokhlachev 820 Articles
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