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Life’s A Beach

Dan Lurie and Steve Michalik Bring Old School Bodybuilding to Long Island When the sport of bodybuilding was first beginning to make some noise in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the breeding ground for ...

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Dan Lurie and Steve Michalik Bring Old School Bodybuilding to Long Island

When the sport of bodybuilding was first beginning to make some noise in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the breeding ground for the athletes was none other than southern California. A place called Muscle Beach (originally located in Santa Monica but then later moved to Venice) was a public sideshow that morphed from acrobatic maneuvers to weightlifting exhibitions.

'The Platform' and 'The Pit' became synonymous with the early pioneers of the sport and outdoor bodybuilding contests were commonplace. The sand, sun, a stage and an enthusiastic crowd enjoyed many a contest in those days and the nostalgic feeing was not lost on two of the legendary names in bodybuilding.

Fast forward to 2008 and Steve Michalik, who gained renowned popularity by being named the 1971 Mr. USA, 1972 Mr. America and 1975 Mr. Universe, spoke to his good friend Dan Lurie, who has been one of the all-time greats of the sport of bodybuilding since the 1940s.

"The idea for this [show] started when I was living in out in Los Angeles and training with Arnold Schwarzenegger," said Michalik, who also emceed the event. "I said to Dan, 'This would be a great idea to do it over here.' And he said, 'Let's do it.'"

Last summer, the inaugural Mr. And Mrs. Jones Beach USA contest was held and was an enormous success. All proceeds went to the United Cerebral Palsy charity and the overall winners were Steven Pecora (Men's Overall, Tall and 40+ champion) and Glenda Bozett (Women's Overall). Alan Feldman took the Men's Masters 50+ title while Dorian Feleppa was named the Miss Swimsuit Bikini champion.

During the show, the announcement was made that the event was going to be an annual one. That promise came through on August 9 when Long Island's most famous stretch of sand and sea became Muscle Beach East for the second consecutive summer. In addition to the UCPN, the Long Island 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer also reaped the benefits from this fundraiser. An overcast morning during the prejudging did not dampen any of the competitors desire to get the crowd going during the finals. The sun even came through for a good portion of the afternoon, which also included martial arts exhibitions and a salsa band during the intermission.

Pecora did not compete but was a guest poser and one of the judges, who also included some big names in the industry such as Anibal Lopez, Leon Brown and Mario Strong. Pecora, 45, has been on a roll since winning here last year and is looking to earn his pro card soon.

He and his fellow constituents at the judge's table had their work cut out for them. This year's crop of contestants made placing them extremely difficult. Bozett, 44, came in looking conditioned once again and was the right choice to repeat.

It wasn't as cut and dry in the Men's division. Jim Caruso, who is a retired member of the NYPD, won the Men's Overall and Masters 50+. Once he decided to get in shape after getting up to "328 pounds of blubber," Caruso came full circle with this victory. A former competitive bodybuilder during his 20s, he went to Michalik for advice in how to turn back the clock.

Traveling from his home in upstate, New York, Caruso made the trek down to The Island at least two times per week to train with the former Mr. America. An elated Caruso went to one knee when his name was announced as the overall winner and he spoke about the surprise of getting that far after the show.

"I was happy with winning the 50+," he said. "I never expected to win the overall, too. Even if I win the Mr. Universe contest tomorrow, I will always cherish this win the most." Caruso added that he would not defend his title next year, choosing to give the opportunity to someone else.

The top three in each division were as follows:

1 -James Hopkins, 2- David Kantrowitz, 3 - Matt Votta
1 - Jose Monge, 2 - Tony Viglietta, 3 - John Solazzo
1 - Jim Caruso, 2- Ira Mlawer, 3 - Alan Feldman
1 - Roger Sigoda, 2 - Rusty Russo
Harry Reiter (91 years old)
Rusty Russo (three-time cancer survivor)
1- Glenda Bozett
1 - Dina Williams
1 - Alex Groumbas, 2 - Ira Mlawer, 3 - Erik Callendar
1 - William Neco, 2 - Greg Hellman, 3 - James Hopkins
(light heavyweight)
1 - Victor Marte, 2 - Donald Perceval
1 - Jim Caruso, 2 - Tony Viglietta
1 - Dina Williams, 2 - Selena Liotta, 3 - Tara Sgroi
Steve Calabrese
Erik Callendar
Glenda Bozett
Jim Caruso