With the notable exception of the (then and now) freaky pair of legs that belonged to a certain Bev Francis, back in my formative years as a female muscle head, the only legs around were rarely as muscular as the majority of women who compete in the physique division today. However, it is, as Einstein once said, all relative, and at the time, the women I saw in the muscle magazines I obsessively bought were more than big enough to get my teenage eyes popping out of my head (among other things).
So today, courtesy as ever of the heroes who scan and upload images from those 1980s mainstream muscle magazines, a trip down memory lane, a bit of nostalgia for all those furtive purchases we made in newsagent's all over the world and the women that made those purchases so urgent. Today, we remember the way legs were.
I don't remember this image particularly, but it serves to indicate how little muscle (by today's standards, and even, in some ways, by early 80s standards) it took for a woman to be 'muscular' back then. I arrived at the female muscle party just a little late for Rachel McLish in her competitive pomp, but it seems to me she actually got bigger after she stopped competing.
Carla Dunlap and Clare Furr
Brian Eno named-chacked Carla in a recent interview, provoking some bizarrely hysterical reactions from the female muscle brethren (more about that on FMS in the future). He says, I remember in the early 1980s when female bodybuilders first started appearing and there was one I really liked, Carla Dunlap. She was Ms Olympia or something like that. She was this amazing black woman, absolutely musclebound, beautiful. 'Absolutely musclebound', he says, and that's exactly what Carla would have seemed to be at that time, not just to Eno but to me too. To her right, Clare Furr's (slightly later) thighs seem positively other-worldly compared to Carla's. 'Absolutely musclebound' back in the early to mid-80s could become 'hardly musclebound' almost overnight.
Tonya Knight and Mary Roberts
As I recall, images of women training like this one of Tonya squatting were far more numerous in the magazines of the 1980s, and only if you were lucky would there be the kind of 'glamour shot' the we can see Mary Roberts in here on the right. It sometimes came (again, this is as I recall, so don't take this as gospel) at the beginning or end of a training photoset, I guess as a way of showing how the hard work pays off. I found, in general, that these shots were much more attention-grabbing, presumably because they were more unusual.
And gradually, legs got bigger. Compare the next few groups of images. I really can't say if they are at all chronological (this post is simply not that well-researched!), let's call it 'legological' or perhaps 'podological' (!). I just wanted to illustrate the point somehow. By the time you get to Jackie Paisley, who is (and I do know this) very much late 80s and into the early 90s, legs have, well, you can see for yourself, changed.
Lisa Lorio, Janet Tech and Juliette Bergmann in her early days.
Sue Gafner and Dorothy Herndon
Marie Mahabir, Rene Casella and Jackie Paisley
Sandy Riddell and Anja Langer
Two of my favourite pairs of legs of the period (among many). I was especially taken with Anja's calves. Even today, as I look at the way they bulge outwards so that you can see them even when looking at her leg front on, they are magnificent, so at the time they would have been quite literally breathtaking.
This image, for me, evokes a lot about that time in my female muscle life, not least the way the women in the magazines used to always seem to be glistening. The style of photography of the time, no doubt, nothing more, but I came to think of that sheen as the glow of health and vitality that only female bodybuilders possess. Impossible to post anything about the 80s without her, Cory is the epitome of female muscle in that decade, her legs as much as any part of her wondrous physique. Funny now to think that once upon a time I couldn't imagine Cory and her contemporaries getting any bigger or better.