by Ben Edwards
I’ve been fascinated by Bill Kazmaier since I was old enough to realize just how incredibly strong he was. I was only 8 when Kaz won his 3rd World’s Strongest Man contest. But even then it was quite apparent that he was almost superhuman in his strength and athletic abilities.
I found out on the KC Strongman forum that Kaz was going to be speaking in Parsons, Kansas on December 15th. I jumped at the chance to finally get to meet him! Got off early that day from work. I must’ve sounded like a star-struck kid when I explained to my supervisor who I was going to meet. Of course it also helped that Kaz is very well known among anyone who lifts weights. And luckily, my supervisor is definitely a guy who has spent time under the bar.
My wife offered to go with me, solely to take pictures of me with Kaz. That was a great offer, but I wanted to go alone so that if I embarrassed anyone – it would only be me. I was a nervous wreck by the time I got to the building where he was speaking. It didn’t really feel “real” until I got out of the car and walked by a big window where I saw Kaz standing in the middle of a room that was packed with people there to see him speak.
Good thing I hadn’t eaten very much before driving to Parsons. Because I puked right there in the grass outside the building! Puking might not have been such a bad thing because after that I felt much more relaxed than I had even on the 90-minute drive to Parsons. I mingled with the crowd and picked a spot near the back of the room – but one with an unimpeded view of Kaz – so I could take photographs while he spoke.
Kaz gave a great introduction to the youngsters in the audience who may not have known who he was. Most of the people in the crowd knew exactly who he was though. He was humble, genuine, friendly, charming, and the list goes on! I was extremely impressed with his 15-minute talk about the decline in the health and fitness of today’s youth. I don’t want to call it a “speech” because it didn’t seem rehearsed or like he was reading it from a cue card.
The event was ran in a very tasteful manner. There was no money exchanged before the speech, during the speech, or afterwards. Signing autographs was free, and the event staff even handed out free health and fitness items, such as pedometers and low-calorie cookbooks to anyone in the audience that wanted them.
I was second-to-last in line to get Kaz’s autograph. I already have four items signed by Kaz, thanks to my wife – who bought some items from Kaz on Ebay about 5 years ago and then asked him to sign them. One more signed item is always a good thing, so I brought up a photo that event staff was handing out to get it signed and add it to my collection.
Throughout his speech I took a good number of photos and got a few of him rolling up frying pans and then signing them and choosing someone from the audience to give them to. He also brought a few guys out of the audience and gave them a short lesson on how to roll the frying pan. Then he coached them through starting the bend to finishing it. It was really neat watching him really rooting for the guys he picked to come to the front with him! He was a true gentleman the entire time and even started the bend for one of the guys who couldn’t get it started. I also believe that he had several different types of frying pans, of varying difficulties, and that he specifically chose which frying pan to give to each guy – based on their physical appearance.
I was impressed that it wasn’t just a show about Bill Kazmaier. It was about helping someone else feel like a strongman in front of the audience (and their families) for a day. I didn’t volunteer to bend a frying pan, although I’m sure I could’ve bent anything he brought with him since I’ve bent a good number of them in the past few years. I reminded myself that it also wasn’t a show about what I could do. Everybody came to see Kaz perform and they were not disappointed!
By the time the line moved along and I made it up there to shake Kaz’s hand, I thought I had talked myself out of being nervous. Nothing could’ve been farther from the truth! I managed to shake his hand and say how glad I was to meet him. Then I froze up a bit when someone took our photo. All I could think to do was just lean on him awkwardly! He was a great sport and even has a friendly grin on his face in that picture. The photographer gently suggested that I just shake his hand on the next picture, haha! That turned out to be a much better picture than the first one.
Anyone who has seen Will Ferrell in the movie Talladega Nights will appreciate the first photo where I leaned on Kaz. I remember it was kind of like the scene where Will Ferrell is being interviewed on TV and he keeps saying “I don’t know what to do with my hands” – while his hands are inexplicably rising into the frame.
The drive home felt like no time at all. My mind was still racing even days later. One thing I didn’t mention is how solid his handshake was. That wasn’t a surprise of course. With forearms like his, I figure he could probably crush most normal hands. His hand was also as solid as a brick. My workouts since meeting him have been more intense because I know there is a lot more I can get out of this body.
For the record, I cleaned up my puke before driving home! It’s handy to have doggie-doo bags in your coat pocket.