By Valerie Milano
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 12/8/23 – When he was competing for bodybuilding titles, Rich Gaspari had a reputation as someone with incredible drive and determination to be the very best. Not blessed with the best genetics for the sport, Gaspari succeeded despite his limitations and because of one thing.
Gaspari brought a singular focus to his training regimen, approaching his tasks with an analytical bent unheard of in his sports at the time he was competing in the 1980s and ‘90s.
A three-time Mr. Olympia runner-up, Gaspari is the subject of a recently released documentary about his life, fittingly titled simply “Gaspari.” A native of Edison, New Jerseysat, Gaspari down from his home in Tom’s River, N.J., with The Hollywood Times and talked about the documentary, directed by award-winning filmmaker Frank Zarillo, as well as his life in and outside the gym.
Click below to see our exclusive interview:
“It’s not always easy to keep your focus when you have adversity in your life that can affect your thinking,” Gaspari said, referring to the ups and downs, the hits and near misses, that he’s experienced during and after his days as a competitive bodybuilder. “I constantly just keep a positive mindset. I always believed that any bad times will eventually go and the good times will come.”
The good times include his numerous bodybuilding titles, including the 1984 International Fitness and Body Building (IFBB) Federation World Amateur Light-Heavyweight Championship, the ‘86 IFBB Los Angeles Pro Championship and the ‘86 IFBB World Pro Championship, as well as three runners-up finishes at the IFBB Mr. Olympia competitions in ’86, ’87, and ’88.
The bad times include an investigation that implicated Gaspari Nutrition in a ring of supplement companies engaged in covertly spiking some of their products with a variety of steroids or their derivatives while deceptively mislabeling their ingredients and a resulting bankruptcy that cost him his nutritional supplement business.
But through the bad times, Gaspari said he had that mindset that carried him to the heights of the bodybuilding world.
“I know that life is not that easy,” he said “Life is hard, as we know. Life can be really difficult, but it’s constantly just moving forward. Like Sly Stallone said in one of his movies, it’s not always about how hard you punch, but how hard you can get punched and keep moving forward. And that’s something that I have always tried to have, that philosophy.
“As long as you can keep moving forward, whether it’s an inch or whether it’s a mile, you’re still progressing in life. So that’s how I have always been.”
The son of an Italian immigrant, Gaspari learned at a young age the value of a strong work ethic from his dad, a stone mason.
“My dad came from Italy to a country where he didn’t speak the language,” he said. “He came here to work. He was a hard worker, I always saw my dad working hard, coming home from work just exhausted, and I looked at him and I said I see how hard work gets us to have a roof over our head, but I didn’t want to work like him. That physical work was too much for me.”
So, he said took that strong work ethic and applied it to bodybuilding. Gaspari wasn’t blessed with the genetics some of his competitors had. But what he had as a desire to be a champion.
“My dad had a great build, and I started looking at magazines and I wanted to become the best bodybuilder in the world,” he said. He came up in a time when size wasn’t everything. He competed with and trained alongside the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno, two of the sport’s most famous names, and through a relentless approach to training and nutrition, Gaspari ascended to the heights, eventually earning himself a spot in the IFBB Hall of Fame.
“The genetics were not there for me, but I was able to overcome a lot of the genetics because I worked even harder than someone who, say, had the genetics, and picked up the weights and grew really easily,” he said. “I had to work out harder. I was a pre-med student in college and one thing I learned was, you have to be educated. They think bodybuilders are dumb muscleheads, but you really have to be educated to learn how to train your body, how to diet properly, eating the right nutrients.
Gaspari said he took a particularly scientific approach to training, earning him the nickname of “The Professor.”
“I treated my bodybuilding like I treated my college studies,” said Gaspari, who was a pre-med student before leaving school to train fulltime. “I wrote everything down. I put everything down in a log.
“A lot of bodybuilders just hit-or-miss go to the gym,” he said. “But I made sure I put everything down, I chronicled everything that I did. That’s where I could see changes, whether I did a certain number of reps, did it change how I looked? Or whether I changed my diet, what did it do to me the next day? I treated it like a science experiment.”
From Big F Pictures and distributed by Generation Iron, Gaspari is currently streaming on most major platforms, including Amazon, Vudu and Google Play. If you want to stream it to your own computer, check out “Gaspari” here.