Taking it to the masses: giants of bodybuilding leap from the pages of FLEX to thrill the hardcore crowd at the British Grand Prix

Taking it to the masses: giants of bodybuilding leap from the pages of FLEX to thrill the hardcore crowd at the British Grand Prix

Jim Rosenthal

Kevin Levrone left his feet and jumped for joy in a bodybuilding tribute to Iggy Pop, the rock star noted for flying off the stage into the arms of his ardent admirers.

Fans in the first few rows made way for the Maryland Muscle Machine to blaze a trail through what seemed like miles of aisles to the back of the packed house. Melvin Anthony followed his leader and pumped his fist in triumph, hit a side-chest pose and started running wildly through the frenzied audience at the Apollo Theatre in Manchester, England, last November 4.

The posedown at the British Grand Prix had turned into a celebration of epic proportions. All six of the finalists spent 10 minutes giving the fans a chance to see them up close and personal, larger than life, and sweating and flexing in the heat of battle.

Dennis James pressed more flesh in five minutes than a politician pounding the pavement in search of votes on Election Day. Chris Cormier danced like an Egyptian with a young blonde in the crowd, and British bodybuilding sensation Ernie Taylor flexed his triceps to the delight of a 12-year-old bodybuilding fan from Liverpool. Dexter Jackson moonwalked his way over to 22-year-old auto mechanic Mark Smallman, who practically fainted from having a close encounter with this symmetrical superfreak from Jacksonville, Florida.

“I can’t tell you how much it means to the people of Manchester to have the giants of bodybuilding come to our hometown and perform live onstage right here at the Apollo Theatre,” said Smallman. “We look forward to this contest every year–it’s almost like waiting for the circus to come to town when you’re a little kid and you stay up all night tossing and turning in excitement for the big show under the big top.”

The British Grand Prix the pet project of six-time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates and his longtime friend and business partner Kerry Kayes. Kayes is owner of Better Bodies Gym in Manchester and managing director of Chemical Nutrition Products in the United Kingdom and its counterpart, Dorian Yates Approved, in the United States.

This dynamic duo throws down $30,000 in prize money for the athletes and puts on a first-class contest that’s televised throughout Europe on Sky TV. At the end of the day, the Kayes-Yates team provides the British bodybuilding fans with a show worth remembering.

Baz Bardsley, owner of Powermill Gym in Manchester, compares the British Grand Prix to an Oasis (Manchester’s most famous and successful rock group) concert for off-the-hook excitement.

“The plain truth is that most of the people who love bodybuilding in Britain do not have the time or the money to travel to the States to see the top athletes compete at the Mr. Olympia, the Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic or the Night Of Champions,” said Bardsley. “Our only shot at seeing these giants is at the British Grand Prix, and there’s no substitute for the visual impact of meeting face to face with Kevin Levrone to comprehend how impressive this guy is in the flesh.

“These top pros are absolute monsters, and I never would have realized it without having the opportunity to view these legends onstage–and running around in the audience–right here in Manchester.”

Another footnote to the 2001 rendition of the British Grand Prix is that it may have been the final performance of Levrone’s long and successful career as a gigantic juggernaut in posing trunks. Despite the fact that Levrone beat Cormier and James, adding another notch in his long tally of conquests, rumors spread fast and furious that Kevin “The Enigma” Levrone was contemplating retirement to pursue his music career.

“Whether Kevin comes back to Britain to compete again or not, I can always say that I got to see Levrone and Cormier go at it pose for pose at a pro show,” said Bardsley, “and that memory will stay with me for the rest of my life.”


Manchester, England November 4, 2001

1 Kevin Levrone * United States $12,000

2 Chris Cormier * United States $7,000

3 Dennis James * United States $5,000

4 Dexter Jackson United States $3,000

5 Ernie Taylor England $2,000

6 Melvin Anthony United States $1,000

7 Tommi Thorvildsen Norway

8 Tom Prince United States

9 Craig Titus United States

10 Gunter Schlierkamp Germany

11 Sergei Chelestov Russia

12 J.D. Dawodu England

13 Claude Grouix Canada

14 Costantino Polesel Italy

15 Eddie Abbew England

16 John Hodgson England

Also competed: Gustavo Badell, Jason Carter, Gianluca Daniele, Dennis

Francis, Alex Georijev, Mark Harris, Jenz Kunzler, Alison Maria, Erwin

Marquez, Mustafa Mohammad, Alvars Visockis.

* Qualifies for 2002 Mr. Olympia contest.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Weider Publications

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group