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The Time Arnold Competed Drunk in a Mr. Universe Contest

Updated: Mar 31, 2019

Stories of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s practical jokes on bodybuilders are legendary.  Most famously in Pumping Iron, Arnold tells the story of a bodybuilder who came to him seeking posing advice before competing in the Mr. Munich contest around 1967.  Arnold convinced him the newest posing routines being done by the top bodybuilders in America involved screaming to add emphasis to their poses.  Arnold created a new posing routine for the bodybuilder and worked with him several hours on how to scream properly while doing it. The bodybuilder performed this new posing routing at the contest and was quickly thrown off stage.  This is only one of the many practical jokes Arnold pulled on bodybuilders throughout his career as he was well known for giving bodybuilders the “wrong advices.”

Not many bodybuilders got the best of Arnold, but during the 1968 NABBA Professional Mr. Universe contest Arnold would fall victim to the “wrong advices” himself.  The field for the contest was particularly weak that year and Arnold was expected to run away with the contest after winning the amateur NABBA Mr. Universe the year before (1967).  The biggest threat in his way was the Puerto Rican-American bodybuilder, Freddy Ortiz. Ortiz was a smaller bodybuilder (5’5” ~190 pounds) but well defined which was something Arnold lacked at this point in his career at a bulky 250 pounds.  Arnold knew not to take any bodybuilder from America for granted as he had lost to Chet Yorton two years earlier (1966) during his first attempt at the NABBA Amateur Mr. Universe. He decided to try and gain an advantage on Ortiz and psyche him out before the pre-judging.

While Ortiz was back stage pumping up before the pre-judging of the short class Arnold paid him a visit.  Les Spendlove (1965 Mr. Australia) was helping Ortiz pump up backstage before the pre-judging and reported that Arnold entered, scanning the room at eye level, and said:

“I come to see the great Freddy Ortiz…where is that little man?”  He looked down to see Ortiz and said, “Oh, there he is…I thought it was a little mouse on the chair.”

Ortiz paid no attention to Arnold and pulled a bottle of whiskey out of his bag and took a swig of it.  Arnold asked him why he was drinking whisky before going on stage and Ortiz told him that it made bodybuilders look more vascular.  Freddy then handed Arnold the bottle and went on stage for the short class pre-judging. Arnold was such a competitive bodybuilder he would do anything to gain an edge, even going to the extreme.  If Ortiz had taken a swig to increase his vascularity surely, he would have to drink more than that. The bait was in the trap.

Ortiz and the rest of the short class contestants completed the pre-judging and it was time for the tall class to come out.  Spendlove had a great seat to observe the pre-judging and reported that:

“Arnold looked absolutely terrible and I could tell he was drunk.  His upper body was leaning back, his shoulders were drooped, his pecs appeared to be sagging, his stomach seemed bloated and hanging out, his legs weren’t flexed, his eyes were half-closed and he was swaying a little too.  I was stunned and amazed at his appearance and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and I thought, “What’s happened to Arnold?” The astonishing sight soon came to an abrupt end when some guy who sounded like he had a German accent shouts out, “Arnold…stick in the gut!”  Almost immediately, Arnold’s eyes opened wide, he sucked in his stomach, flexed his upper body and legs and instantly became the bodybuilding sensation everyone knew and admired.”

Even with a subpar performance, Arnold would go on to win the contest.  It was reported that he had looked better the year before and if someone more refined had competed he would have been defeated.  Indeed, only eight days later Arnold would compete in his first contest in America (1968 IFBB Mr. Universe) and lose to Frank Zane who was 70 pounds lighter.

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