Ben Tatar, Joe Mazza, Jay Fry & Dean Bennett
50 questions about the 2008 Arnold Expo with Ben Tatar
By Dean Bennett and www.criticalbench.com
Some people go to the Arnold Schwarzenegger Sport Expo each year in Columbus, Ohio for the bodybuilding. Some go for the powerlifting. Some go to watch the strongmen. Some go for the mixed martial arts. And many go for the myriad other sporting events taking place simultaneously. And then there's Ben Tatar, a guy who chooses to go to the Arnold - full speed ahead - for all of the above reasons.
Ben Tatar, criticalbench.com 's ace reporter, treats every trip to the Arnold as if it were Mardi Gras, full of chance encounters and endless opportunities. His positive energy, knowledge, enthusiasm, and respect for all aspects of strength sports are infectious. If you're one of the hundreds of people lucky enough to encounter Ben at the Arnold, you already know what I'm talking about! For the rest of you, you'll want to read Ben's impressions of the 2008 Arnold, and his take on how much excitement can be packed into a single weekend.
Let's see what Ben has to say...
1) What were your first impressions of your very first trip to the Arnold?
Ben Tatar: I was euphoric, like a kid in a candy store. I had the chance to meet the greatest weight lifters, athletes and babes on the planet all in one place. Everything was new to me, and it was sensory overload!
2) How did your experience at your first Arnold compare to your 2008 experience?
Ben Tatar: Completely different. Today the Arnold is a PARTY for me! It's because everyone I see at the Arnold, I know and love! I don't just see huge freaky bodybuilders, powerlifters, hot babes, or great athletes. I see souls and all of my friends! It's almost like a REUNION. It's one huge PARTY!
3) How many separate conversations do you estimate that you have in a weekend at the Arnold?
Ben Tatar: You really want me to go to my computer and do a calculation? Okay, we are freaks Dean, Haha! 750!
4) You seem to know all the big names in bodybuilding and powerlifting. What's the best way to network with these people?
Ben Tatar: The best way to network with people is taking an interest in them and knowing stuff about them. It's about putting out great energy vibes and intuitively being where the other person is. I don't think about what I'm going to say to anyone, I just randomly find myself fooling around with people, giving them a power bomb wrestling move in a playful way, jumping into their arms and looking to take an Arnold Classic photo with them! I just say "let's take a picture that we can remember for a lifetime, or let's do a classic LIVE interview!" The more comfortable you are with them, the more comfortable they will generally be with you! The truth is, no matter how I am working with anyone, I am always seeing them in their best and most authentic light!
5) What is the most bizarre stunt or photo op you've done at the Arnold?
Ben Tatar: Hahaha! All of them!? The most bizarre picture that I took…which isn't posted…is the one with me in Jen's clothes, haha! That was pretty bizarre! I think the most extreme picture that has been published is the one of my body painted silver as I'm a barbell being bench pressed by my friend Bill Osolinski. Nobody on the planet has ever turned themselves into a barbell, painted silver and was then bench pressed like this! This picture originally was supposed to be on the back cover of Real Gainz Magazine and used as a bench press advertisement. I dedicate this picture in memory of Real Gainz.
6) Have you ever been disappointed meeting one of the big names in person? Why?
Ben Tatar: Not really. You just have to laugh at everyone's uniqueness. I know a few people who won't give kids autographs, but it's just part of their character. My friend Rob Carbo and I like to go around and try to see if we can make the unhappy people laugh. In the end though, every person in this world can help us attain balance, and guide us to the person we want to be.
7) Why do you think "average" people attend the Arnold?
Ben Tatar: The average person attends the Arnold because they live right next to Columbus and it's a big deal for Columbus! However, from a universal stand point, average people want to go to the Arnold because the Arnold is a freak show. It's a circus-like atmosphere. People go to the circus to see freaks and people like to go to the Arnold to see freaks. I think a lot of average people who go to the Arnold would like to improve as bodybuilders and they get to talk to bodybuilders LIVE. Talking to bodybuilders LIVE is a great way to learn all about making progress. There are also hundreds of athletic events going on all day.
8) If you had a daughter, would you allow her to be one of the booth babes?
Ben Tatar: Yep! Haha, I will invent my own protein bar! It will be called:
TATARMONSTERPROTEINBAR: When Animal Instinct Meets Pure Power!
When my bar is invented, she can be a booth babe for my supplement line!
You know, if I have a daughter, I will support her and be there for her no matter what!
9) Did you miss the sumo guys this year?
Ben Tatar: Hahahaha! Sure, I wish I got a pic with one of them giving me a bear hug, or a leg drop. Wait, actually, I would like to take a picture of me bench pressing the sumo guys! Haha!
Are there any benchers out there who feel crazy and strong enough to try to bench a sumo guy??
Although, I will be willing to try to bench press a SUMO WRESTLER to make history, I think I will stick to bench pressing female models for now!
10) Ben, you're nuts, and you come on strong. Has anyone ever been disrespectful to you at the Arnold?
Ben Tatar: Of course! I have had my moments in the past where I'm too crazy for most people to even digest. However, when something happens, I just shift gears or move on and everything is cool.
Let me list some of my crazier moments that I can say here:
1) There was a display weight that was 400-450lbs, and I said to a guy, can I pick this up? He said, "You can try, but if you hurt yourself, it's not my fault." Then I picked up the weight and a different guy yells, "Don't touch that." So I picked the display weight up and slammed it down! I said to the guy "That was easy, that was nothing!" He yelled "I don't care I'm taking the weight down!!" After that they took the display weight down! haha
2) Zach was lifting in the Olympic weight room and Zach is so huge that he makes me look like a little kid. Well, I was singing songs about how he was a girl in a pretty high voice (sarcastically,) to him to distract him and to see if I could mess him up! I just remember how hard he laughed and how much of a scene it caused! I'm being this huge nut where everyone else was just so serious! They didn't know what just hit them!
3) I've had many random moments like this over and over again!
However, although these moments have some conflict, everything was always under control, and they are also some of my most memorable moments!
11) Do you attend the after parties? What are they like?
Ben Tatar: Yes! There is Boma on Saturday nights, and they have little fun fitness games. It's where many of the fitness people hang out. Then there is SUGAR-spice and it's where couples or singles dance. It's a great club! Then there are more casual places like the Hyatt Hotel, and you'll probably see a few pro bodybuilders or fighters there. Of course, there is usually a UFC event, The Arnold Classic or the Arnold after party to attend. There is always stuff to do.
12) What was the best NEW thing at the Arnold this year?
Ben Tatar: The best thing for me is that I'm doing LIVE interviews. I love the camera and interviewing people LIVE. Next year I hope to make video clips with more people.
13) If you could change one thing about the Expo, what would it be?
Ben Tatar: I miss seeing the guys in the WPO, and I wish it was less crowded. Also, I'd make all the events more interesting. For example, in the World's Strongest Man competition we can have events where they have to do movements where the strongmen pick up the sumo wrestlers!! Ha-ha! Now that would make strength sports mainstream!
14) Do you think that the Arnold has outgrown Columbus?
Ben Tatar: I think the Arnold was extra crowded this year because it was the Arnold's 20th Anniversary. I think the Arnold should stay in Columbus, the site of Arnold's first win. However, they have to make it easier to get around the expo area. It would be nice for the fans to meet the pros without the long lines.
15) After you leave the Arnold, do you feel in any way inspired to work harder in the gym?
Ben Tatar: I was so inspired after my first trip that I floor pressed 315x15 and 405x3 and 455x1! Right now my focus is to do more LIVE interviews and to keep developing as a reporter.
16) At any given moment, what percentage of breasts at the Expo do you think are fake?
Ben Tatar: 99% HAHAHAHA! Seriously, over 90%! If you combine the audience with the workers, then 63% are fake, at least! When you are competing on looks, it's such a natural thing to go out and buy boobs. It is a competitive thing and it gives you the edge!
On that note this hasn't been my primary focus in my interview! haha.
17) After dealing with many of the pros, is there anyone who leaves you awestruck?
Ben Tatar: I think everyone does in some ways. You see the best of the best in different avenues of athletic prowess! Then you add thousands of awestruck memories and the excitement all becomes a part of you and before you know it, it is you!
18) What is a typical Saturday like for Ben Tatar at the Expo? Do you follow a plan or have an agenda?
Ben Tatar: I basically know where everything is and I have a good idea of who I want to meet. It gets easier every year and I try to be flexible to embracing new opportunities.
19) Which booth had the best babes this year?
Ben Tatar: How can I decide?! Everyone is their own champion!
20) Have you ever OD'd on free samples?
Ben Tatar: I took too many samples in March 06 and learned a lesson! I'm intense by nature and don't need help! Ha-ha
21) Did you get to meet Arnold? This year or any other year?
Ben Tatar: Actually I got to meet Arnold this year! I was walking into the Animal Cage to interview Jeremy Hoornstra. As I walked into the cage, Arnold was walking by. We shook hands.
22) What's it like to be recognized at such a huge event?
Ben Tatar: It is cool how people I don't even know say "hi" or want to get their picture taken with me on random streets and aisles.
23) Did it make a difference that the WPO was replaced by the USAPL?
Ben Tatar: I've enjoyed meeting guys from both groups. However, I know more guys from the WPO. I like how they make the WPO feel like an entertainment freak show from another planet! The WPO has a way of getting the crowd involved by promoting meets like they are from a higher and crazier world. IT IS FROM ANOTHER WORLD! I do wish there was room for both groups.
24) What do you think will be the biggest news story to come out of the Arnold this year? To be fair, that could be the biggest Powerlifting story and the biggest Bodybuilding story.
Ben Tatar: One big story was Dexter Jackson winning the Arnold Classic. For powerlifting fans Jeff Lewis's injury was a huge story.
25) Powerlifter Jeff Lewis suffered a horrible accident while squatting at the Arnold. What do you think his chances are of competing at a high level again?
Ben Tatar: He is one of my favorite squatters in the USAPL and WPO, both as a lifter and as a human being. Although, he got hurt, he has so many reasons to be proud. He has a great personality, so he'll always have things to laugh and talk about with people. I would advise everyone to support Jeff Lewis and talk and laugh with him because he needs all the support he can get at this time. Although he is one of the biggest monsters out there, he is also very kind and gentle. Jeff has an amazing son, and I think he will get to support his son and watch his son succeed which will help distract him during these difficult times. If Jeff can take the determination that made him one of the strongest powerlifters in the world through these adversities, I think Jeff will have a bright future, whether it is in powerlifting or anything else.
26) Would you pay Lou Ferrigno $20 for an autograph?
Ben Tatar: hahahaha. NO!
27) What is your opinion of athletes who charge for autographs or photos?
Ben Tatar: I can see why pro athletes do what they do. They have worked hard over the years and they have achieved a lot of wonderful things and people admire them. People are willing to buy their autographs because these athletes are idols to the everyday people. They show people what heights can be reached and motivate people to achieve new levels of success. If people want to pay these extravagant athletes, then that's cool. I personally wouldn't charge. In fact, I enjoy giving people critical bench magnets, t-shirts and publicity for free.
28) Has your mother seen your myspace page?
Ben Tatar: hahahha, Yes! My mom says "Ben, you have a lot of goofy pictures with your head on the bodies of birds, cats, Egyptian pyramids, cupid, Mr. Hankey, and all kinds of things! Haha! My mom just laughs. She is compassionate; she always pushes me to move forward, but she lets me do what I want to do and live the life I want to live. I come from a stable and successful family. I'm the nut of the family.
29) What advice would you have for somebody planning to attend the Arnold for the first time in 2009?
Ben Tatar: I would advise people to meet the people in the industry online before going to these shows and to take pictures when they are there. Also, you don't have to get to the Arnold the second the Arnold opens because you will have to wait in a long line before getting in.
30) What kind of people stay at your hotel? Last year, we had a bunch of MMA fighters at our hotel, and somebody pulled the fire alarm at 3:00 am! Not cool.
Ben Tatar: That is what makes staying at the hotels in Columbus so prestigious. You see the same greats at the hotels as you see at the Expo building. If you go to the Olympia in Vegas, you don't see the athletes and freaks at hotels, you just see everyday tourists. As far as the fire alarm story goes, that is funny, haha. I missed that because Jen Phil, Bill and everyone else was out going haywire and raising hell with me at 3:00am!
31) Did any of the big names surprise you in any way?
Ben Tatar: George Halbert and Jay Fry surprised me in the animal cage. George Halbert surprised me when he tried to bench 610lbs raw at like 210lbs. I was like "What on Earth!?" I heard stories about George benching that much but this time I actually really got to see it LIVE. I was surprised when I met Craig Miles and how much he has succeeded in natural bodybuilding! Meeting Keith Cole surprised me, just a huge monster who was dominate in football, weight lifting, and fighting, so that was cool too! I was also surprised when Jay Fry benched 710lbs at 181 and set an unofficial bench press world record.
32) What was your favorite moment at the Arnold?
Ben Tatar: My favorite moment at the Arnold was the LIVE interview I did with Jay Fry. We did it in 3 pieces, but the interview didn't come through, however, interviewing him was my favorite moment because we did such a great job and it was such an honor to interview him after he benched more than anyone else in the world ever has in the 181lbs weight division. Jay Fry set an unofficial world record benching 710lbs!
I will never forget talking to Jay on the phone over two years ago and saying "Jay you benched 650, would you try stepping under 900lbs?" Jay was like "I might get killed." I suggested he try the bands, boards and a shirt. Jay was brave enough to step under 935lbs and benched it with the shirt/bands/and boards. His confidence went through the roof and when he tried 710lbs at 181; it no longer felt heavy. I can't wait to watch him bench 1,000lbs weighing under 200lbs on video and go after world records.
In all fairness to Brad Heck, he has the world record and has broken Jay's unofficial world record. They are great friends, and they will be competing against each other at the top level for a long time.
33) What was your favorite chance meeting?
Ben Tatar: When I met Natalie Hunt! She was a national Miss Fitness and Miss Bikini champion! She's been in more magazines than I can count, and on many commercials and on TV with the WWE. This was the biggest chance meeting only because we were about to text each other and we saw each other just randomly. That was totally cool and unexpected! Here's a picture of her putting me in the sharpshooter!
34) Do you ever get tired of the Arnold?
Ben Tatar: No, because I always have so much to do. Every aisle I walk down I see as opportunity. I want to go to more of these events. I could see where some people could get tired of such events though. However, since the Arnold is a party for me, there is always someone to see, someone to talk to, an event to watch and business that must get done.
35) Do you attend mostly for personal or professional reasons?
Ben Tatar: To me it's all the same. Passion is passion.
36) Who were the freakiest men and women you either met or observed this year? Do people get freakier from year to year?
Ben Tatar: Well, the biggest man in powerlifting by far as far as sheer size goes is my buddy, Jeff Lewis. Andre Tilt Henry is also one of the biggest men. One of the biggest strongman that I have ever seen was Glenn Ross who is 6'1" and just stands just short of weighing in at 500lbs. As far as freaky goes in more of a muscular sense, Mark Henry from the WWE is just freakishly huge. He is probably the freakiest strength athlete who I have ever seen. He also has the best brute strength ever as he won the 2002 Arnold strongman contest after only training for a month! You have guys who won the Arnold like Dexter Jackson, but he's in a different category because he is super short, only being 5'6". Kenny Gipson amazes me with his arms. I called him the Arnold Freak of 2006. He is like a more muscular version of Zeus. Quincy Taylor is another super huge guy standing at 6'5" and weighing 370 lbs with less than 6% bodyfat. Ryan Kennelly is a monster in person! In the powerlifting realm I think everyone gets more and more freakish every year in strength as records are constantly being broken.
37) Who would you wait more than an hour in line to meet?
Ben Tatar: I'm grateful that I don't have to stay in line for over an hour to meet most of my friends! On that note, I go to the Arnold more to see my friends than to stand in line for a few autographs. I would rather wait in line for an hour to meet my friend Ellie Bowsman AKA The Ellie Monster the next freak of greatness who is crazy, cool and who loves me opposed to some random pro athlete. It's all about the interconnection, baby!
38) What do think when you hear Joe Average commenting that "I could look like that too if I took drugs"?
Ben Tatar: It's a cop-out. They have totally different mindsets. Just talk to Quincy Taylor on the phone and then talk to Joe Average on the phone and they will give you a whole different mindset about training all together. Joe Average will be asking questions like "What supplement is the best? What exercises will build my upper back the best? What do you think of the new routine in Muscle and Fitness?" They ask questions that don't really involve intensity or make comments about what works for them. They talk more about things that they read in magazines almost as if they are magical answers for everyone. When you talk to Quincy he makes statements that have little to do with magic and much to do with intensity& pain. That is the big difference between Joe Average and the best lifters. The best lifters know what works for them, so they don't need generalities! The best lifters are all about going balls to the wall and knowing their bodies at all times. Even if they do take drugs, it means they have to train that much harder.
39) Were the freebies better or worse than in previous years?
Ben Tatar: Worse because they didn't give as many freebies out. I didn't want the freebies because my hands were always full because I was giving out my own freebies.
Also the industry has gotten more mature and there aren't a lot of exciting new products on the market compared to previous years. Add the struggling economy to the mix and it puts the fitness industry into a funk! However, then again, in reference to question 20, the freebies were probably better for me personally this year than in past years because I didn't accidentally get high off of them, haha!
40) What will you do different at the 2009 Arnold?
Ben Tatar: I'll have free t-shirts for everyone. I will be using a microphone when I do LIVE interviews. I'll have really fancy cameras. I will make little videos with everyone and not just pictures so we have our own special video memories together. There will be all sorts of new things going on, people to see and things to arrange. Each trip just gets better because every storyline builds off of each trip. The saga's continue and evolve.
41) What would be the ultimate photo op at the Arnold for you?
Ben Tatar: I'd like to take more people to my hotel room and make more crazy photos with the body paint and do all kinds of crazy stuff! I want to paint and make girls into these monsters, crazy animals, dumbbells and all these other things that I feel resembles who they are! I just want to put on a freak show of my own! Maybe I could bench a sumo wrestler? Hmm.. If I could paint myself into a barbell this year, just imagine what I have in store for the future!
42) Don't you think that dudes with gray hair are about the coolest dudes at the Expo???
Ben Tatar: Definitely because dudes with gray hair still have a great zeal for life! Take yourself, Dean Bennett, here's a man who was in a freak accident and couldn't walk for a long time, but he bounced back and as old as he might look, he is looking to bench press 400lbs down the road!. Here's a man who I wanted, out of everyone, to interview me today! Dean I admire your choices today and you inspire me that age is nothing more than a silly number! Like the external world, age is merely an illusion, the journey is from within, and you are great inspiration forever. I hope when I'm your age, I will be having as much fun as you are.
43) Classic question: If you could invite any three people from the 2008 Arnold over for dinner, who would they be and why?
Ben Tatar: I'd pick John Cena, Arnold and Michele Levesque! As Michele and I would team up and beat the hell out of Cena and Arnold! We'd make an Arnold Classic Movie doing that! YAA! Rarrrrrr!
44) Who had the biggest arms at the Expo of any year that you have been?
Ben Tatar: Gregg Valentino.
45) Did you see the booth where they were promoting bathroom remodels? What's up with THAT?
Ben Tatar: I think I was too busy to see that! Ha-ha. It goes to show how nutty this fitness world can really be, and how many different facets it has!
46) Did anybody's personal stories of triumph over adversity inspire you?
Ben Tatar: Charla Cormier from the natural freak booth. She lost her son after her 7th month of pregnancy. However, she is still as positive and inspiring as they come. I really would like to meet her at the 2009 Arnold or before then. There are just so many stories of people who overcome adversities. Life is series of dying and being born again, of adversities and triumphs. In the end though, adversity can be our quickest route to growth! Adversity can lead us to wisdom and inner strength. Adversity has taught me to appreciate life on all levels.
47) Who else would you like to meet next year?
Ben Tatar: There are over 100 people who I would like to meet next year. The list is too big to write here and it's always evolving. That is another reason why I'm motivated to attend the Arnold Expo and meet people at other places throughout the year! There are so many new faces to meet and people to see again.
48) Did you meet anyone this year who you think might qualify as a rising star?
Ben Tatar: Well, I want to give a shout to the people at the Arnold who are stars or stars on the rise that I got a photo with at the 2008 Arnold Expo. If you make this list, call it a prestigious honor and let me write a sentence:
1) Big Sexi Heath Cole. This man was a great power athlete and football player. Now he is going to become big time in the sport of Full Contact fighting. Also, let me add Nebraska's very own Houston Alexander who has been making headlines in the UFC.
2) Amanda Harris, Barbie Barbell. She made it big in powerlifting, and I expect to see her make it big in any type of figure or modeling that she does. She is making new amazing achievements everyday! Her mindset and potential is unlimited.
3) Rob Carbo with his fitness TV show. Rob might be in his 50s, but he shows that you can be a rising star at any age!
4) Sylvia Tremblay. I won't say her age, but she has been around for awhile and she's beating young models in their early and mid 20s! She got 2nd place in her competition! She has the attitude and heart of a lion!
5) Chris McMahon and Craig Miles. Both of these guys are natural bodybuilders, and they just keep getting better everyday. They aren't just great bodybuilders, but very healthy people and great role models for kids across the country!
6) Alex Castro from American Gladiators. He has a charismatic aura and will do well in the entertainment industry. Also, Shannon Leroux who made her first appearance this year to the Arnold as she worked for Gaspari Nutrition. She's 6 feet tall and it's not so much that she is a rising star, but her kids could be since they are genetic freaks! Combine that with some hard work and creative visions, and there are no limits to what they can achieve!
7) Powerlifting champion Becca Swanson. She has a new video coming out. She's the strongest female ever. I can foresee her doing all kinds of media work nationally. I'm also going to give my props to Jeremy Hoornstra the best RAW bencher in the world and Kenny Gipson with his new video, "Kenny Gipson Hardcore".
8) For the fitness models, I'm going to give some props to Carrie Lynd, Shay Lyn, Crystal Rush, Ocean Bloom (who already gets to hang with every ufc fighter, )Cathy Ostberg, and Christina Lindley. Very few females would qualify to work at such an event as the Arnold. If they can make it to the Arnold, I'm sure they have so much potential in all different avenues of life.
9) Micah Lacerta, just because he has developed a great natural physique and has done a great job with his online personal training business. He is known and loved by many which could lead to so many opportunities for his future.
10) Zach Beadle who got to compete this year at the Arnold! Marv Blauvelt, he's a natural bodybuilder. He is doing TV shows on the Sci-Fi channel and movies. Look for an interview with him at critical bench in the near future.
We'll see, but being around the best, being motivated and having connections, is definitely a stepping stone to superstardom!
49) Regarding bodybuilding and powerlifting, how big is TOO big? Any examples for this year's Expo?
Ben Tatar: Well, the secret innuendo to this question is BALANCE. Too big in regards to this question is when one becomes psychologically unhealthy and forgets to focus on other mountains in life. In my opinion, there is no such thing as lifting too much weight or becoming too big as long as one doesn't shatter ones wholeness or health in the process.
I can understand why one would strive for too big though! As you know, the more extreme the goal is and the harder the goal is to attain, then the bigger the prize is in the end! It's the challenge that defines the reward.
50) Ben it has been great talking to your great mind today about the 2008 Arnold experience. Ben, in closing is there anything else that you would like to say!
Ben Tatar: Let's meet at a future Event. Stop by and we'll have lots of fun. I am just getting started!
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