Jon Lindsay - Bodybuilding's Backstage Ambassador
by Chip Masterson

How do you promote a dozen or more shows a year, packed with talent and drawing sell-out crowds? Jon Lindsay believes it helps to have been a competitor yourself.

Lindsay competed, "off and on," he says, for over a quarter of a century. Jon got his start in the iron game like a lot of people: as a teen, in 1962, he picked up a Weider magazine and started lifting. Falling in love with the sport, Jon began competing the following year, and continued to compete throughout his subsequent career in the Navy until his last show in 1989. However, his work in the military never directly influenced his bodybuilding, apart from the physical conditioning necessary for any sailor. Bodybuilding was always an avocation for Lindsay, and explains why he's so successful and enthusiastic about supporting athletes on the amateur level. It's the part of the sport that's in his heart, and in his blood.

After retiring from the Navy with the rank of Warrant Officer in 1986, he worked NPC shows both as a judge and as a Master Class competitor. So he knows what competitors need, and what audiences crave, from first-hand experience, and used that experience to begin producing shows in 1988. Since then, he's built himself the well-earned rep as one of the top men in the business, and is the NPC Southern California District Chairman. In fact, some say he's the one who put the NPC on the map as the most prolific promoter the sport has ever had. And the list of stars who got their start in one of Jon's shows is endless. Winner of his NPC USA contests include (just off the top of his head, mind you): Chris Cormier, Quincy Taylor, Dennis James, Bob Cicherillo, Troy Alves, Mark Dugdale, Richard Jones, Phil Heath and "a whole slew of Weider athletes."

As far has he can see, bodybuilding is only going to get "bigger and better" in the future: "more competitors, more spectators, more acceptance." Lindsay doesn't believe the sport will ever be widely embraced by the general public, but it's clearly here to stay. Today the sport is cleaner and healthier than it has been in years. Among the thousands of competitors, a greater number of healthy men and women have helped clean up the image of bodybuilding being only about drugs. "More mid-level amateurs see it as a hobby instead of a career," which lends itself to more balanced lifestyle. The Figure and Fitness competitions have really helped as well. "But everyone gets out of it what they need," he says.

Lindsay believes the women's side of bodybuilding, figure and fitness has as bright a future as men's bodybuilding. The new Figure competitions have women "coming out of the woodwork" to compete. Of course, the main course of the shows is still the muscle, but Figure makes the shows more inclusive, with a broader audience appeal. Anymore, women make up 30-50% of the competition. "The USA this year had 205 women competing," he proudly declares. Women's bodybuilding itself continues to hold its own, attracting more competitors each year.

Lindsay's success lies in providing something for everyone at each show, with a spread of competitors and categories. And he gets over 200 competitors for his NPC California State Championships each year, averaging 1800 to 2200 competitors a year overall. "Having walked in the shoes of the competitors, I can give them a good stage to compete on." He's been working full time now for over 18 years, but stays strictly on the promotion side: street promotion, sponsorships, paying the bills. He never has anything to do with the judges or judging, so there's never any conflict of interest. Jon credits his success to the NPC and Jim Manion in particular for nurturing him along, and for the many courtesies they have extended him as a promoter.

"Just keep swinging the bat," is Jon's advice to competitors, whether novices or masters. "Once in a while, you'll hit a home run."

Chip Masterson lifts and writes in Los Angeles.

Photos: Top: Jon with TOC and TOC Pro Figure winners. Middle: Jon with Cathy Priest. Bottom: Norma Rabelo and Jon at the Pacific USA Naturals