THE BROWN BOMBER

 

 
Speaking of bodybuilding champions, none was ever more legendary on Staten Island than the Brown Bomber himself, Leon Brown. As fate would have it, I would meet the Brown Bomber a few years prior to the opening of my club.

In February of 1973, I attended an AAU weightlifting and bodybuilding competition held on Staten Island with my brothers, Johnny and Domenic. It was my first ever attendance at an iron and physique competition, so my expectations were high. While there, I heard a rumor that Leon Brown would be at the show sometime late in the afternoon. I never met Leon before, but knew much about him since he was somewhat of a legendary bodybuilding figure in the metropolitan area as well as a constant feature in the muscle magazines. Around 4 PM that afternoon, while watching the weightlifting portion of the competition, I noticed people in the audience turning around and gazing towards the back of the auditorium. Naturally, I also looked back and could not believe what I saw. Larger than life, there he stood, grinning and shaking hands with all that greeted him. Big, bad Leon Brown was in the house and the competition practically came to a halt as the Brown Bomber’s presence nearly stole the show. There he was, this legendary muscle figure from Staten Island, wearing fitted corduroy pants with a dark purple knitted muscle shirt, which revealed a Herculean physique that glowed transparently through. The crowd just stood and studied this celebrated national physique champion. Then one fellow yelled out “Look, it’s Leon Brown,” Leon, always the master of comic relief, answered back in the Terminator-style dialect, “No, you are wrong, it’s Leon Purple,” sending the crowd into a laugh as they gathered around to welcome their local muscle hero. My brothers and I introduced ourselves and were instantly psyched by this legendary champion, who on this day, possessed a muscular structure rarely seen on Staten Island before.

Three years later, during the Staten Island Bodybuilding Club’s first week of existence, the Brown Bomber walked through its door for the first time. When Leon entered my gym, his electrifying persona completely captivated its members. Immediately, upon seeing this legend, the Island bodybuilders bombarded him with questions ranging from training and nutrition to posing and muscle folklore.

Leon just stood there, happily and patiently answering all the questions, while adding a few of his own stories about the Golden Days of Bodybuilding. After an hour or so, I managed to get Leon’s attention and welcomed him to the club by giving him an honorary lifetime membership to the Staten Island Bodybuilding Club. I have been good friends with Leon since those early times in our history, and throughout all the years I have known him, I have never met anyone who had a greater love for the sport. That love comes from the passion Leon has for bodybuilding, as the sport burns deep within his heart. Leon Brown is a bodybuilder from the sport’s Iron Age. A time when Guts and Glory ruled the day, and champions such as he, basked in the warm light of their fans and peers. Today, the Brown Bomber is well into his sixties, and to him age is just a number. He is the living legend that defies time as he continues to train with the same fire and drive that once led him to the top of the muscle world.

Leon Brown is an old school bodybuilder. He trained with and competed against some of the greats in bodybuilding. His history in the sport is rich as evidenced in the bodybuilding documentary Pumping Iron, in which photos of the Brown Bomber are spread throughout the book’s pages alongside legendary muscle icons such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu, Frank Zane, and Lou Ferrigno, to name a few. He was also the first bodybuilder ever featured in Sports Illustrated and in many ways is responsible for helping to open the doors of the public to bodybuilding in an era that witnessed the emergence of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In 2007, Leon Brown was inducted into the WBBG Hall of Fame. As a plaque was presented to Leon for his endless dedication to bodybuilding, a video of his history in the sport was played on a giant screen while the film’s moderator spoke the following words: “Leon Brown, a Staten Island bodybuilder who became a national treasure. In 1972, Leon Brown was the first bodybuilder ever featured in Sports Illustrated. He has trained with the champions of the sports Golden Era and has beat many of the great legends in bodybuilding. Leon Brown is the last true bodybuilding warrior. He is beyond a legend. He is a bodybuilding icon who has trained and competed with pride for five decades. Leon Brown loves to train and loves to compete; if he lives to be 100 years old, the man will still be onstage. That is Leon Brown, a bodybuilder from the Iron Age on his journey into the future. Leon Brown, a true bodybuilder throughout the ages.”

 

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