50th Mr. Olympia Anniversary Interview: Behind the Scenes w/ Ben Tatar
Interview By Chris Wilson
Coach Chris: Hi Ben “Tatar-Monster” and thanks again for your amazing pictures and unequaled enthusiasm for the Mr. Olympia. This year was the 50th Anniversary of the Big O, what made it bigger and better than in years past?
Ben Tatar: I will list 10 things that made this years Olympia bigger than in years past:
1) There were more booths than any Olympia, ever! In fact, this year’s Olympia had more booths than the Arnold! There were so many booths that you couldn’t even see them all in one weekend!
2) There were more champions, stars and models at each booth than other years.
3) This year’s Olympia had NEW supplement companies that we have never seen before!
4) The older greats were all there this year! (The industry grows because all the true old champions stay in the industry even as new ones are welcomed!) Even Lee Haney, Sylvester Stallone and even Arnold Schwarzenegger attended the 50th.
5) Every year the Olympia adds new events and competitions.
6) It is better because it has a lot of history and has been in existence for over 50 years.
7) I approached the 50th Anniversary smarter than past events. I used my time more efficiently.
8) I had more fun in Las Vegas than past years! I had so much fun; I didn’t even go to bed on Saturday Night.
9) I have so many crazy stories that I can’t write here, so email me at moc.liamgnull@retsnoMrataT to hear some.
10) What can I say? More booths, models, old stars, new stars, new companies, new competitions, Arnold and the fact that I went all out created a big weekend like no other.
Coach Chris: As in previous years, there is always a debate about WHO got robbed on stage and WHO got a lot of unnecessary hype. Can you share with us your opinions about the 2014 results?
Ben Tatar: I figured that Phil Heath would win before the Olympia even started. The “After Party,” at XS was named after Phil Heath. The Sandow Trophy (The Mr. Olympia 1st place trophy,) was at his Gifted Nutrition booth and headlined after him. At his booth people would get pics taken with it. The whole event just had Phil Heath’s name on it. I know, there was a lot of hype about Kai Greene winning, but I just think a lot of people wanted Greene to win since he’s an entertainer!
Many people were ready for a change and feel that Greene’s ATTITUDE could take bodybuilding to a more exciting level. Others are strongly against Greene and look at his antics as unprofessional and degrading to the sport. For example, Greene bumped Phil the night before the Olympia and a lot of people were smack talking Greene. I try to stay out of that. LOL. However, Phil gives back a lot to the sport with all of his charitable endeavors such as The Make It Fit Foundation (for Autism). Phil I think is still the man and champion for at least one more year.
Coach Chris: What was more fun, hanging with the 275 lb shredded BEASTS or taking pics with the 100 lb hotties?
Ben Tatar: Interesting question. It’s so different. The models and I always get along really well. I also love reconnecting with the champions who I have already interviewed. Over the last fifteen years of being in the industry, it has been amazing how much socializing with them has changed. It’s different since I bond with them all in ways that are unique. However, I will say that going into this event, it was different than in the past.
In the last few years, social networking has changed drastically. Ten years ago, it was all about the phone and websites because models or shredded monsters didn’t have a Myspace or a Facebook. If bodybuilders or models wanted to be promoted, they would need to solely use magazines or the internet. Fifteen or even ten years ago, I was one of their only connections for fame. Back then the turnover with models and pro bodybuilders wasn’t as high which allowed for more of a “reunion” type of feel during every single event.
Today social media is different because social media is about people wanting followers on Instagram or on their Facebook fan pages and there are many other apps. This makes social media different because most people are posting things for thousands of people to see or watching thousands of their friends’ postings. If someone isn’t your best friend, social media usually isn’t one on one private conversation based. If you look at the Critical Bench fan page, you post, and tons of fans click “like”, share or comment!
In addition, changes in social media have led to a greater turnover rate of models and monsters at the supplement booths. I suspect that the supplement companies are looking for people with larger and different followings to endorse their products. As a result of this, I went into the 50th Olympia knowing less people than I did at past events. This also means that many of the 275lbs Monsters and models who I was meeting, were new to me and the industry. Despite, the changes in social media, I made it all work and I had a kickass time! It’s usually more fun meeting the booth babes than it is meeting a 275lbs shredded beast for the first time, but I still can’t generalize because I know so many of them in different ways.
Coach Chris: You’ve now attended your share of Mr O’s and Arnold’s, where does this years event rank?
Ben Tatar: My favorite Arnold of all time was the 2011 event. My favorite Olympia of all time was the 2009 event. The 2009 Olympia was better than this one because it had a lot more star power. You had Stone Cold Steve Austin, Trish Stratus, John Cena, Batista, Hulk Hogan, Carmen Electra (just to name a few,) and tons of bodybuilders & fitness models at every booth. Back in 2009 the bench press contest was on the main stage with easy viewing.
There were also fewer fans in attendance which made the 2009 event easier to network. The economy was stronger back in 2009 which meant that the companies and the city of Vegas was peaked. Also, since the industry was strong, I was seeing people who I have known for a long time at all the booths. 2009 I think was the best year for Olympia’s to date.
If I had to rank them, here is my top 10! Starting in at number 10:
10) a. 2013 Olympia– I jumped off the tallest tower in Las Vegas& United States, and I did well in the World’s greatest athlete contest. The reason these other cool things happened was because the Expo wasn’t the best.
The 2013 Olympia Interview with Ben Tatar can be read here: http://www.criticalbench.com/ben-tatar-2013-olympia-interview/
10) b. 2008 Olympia– This one wasn’t as good as the 2013 Olympia, but I have to mention it because the weekend was crazy! I really put the Tatar Terror on this event! Also, it brings back so many powerful memories since so many old friends were there.
The 2008 Olympia Report with Ben Tatar can be read here: http://www.criticalbench.com/2008-olympia-pictures.htm
“Ladies & Gentlemen…We have another TIE”
9) a. 2010 Olympia– This was a special time because I saw Mike Westerdal and I also saw my Grandparents in Palm Desert right after. The reason it gets number 9 was because the actual event wasn’t as good as other ones.
Another interview with me: http://www.criticalbench.com/2008-Arnold-Expo-Report.htm
9) b. 2012 Arnold—The 2012 Arnold ties the 2010 Olympia for the 9th spot. This event was way better than the events before 2005. This event was also way better than the 2011 Arnold and the 2008 Olympia. The 2012 Arnold was special because my relationships had grown, I made forever deep friendships, the big stars were there and I had an incredible weekend! This event seemed ideal while it was happening on all cylinders. The issue with the 2012 Arnold when I look back in retrospect was that a lot of the people who I loved in the industry would never return!
The Ben Tatar 2012 Arnold Interview can be read here: http://www.criticalbench.com/tag/2012-arnold-sports-festival/
8) 2013 Arnold—This was big because it was the Arnold’s 25th Anniversary. The 2013 Arnold (The 25th Anniversary,) was similar to the 2014 Arnold. There were great after parties, charity parties and great times with friends. I met lots of great friends, saw old ones and the parties were incredible. The 2014 Arnold was a little better than the 25th Anniversary because I made more history.
The Ben Tatar 25th Arnold Anniversary Interview can be read here: http://www.criticalbench.com/ben-tatar-interview/
7) 2014 Arnold—I set an all time record for doing 40 pull-ups wearing a 50lbs vest, and I competed& succeeded in the Arnold table tennis contest. A lot of my records set at this event are hung in gyms and restaurants all over. I did private charity events with Phil Heath, Jay Cutler, Ed Russ, and the after party was outstanding!
The Ben Tatar 2014 Arnold Interview can be read here: http://www.criticalbench.com/ben-tatar-2014-arnold-interview/
6) 50th Olympia Anniversary–This year’s Olympia was big as you can see in the first question. I was going all out in pool parties, at XS, Freemont street, flying helicopters, hanging with greats, more babes than ever and freaks everywhere.
5) 2007 Arnold—-The 2007 Arnold was big because the fitness industry was better. It was a time where the industry was more about being HARDCORE and a paradise to men. It wasn’t about making as many events as possible to make more money. I had been enough times to where I knew how to play the Arnold, I saw close friends who are no longer alive, and it was just a more badass time. I was screaming in excitement a lot at this one.
The 2007 Ben Tatar Arnold Report can be read here: http://www.criticalbench.com/arnold-classic-2007.htm
4) 2006 Arnold—This one was great because it was new to me! I walked into the Expo and I saw all the Pro Athletes, Models, Pro Bodybuilders and everyone who I have ever interviewed. It was like attending this paradise and covering it for Critical Bench. At that moment, I knew I was living my dream. I was off the wall getting high on supplements and shaking. I was amped on excitement the whole time, and the whole event was a huge memory.
The 2006 Ben Tatar Arnold Interview can be read here: http://www.criticalbench.com/arnold-classic-2006.htm
3) 2009 Arnold— This was a big one because the fitness industry was peaked in a hardcore state rather than trying to make it more family like to attract more people. I remember getting models booth jobs, did the human barbell, set some records. Everyone I knew was there, and the industry was top notch at this time.
The 2009 Ben Tatar Arnold Report can be read here: http://www.criticalbench.com/2009-arnold-pictures.htm
2) 2009 Olympia—This event would have made for a great movie if the whole thing was televised! It was at a time when I knew how to master Vegas and the Olympia event. Everyone I knew was there. The event had more star power than ever, and I just had crazy adventures all weekend.
The 2009 Ben Tatar Olympia Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-llzn6Y92w
1) 2011 Arnold– The 2011 Arnold was my favorite one yet. All the people I knew were there. All the stars were there, and everything was peaked to the maximum.
The 2011 Ben Tatar Arnold video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOKwO6VWjrA
In closing, all the events were special and peaked in different ways. At the end of the day, the events on this list and off this list are the best since they are all connected. I’m very grateful for all of them. What a ride! I give a special thanks to Critical Bench for the opportunities for coverage.
Coach Chris: Please project for us where you see PRO bodybuilding in the next 5 years? Is it possible for these guys to get even freakier or do you feel there will be a shift to a more tapered and aesthetically pleasing look, like the Old School muscle guys of the 70s? Less bloated and more appealing.
Ben Tatar: I think PRO bodybuilding is already changing. At the 49th Mr. Olympia the smaller 212lbs pro weight class (the show down class,) emerged. There is also a men’s physique competition as one of the big Olympia headliners. Also, I’m aware that some of the supplement companies have replaced the larger pro bodybuilders for smaller physique competitors at some of the booths.
I remember posting a picture of the biggest bodybuilder in the world, Craig Golias, from the 2014 Olympia on the Critical Bench page and most everyone disrespected him.
We are also living in a time where we are seeing bodybuilders dying before they hit their 35th birthdays. I also think the biggest freaks from 15, 10 and 5 years ago were bigger than today’s top freaks. I think of the biggest bodybuilder lifters I have known such as Greg Kovacs. Greg was 6’4 and 440lbs (Who died last year,) which was much bigger than the stereotypical jacked freak at today’s Olympia of 6’4 340lbs.
None of the freaks at this year’s Olympia were as big as names like Andre Tilt Henry, Jeff Maddy, Jeff Lewis, OD Wilson, Vitor Richards, and strongman Glen Ross from their primes. I think you could make a human bigger, (as that is a mentality where no limits exist,) but I don’t think it’s as universally desired. I think there are more shredded freaks today than there were ten years ago who are over 300lbs, but less who are over 350lbs.
For the more tapered physiques, I think that Old School Bodybuilding is making a comeback, but maybe not like the 70s because it’s not too rare to be ripped at a regular size today. Society is just different. At the Olympia there were lots of people who wanted to see the girls in bikini’s more than the ripped guys competing in the physique competition. FAR more people attended the bikini contest than the men’s physique competition.
The bikini competitions and the female aspect of fitness is what is really on the rise! Even when you look at the thousands of commentators at the Critical Bench page, you often see thousands of people consistently saying things like 1) The Freaks are Gross and aren’t healthy or fit. 2) The ripped guys are called gay and are seen as individuals with inferior complex disorders who don’t lift a lot… I don’t think either side is going to become that popular from a mainstream perspective.
People are interested in other things now with the rise of other sports and styles of training. However, I think everything weight lifting and fitness related will always be popular! People will always want to be strong, fast, jacked and attract! It doesn’t matter if they are a Rockstar, athlete, comedian, philosopher, big brother, little brother, father, coach or any of the above!
People who look healthy and who are strong will always be role models! People who are healthy and who are strong will self actualize! People who are healthy and who are strong will have confidence because they will attract people to them… I think from that angle, the fitness world is evolving! From that angle, the fitness world will evolve! From that angle, the fitness industry will have great surprises every single year. From that analogy, the world of training hardcore and fitness will always be a celebration.
Interview with strength athlete and interview All-Star Ben Tatar
By Dean Bennett for CriticalBench.com
Critical Bench goes one on one with strength athlete and one of the best iron game interviewers of the past decade, Ben Tatar.
CB: Ben, it’s great to be interviewing you today. Let’s learn about the strength athlete who lives the dream, interviews the stars, and lives on the edge: the famous Ben Tatar Monster.
BT: Thanks Dean. It’s great to be doing this interview with you and Critical Bench today.
CB: It’s awesome to be interviewing you. First question, Ben, how did you get started in going to events like the Olympia, and Arnold? How did you get started on this epic journey?
BT: Ever since I was a teenager, I was writing for Critical Bench and other magazines. I was also interviewing the best powerlifters, bodybuilders, models, and athletes in the world. Everyone who I interviewed wanted to meet me. Then everyone invited me to go to events like the Arnold and Olympia. The rest is history.
CB: That is awesome! List for us a great moment during your journey, a crazy moment, funny moment, and a moment that changed you the most?
BT: Greatest moment was when my family raised millions of dollars for autism as we rollerbladed from Florida to Maine, over 2000 miles. This also increased global awareness and was all over every TV station including Good Morning America. It was such an adventure and a great cause. We do stuff like this frequently. In fact at last years New Years party we raised so much money, that the first teaching hospital, headquartered in Mirebalais, Haiti was built . We have raised millions of dollars for Autism, muscle diseases, and all kinds of things. We are frequently doing these types of things to make the world a better place.
A crazy moment is just the fact that I know all the strongest monsters in the world, and that I’m friends with every single one of them.
Funniest moment, I’m always laughing as I have seen stuff in life that is more outrageous than all the scenes of the movie The Hangover!! A moment that changed me the most, was probably when I interviewed the living legend Dave Draper as a young kid for Iron Man Magazine. Once I did that, I had confidence and I would later go on to do social networking and weight lifting business with names like Hulk Hogan, John Cena, Carmen Electra, Ray Lewis and many more.
CB: All big things! How are celebrities different from normal people? Which celebrity was coolest and which was the biggest jerk?
BT: It depends. You can’t generalize. People are people,and some people just really excel in a special interest. What we do is not who we are, it’s just what we do. If I was the best in the world at something or the worst, I’m still Ben Tatar. It’s just about taking a passion and seeing where one can go with it! The people who are the best in the world just take a skill that they have as far as they can and some get known for it. They fear like others, but they have courage to face their fears and make their dreams realities.
As for the celebrities that I didn’t like, well I told John Saunders that I was going to throw him in the pool at an ESPN pool party at Barry Melrose’s house. (laughs). The Ultimate Warrior is another one who was difficult, he gave me my shortest interview of all time. Jenny McCarthy was one of the craziest but in an inappropriately cool way. People like Tito Ortiz and The Rock are different in real life than what you see on TV, because they aren’t living through their persona and they are motivators instead of playing controversial entertaining personas. As for a really cool one, I always liked Barry Melrose. We could talk about anything for hours. 9 out of 10 of them have been great in real life.
People ask me these questions all the time. It’s easier for me to discuss topics in private, so my email is moc.liamgnull@retsnomratat
CB: Are the celebrities usually hard to talk to or easy?
BT: Very easy because they get to go in depth about their successful journeys that they are proud of.
CB: Everyone loves the Tatar Monster. Everyone from hardcore athletes, pro athletes, to models. Do you find it hard to get along with the toughest fighters and the toughest monsters in the world?
BT: As for the tough guys in general, it’s funny because people fear the tough guys, but the toughest people are often the nicest people in the world. It’s a lot easier for the toughest monsters to be nice guys than it is for the Average Joe’s to be nice guys because the toughest guys usually get respected. People usually don’t pick on the toughest monsters, so it’s easier for them to be nice.
Also, the toughest guys have a stereotype of being mean bastards, so they will be extra nice to people as their kindness then has added value. With average guys on the other hand, if they are too nice, then some of them are afraid of being perceived as sissy-like and they might try to act tough in order to overcompensate. Plus, tough guys often have a true confidence about themselves and don’t need to prove themselves. Now, I understand that when you know the toughest monsters in a much more personal way, there is a great chance that they have a lot of badass stories, but when you are working with them in a setting where they are being paid to be nice, and in my case (giving them publicity,) it makes it very easy for them to be super pleasant to be around. In addition we have a lot in common which makes conversations natural.
CB: Very true. You’re smart Ben. I liked your tough guy analogy. From an interview give us a very crazy moment!
BT: When I was interviewing Frank Shamrock, I asked “What was the craziest thing that you have ever experienced in a fight?”
Frank Shamrock said ” Well, one time I was so dehydrated in a fight that my mouth was so dry and since my mouth was so dry, I had trouble breathing for 8 minutes. So I clinched in the stand up wrestling position and I actually licked the sweat off my opponents shoulders! And after I licked the sweat off my opponents shoulder, I recovered. Then I was able to kick his ass!”
After that, there were hundreds and thousands of comments going on over every message board. Especially, the Sherdog message board. This was when the UFC and Frank Shamrock were both in their primes,and it was a big deal. They even made comic t-shirts based on Frank’s response to the question.
CB: That’s funny. You have been all over the world, do you have a favorite place?
BT: Wow, that’s a good question. Every place and person I’m with is so unique. I have been blessed to have been able to go to so many different places. When I go to SF, my family there presents me with an experience that can’t be matched. When I go to a big charity event in Boston, I feel the same way. When I’m jet skiing in the Caribbean at full speed or when I’m at home boating, wake boarding, and cliff jumping all summer, it’s the same. If I’m going to Vegas to party, or Florida to do the Tough Mudder or just relaxing at the beach, it’s all good. It’s not just one specific thing, but I’m blessed to have had so many different experiences in life.
CB: How are you going to remember your journey?
BT: As Mike Witmer once said, “when you’re on your death bed, you want to look back at your journey as a ride…. You then will want to look back and say, ‘Whoaaa what a ride.'” I will remember my journey as an amazing RIDE! It has been a real Tatar Nation Euphoria Planet Tatar Pandemonium Paradise! I was a warrior during the hard times and I cherished the happy times. Every night when I go to bed or when I have a minute to myself, I look back and I smile!
There is a book called “Moonwalking with Einstein” which argues the premise that we are the sum of our memories. I thank God that I got to live as me and all of my memories are with me forever.
CB: Ben, you have done great! What is your advice for others who would like to be successful?
BT: Do what you love and enjoy every minute of it. I always live by the motto that the journey is the destination as we are never “there.” Even when we become great, new stuff comes up, so it’s about finding meaning in what we do. Enjoy it forever, and greatness will always be natural.
In the end, everyone who amounts to anything faces peaks and valleys, adversity, and glory! It’s the people who are deep enough to find unconditional meaning in this crazy world are the ones who live life happy.
CB: What’s harder when you bench pressed over 600lbs with bands, bench press locked out 755lbs and bench pressed for 455lbs off the floor, or interviewing superstars?
BT: Probably when I bench pressed 455lbs off of the floor because it could have killed me. However, I loved doing both. I found it harder to run the Tough Mudder (long distance,) because I did the whole thing without properly training for it. My buddy Mike Westerdal finished it with SECOND degree burns all over his fingers (CRAZINESS,) and I kept going and finished it! Although, it kicked my ass, I kicked its ass right back! I ended up finishing it after experiencing a calf muscle pop and a strain in my hamstring, LOL! It was super painful, yet a lot of fun! Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!
CB: Ben, how did you get so strong?
BT: To simplify, it is making what is weak stronger,(we are only as strong as our weakest link, so everything must be strong!) Another factor is knowing when to peak, (a program like Critical Bench helps one with that,) and having the mental fortitude to blast through heavy weights. The answer to being really good at anything is to apply passion and ATTITUDE into everything you do and surround yourself with the best. Your greatness will take off.
CB: Do you ever get nervous before doing an interview?
BT: The Tatar Monster doesn’t think in that context. I’m just blessed to have the opportunity to do things that I love. I make things happen and one thing always leads to the next. All I know is that I’m going to enjoy it all. I know that some of my most uncensored stuff with others during interviews was the best stuff. I remember when huge bodybuilder Quincy Taylor was raging during an interview, and I just smiled because I knew it would make the story interesting. It turned out to be his favorite interview ever and one of the most real and hardcore interviews that I have ever done.
CB: What makes Ben Tatar different from everyone else?
BT: Well, everyone is different, but I will list 11 things about me that are unusual:
1) I have jumped and hit my head into 9 foot ceilings, ripped water bottles with my hands, cracked eggs while only touching the opposite ends of the eggs (which was thought of as impossible to many,) and I have a few other crazy world records that you can email me about.
2) I bench pressed 415lbs while having a vertical over 40 inches high. The average NBA player was listed at 29 inches.
3) Not only am I super-super explosive and strong, but I was able to run the Tough Mudder (half marathon with 28 intense crazy obstacles.) People with fast twitch fibers aren’t suppose to do super long races like that. I think I was the only one who did tough mudder and completed it without even really properly training for it. That is what some people told me.
4) I know thousands of the world’s toughest men, celebrities, and models. (This is rare.)
5) I help lots of people with charity events, and I do my best to inspire people who need help.
6) In life, I make every moment count. I always try to make history. I look at everyday as my first, and everyday as my last at the same time. Whether I’m relaxing or doing something big, I’m into it 150%.
7) I’m a self entertainment machine. Most people need to be doing something outside of themselves to be entertained, even though I’m often living it up, I’m also just entertained just by my mind.
8) I’m very ALIVE. I have like 5 million exciting different mindset zones that I can enter at any given time.
9) I’m always celebrating life. There is always something to celebrate in my world.
10) I have been published thousands of times.
11) I have tons of life experiences since I have traveled throughout my whole life and always lived fully.
Oh, wow, there are so many more and I could keep going, but I will stop here(laughs). I think people should write things about themselves, and they will see that there is so much to be happy about.
CB: You are multi faceted. List three things that makes Ben Tatar a great writer and interviewer?
BT: Well, there’s a few things:
For writing–I’m a walking encyclopedia with an amazing memory. I also can analyze things from any angle, and I stay true to everything I say.
For interviewing–Some people tell me that I know them better than they know themselves. Therefore, I usually have an intuitive ability to know what to ask people. I also market everyone in their most authentic and best possible light.
Most of all, I did every article and interview with a passion and a zeal that the best of the best just love.
CB: Right on! Ben, do you like writing articles more or interviewing and why?
BT: I love both, but interviewing frees me to do the things that I like such as boating, traveling, training, putting on charity events, enjoying life, and living to the fullest. Doing interviews allows me to live a life that I love, and it allows me to showcase the dream life that others are living.
CB: I know you were asked this years ago, but today what is most important to you, looks, strength, toughness or health?
BT: I think the answers change during different times in one’s life. To be honest, I am pretty satisfied in every department. Obviously, you need health in order to have the other three, so I would pick that. I would say spiritual toughness might come before health depending on the extent because there are sick people in the world without good health who are happier than wealthy people. Such self actualized, enlightened people have an unconditional appreciation for life, and can even find infinite worth and beauty in things that most people don’t notice.
Toughness might be more important than strength, because one has to be tough before one can be strong. For example, if one has the toughness to overcome a near death experience or a very tough unfortunate (or fortunate) adversity of any kind, that can give one a toughness for life that can make one strong enough to achieve anything! For looks, that is in the eye of the beholder and I think if a person is healthy, and takes great care of themselves, attractive appearance will naturally radiate.
CB: What makes Ben Tatar happy?
BT: I’m high on life. I’m happy beyond reason. If you’re happy for a reason, you’re not happy when that reason isn’t happening for you. Unconditional happiness doesn’t come from a reason, unconditional happiness is THE reason! To add to that, I just make history everywhere I go, and share great memories with everyone I meet. Each life high just builds off of each other until I get super high on all levels, and like my planet t-shirt shows, I have the world in my hands!
Like I once said, “You know when someone works their whole life and wins a gold medal or when a team wins a championship and everyone just goes nuts? You know how that sensation lasts for maybe a few days? Well, I feel that sensation and it lasts forever. That is what it is like living as Ben Tatar. It’s like winning a championship and feeling that ultimate amped up euphoric bliss sensation 24/7 and sharing it with life.”
CB: Those Planet Tatar shirts are cool. Do you have bad days?
BT: Planet Tatar shirts, hats, capes, posters, action figures, and the whole nine yards! (laughs.) As for bad days, we all have shortcomings. However, most of the time they make life interesting and teach you what you must need to learn to evolve. In many cases the best have probably failed the most, and that is why they are the best. Like the saying goes “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but rising every time we fall!”
PART 2— The Olympia/Arnold/and more about Ben.
CB: Now let’s enter part 2 of this interview as we go one on one with Ben Tatar about the 2011 Olympia and a bit about the Arnold. Ben, you can’t compare Las Vegas to Columbus, but you can compare the Olympia to the Arnold. How are they different? How are they similar?
BT: The Arnold is the Olympia on steroids. The Arnold is so much bigger than Columbus, that Columbus gets swallowed into the Arnold. During Arnold weekend the city of Columbus is no longer Columbus, it is “the city of Iron”! When you walk down the streets of Columbus, it’s like the Olympics as you see thousands of athletes from other Countries and weight lifting monsters on every street corner. During Arnold weekend Columbus turns into a whole new planet, it becomes MONSTERVILLE-LAND!
CB: So, Columbus gets swallowed into the Arnold, as the Olympia gets swallowed into Vegas.
CB: So, how do the crowds differ between the two events?
BT: The crowds at the Arnold are much larger. It’s funny because if you go to the Arnold or UFC Fan Expo, the crowds are huge, but at the Olympia you can mostly just talk to everyone. For example, during Arnold weekend it took an hour for the general fan (who didn’t have a media credential pass,) to get a quick picture with former UFC champion and Strike Force champion Josh Barnett. At the Olympia, there was no line to see Josh Barnett and I could have an hour long conversation with him. The Olympia is much more personal than the Arnold (since it isn’t as busy,) but the Arnold has more weight lifting monsters and more of everything else.
CB: More fake boobs (or cosmetic work) at the Arnold or the Olympia?
BT: I would say that the Arnold has more cosmetic work (since there are more girls,) but population density wise, Vegas by far since they are more selective with who they bring in.
CB: Are the models better looking at the Arnold or the Olympia?
BT: I will say that the models are more elite at the Olympia. This is because the Olympia is smaller so they only have room for the most elite. The Arnold is very large, so they can expand the talent pool. Vegas also has easy access to the Vegas and California girls since it is close.
CB; Describe the two freakiest freaks you saw at the Expo –one male, one female.
BT: Freaky is defined based on what one is or isn’t used to. To me they are all normal, since I communicate with them every day. I’m surrounded by trophy women and monsters and much more! If I had to pick the most impressive freak, I would pick Stan Efferding Rhino. Think about it, he weighs 275lbs and he totaled 2,226 which is the most in the world right now. He is the most impressive in my eyes because he is not only a professional bodybuilder, but he has the world records in raw powerlifting.
I also want to give a shout out to Big Ed Russ who is freaky huge. I just recently interviewed him for Powerlifting USA Magazine.
CB: You are a master of persuasion and read people well. Some of us involved in strength sports only dream of attending a major industry event. Others are lucky to attend the Arnold or the Olympia, but for you, attending ALL of the major industry events is just part of the plan. You go to a lot of events. In your opinion, are bodybuilders getting bigger? Do you think they’re approaching the limits of human possibility?
BT: I don’t think we are getting close to the limits. Like they say, nothing is impossible. Even the word impossible says “I’m possible.” Much of what can’t be done now, will be done in the future. Take today’s NFL, Big Ben Roethlisberger from the Pittsburgh Steelers is bigger than most of the NFL lineman were in the 70s.
Or my favorite example, nobody had really bench pressed 800lbs clean at the start of 2000, then by 2010 we saw our first 1,076lbs bench press by Ryan Kennelly. I think we can always create ourselves into something larger. However, I think that bodybuilding was more popular a few years back. Today the expos have a stronger focus on pro athletes, sports performance, and UFC fighters.
CB: Ben, you have access to everything and everyone, but for the average Expo attendee, how accessible are the athletes? The Arnold gets gridlocked by early afternoon. How is crowd control at the Olympia?
BT: The Olympia isn’t bad. If you want to see a crowd, go to Gillette Stadium or any sold out NFL game, now THAT is a crowd! I think when I did Tough Mudder, the bathroom line was longer than any of the Olympia lines were.
CB: I go to Packer games all the time at Lambeau Field. That is a crowd! Now, moving onto the 2011 Olympia in particular, at the 2011 Olympia Phil Heath was crowned the new Mr. Olympia. How did people react?
BT: Most people weren’t surprised. The crowd was respectful of the decision. Jay and Phil are so close and such good friends it was really like Jays’ brother winning and not a competitor. The Kevin English-Flex Lewis judging was much more controversial and had much greater crowd reaction.
CB: The Olympia Expo is made up of many different events. What seemed to be the crowd favorite?
BT: Well, the biggest attraction during Olympia weekend was the Floyd Mayweather fight. For the expo itself, fans enjoyed everything from the Animal Cage (bench your body weight for reps,) to watching the best lift in the cage, to kids martial art competitions, and even little challenges to see how many pull ups they could do.
CB: There was a pull up contest and you did the most at the Expo of everyone there. You set the record with 40 and then stopped. Which is amazing. How did it feel to set the record?
BT: It wasn’t that big of a deal. I have done 53 pull ups in training. I wasn’t surprised.
CB: Tell us about any new talent you saw in bodybuilding, powerlifting and strongman? Any names to watch for?
BT: For up and coming–Mike Caruso for strongman, Ben White for bodybuilding (who won strongest bench presser in bodybuilding in past years,) and your good friend Brandon Braner who is bench pressing nearly 900lbs and well over 600lbs RAW.
With that said, Stan Efferding Rhino was the strongest man at the Olympia, period. He’s only 275lbs and he is out lifting all the 308s and super heavy weights in raw powerlifting.
CB: I agree, those are great lifters. What was it like seeing celebrities like Carmen Electra, Ray Lewis, Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold, Trish Stratus, Bones Jones, Shogun, Chuck Liddell, HHH and many more stars at such events?
BT: In a basic sense they are charismatic and crazy.. They are like most people, but more eccentric and nuts. They have to be, otherwise they wouldn’t be the celebrities that they are today. I like all types of people.
CB: What about the huge powerlifters, bodybuilders, fighters, and models? What are they like?
BT: Although, many of them look larger than life, most of them have had the passion to overcome adversity and succeed. They’ve had what it takes to achieve goals most thought to be unattainable and made the world believe. Most of these people are passionate about what they do, and they carry that passion with them everywhere. These people also live the life they love, and do well, or they wouldn’t be at the Olympia. So, if you also share that passion, it’s very easy to bond with them.
CB: Did the death of IFBB pro Art Atwood or the great 700+ raw benching machine Nick Winters affect the mood of the Expo?
BT: Every year at these events, people want to see names like Art Atwood and Nick Winters. Art was a guy who was 350 lbs. and had an 8 pack of abs. Nick Winters was a guy who would bench press in the ANIMAL CAGE and every year he was stronger than everyone else. These monsters made people believe in themselves as they had talent that was clearly ahead of our time. These monsters were also very nice to people away from the gym. Whenever we lift, their presence sparks our hearts and souls and whenever we set a personal best or help another lifter, we see their smiles. Everyday Art Atwood and Nick Winters are with us.
CB: What surprised you the most about the Olympia Expo?
BT: That is what I love about these adventures, there is always a surprise every 10 feet! (laughs) I was surprised to see my old friend Shay Lynn there. I haven’t seen her since the 2009 Arnold! She’s doing awesome.
I was also very happy that I got to see my friend Tito Ortiz who I had just interviewed. Tito Ortiz had higher UFC payperview buy rate ratings than the Rock and Hogan did for the WrestleMania’s. Tito not only gave the UFC the ratings to make it famous, but he also has been main eventing since 1997! I got to see Tito and his lover Jenna Jameson.
CB: That’s awesome that you got to interview one of the best in the world like Tito Ortiz. What was it like interviewing him?
BT: He was awesome! He talked to me on the phone for well over an hour. Just read our interview! Tito is also super nice in person.
CB: Of everyone out there, who would you wait in line for the longest to see?
BT: I have a media credential pass to the really big events, so I have access to special spots and don’t have to wait in lines. Special thanks to Mike Westerdal for hiring me to do the coverage.
CB: Agreed. Las Vegas is like a big carnival. How did the addition of bodybuilders, powerlifters, strongmen and fitness models add to the carnival atmosphere there?
BT: The Arnold is more like a 24/7 freak Carnival show since the Arnold is bigger than Columbus. The Olympia isn’t bigger than Vegas, so Vegas stays Vegas unless you stay at the Orleans hotel. (That is where most of the competitors stay.) Most people in Vegas are scattered. To me the Olympia and Vegas are like two separate vacations in one. I’m always in CA or AZ before Vegas and or after, so it’s non-stop good times.
CB: Great attitude. Las Vegas is known for its huge buffets. Any stories from the big guys?
BT: We know that Mike Wolfe has eaten a 6 lb. burrito and a 10 lb. BBQ platter. I think he has the record! I don’t know of any lifter that has topped that! I think in Vegas, it’s different than local Ponderosas in small towns because the restaurants hold lots of people. If a powerlifter eats 6 plates of food at Ponderosa that can clear the buffet out. You and I know, that most buffets run out of food when the powerlifters come in! (laughs)
CB: Which big guys in powerlifting would make for great sumo wrestlers?
BT: I don’t know, maybe the SHW powerlifters should have a sumo contest like they did in the world’s strongest man competitions back in the 80s? For SHW’s, I think Mike Wolfe would be really good. He has a big gut and a very low center of gravity. Wolfe is getting all the records! (laughs) He has the longest interview I have done (100+ questions), he eats the most, and I think he would have the potential to succeed as a sumo wrestler.
CB: (Laughs) I agree! When you met the Sumo Wrestlers what were they like? I I understand there was an altercation between you and the sumo wrestlers. What was THAT all about?
BT: Well, anywhere you go, there are lots of people out there who have an INSECURITY. I asked a sumo wrestler with an insecurity the wrong question. I asked one of the 5’9 330lbs sumo wrestlers with skinny arms and a big gut why he wasn’t as big as the 600lbs sumo wrestlers that we see on TV. I was curious to know if weighing 600lbs opposed to 350lbs was an advantage and to analyze the variables. He seemed to get really sensitive over the fact that I told him that he wasn’t that big. You know, one of my friends said to me “These guys don’t look like sumo wrestlers, they look like dorks in diapers.” Whenever you talk to lots of people, there will be people out there who react off of an insecurity and that just happened to be one of those situations.
People in the iron industry can be nuts, as I remember at my first Arnold I got high on energy supplements, got in conflicts with some people. Even back when I was 13 years old, I had a massive powerlifter wanting to kill me for asking him the “big” questions. I guess I always had BRASS BALLS.
CB: (Laughs) you do have brass balls. Speaking of the sumo wrestler, would you publish or submit an interview like that?
BT: I always keep it professional. Take a 400 lb. powerlifter for example. I always give them the option on whether we discuss what it is like being the biggest powerlifter in the game, or we can discuss who they are as a man behind the monster. Most of the time, they want to focus on their funny personalities and all of their funny stories. Then after I market who these monsters are as people with their great stories, they tell me that it was the best and most professional interview that they have ever had. Whenever I interview people, I market everyone in their best way, and develop great friendships that last forever..
CB: Can you tell us about some parties in Vegas?
BT: I have been to lots of different types of parties in Vegas from pool parties, my own hotel room Planet Tatar crazy parties, bars, clubs, after parties, VIP parties, and you name it. I would say that my favorite parties were my own parties. It’s always better to create your own fun than it is to depend on some other source for fun. I can have fun doing just about anything.
CB: Who got huge since the last time you saw them? Who got small? Who got fat?!? C’mon Ben, dish it!
BT: The thing is,if anyone got small or fat they wouldn’t be invited to return back to the Olympia. The Olympia isn’t as big as the Arnold, so only the best really compete or work the Olympia. I have seen some people return to the Arnold out of shape, but they usually get replaced shortly after.
CB: Athletes come from all kinds of backgrounds. Pick an athlete who overcame a great adversity.
BT: It’s tough to pick one person because some people overcome physical adversities and some people’s adversities are personal matters that we can’t see. Anyone who has ever gotten close to anyone or amounted to anything has experienced great adversity. The great thing about adversity is that it teaches us to be grateful for everyday, and to be thankful for life itself. Conquering adversity also creates glory. God has made us tougher than the adversities that we face. Adversity is like a blessing in disguise as adversity builds toughness, creativity, spirituality, wisdom, and the inner strength to achieve accomplishments that are necessary to evolve human kind.
I will give a shout out to Nick Scott (wheel chair bodybuilding icon from bodybuilding.com.) He has done fantastic.
CB: What adversities have you had to overcome? Were you always successful?
BT: I think when I was younger I faced challenges much as I do now, the difference is now I enjoy the challenges that I face. Today my challenges that I overcome are based off of my talents. For example, a few years ago I graduated college. Today I might be, interviewing a celebrity, traveling, putting together a charity event, and doing big things that give me a good feeling.
However, when I was younger the challenges weren’t fun like they are now. For instance, when I was really young, I caught meningitis from my friend and I was very close to being dead. I’m lucky to be alive (as most people who have it don’t make it,) so it showed to me that I was always STRONG before I even was old enough to know that I was strong. You know adversity to me now is a reminder of my glory, but when I was really young and faced adversity it was HELL on earth. The thing is even during my most difficult times, behind everything I did, I had FIRE, PASSION and HEART!!
All it took for me to be successful was to take to my my FIRE, PASSION, LOVE, PAIN, HEART, and SOUL, and combine it into a POWER, a power of one, a power of intuition, a power of STRENGTH, the POWER OF THE TATAR MONSTER to do anything I wanted and to see the best of everything and to become part of the best of everything until it all became the best of me and one of me!!!! As a result THE TATAR’S MONSTERS, Planet Tatar was born!!! Now everyday is about CHALLENGE, ACCOMPLISHMENT, VICTORY, MAKING HISTORY and CELEBRATION.
For anyone going through anything, if life sucks, that is okay! That “life sucks” drive, is the same drive of your dream life and then some! That fire has NO LIMITS and is INFINITE!! Just like the world is!! Find a positive passion and…Just REDIRECT that BEAST, and let it UNLEASH!!
CB: Ben Tatar for president! So, are you glad that you faced adversity?
BT: Absolutely! If you can kick adversity’s ass, you will have the strength to make your dreams come true. Adversity has given me the strength to attain the body, mind, heart, spirit, soul and strength to live the life I love. It has made me everything I ever wanted to be and THEN SOME. It also motivated my family to raise millions of dollars for different charity events and it motivated me to inspire other people, which naturally creates a matrix of good karma everywhere.
For any of you out there who are facing adversity, just love your friends, make every moment count, live your passion and be the best you can be. With adversity, there will always be the silver lining in the cloud, the key is to tough it out until you get there! Once you embrace adversity into greatness, you are strong for life! Adversity is what makes the ride and glory of success worth it. Adversity is the key to seeing greatness in the simple things, while having the toughness to also own greatness during the toughest challenges. Therefore, whether you feel like you’re on top or in a tough spot, inspire! The thing with adversity is, as long as you inspire people despite your current state of being, in the end you will be a hero!
CB: Wow, Ben, that was intense and powerful! What was your hardest moment so far in your iron journey?
BT: My hardest moment was when my mentor and close friend Mike Witmer passed away. That’s the tough part about being in the industry and knowing thousands of people, you have to experience such incidents. I talked to Mike everyday for many years. I’m grateful to always have him in my spirit and to have known him. Life is wonderful. It lets us really get to know such great people. Read my tribute to Mike Witmer here.
CB: Do you have a favorite moment in your iron journey?
BT: For long term favorite moment–After you live a dream, memories are often even greater than the dreams. I sometimes look back at everything and I’m just like WOW! It’s funny, sometimes my favorite moments aren’t when I’m on the vacations themselves, but on the plane flights when I’m just living in so many great memories. I call my excitement TATARAIDE and my eternal happiness BENFINITY. It’s often easy to be in this state during down time since I have so much to be grateful for.
CB: Do you have any regrets?
BT: Why regret our mistakes when our mistakes guide us to a better life? I used to frequently say “only regret the act of regret itself.” You could always do things differently, but like they say “Love adversity. It is like a river and will cut a new path whenever it meets an obstacle.” Therefore, in the end I think any mistake we make is like a friend that guides us into living the life that is most true to us! Sometimes, it’s hard to understand this when we are facing tough times, but if we take the “old man perspective and play life backwards,” it’s easy to see that things do work for us in the best way. Especially if we maintain a deep outlook and rise every time we fall.
CB: Agreed. Okay, less serious for a minute. If you could be any kind of animal what would you be?
BT: An Eagle.
However, to quote what my friend Reinie once called me, I’m happy being the superhuman, animalistic Ben Tatar Monster Machine!
CB: (Laughs) Back to the Olympia again. Ben, tell us about the amazing bench pressing that went on there?
BT: It was quite the freak scene for the mainstream person. I mean, for the mainstream person you saw lots of 5’2 275 lb. ladies with tattoos and piercings deadlifting 500lbs or ladies their own size deadlifting more than most adult men who train. It’s not stuff the ordinary person sees day to day. You also see a lot of 6’3 350 lb. bald headed monsters with tattoos on their heads about to smash over 800 lbs on the bench press or lean guys lifting more than huge bodybuilders lift. For the freaks, it’s inspiring for all of the larger than life bench pressers to all be in the same room. You don’t see the best of the best under the same roof very much.
CB: What was the weakness of the bench press competition?
BT: The weakness of the competition was that it wasn’t WPO like. There wasn’t a stage, smoke, lights, card girls, music, energy, and the competition feel where you feel you are in a different world. It’s not as spectator friendly. Powerlifting is working on bringing this type of energy back. We need Seanzilla on the mic!
CB: Also, talking to you years ago back in 2002, you predicted a 1000+ bench would happen when nobody else did. You psychic! Can you tell us about your thoughts back then?
BT: For my thoughts, well, I knew Ryan Kennelly was doing lockout work with 1000+ pounds, and the shirts were constantly evolving. The shirts were also very popular, so it was only a matter of time before it would happen in an extreme sport like bench pressing, where there are no limits, or finish lines.
CB: If you could improve ONE thing about the Olympia, what would it be?
BT: I usually don’t think about how the Olympia can improve, just how I can improve. If an event isn’t that good, I create a cooler event behind the scenes. Also, what one place or event lacks, another place or event has. That’s why I go to many different places and do many different things.
CB: Do you gamble? If so, did you win?
BT: I used to gamble a lot more when I was younger, so it’s not like a new thrill for me. I used to go to casinos and bodyguard a genius who behaved like Beavis and Butthead with the intellect of the Rainman. Those were the days. Too many stories, so email me at moc.liamgnull@retsnoMrataT for them. I’m too busy seeing people to be gambling. A lot of people get a euphoric feeling from gambling like Michael Jordan and it becomes an addiction. For me, I can be in Euphoric Bliss whenever I want.
CB: You have been in this industry for a long time. Some people stay in for a few years, but you have lasted for over a decade. What is it like to see the industry change?
BT: One thing that I’m proud of is not only was I able to write articles and interviews
for magazines at such a young age, but I have also been able to have consistent success throughout my whole entire life. I stayed consistent and I plan on helping people in this industry for the rest of my life. The industry never gets boring because I don’t ever get boring. I have adapted to every paradigm and change in the best way possible. I have gotten along with so many great people in it, and the Tatar Monster will see you all soon!
CB: The one and only Ben Tatar everyone! It has been great talking and learning about the awesome talented Ben Tatar today!