Samir Bannout Shares Old School Stories Of Gold’s Gym And Arnold Schwarzenegger

Samir Bannout talks about first coming to America, Gold’s Gym, and some early stories he’s heard of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Samir Bannout is a bodybuilder who came into his prime during the tail end of the Golden Era of bodybuilding. He’s also a bodybuilder who lived the American dream similar to athletes like Franco Columbu and Arnold Schwarzenegger. He came to the US with a passion for bodybuilding and became a superstar and Olympia champion. So of course, he has some amazing first and second hand stories of the Golden Era of the sport. In our latest GI Exclusive interview, Samir Bannout shares stories about coming to America, Gold’s Gym, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Bodybuilding is a very different sport today than it was in the Golden Era. The core elements of the sport remain of course but it is now an entire business model compared to the fledgling niche sport it was in the past. Many bodybuilding fans today romanticize the Golden Era. A time when Gold’s Gym was an iconic location and not a business chain. A time when Arnold Schwarzenegger was a bodybuilding champion and not a politician or action star. A time before social media and a time when Joe Weider was still alive.

That’s why we asked Samir Bannout to tell us some stories from his time as a bodybuilder coming to America and rising in the ranks. Samir Bannout was present for the tail end of the Golden Era. He saw Arnold Schwarzenegger and other greats. He trained at Gold’s Gym and personally knew Joe Gold. He also made connections with individuals who were there from the very beginning.

Bannout describes reading the famous bodybuilding magazines in Lebanon and dreaming of becoming a bodybuilder in America. He saw how Joe Weider inspired athletes like Arnold Schwarzenegger to the USA. So Samir Bannout headed out to the United States. He landed in Michigan originally but eventually had an opportunity to meet Joe Weider. That convinced him to move the California and enter the Mecca of bodybuilding.


Samir Bannout describes it as a dream. He made it out to California and Gold’s Gym in 1978. He describes it as coming there just in time. It was the tail end of the Golden Era and he was able to meet Joe Gold, get a lifetime free membership, and that changed everything. He describes himself as a kid in a candy store.

Samir Bannout also describes meeting a man named Art Seller. This was the man who first picked up Arnold Schwarzenegger from the airport when he arrived in Los Angeles. Bannout ended up becoming close friends with Seller and learned of wonderful early stories about Schwarzenegger. During our interview – he shares a short but funny story of Schwarzenegger when he first landed in America.

You can watch Samir Bannout talk about his journey to the US, his stories of Gold’s Gym and some funny short stories of Arnold Schwarzenegger in our latest GI Exclusive interview above. Bannout mentions that he wants to help continue spreading the passion and love and stories of bodybuilding’s past – especially as many of these greats start to recede into time. This video is a great little oral history keeping the past alive.

Derek Dufour
Derek Dufour has been managing all digital operations on the Generation Iron Network for over six years. He currently manages a team of editors, writers, and designers to provide up-to-date content across the GI Network.