As a part of a beachfront movement, Muscle Beach emerges south of the Santa Monica Pier due to a combination of events that converges to increase the popularity of the city “park” that began in the 1920’s as a children’s playground operated by the Santa Monica Recreation & Parks Department.
It is during the transition years of the late 1930’s into the early 1940’s that the site becomes known as a place where gymnasts, stunt people, wrestlers, acrobats, circus performers, weightlifters and even Hollywood celebrities can all be seen on any given weekend. The evolution of the site earns the fame and allure as the world’s “Muscle Beach.”
Muscle Beach regulars like Vic Tanny, Joe Gold (Gold’s Gym – World Gym), Jack Lalanne, Harold Zinkin and others start a revolution in the world of health and bodybuilding.
WWII soldiers discover the beach while stationed in Los Angeles during tours from around the nation. The magnetic attraction and retention of the beach park also makes it a destination for more weightlifters who often bring their own barbells and dumbbells to work out with.
In the 1940s and ’50s, the Original Muscle Beach was the absolute center of the fitness universe.
Local athletes and influencers, Les and Pudgy Stockton open up one of the first, “women’s only” health clubs in the world. The next year, Deforrest “Moe” Most, a local acrobat who’d been there since day one organizes the very first Mr. Muscle Beach contest, soon to be followed by Mrs. Muscle Beach.
The idea of men and women down at the beach showing off their stunning physiques and professional-level athletic talents made some folks cringe.
After an accident involving a young boy, the Santa Monica City Council sees a way to get rid of Muscle Beach, which the conservative town has long considered a nuisance. By now, some bodybuilders have already began to move 2 miles south to the Venice Beach “Weight Pen” which eventually becomes known as today’s “Muscle Beach Venice”.
End of an Era.
The official story is that five weightlifters are found with several underage girls partying in an apartment directly adjacent to Muscle Beach. Though no one is ever charged or convicted, the gymnastics platform and weightlifting shed are bulldozed overnight. Original denizens of the site continue to come down and conduct gymnastics at the exact location for decades to follow.
During the renovation of the Santa Monica Pier area, the city decides to restructure the area and give it a new fitness cut. The structures with bars and rings are rebuilt, but the main focus is on the children’s fitness area. The City of Santa Monica officially rededicates the original Muscle Beach.
Santa Monica restores and unveils a new redesigned Muscle Beach as it was built in the early 1930s..