Sometime early this morning another member of our dear and close-knit subculture ascended onward to Iron Valhalla, at the young age of 48 years old. One of the awe-inspiring behemoths from the 1990’s, Mike Matarazzo spent his final moments waiting for a heart transplant at Stanford University according to Muscular Development’s Peter McGough. Another well-respected bodybuilding writer: John Romano penned a very insightful piece a few years back titled: ‘The Curse of the 90’s’, documenting the health problems/deaths seeming to plague this particular era in competitive bodybuilding. Remembering correctly, Matarazzo, even at that time, was mentioned in the article for his heart-attacks and ever-diminishing cardiovascular health. The general consensus of the article was that the 90’s brought a whole new era of freaky physiques, but also untold health problems and suffering at unheard of percentages. Most rational people would make this connection without much hesitation. Hopefully a serious discussion starts taking place on how we can preserve our health and longevity (even simply career wise) in a professional industry that is one of the most taxing and detrimental on the human body. The IFBB offers paltry contest winnings and no health insurance policy for the men and women engaging in what could be termed a ‘most dangerous game’. I believe that top level entertainers and retired professionals deserve much more; Mike deserved much more.
Over the next few weeks the message boards will be on fire with speculation in regards to Mike’s death, his drug usage, etc. I’m sure the topic will be thoroughly hashed, re-hashed, and then everyone will agree that we still don’t know anything at all. It is to be noted that Matarazzo himself associated all of his heart problems with competitive bodybuilding (Note—I didn’t just say ‘steroid use’). Under this umbrella he included the over-consumption of red-meat daily (apparently 6-7lbs at times), Anabolic Steroid use, HGH use and diuretic use. Mike was known as a very earnest and hard-working person, a name in the industry I haven’t heard a whisper of negativity; when in general so much gossip encompasses our little village of a subculture. He was not only an exemplary bodybuilder, but an exemplary man as well, touching the lives of friends, fans and the loving wife he left behind.
Like many accomplished bodybuilders, Mike didn’t start his journey in the weight room. Hailing from Boston, he was a very accomplished amateur boxer before eventually being bitten by the ‘iron bug’. Thankfully, Mike pursued bodybuilding instead of the sweet science, fans becoming the true winners later by witnessing his insanely thick 23” arms and impossibly large calves. He was an incredible professional bodybuilder in possibly the hardest competitive era in history. It seems at times the 90’s were even more incredible (at least genetic wise) than anything currently around now. The competitors (Wheeler, Demayo, Prince, Coleman, Yates, Levrone, Cormier, Hernon, etc.) looked like they were simply born to train heavy, eat protein, juice up and become muscle behemoths. Mike Matarazzo was equally as gifted as any of them and proudly displayed ungodly levels of striated, dense lean muscle.
I recall seeing absolutely freaky pictures of Mike Matarazzo in older bodybuilding magazines that my brother had lying around. This was the era of neon spandex, work boots (or otomix), racer-back tank tops and mass-monsters. I recall a particular stand out shot of Mike Matarazzo on a standing calf machine, as his 22” cows displayed a nasty dense gastrocnemius muscle and equally impressive soleus. This really set him apart in competitive bodybuilding; with good calves appearing to be as rare as a wolf sighting in Long Beach. We are unlikely to see another Matarazzo anytime soon, with that certain combination of genetics, shape, structure and work-ethic. Let’s take the following days and weeks to reflect on and celebrate the man’s life, accomplishments and bodybuilding accolades. Let’s start taking care of the guys we have now too, whether retired or currently competing. None of us want to keep reading obituaries of our physique super-stars perishing far before their time. The reality is that it could happen to any of us. We can all safely step outside our comfortable boxes of delusion for just a few moments and admit our own mortality.
-Danny Manslaughter, for more Danny Click Here