Joe Gold was destined to make Venice home. A native of Southern California, Joe was born in Boyle Heights.
His family started coming to the beach when he was a toddler. He remembers his mother renting a vacation bungalow near the beach for several weeks during the summers. His love of the beach continued through high school when he and his friends were able to drive here.
He has fond memoriesÖ the Venice and Ocean Park piers, the rides (especially the roller coasters), the Fun House, the ballroom, Lawrence Welk and the plunges.
“Venice had a great plunge,” Joe recalls. “We use to go between the Venice plunge and the one in Ocean Park.”
He also remembers the food. Besides hamburgers and hot dogs, there were “all the bakeries along the beach.”
Joe’s sister’s boyfriend introduced him to bodybuilding as a teenager. He started hanging out at the original Muscle Beach in Santa Monica.
“I was interested in working out, acrobatics, things of that sort,” he said.
Then, in 1942, Joe went into the service.
By the time Joe had served in both World War II and the Korean War, the City of Santa Monica decided they didn’t want a gym on the beach. “They threw all the guys off the beach,” Joe says. “They had nowhere to go and they needed a gym. That’s how Gold’s Gym was conceived.”
The original Gold’s Gym was built at 1006 Pacific Ave. Although it is now used as a single-family residence, you can still see “Gold’s Gym” painted on the exterior.
“I built all my own equipment, equipment that nobody built before,” he said.
His engineering set the standard of excellence for equipment manufacturers today.
“There was no money in the gym and, since I’m a vagabond at heart, I went back to sea again and ended up in the Viet Nam war,” Joe said.
Before leaving in the early ’70s, Joe sold Gold’s Gym. Upon returning, he says he discovered that “the guys didn’t like the owner at that time.” The “guys” — some of Venice’s top bodybuilders — asked Joe to start another gym.
Thus was born World Gym, which started in Santa Monica. The space became too small and the gym was relocated to Main Street and Brooks Avenue until it was moved, again, to its current location at 3205 Washington Blvd., across from the World Gym International Headquarters.
“I’m very happy here,” said Joe. “The gym is doing very well. It’s a fun place to be.”
I could tell he was happy. He’s a very charming man. He had kind words for all the ladies and they reciprocated, sometimes with a kiss.
Asked how it feels to be a legend, he replied, “I never look at it that way. I don’t think about those things. I enjoy what I’m doing and that’s what counts.”
About turning 80, Joe said, “I have no regrets. I still keep myself very busy. As a matter of fact, I have someone waiting for me. We’re going shopping.”
And with that, Joe Gold was out the door.