How Gold’s Gym became a global icon and celebrity hotspot

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What started out in 1965 as a small gym in Venice Beach, California, has since become the most iconic fitness company in the world — Gold’s Gym. 

Over the last 55 years, Gold’s Gym has developed into a global brand with over 600 locations spanning six continents with an impressive clientele. 

Bodybuilding greats such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno and Franco Columbu worked out at the original Gold’s Gym, which went on to become the most legendary gym in the world. 

The current owner, Ranier Schaller, of RSG Group, acquired the gym in August 2020 after the previous owners declared bankruptcy during the Covid-19 pandemic with California on almost complete lockdown

At the time of writing, Schaller, 53, his girlfriend Christiane Schikorsky, 44, their children Aaron Schaller and Finja Sghikorsky are missing after their twin-engine turboprop that crashed into the ocean off of Costa Rica. 

How Gold’s Gym became a global icon and celebrity hotspot

Arnold Schwarzenegger has been working out at Gold’s Gym since 1968, shortly after he first arrived in the United States from Austria

Rainer Schaller is listed as 'Founder, Owner and CEO of the RSG Group,' a conglomerate of 21 fitness, lifestyle and fashion brands that operates in 48 countries and has 41,000 employees, either directly or through franchises

Rainer Schaller is listed as ‘Founder, Owner and CEO of the RSG Group,’ a conglomerate of 21 fitness, lifestyle and fashion brands that operates in 48 countries and has 41,000 employees, either directly or through franchises

Arnold Schwarzenegger leaving Golds Gym in Venice Beach after his early workout routine in 2021, The Terminator star said that he prefers to work out at the gym in the morning and at home in the evening

Arnold Schwarzenegger leaving Golds Gym in Venice Beach after his early workout routine in 2021, The Terminator star said that he prefers to work out at the gym in the morning and at home in the evening

During the golden age of bodybuilding in the 1970s, Gold’s in Venice Beach earned the reputation as the ‘mecca of bodybuilding.’ 

When opened the gym, founder Joe Gold charged $40 for a yearly membership for Gold’s Gym cost $40. One early member told Men’s Journal: ‘If you didn’t have the cash, though – and a lot of them didn’t – Joe would let you slide. Hell, at some point or another, he supported half those guys. Paid ’em to show up and do nothing.’ 

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According to a LA Magazine feature, Gold was a native of Boyle Heights in Los Angeles and had been ‘eye candy in Mae West’s nightclub act.’ In 1992, the New York Times credited Gold with ‘developing the modern gym.’

Gold sold the business in 1973 and later regretted doing so as physical fitness became mainstream. When he first opened his doors, there were only three gyms in the entire Los Angeles-area. 

By 1981, there were more than 5,000 Gold’s Gyms across the United States. The franchise spread to Canada in 1985.  

In response to the boom, Gold founded World Gym, close to his original location and even poached Arnold Schwarzenegger away from Gold’s Gym. Schwarzenegger had been at Gold’s since 1968, shortly after he first arrived in the US from Austria. 

Gold passed away in 2004 at the age of 82. Since his ownership, the gym has been in the hands of multiple people. 

Schwarzenegger said in a 2019 Men’s Health feature, that he still regularly visited Gold’s Gym, particularly for his morning workouts. But he preferred to do his evening workouts at home. 

The gym’s current location in Venice, along Hampton Drive, is literally around the corner from the original location, which was along Pacific Avenue.  

In addition to bodybuilders, the gym has also became workout home to hundreds of Hollywood celebrities including Nicolas Cage, Keanu Reeves, Bruce Willis, Pierce Brosnan and Bruce Springsteen.

Because of its cachet, Gold’s has been featured in such films and TV shows as ‘The Longest Yard,’ ‘The Dr. Phil Show,’ ‘Wheel of Fortune’ and ‘Hogan Knows Best.’

According to one former trainer, the gym got its start working with non-bodybuilding celebrities in November 1981 when legendary Tonight Show host Johnny Carson became a regular as he used fitness to get over a difficult breakup. 

Actor Josh Brolin is another regular face at Gold's Gym's location in Venice

Actor Josh Brolin is another regular face at Gold’s Gym’s location in Venice

Trainer Ray Kybartas told Sports Illustrated in 1996: ‘One of Johnny Carson’s lawyers came to me. He had broken up with his girlfriend and was depressed. He wanted to get back into shape. He offered me $25 an hour to help him. It sounded like a good deal.’

He went on: ‘He turned out to be the perfect client, because he was so depressed that he had nothing to do except work out. Within about six weeks he was going to business meetings and pulling up his shirt to show off his washboard stomach.’ 

Kybartas also said: ‘He was asking other lawyers to feel his muscles. Pretty soon I was working with about half the entertainment lawyers in Hollywood.’

When WWE superstar Stone Cold Steve Austin getting back into training in 2014 after a period of time off, he worked with legendary bodybuilding figure Ric Drasin at Gold’s. It was Drasin who came up with the gym’s iconic logo. 

Former head of talent relations for WWE, Jim Ross wrote in his blog at the time that Austin had told him that ‘working out at Gold’s in Venice wasn’t for everyone.’

John Cena said on Twitter in 2015 that while working at Gold's in 1999, he was convinced by a friend to attend a professional wrestling school

John Cena said on Twitter in 2015 that while working at Gold’s in 1999, he was convinced by a friend to attend a professional wrestling school

Another professional wrestler, John Cena said on Twitter in 2015 that while working at Gold’s in 1999, he was convinced by a friend to attend a professional wrestling school. 

Hollywood A-lister Jessica Alba credits her time working with personal trainer Ramona Braganza with helping her to lose post-pregnancy weight. 

Braganza said that the secret to the weight loss was ‘the dreaded lunge.’ 

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Prior to becoming Bennifer again, J-Lo was seen with her then-fiancé Alex Rodriguez outside of Gold’s in Venice Beach in 2018 as the pair went in for a late night workout.  

Scaller's girlfriend shared a photo of herself on a jet on her social media. It not clear if this is the same plane that crashed

Scaller’s girlfriend shared a photo of herself on a jet on her social media. It not clear if this is the same plane that crashed

At the time of writing, the gym’s current owner Rainer Scaller remains missing. His plane was being flown by a 66-year-old Swiss pilot when it suddenly disappeared Friday afternoon before parts of the plane were found in the ocean on Saturday.

Authorities have since recovered the bodies of one adult and one child near the wreckage site around 20 miles from the Limon airport — where the plane was due to land.

The victims’ identities have not yet been released, as the other four people on board remain missing and are feared to be dead as well.

The plane reportedly lost communication with air traffic around Barra de Parismina, which is near Limon, with Costa Rican authorities alerted that the plane went missing a short time later, according to Security Minister Jorge Torres.

‘Around six in the afternoon we received an alert about a flight coming from Mexico to the Limon airport, carrying five German passengers,’ Torres said.

The plane was flying around 275mph and was roughly 230 feet in the air when it lost communication.

It is unknown what caused the plane to crash.

It was scheduled to land at Juan Santamaria airport shortly before 7pm.

A search started immediately but was called off temporarily due to bad weather, but resumed on Saturday.

Costa Rican authorities said pieces of the twin-engine turboprop aircraft were found in the water Saturday after the flight went missing Friday.

The plane was a nine-seat Italian-made Piaggio P180 Avanti, known for its distinctive profile.

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