The True Story Behind Steve Reeves’ Little Black Book
As the executor of the Steve Reeves estate, owner of the Steve Reeves image and name, and former long-time business partner of Mr. Reeves, I have been marketing and selling much of Steve’s memorabilia for some time now. I have never had a problem or serious concern with any of the items I sold until recently.
A while back, I sold Mr. Reeves’ 1947 Mr. America trophy to a Clinton Emshoff from Houston, TX. As a bonus for purchasing the trophy, I generously gave away Steve Reeves’ private Little Black Book of training exercises. Back in 1946 while in the Army, Steve would sometimes informally record various exercises for the men he was training in a small black book. At the time of the trophy sale, I never considered that this notebook would someday be used for someone’s profit and self-serving notoriety, let alone be made available to the general public as a book in such a false, misleading, and underhanded way. Today the notebook’s information has been erroneously featured as the unique centerpiece and justification for the publication, “Steve Reeves Bodybuilding Journal”. Steve Reeves never intended that his early personal and private notes on his training methods ever be made public or be misconstrued as a bodybuilding journal. Knowing Mr. Reeves as I did, he would be livid if anything like this occurred while he was alive. Legal action by him to stop such a misrepresentation would have been a given.
After I sent the notebook to that person, I was never contacted in regard to its information, what the notebook was actually about, or why did Reeves actually record his workouts in a little black book. Unlike the book’s author, I was told directly by Steve what the information was about, why he wrote it, and what was its true purpose. Reeves also strongly emphasized to me that the material be only shared with only close friends or family members and never published or made available to the public.
Unfortunately, the information in this bodybuilding journal book solely consists of wild speculation, opinions, assumptions, but definitely not fact. And, this is not the first time I've had to set the record straight about the notebook’s contents. Though I have previously contacted the author to cease all publication and promotion of the material twice before, the author has steadfastly refused to cooperate on the matter to this day.
Exercise Routines in the Book
The premise of the "Steve Reeves Bodybuilding Journal" is totally wrong, ill conceived, and filled with blatant conjecture from the original Reeves’ concept of what the notebook is about and its intended use. I witnessed on many occasions Steve referring to his journal as his Little Black Book. He told me that back in 1946 he compiled ideas, training tips, and information on what he was currently reading in books and magazines while stationed in Japan during World War II. That same information can be found in a letter that he wrote home to his mother thanking her for the monthly subscriptions to bodybuilding magazines.
While Steve was still recovering from Malaria and Jungle Fever that he contracted from the Philippines, he decided, with the help of an interpreter, to visit a Japanese foundry and have a 250-pound barbell set made. Steve never mentioned any dumbbells being used or made. While stationed in Japan he had two jobs: one as a bartender at the local NCO club and the other as a physical fitness trainer to officers.
Many times as a trainer, Steve would diligently record in his book several exercises that he could use in training instruction, but not for his own personal workouts. Because of his illness at the time, he was still trying to recover but at a slow pace so he avoided any strenuous exercise or training. In Steve’s Little Black Book, he was writing down both his ideas and other information originating from magazines and books such as the York Barbell Courses, which are included in that Little Black Book. The notebook or journal was created in 1946 and subsequently finished when he left Japan. Other than doing just a few of these exercises, which were common at the time, Steve did not use the journal at all after returning from the Army. He ended up storing it with the other things he brought back from overseas.
Health Tips in the Book
The health tips found in Steve’s Little Black Book were his initial guiding principles for continually leading a clean and healthier lifestyle. In 1995 he officially published them as, "Rules to Live By" in his own penned, "Building the Classic Physique - The Natural Way", (page 139, Chapter 26). Though he wrote down these tips in 1946 and followed many of them during his life, he also discarded others that needed better scientific information or technically not applicable for his book. One can easily see that in “Classic Physique” Steve didn’t take the tips directly out of his Little Black Book (a comparison between the two is shown later in this blog). In addition, it’s obvious that he sometimes combined, changed, or deleted altogether some tips as well as rearrange the numeric order. So to that end, one could say In Reeves’ eyes, the notebook was essentially a guide or first draft to what eventually became his bible on bodybuilding, “Building the Classic Physique”.
The Emshoff book, “Steve Reeves Bodybuilding Journal”, wants you to believe, as fact, that it was that journal alone Steve used in bodybuilding training following his Army days. And that those were his only training routines to get to championship form. But if that were the case, why is there no mention of the amount of weight that would be used or the number of reps per exercise? Quite obviously, the hypothesis that promotes Clinton Emshoff’s book is unrealistic and couldn’t be further from the truth.
Steve's bodybuilding regimen was definitely much more complex and defined than what’s listed in Emshoff’s sparse and troubling book. In addition, Reeves continuously changed his training approach for each new bodybuilding contest. Making the breakdown of exercises in that book is irrelevant and worthless because the breakdown is not even close to Reeves’ actual bodybuilding program. On the other hand, the Little Black Book was important to Steve for what it was back in 1946. It was simply a small journal or book of documented ideas for training and living a better lifestyle, nothing more and nothing less. But it was the foundation and outline for Reeves later writing in his own words, “Building the Classic Physique – The Natural Way.
This is the second time that a person has tried to improperly capitalize on the fame and name of Steve Reeves via false promotion. The first time was early in late 1999 when author Christopher LeClaire untruthfully claimed he wrote an authorized biography on Reeves. Though Mr. Reeves initially authorized Mr. LeClaire to write his biography in 1993, Steve withdrew his authorization in 2000 after discovering how LeClaire distorted some personal information let alone leave out critical information. The author refused to make any of Reeves’ necessary changes and authorization was subsequently denied. This falsehood resurrected in late 2017 with the publishing of a second edition, with the author still fraudulently claiming the work was authorized. As proof of this unauthorization, the following e-mail excerpt from Deborah Stewart, Steve's longtime companion until his death in 2000, proves this point:
"Chris Le Claire had and has no permission or authorization to claim Stephen approved his book. Stephen was outraged at some of what he found in Chris’s book. He was angry that after spending so much time giving Chris the facts of his life, that Chris betrayed the trust by writing someone else’s idea about Stephen’s parents, their relationship with each other. Chris was told to rewrite portions and did not. That’s where the issue was at Stephen’s death. No rewrite, no approval."
What happened here is akin to what author Clifford Irving deceptively did to Howard Hughes. Irving perpetrated one of the biggest literary hoaxes of the 20th century in the early 1970s when he concocted a supposedly authorized autobiography of Hughes based on meetings and interviews that never took place. No person has ever written an authorized biography of Steve Reeves and never will. The book, “A Moment in Time – The Steve Reeves Story”, which I wrote and published in 2014, is regarded as the only true biography of the legend and the closest work to being considered an authorized account of Steve Reeves’ life.
Many people consider me the authority on Steve Reeves due to my close friendship, joint product development, and daily business dealings with Reeves via our company. I've been lucky in that I’ve had the pleasure of working with two of the most extraordinary and gifted researchers, writers, and Steve Reeves historians, John Little and Dave Dowling. They have spent decades bringing out the facts on the life of Steve Reeves.
Steve and I became great friends and later business partners in 1993. I first met Steve in 1985 at a bodybuilding show in Las Vegas. In 1987 Steve was my special guest of honor at the opening of my gym called, “The Power Source”. The following week after our grand opening, I was invited down to Steve’s ranch in Valley Center by Steve and his wife Aline for a tour and luncheon.
Occasionally I would visit the ranch and Steve would visit my gym. We would always have some laughs and discuss fitness and bodybuilding. While visiting him, we would go out to his gym and he would show me ideas he had on performing exercises properly and making specialized equipment. He showed me several things he made for his gym and discussed diet and nutrition, which were our common interests. Thus, this is how the Steve Reeves International Society started.
Protecting the Name and Image of Steve Reeves
Not considering celebrities “image rights” or “rights of publicity” can lead to possible legal problems. These rights include the right to prevent unauthorized use of their name, physical or style characteristics, signatures, etc. In short, celebrities or their estates should be able to control how their “personas” are commercialized.
Just like many celebrities, the name and image of Steve Reeves is protected, owned, and not in the public domain; therefore, it cannot be freely used without permission. Since March 2003, Steve Reeves International (SRI) has owned the exclusive rights to his name and image. Thus, any publication using the Reeves image or name for promotion or public sale must first receive written SRI permission prior to its availability. If published without permission, a compromise must be reached between the negligent party and SRI to avoid any legal proceedings. Both the recent LeClaire and Emshoff books NEVER RECEIVED PERMISSION from SRI prior to their availability.