Interview With Fitness Atlantic Promoter Brian Cannone by Ben Tatar of CriticalBench.com
1. Critical Bench: Brian, introduce yourself to Critical Bench readers.
Brian: I am a General Manager of two health clubs in Connecticut (Shelton and New Haven). I work at least sixty hours per week; I hire and train all of the staff from membership sales people, personal trainers, front desk, babysitters, and group exercise instructors. I have worked for Ultimate Fitness for 8 years now and prior to that I was in another club for 8 (World Gym Trumbull 1991-1998) with a brief year where I worked two others for 6 months each (Gold's Gym Norwalk and In Shape Branford). I have worked every position in the clubs from floor trainer >personal trainer >nutritionist to fitness director, and also sales to sales manager to general manager.
In my current position I have worked the clubs from choosing equipment and layout through the presale and construction. I always enjoyed being a trainer and helping people reach their fitness goals. I was never into the entire core and sports training. My workouts were basic movements with cardio at the end of every workout. The core and sports training stuff is great for athletes doing sports but I was into helping people change the way that they looked by losing body fat and building muscle. The people I helped would either change their eating habits and have a total physique makeover or wouldn't follow it at all and just want a hand held workout. In the end if people didn't have a goal, I wouldn't take them on as a client--I'm not into holding hands and counting reps and my business was all referrals. The clients were my marketing! There were no before and after photos, no business cards and flyers, and never a special promotion. People would see their friends and family and insist that they meet with me. As time went on I found myself selling most the club memberships, which in turn I started to run the clubs and found it wasn't good to be a trainer and the club general manager since I couldn't focus as much on my clients. As a club manager it is more dealing with club issues and that is member billing problems and I kept getting called away or interrupted.
Becoming the manager was just the next step to owning my own club. I still want my own club but with the current price wars of the large facilities in Connecticut right now I don't feel the timing would be right - eventually it will happen.
2. Critical Bench: How did you become owner of Fitness Atlantic? And how does it feel to be the owner of Fitness Atlantic?
Brian: FitnessAtlantic.com the website was started in 2001 and it was first put online by webmaster Joe Agostinelli. Joe was the promoter for a NABF show in Rhode Island and we happened to promote our shows on the same day that year and neither of us could move our dates so we wouldn't conflict. We became friends from writing each other online and he created my website that year. At first the site was just about the show, how to find it and enter but really I wanted to explain bodybuilding and fitness from my perspective. I wanted to promote the natural athletes from New England and explain the contest from my point of view. I wanted people to know how much I cared about natural shows and that I had competed in them myself. I wanted to pass on the things that I have learned and how I wanted my event to be looked upon differently and not have the same perspective as just another show. In 2003 Joe Agostinelli had other things going on and my site was becoming too time consuming. Then I met Mike Westerdal of Critical Bench while promoting the show that I was going to run in Boston, Massachusetts and we talked about my website and the direction I wanted it to grow. I wanted to expand the Fitness Atlantic website to offer more information, photos, biographies, a store, and video clips and in 2004 we redesigned the site and the site doubled in size. I feel the site has come a long way and that it is only going to get better. I always feel the website needs more and should be updated often. I feel the website is one of the most important promotional tools.
3. Critical Bench: Tell us about all of the competitions that you have run over the years one by one and what makes each and everyone of them special.
Brian: All of them? That is a lot of shows let's see. In 1991 - 1992 I competed in bodybuilding sold a ton of tickets and won crowd favorite in the shows the promoter Fred Yale wanted me involved and past the shows on to me.
1993 A.A.U. Milford County and Mr./Ms. Connecticut ran two shows that year and right until 1998 - I created posing clinics that started 12 weeks out to the shows and trained all the clients. The shows at that time were small since Fred had sold his gym and wasn't as involved I had to build them back up and the shows were limited to Connecticut residents only so it was all local. I drove around to every Connecticut gym and hung up posters that looked like Chinese food menus and built the shows up to from 20 athletes to over 60.
In 1998 right before the Mr./Ms. Connecticut Fred Yale was opening another gym and getting back into the fitness business - he had left to focus on school teaching and the Junior Olympic Games when he gave the shows over to me. Fred was always the shows Master of Ceremonies so people still thought that Fred was the promoter even though I was doing all the work - no big deal but in 1998 Fred wanted to start spending some show expenses on flying in judges and other decisions which I felt were not cost-effective or important to the athletes - I called a meeting and we met at a diner I told Fred how I felt about expenses and that I always paid for everything or found sponsors to cover costs he said he wanted more involvement since his gym was opening. Knowing that Fred since was the District Chairman for the AAU and also did the reservation of the venues I held the contest in I walked away from the show giving it back to Fred. I was upset and nearly a year went by and I sat out of the shows - Fred ran the largest Mr./Ms. CT that year from the rolling promotion I had in place but after his show the AAU happened to shut down Physique as a sport since it was the only adult sport that had out of 55 sports that were mostly youth based. Fred and I were still friendly and he even hosted my show in 2002 and 2003.
In the beginning of 1998 a friend had given me a flyer for Musclemania that was one show a year televised on ESPN that came in the mail with his supplement order. I called and spoke to a Robin Chang at American Sports Network Inc. and asked if I would be able to sanction a show on the East Coast - he told me that they only sanctioned Fitness America Pageants but had not sanctioned the Musclemania brand and he told me to mail a video of one of my contests. I sent in a video of the AAU East Coast Iron Classic I had ran with Twinlab as a sponsor, Skip LaCour as the guest poser, professional stage design, and a glossy brochure entry form. I then received a call from Lou Zwick letting me know he was impressed I may sanction the show.
I was going to run my event at a high school in Norwalk, CT and was at Kinko's with a friend working on the computer designing the flyer and met the person next to us that was designing a flyer for an R&B concert at the Palace. He happened to be the manager of the Palace and at that meeting I was able to book the Palace Theatre in New Haven at a special price. I booked the show a week before the NPC Gold's Classic which was supposed to be held at the Shubert Theatre but was cancelled last minute and just happened all the athletes doing that show did the Atlantic instead. The judges for the Gold's show called me and were looking forward to judging so I had the judging panel that would have judged the NPC Gold's Classic. For the 1999 event I went to a stage company in Connecticut that builds staging for Broadway musicals and asked to rent a backdrop and some pillars they turned me down telling me they only do multimillion dollar projects but as I was leaving an employee pulled me to the side and asked what I was putting together so I told him about the show he told me not to worry and he would take care of it. We met and he asked me for my vision and what the show was about then he told me to rent the largest moving truck I can get and meet him at the shop the morning of the event. That show had a 15 foot platform with steel trussing and half circle staircases down the sides with the Musclemania logo painted center stage it was awesome and the show just took off from there.
4. Critical Bench: What direction would you like to see Fitness Atlantic head in? What would be your future dream regarding Fitness Atlantic?
Brian: My goal is for the Fitness Atlantic website to become the main thing I promote and the show is secondary to that and that they compliment each other differently than in the past. In past years the show was the top priority and some athletes didn't even focus so much on the website or ever visit it, go online, or even have an email address. Now, the athletes from the show visit the site on almost a daily basis.
5. Critical Bench: What is the best part about being owner of Fitness Atlantic? What is the worst part?
The best parts of running the show or building the website is when people acknowledge how much they enjoy either of them. The very best is when I hear people praise the show and they don't know that I produce it. It is great to know that people sincerely enjoy the event and the website and that it becomes a special part of people lives. The worse part is when people mention politics and favoritism. If people want to be on the website all they need to do is send professional photos and a biography it doesn't matter what place they took in the event. Sometimes people become very upset over a show placing and then spread rumors and talk down the show just because they didn't place as highly as they would have liked to when I am the last person to find out a score or placing. Sometimes I let it bother me too much when athletes are upset over a placing and they talk negative about the show it bothers me deeply.
6. Critical Bench: What was the day that made you come to realization that you love bodybuilding? How did your passion for bodybuilding begin?
Brian: My Dad got me into bodybuilding and weight lifting. I got my first plastic cement filled weight set at age 8. My Dad is in his 60s now and is still a big guy. I'd have to say second was television shows with bodybuilders - while my Dad was inspired by Steve Reeves in Hercules I was inspired by the Incredible Hulk with Lou Ferrigno and wrestling with Hulk Hogan. It was watching these shows with my Dad that inspired me to get into bodybuilding and then eventually read the muscle magazines, join a gym, and eventually compete, then start running contests.
7. Critical Bench: What makes Fitness Atlantic so special?
Brian: The Contestants. It is all about the contestants in this show - we all share a bond from having the same interests.
8. Critical Bench: What have been your favorite moments that you have witnessed working with Fitness Atlantic so far?
Brian: 1. In 1999 the moving truck bringing in the stage arrangements with the Broadway crew and my best friend Joe driving the truck up to the Palace and when the stage set was put together.
2. When I ran a show in Boston and my crew all came up to help run it and my truck was overloaded with supplies and we crashed in like two rooms everyone just pitched in and went completely out of their way to make that show happen.
9. Critical Bench: What have been some of the craziest things that you have ever seen take place at Fitness Atlantic? Give me the craziest experiences if you can?
Brian: The moment that I have experienced that was appropriate was in an overall pose down in 2002 with Kofi, Grant, Mo, and Luther when they almost pushed each other off the stage and onto the judges' table - they were so close to going over the stage.
10. Critical Bench: Do you have a message for all the people around the world who might be inspired by your interview to compete in the Fitness Atlantic show who can't make up their minds? Why should everyone come and compete in Fitness Atlantic?
Brian: Remember to have fun. It isn't all that serious. You will end up with a trophy at best. Anyone can do this and have a good fun time if you make your mind up to do that. Try not to stress about it. If you'd like some more
information about competiting visit the entry form page at my site. Currently we have bodybuilding, fitness, bikini, figure, and modeling categories.
Critical Bench: It has been great interviewing you! Is there anyone who you would like to thank?
The Athletes, Donna Poggio, my parents, and my show staff: Wild Bill Warford, Soundman Jim Goldstein, Andre "Rock" St. Clair, Ted Clark, Tony Scaife, Todd Ganci, Joe Curiale, Mike Westerdal, Cindy, Joe Agostinelli, Mike D'Angelo. Be sure
to visit my web site at www.fitnessatlantic.com!