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Muscle Worship Websites: How They Get Bodybuilders to Take It Off

by Steve Weinstein
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Sep 11, 2008

On a Saturday night in May, in an old New York City office loft on a side street, an unusual mix of Chelsea boys and straight bodybuilders, along with a smattering of businessmen, drag queens and female muscle groupies, are enjoying a cocktail party.

Most of the huge men, who are in town for a major competition, move freely among the gay boys. It is the rare occasion when the men, many of them "models" for muscle-worship websites, actually get a chance to press the flesh of any of their adoring consumers.

The impresario who has brought together this motley group owns the most popular and successful company devoted to muscle worship. Ulrich (he goes by his last name, although professionally he is known as "Rich O.") is a German-American who has managed to parlay his own private obsession into a franchise of DVDs and websites where gay men ogle and--for a hefty per-minute fee-- chat with the possessors of some of the world's most super-sized physiques.

Although gay porn companies, notably Falcon and Colt, offer man-on-man action, and other sites like BlueBlake and ManifestMen show similar fare, they can't provide the range and poundage of manflesh. At any given time, on Ulrich's sites, you can see film clips and still photos of dozens of bodybuilders stripping, posing, getting hard and getting off.

Watching Hummer-built men performing in front of a camera solo may not be to everyone's taste. But tens of thousands of customers like it well enough to pay $24 and up per month to visit the Web sites, as well as many more who pay $50 or more for DVDs, and some who are willing to "tip" up to $100 for a private chat with their favorites.

A Eureka Moment: People Care More About the Body Than the Workout
Ulrich stumbled into the shadow world of muscle worship several years ago during the heyday of the workout video (remember Jane Fonda in her leg warmers?). Instead of a merely fit personal trainer, he filmed a hunky Chippendale's dancer and had an epiphany----at least a business-styled one.

"I realized a lot of people were asking more questions about the model than the instructions," he recalled in a recent interview in his Chelsea office between jaunts to scout and photograph models. "People kept making comments about the model--how sexy, what a nice butt--everything except the instructional workout itself."

He moved to Miami, where he started shooting "lifestyle videos" of hot locals. In one, a well-known wrestler did a spontaneous striptease on the beach for some admiring female spectators, and sales skyrocketed. "I tried to get the guys to do strips, no frontal, only rear nudity," he said. "But it wasn't as explicit as guys wanted them to be."

So he created Dynamite Studios and then, 10 years ago, his first Web site, MuscleHunks.com. Today, his Internet stable includes MuscleGallery (not explicit); MuscleHunks (explicit); PowerMen (very explicit); and LiveMuscleShow.com (paid live interfacing via webcam). His DVD catalog, which now numbers dozens of titles, varies from "lifestyle" (not hard) to explicit (orgasm) and compilations under themes like "Pretty Guys Gone Wild" and "Latin Paradise."

The business is run as lean as the men are huge. At any given time, two or three video editors hunch over monitors while an office manager labels DVDs for shipment.

The only other employee, works out of Florence, Italy. A veteran of the straight porn industry, Shaun officially runs the company's marketing. But she mostly works, she said, as the models' "nanny. I help them set up their technology, help improve their performances, manage their lives."

When they come to work for Ulrich, she added, "They don't know what to say or how to talk to gay guys." Their previous posing skills were limited to bodybuilding stages. They've spent much of their time working out in macho gyms in Northern Africa, South America and, increasingly, Eastern Europe; 30 countries in all.

Ulrich spends much of his time canvassing the international bodybuilding circuit to scout new talent. He looks for a handsome face as well as hot body, but also innate sex appeal.

When he started, he was shy about approaching them--and they were hesitant to work for him.

’They don’t know what to say or how to talk to gay guys.’



"The first time he went to Romania, only one bodybuilder showed up," said Bob Sanders, who heads video editing. "He filmed him and the guy went back to his gym. The next time he arrived in Romania, there was a line from the hotel room down to the lobby waiting to see him."

Now, Ulrich said, "When I'm online, within five minutes, I get emails from all over asking me to look at their pictures." The money, starting at several thousand dollars plus travel for a one-day shoot, can buy a lot of gym time in Budapest or Cairo.

Ulrich also sponsors bodybuilders, which means he helps pay for supplements and travel. Above all, he gains their trust by never, ever, hitting on them; instead, he lets his camera do the lovemaking.

Their initial reluctance is understandable. The masculinity of men who spend their time sculpting their bodies and posing in front of a mirror with only a thin piece of cloth covering their privates is already suspect. Add to that the whispered rumors about private "posing sessions" with wealthy sponsors for young competitors.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was dogged by such rumors for years, but he also broke ranks to become the first international star who wooed the gay crowd. For the most part, however, "Bodybuilders don't want to be associated with the gay world," Shaun noted. "These guys are achieving national and international rankings. It could hurt them if they're too loud about it. They can lose their status if they're associated with gay porn."

The national federations that govern the sport, meanwhile, pretend not to notice their members who participate in Ulrich's enterprises, partly because Ulrich has given generously to several of the federations. "They know it happens but don't want to admit it's going on," he said, "If you're straight, you don't go to these sites."

Eventually, the successful ones become comfortable enough to perform in front of the camera. Some have been moonlighting as exotic dancers or participate in other sports. And as bodybuilders, they're accustomed to having their bodies admired. Mark Dalton, Ulrich's best-known discovery, has gone on to become a star in the gay porn industry (though always solo).

Hard Talk in Romantic Settings
If the whole enterprise sounds sleazy, the videos themselves are surprisingly classy, even artistic, with original soundtracks and gorgeous locations. Ulrich loves romantic spots like ancient castles, a semi-deserted island he discovered off the coast of Brazil, the desert, hotel infinity pools and the beach. Miami Beach is a favorite spot, especially for foreign models who have never been to America.

He always brings with him a full array of hot-man costumes--stretch jeans, leather gear, jocks and underwear (Unico is a favorite). Sometimes, there's a theme--an auto mechanic gets horny, an escort gets rough, a construction worker sweats off his clothes.

Usually, however, the plot involves nothing more complicated than rolling around in a bed, frolicking in the surf or admiring himself in a bathroom mirror. Sometimes on the set, a girlfriend is off-camera, and, yes, enhancements like Viagra are on hand.

The customer base for these products ranges from older men in rural areas who may be closeted or even married to men like Ken, a happily out, middle-aged New Yorker. He readily admits to being a muscle groupie who can identify the stars and reel off their attributes. As an unabashed fan, he'd like to see even more explicit scenes.

Sanders agrees. From merely posing in the same frame, the models have been inching their way toward each other. The newer scenes involve wrestling and group showers. If they're not quite touchy-feely, "there are now duo jerk-off scenes," Sanders said. "A couple of years ago, that would have been impossible.

"It's easier now, because a lot of bodybuilders have realized that you can make a decent living doing this."

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).


Comments

  • luvmuscle, 2010-01-21 09:42:18

    I LOVE IT!RDH.


  • luvmuscle, 2010-01-21 09:43:00

    wow


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