Throughout the decades, there have been thousands of Staten Islanders who have trained with weights and competed on the physique stage. Here we present those who left a lasting impression, for better or worse, during the Island's golden era of bodybuilding and beyond.
Multi-title winner, George Orland displays a well-balanced and powerful physique as he graces the cover of Bob Hoffman’s Strength & Health magazine – 1960
A much admired and popular crewman for the Staten Island Ferry, champion bodybuilder Art Harris flexes his muscular physique on the cover of Joe Weider’s Muscle Builder magazine - 1965
Flawless symmetry and Hollywood looks made Larry Powers a natural for physique publications. Here, the 1965 Mr. Staten Island champion displays his stuff on the cover of Joe Weider’s Mr. America magazine.
Jerry Valente was Lou Ferrigno’s training partner until an on-the-job accident nearly killed him. Eventually, Jerry rehabilitated himself to competition level. He was a positive role model for up-and-coming bodybuilders during the 70-80s.
In the history of bodybuilding on Staten Island, no one has ever been more popular or respected than legendary Leon Brown. The former Mr. Staten Island champion has trained, competed against, and beaten some of the biggest names in the sport.
Russell Cunningham, the 1976 Mr. Staten Island champion, was also runner-up in the teen division of the WBBG Pro Mr. America of that same year. Russell was a no-nonsense type of guy, who openly displayed a bullet lodged in his muscular abdomen. He was hard-core to the bone, and placed high in the 1980 AAU Mr. New York City competition.
Mario Strong overcame physical adversities at a young age to create a championship physique. The 1977 Mr. Staten Island winner is best-known for opening the first bodybuilding gym on Staten Island (1976) and for the impressive list of champions he trained afterwards. Today, this steadfast physical culturist leads as a shining example of the benefits that healthy living provides.
No one ever trained harder than Frank Rapacciuolo! In the 70-80s, Frank used his learned expertise to help many bodybuilders succeed in the sport. Here, the 1978 Mr. Staten Island champion flexes his muscular physique for the crowd.
Joe Carrero’s “Fortitude Creates Champions” attitude helped him explode onto the bodybuilding scene in 1979. The native Staten Island bodybuilder went on to become a national champion as he dominated the American physique stage for a span of fourteen years.
Lou Di Bella, the 1979 Mr. Staten Island champion, loved bodybuilding so much that he cut his honeymoon short so he could compete in the 1978 version of the show (see photo). Lou would go on to eventually open his own bodybuilding gym in New Jersey named the Iron Age. His motto was "No Guts - No Glory!"
In 1980, on a last minutes notice, Mario Strong held the Mr. Staten Island competition inside his Staten Island Bodybuilding Club (so the show wouldn't be cancelled). Bill Cirelli was the winner that year amongst a field of twenty-two competitors. Here he's seen a year earlier posing for the camera.
Vinny Conzo, the 1981 Mr. Staten Island title winner, would go on to eventually win the tall division of the 1986 AAU Mr. USA competition. Afterwards, his life took a different course, which led him away from the sport he lived for and into a realm not conducive for bodybuilding. Vinny’s moniker was “The Beast from the East.”
Sigrid Taylor won the Staten Island Bodybuilding Championship in 1982 and 1983. She returned to the posing dais a decade later and won the title again for an unprecedented third time. Here she displays the winning form that made her a dominating figure during that era.
FDNY Lieutenant Eddie D’Atri was a well-known bodybuilder on Staten Island and a dedicated leader at Squad 1 in Brooklyn. The 1987 Mr. Staten Island champion was last seen on 9/11 going up a staircase in Tower 1 of the World Trade Center to be with his fellow firefighters.
In 2011, 46 year-old Staten Island bodybuilding champion Jimmy White returned to the physique stage after more than two decades away from the spotlights. The FDNY firefighter, who presents a muscular and symmetrical physique, is well-known throughout the Island’s gyms for his hard work and dedication to the sport.
Staten Island bodybuilder Danielle Kalish flexes her muscles one day after turning 40. The popular physique choreographer and trainer has helped many up-and-coming stars with the art of physical display.
In 1983, Steve Burns came out of nowhere to be a surprise winner of the Mr. Staten Island trophy.
Tee J Hewitt’s competitive career in bodybuilding spans three decades. Since the early 1980s, the Staten Island bodybuilder has been a consistent fixture in the competitive arena. On stage, Jamelle presented balanced proportions, dense muscularity, and flawless symmetry.
Joe Bell was a dominate force on the Staten Island bodybuilding stage in the 80s. He capitalized on his popularity by opening a successful Bath Beach Bodybuilding Gym on the Island. Joe's well proportioned and muscular physique helped him win the coveted Mr. Staten Island title in 1988.
Patrick was huge and had enormous explosive power with a matching muscular frame. He was a former Mr. Florida winner that liked to train heavy. Patrick made you wonder how the barbells he lifted didn't snap from the stress placed on them. He motivated newbie muscle builders to higher levels and was was well-liked by everybody that knew him.
In 1995, the Staten Island bodybuilding show was billed as the "Night of Champions," where many past winners of the competition were recognized for their achievements in the sport. Here, John Prestia adds himself to the list by winning the much sought after title.
Tom’s mass monster mentality would bring him a string of physique awards as he became one of the main faces in the close-knit Staten Island bodybuilding community. He is one of the few original Island muscle builders that has lasted through the test of time.
A well-known bodybuilder on Staten Island, Thomas Messina began his competitive career by winning the novice division of Mario Strong’s 1998 NGA Eastern Regional Classic. His consistency and hard work in the gym has helped him create a national caliber physique.