“One of a Kind” – The Only Reeves-Approved Biography

November 7, 2019

  

                     The Official Biography                          Official Biographer Milton T. Moore, Jr.        

 

A few people have tried writing the story of Steve Reeves over the years, but only one person received the official approval to publish from Steve Reeves himself. That person is Milton T. Moore Jr., a friend of Steve’s since 1973 until Steve’s passing in 2000. Steve was so pleased with the 1983 publishing of “One of a Kind”, that he proudly sold it at his public appearances and consistently communicated to many people that only Milton accurately captured his life’s
story.


Though somewhat similar to the 1982 companion book “Steve Reeves - A Tribute”, “One of a Kind” is a more complete biography of Reeves' life from childhood through bodybuilder, actor, and fitness author. The book is filled with comprehensive text, wonderful photographs, and tributes by celebrities for Reeves' contribution to fitness and film. At the outset of doing this biography, Reeves emphasized to Moore that a selling point of the book would be to include many photos and promote it more as a biographical pictorial versus the typical biography overladen with text. Reeves preferred his life story be told more through photos rather than text. Despite this different approach, Steve always recognized this book as his ONLY TRUE biography. Milton followed Steve’s advice and upon its release in 1983, it received much worthy praise and recognition.

 

                     

                                                  Sample Pages from “One of a Kind”


Milton’s 8.5 X 11 inch, 192 – page, photo filled book (well over 500 photos) is probably the most sought after Reeves item today, and not just because of its subject matter but also because only 1,200 copies were printed in June 1983. It is a very rare book to come by, but highly recommended if the chance to acquire it ever presents itself. And because of
that limited run, the book is considered the rarest of all Reeves memorabilia. If you own a copy, consider yourself lucky. It is not unusual to see the book command an online price today in excess of $350. People who paid its original advertised price of $14.95 can definitely appreciate their investment, the scarcity of a copy, and their wise move to obtain it back then.

                                              One of the Ads from the Early 1980s

 

Milton Moore is an excellent writer and did an exceptional job of compiling the Reeves biographical elements into one complete home, strictly with Steve’s concurrence. Unlike another biographer, Milton’s goal was to never make money or capitalize on his own personal notoriety, but more so to inform and remind the public of Steve Reeves’ impact on bodybuilding and the entertainment world. Promoting himself and his book via social media vehicles would be the farthest avenue Milton would ever attempt to drive down. And pompous, pretentious, and pontifical are words that would never describe him, only the word humility. Like Reeves did throughout his honored career, Moore always let his work humbly speak for himself, not himself selfishly speak for his work.


Steve always knew Milton’s goal in writing a Reeves biography was to promote not profit from the famous name, set the record straight, and not mislead the public as other authors have done through exaggeration. Like Reeves, Moore always adhered to the truth and accuracy. Fiction and falsehoods were not options. Throughout the development of the book, Milton experienced countless revisions per Steve’s comments and suggestions. No book on Reeves would ever see the light of availability until Steve gave the green light on publishing.

 

                       Milton (Right) with Author Joe Vitale at the Reeves Ranch (2008)

 

The Book’s History and Development Phases

 

Few people know the complete story of how this official biography evolved and the metamorphosis it went through before Steve, his wife Aline, and Milton agreed on the final format and contents. The process took many years, much iteration, and three distinct phases. Prior to “One of a Kind’s” release in 1983, from 1973 to 1975 Milton first wrote an extensive, 350-page, 80,000 word biography, published two souvenir tribute booklets in 1979, and published a 128-page semi-biographical book called, “Steve Reeves – A Tribute” in 1982. All four of those companion works eventually formed the foundation or building blocks for what would be considered Milton’s biographical tour de force and landmark publication on Reeves. And, each phase was specifically authorized and given final approval by Steve prior to any public availability.


Below is an overview of the phases the book underwent from 1973 to 1983 before finally being approved and released as “STEVE REEVES - One of a Kind”.

                                              “One of a Kind’s” Development Phases

 

 

Phase 1 – The Unpublished Reeves Biography

 

In the fall of 2002, my friend Dave Dowling and I met Milton in Las Vegas over coffee. During our discussion, Milton briefly mentioned a biography he had written about Steve years ago. Both Dave and I assumed he was talking about his popular, “One of a Kind” book. But he wasn’t. It wasn’t until years later I discovered, buried in a storage unit, Milton’s actual 350-page Reeves biography that he was referring to that night in Las Vegas.


We now know the history of this extensive biography goes back to early 1973, when Milton received the go ahead from Steve to begin writing an official Reeves biography under the original working title of, “Steve Reeves – A Biography”. By mid 1974, Milton had hand typed almost 350 pages on the Reeves legacy starting with Steve’s birth right up until the
present. Unlike most biographies, this biography focused more on the person himself, his character, his values, and a little less on his exceptional achievements in life, though all the career accolades were definitely covered. Not that long ago Milton told us that every word, every sentence, and every heading in that work was approved by Steve during the writing of it. 

 

The original biography was organized as such:


Prologue
Chapter 1: From Boyhood to Mr. America
Chapter 2: Early Days in Show Business
Chapter 3: Struggle and Failure in Hollywood
Chapter 4: “Hercules’ and Film Super Stardom
Chapter 5: Steve Reeves Rancher and Horseman
Chapter 6: Resurrection 1973
Chapter 7: The Role of Steve Reeves in the Physical Culture Movement and His Influence on the Men of His Time
Epilogue

 

                                              Steve’s Copy of Original Manuscript


In addition to spending much time at Steve’s ranch in Valley Center, CA interviewing Steve and Aline Reeves duringthe biography’s development, Milton met with Steve’s family members, his close friends in bodybuilding and film, as well as traveling to Italy to interview “Hercules” director Pietro Francisci. While in Italy he also talked with other film crew members who worked with Steve during his overseas film making days. And, many of the photos used in “One of
a Kind” were obtained during this European trip and a subsequent trip he made during those years. 

 

Below are two sample marked-up pages, in Steve’s own handwriting, from the original 350-page manuscript:

                                           Steve’s Actual Manuscript Mark-Up 

 

In the fall of 1974, Mr. Moore approached many publishers with a 36-page chapter sample from the large manuscript under the new working title, “STEVE REEVES – The Celebrity’s Celebrity”. In the submission to the publishers, Milton revised some of the chapter titles since his original manuscript, but all the text remained the same. The revised chapter headings now read:

 

From Boyhood to Mr. America
Steve Reeves: “Mr. America”
Steve Reeves: “Mr. Universe”
From “Mr. Universe” to Movie Fame
Steve “Hercules” Reeves
Steve Reeves – Rugged Rancher and Horseman
Steve Reeves: The Significance of His Psyche and Physique

Steve Reeves: The Impact on the World and the Men of His Time

 

                              Cover Page for Introductory Chapters (Sent to Publishers)

 

Unfortunately, Milton received quite a few rejections. A few publishers initially showed interest, but they later declined because Steve, Milton, and the prospective publishers could not agree on the book’s format and royalty distribution.


The closest Milton came to a publishing contract was with Drake Publishers, Inc. in New York City in late 1974. Milton and Steve, along with an attorney, modified the contract for a different royalty structure, more control in choosing photographs, and an 8.5 X 11inch format printed on a high-quality, non-porous, coated paper stock. From a production standpoint, the publisher saw these requests as too costly and refused to honor the modifications. 


Milton’s contract was returned to him unsigned by the publisher in early November 1974. He continued to shop around the manuscript for the next few years and attempt to enlist investors for his project, but all without any success. When informing Steve and his wife Aline of the continued rejection, Milton told them he was prepared to take a different approach in producing a biography and would never give up. He even considered publishing it independently because
he so strongly believed in the material. The Reeves agreed to support Milton’s dedication regardless of the time it could possibly take for it to become a reality. As we’ve come to learn, this extensive biography was never published, and Milton pursued other publishing options to promote Steve’s life.

 

 

                                            Manuscript Rejection Letter by a New York Publisher

 

NOTE:


Today, Steve’s marked-up copy of Milton’s large and notable unpublished biography is the property of Steve Reeves International. It is a remarkable read and an exceptionally detailed piece of work. Any Reeves admirer would find the information quite enlightening, informative, and a “must have”.


We are currently negotiating to have this authorized and approved Reeves biography reformatted, printed, and released to the public possibly at later time. As Steve would have wished with any biography, it definitely will contain all of his final comments, thereby validating the book’s accuracy and approval by Steve. Though the manuscript currently does not have any photos, we plan on adding some throughout the text.


Phase 2 – The Souvenir Tribute Booklets

 

Despite the setback of not gaining a publisher for Steve’s biography, Milton began exploring other book ideas to promote the Reeves legacy all with Steve’s concurrence. In mid-1979, he tested the waters by issuing an 8.5 X 11, 16 page sepia tone pamphlet. It featured many photos of Steve, narrative text, and personal tributes from various celebrities. The booklet was an immediate hit and Steve was pleased.

 

                   First Edition Front Cover                             First Edition Back Cover


Below are a few early royalty statements Milton issued to Steve and his wife on the initial sales of the First Edition. Back in 1979, Steve’s royalty was 25% off the cover price of $5.50.

 

                                       Milton’s Royalty Statements to Steve and Aline


Because the small booklet sold well and Steve wanted to add a few changes, the following November Milton issued an expanded 28-page Second Edition with more pictures, text, and celebrity tributes. Unlike the sepia tone edition, this booklet was issued in a blueish tint. It too did very well.

 

              Second Edition Front Cover                        Second Edition Back Cover

 

    1979 Ad Promoting Booklet’s 2nd Edition (Note the Promo for “One of a Kind” Biography)

 

Phase 3 – The Tribute Book


In the fall of 1982, the 128-page book, “STEVE REEVES – A Tribute” was released. The semi-biographical, sepia-tone pictorial style book of Reeves combined some of the text from Milton’s 1975 unpublished biography, plus material from both of his previously released souvenir tribute booklets a few years earlier. Like the subsequent complete biography, “One of a Kind”, this book had a very limited print run, sold out very quickly, and today is quite the collector’s item. And though it is some 65 pages shorter than its successor book, this publication contains a few photos not featured in its successor. So if you own a copy, consider yourself fortunate because the original value of $12.95 has risen to easily over $300.


In December 1982, Natural Bodybuilding Magazine reviewed “Tribute” with these positive words:


“This newly released book is a most deserving tribute to bodybuilding’s greatest legend, Steve Reeves. Milton Moore’s tribute chronicles Reeves’ career from its beginning to the present. It’s filled with superb photos and many personal insights from people who have known the man behind the legend. In hundreds of photos, it follows the film career that made Reeves the number one box office attraction in the 1950s with his Hercules movies. From cover to cover this book is testimony to the perfection of face and form that is Reeves. A collector’s item for every bodybuilding enthusiast, the book concludes with recent photos of Reeves and comments from many of his Hollywood friends”.

 

                                                               1982 Release


                       

                               1980’s Ad for “Tribute” in Muscle & Fitness Magazine

 

Appreciation

 

Despite “One of a Kind’s” popularity, Milton, a perfectionist like Steve, has always said he wasn’t completely happy with the final book and therefore abandoned printing more copies until more updates could be made. Unlike many independently-produced books back then, he chose to use the more expensive non-porous, coated paper for better photo reproduction. Though it was advantageous to the reader, this option added considerable costs to Milton’s offset printing budget. It’s possible this was another reason why we never saw a second print run beyond the initial 1,200 copies because Milton fronted all printing and advertising costs not only for this book, but his three other Reeves publications as well.

 

With Milton’s permission and cooperation, we are presently entertaining the idea of reprinting “One of a Kind” in its original form, with some slight modifications to the front matter. The rest of the book will mirror the original, page for page. Today the book is jointly owned and copyright protected by Milton and Steve Reeves International. Currently we have no projected dates for its availability, but we do anticipate a sufficient print run because of the book’s popularity
since its only release in 1983. We will keep you posted if and when this project moves forward.

 

                                                                 Milton 2008 

 

Many people were introduced to Steve’s career because of Milton’s hard work and perseverance in putting together the first and only Reeves-approved biography on the legend. Others already familiar with Steve’s fame gained even more insight into the career and life of Reeves because of Milton. We owe him much for keeping the Reeves name and legacy alive, and we appreciate the time and effort he endured all those many years assembling the information, all to our benefit. No one can ever duplicate what he’s done for the many Reeves’ admirers throughout the globe. Without his publications, many of us would have never fully known the person nor the complete career of Steve Reeves. 

 

Thank you, Milton Thomas Moore, Jr. for being the first and official Steve Reeves biographer. We’ve all been enlightened and educated thanks to your efforts. You too are definitely “One of a Kind”.

 

George Helmer

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