Worlds to Conquer – A NEVER Authorized Blemished Biography
"Chris Le Claire had and has no permission or authorization to claim Stephen approved his book.” – Deborah Reeves Stewart, 2018
Out of the Gate
“Tell Chris LeClaire that if he doesn’t make these changes to the book, I am not going to authorize it.” Those were the exact words Steve Reeves told me in late April 2000 after he and his long-time companion Deborah Reeves Stewart finished reviewing a printed copy of Chris LeClaire’s First Edition book, Worlds to Conquer (WTC). Back then I knew Steve was irritably upset by what he had just reviewed. I had been around Steve numerous times over the years and witnessed his moods, but never before had I seen him so mad until this episode.
In addition to the errors in spelling, grammar, facts, dates, etc. that Steve and Deborah flagged, Steve was quite bothered by how his father and family relationships were portrayed. As Steve told me, “He (Chris) totally misinterpreted what I told him, and I am so bothered by what I just read. I want this book fixed NOW so it’s accurate!” Steve had also told me he didn’t approve of the cover because his left bicep was cut off.
As always, I did what Steve asked and phoned the author telling him about the necessary changes that needed fixing for final authorization. To my surprise, LeClaire told me, in so many words, he wasn’t going to change a word in the book. He claimed his information and sources were accurate. Again, I reiterated that if you don’t make the changes, no final approval. But the threat didn’t seem to phase him.
Considering how Steve and Deborah were so generous to Chris during the book’s development in the 1990s, his attitude about not making the required changes at Reeves’ request was mind boggling. Conversely, whenever Steve asked me to change something in the SRIS newsletters, Classic Physique Magazine, or his book, Building the Classic Physique, I immediately obliged. And, I always appreciated Steve’s approval before any of my publications were released because it gave me comfort and confidence the information was correct.
I soon contacted Deborah about Chris’ refusal, and she was quite upset. Both Deborah and I decided it was best not to tell Steve because he was just entering the hospital during his last days, and he didn’t need any additional stress.
The Book Itself (Ref: Second Edition)
From a literary scale, the book needs a thorough proof. The writing at times is amateurish, needs more sentence variety and subordination, and often reads like an autobiography due to the overuse of the pronoun, “ I ”. Many errors in film facts can be found, dates are confused, etc., etc., And even though Reeves died in 2000, this edition carelessly often uses the present tense as if Steve were still alive, as in:
“Reeves said recently...”
“Steve acknowledges today…”
“Today a typical day for Steve…”
“Today Reeves is occasionally asked…,”
It’s obvious the author is inexperienced and never wrote anything substantial before. A much more experienced writer like a John Little or a George Coates would have given this book so much more variety, presentation, credibility, and substance.
A Second Authorized Edition?
Fast forward to early 2018 and to my surprise, a Second Edition of this UNAUTHORIZED book is now available. It’s well known the First Edition lacked authorization by Reeves and now, almost 18 years later, a much revised Second Edition surfaces that also falsely claims authorization! What nerve, what audacity, and what nonsense. By publishing a second “authorized” edition, the author committed a basic publishing sin; he ignored the rule on continued authorization. And, in doing so, it’s more proof of the author’s unfamiliarity and naiveté about the publishing world.
It’s common sense that if an authorized biography undergoes significant changes in preparing its new edition, that new edition now requires a reauthorization by the subject person before availability. Depending on the degree of changes, authorizations are not automatically grandfathered from one edition to the next. If the subject person died years ago, as in the Reeves’ case, and areas of text and presentation have been considerably altered for the new edition, the claim of still being authorized is not only impossible, it is also totally dishonest and misleading. Such is the case with WTC.
Without doubt, WTC’s Second Edition is a major revision with its new covers, new format, new size, new page count, updated text, updated photos, new chapter, and above all, REVISED WORDING TO OVER 50 REEVES’ QUOTATIONS. Revising Steve Reeves’ own words years after his death for effect is selfish and borders on being distasteful if not offensive. It also casts doubt on the book’s overall legitimacy and truthfulness. Knowing that the quotations have now changed, we ask the obvious questions: (1) What else has been fabricated since the First Edition? (2) Which edition of WTC contains the actual Reeves’ words?
Here’s just ONE example, of over 50, where the author took the unusual and unforgiving liberty to change Reeves’ actual words almost 18 years after his death and the book’s First Edition.
First Edition: "I was lying prone on the bench. Bob was working on my neck, Ed was giving me leg curls and I was doing side laterals at the same time."
Second Edition: "I laid prone on the bench, Bob was working on my traps and neck, Ed was working my thighs with one leg curls, and I was working my deltoids with side laterals, all at the same time."
The Second Edition, with all its many changes, obviously constitutes a major revision and requires re-approval to be considered “authorized”. So, if Reeves died in 2000, who approved or authorized the extensively revised edition in 2017? Answer: Nobody, because the author probably didn’t know any better.
CreateSpace – A Door to Easy Publishing
For this newer edition, the author tried a different approach to self-publishing. He used Amazon’s CreateSpace, a self-publishing Print on Demand tool that offers streamline publishing and extensive global book distribution to its clients. The tool allows authors to control their own files and instantly update them to improve or correct their material in real time. There’s no need to wait for printer setup and other things because your book and the latest updates are in the print queue immediately. Unless an author opts for proofing and editing, which is an additional cost, a book will be printed “as is”, mistakes and all. It’s abundantly clear from reading WTC’s Second Edition that option was most likely not entertained.
On more than one occasion, LeClaire updated his file based on Amazon reviewer corrections, thereby saving him from some embarrassment. Without that CreateSpace capability, readers would still be viewing WTC’s abundance of grammatical errors and typos during its first print run, plus blatant misstatements such as the Nile River running through Italy, Reeves passing at age 73, Sylvia Lopez being a Spanish actress, The Avenger film being made in black and white, and Romulus and Remus originating from biblical times, among a host of other misstatements. It’s all the more proof that the author lacks the expertise to ever be considered a Reeves’ authority or even a competent writer. And it’s interesting, yet puzzling, how the author is eager to update his own mistakes to WTC via CreateSpace, but was disinterested in updating the changes Reeves strongly requested back in April 2000 to the First Edition.
Remarkably missing from the Second Edition are the events surrounding Reeves’ last days. LeClaire intentionally avoids identifying me as one of the two people in Steve’s hospital room during Steve’s final hours of life, despite many media outlets at the time confirming my presence there. He also doesn’t mention the May 6, 2000 official memorial service for Steve in Escondido, CA, which was by invitation only for 100 of Reeves’ closest family members and friends, and the media. The author WAS NOT INVITED to this service, and I’m assuming the people responsible for the invitations discouraged his attendance because his relationship with Steve and Deborah soured at the end. What the author does cover though, in a new chapter, is an informal Reeves’ memorial service held in Montana months later to a small gathering. That service consisted of spreading some of Steve’s “stolen” crematory remains (yes, stolen). His book also shows a picture of him, while still there in Montana, standing next to Reeves’ “stolen” (yes, stolen) horse, Monte. That horse and other Reeves’ private items were appropriated from his ranch without permission, by an individual, right after his passing.
In a future blog, I will cover the detestable details of what exactly happened soon after Steve’s death, including what an irrational person did to the memory and private possessions of Reeves.
Before this problem of authorization, I had spoken with the author a few times on the phone. He was an avid subscriber to my SRIS newsletters, and would occasionally call me inquiring about the next newsletter’s release. I know he used some of my newsletter information as part of his biographical research, which was fine by me as long as it wasn’t word for word. On one occasion, I did deny the author a copy of my private SRIS mailing list, which took me years to compile. Even though I knew he needed it to increase his sales circulation of WTC’s First Edition, I found his request quite bold and unprofessional. When I turned him down, I think he contacted others, again with no luck.
In WTC’s First Edition he generously thanked me in the acknowledgement section, included my name in the index, and mentioned my name twice in a paragraph on page 37 where it discusses my discovery of Steve’s initial workout routine (AKA, Holy Grail) in Oakland, CA. It reads:
“(In 1994, more than five decades later, George Helmer, a fan and collector of Steve Reeves memorabilia, gambled that some trace of these routines might remain. With permission of the property owners, Helmer ripped away sheet rock panels….)”
For the Second Edition, any reference to my name is deleted. I can only guess why this was done, but I’m sure jealousy or envy could be a logical explanation. Maybe it could have been my telling the author that Steve’s changes to the First Edition must be made, or my refusal to give him my mailing list, or solely blaming me for him not being invited to the Reeves’ funeral service on May 6 in Escondido, CA; invitations were done by committee and not just by one person.
I’ve never touted my Reeves knowledge, expertise, or experiences with him, but instead I let my Reeves resume speak for itself. People can then decide for themselves if my background and history with Steve equate to a close personal and business relationship. Some of that background includes:
Knowing Steve very well for the last 15 years of his life and having a close friendship.
Being his confidant, business partner, and the executor of his estate.
Owning the largest Steve Reeves collection, including Reeves’ home movies, audio recordings, pictures, wardrobe, furniture, movie memorabilia, exercise equipment, his car, etc., etc. All of this was left to me by Reeves.
Acquiring the rights to Steve’s name and image in 2003, which grants me permission to control and protect all things that publicly promote the Reeves’ image and name.
Coordinating and accompanying Reeves on many public appearances and speaking on his behalf in his absence.
Developing, with the full endorsement of Reeves, various commercial products.
Offering advice and counsel to Steve in the mid-1990s when he negotiated a contract for the film parody, Hercules Recycled and advising Steve on a possible appearance for Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules TV series in the mid-1990s.
Playing a major part in arranging the Reeves funeral service in Escondido, CA.
Producing with John Little the well-received DVD, Steve Reeves: The Man, The Legend in 2002.
Authoring or co-authoring books on Reeves, including what many consider the definitive biography, A Moment in Time – The Steve Reeves Story in 2014. Recognized author and bodybuilding historian, George Coates, wrote in the book’s foreword, “I can think of none better qualified to do a biography on Steve Reeves than my good friend, George Helmer.”
Coates, a very close friend of Steve’s, also attended the funeral service in Escondido, CA. Ironically, George Coates knows Chris LeClaire, is familiar with WTC, is acknowledged in both its editions, yet he chose to endorse me as the true Reeves’ biographer.
Celebrity biographies are usually interesting and quite popular. But few are ever promoted as being authorized due to a celebrity’s reluctance or a celebrity’s death prior to publishing. And stating a celebrity biography is authorized when it is not, is simply fraud and deception.
Many Reeves’ insiders still know the unpleasant circumstances surrounding WTC’s First Edition, and will confirm its unfortunate history. It’s definitely true Steve gave his INITIAL authorization to undertake the biography in May 1993 before the book was written, but withheld FINAL authorization to publish it because his final changes were never incorporated. As proof, I still have all those changes as they were never destroyed. At no time did the author ever receive final sign off, approval, or authorization on the book, verbally or written, from Steve Reeves in 2000. Deborah Reeves Stewart has already confirmed these facts in 2018.
Yes, Chris LeClaire is a Reeves’ biographer like other people are. He did spend much time with him during the summers of 1993 and 1994 as well as having many phone conversations with him. And so have many other people spent much time with Steve over many years. These people include George Coates, John Little, Milton T. Moore, Gene Mozee, and me. But Chris’ claim of being Steve Reeves’ authorized biographer is manifestly false, and he knows it because he lacked final approval. Had he agreed to cooperate with Reeves and update his book back in April 2000, may be today the First Edition would have been approved and authorized by Steve. We will never know for obvious reasons but also because Steve was so particular about everything he could have asked for more and more changes to the point where he was never satisfied with the final book. Ask Milton T. Moore about his experiences when he wrote the semi-biographical book, Steve Reeves, One of a Kind in 1982 to 1983. Every step of the way, Milton painstakingly developed his book directly with Reeves and his second wife, Aline. It took quite a while before Milton got the go ahead to print. But his book on Reeves comes closest to being considered or recognized as the “only” authorized biography.
Disregarding the fact that Reeves’ final updates were never made to the Unauthorized First Edition, WTC’s Second Edition still can never be considered authorized because it’s a major revision, especially the many changes to Steve’s own wording, coupled with Reeves’ death almost 18 years before its availability. Regardless of what WTC edition one reads, two unfortunate things are true:
People are being deceived into thinking Reeves authorized the book.
If Steve Reeves were still alive, he would have demanded the book never be published in its present state.
Out of respect to Steve Reeves, his legacy, his family and friends, and above all truthfulness, the author should remove all occurrences of the word “authorize” to his book. This includes any Reeves related written work produced, advertised, and promoted in any form, especially social media. He is also obligated to seek written approval from Steve Reeves International if he so desires to publish any Reeves-related material that focuses on the name or image of Steve Reeves. Failure to do so could result in legal action being taken.
Sadly Chris LeClaire, at the wrong time, turned his back on a famous person who gave him such a unique opportunity that many people could only dream of. His failure to comply with Reeves’ request put a permanent blemish and stain of doubt on the validity of his entire biographical work. Those unfortunate actions will never be forgotten by the Reeves’ inner circle, those who knew him well, and those who crossed his path over the years.
“Steve Reeves, rest in peace my close friend and business partner. I’m protecting your legacy and name in the best possible way I know. My goal has always been to set the record straight on your life so others are not also misled by false and sometimes misrepresented work.
"You did much for my family and me all those years, and now I’m trying to return the favor. Thank you Steve for letting me be an important part of your life.”