Internationally Acclaimed Physical Culture Historian and Author

By Peter Yates, HOPC Editor-in-Chief

David Gentle, PC Historian & Author

It is with great sadness that I write these words about a man I have come to know over the years and one I call my friend. In the week prior to his passing we had been going back and forth with emails and he was in great form and full of his usual humor and banter. I was expecting a reply but instead received the devastating news, via mutual friend Paul Shaw, David was no longer with us. Simultaneously Gil Waldron was also informing me via Skype. It took a while to sink in that I would never see or hear from my dear friend again and what a terrible loss this was to the world of Physical Culture in general and HOPC in particular.

Born in the English coastal town of Southampton in 1933 David survived the depression and the war years as an evacuee. Tall but skinny as a youth he decided to put some meat on his bones and like many a young lad started with the Charles Atlas course. This was followed over the years with courses by Earl Liederman, George Jowett, Maxalding, York, Weider and his favorite Don Dorans. Simultaneously he engaged in martial arts training via wrestling and Jujutsu. Gradually he started to beef up, something that was not easy with post war rationing still in place, and grew stronger in the process.

At age 20 and a body weight of 150lb he was able to bench press 300lb, perform an amazing body weight curl and a stiff arm pullover in competition of 120lb. He was at that time also able to bend and break six inch nails and always had a great respect for those of exceptional grip strength.

David became an avid collector early on in his physical culture journey. At first buying the available magazines and then older back copies and any old books he could find, often scouring local bookstores to unearth some gems. Over the years he formed one of the finest, private Physical Culture collections in the world. He also traded with others and at times generously gave away some of his acquisitions, myself being a recipient more than once. David along with recently departed friend Ron Tyrrell were Britain’s premier Physical Culture historians, it is a bitter blow losing them both so soon.

Quite early on David became interested in writing about all aspects of the IRON GAME and was mentored in this by a man who would become a lifelong friend, David Webster OBE. Webster both helped David develop his own writing style and helped him get his initial efforts published in Health and Strength magazine which he would continue to write for under five successive owners for almost seven decades. Besides Health and Strength he wrote for just about all of the main bodybuilding and strength related journals of the 20th century, not only under his own name but also assumed names. On top of this he would ghost write articles for many of the major bodybuilding competitors.

Of course, over the course of his career he came into contact with those at the very top of the game and also the regular trainee just trying to get stronger, bigger and fitter. David was able to relate to and write for all. Most of those he came into contact with became lifelong friends who have still kept contact to this day. He also never strayed far from his other love, wrestling. Each year he would attend the British Wrestlers Reunion to meet up with his old mat buddies. Some of those he had strong relationships with and kept correspondence with were John Grimek, Reg Park, Bill Pearl, Terry Robinson and old timers like Joe Assirati, to name a few.

Something David really enjoyed was bringing people together, especially those interested in all or any aspect of Physical Culture. In the 1990s he formed Muscle Mob magazine with that purpose in mind and it gave a forum for those involved to express their view or report on contests, etc. When David stepped down grip master Steve Gardener took up the reigns as Editor. Several years ago, Diane Robert started to collect the over 2000 articles written by David and started David Gentle’s History of Physical Culture site to make those works widely available. Since that time the site has merged with Gill Waldron’s Maxalding site and has greatly expanded the content becoming HOPC, the History of Physical Culture site. David was so proud of the work done by Diane and mentioned more than once that it had given him a new lease on life and something to get up for everyday. He especially enjoyed the Forum as once again it was way for those of like-mind to come together and share the various aspects of the strength and fitness world.

I like many, began reading David’s articles in the early 1960s and, also like many others, I received honest and useful information which aided my own journey. It was not until the mid 1980s that I actually wrote to David and very soon received a warm and enthusiastic reply. This surprised me as at that time and for many years he was being delivered weekly, sack fulls of letters from around the globe, and he replied to them all. Since that time we kept up correspondence by mail and eventually by email. David also helped me, as David Webster had done for him, develop my own writing style. There is no question that he helped many of those he knew and thousands who he would never know.

David received a few honors in his life, but those he was most proud of were The John Grimek Lifetime Achievement Award and The Oscar Heidenstam Foundation Award for Services to Bodybuilding. Apart from the world of strength David enjoyed playing guitar[he once played in an R&B band] reading, traveling, magic tricks and eating his wife’s delicious cakes. But above all

David loved his dear wife Rosemary, daughter Karen, family and his many friends made over the years. I will certainly miss my dear friend but I know he has left us an amazing legacy in his writings.

Sincere condolences from all at HOPC to Rosemary, Karen and all David’s family and many friends around the world.

© In Memorium of David Gentle by Peter Yates Jul. 31, 2020

Young David Gentle

User Comments ( 19 )

  • Harry Hayfield

    I am sorry to hear about David’s passing, as I was hoping now that I am in a situation to have more respite from my role as a carer, it would be possible to meet him in person and pass notes on famous physical culturists and the like. I would like pass on my condolences to both his widow and daughter.

  • Tom

    Really sad news to hear about this. I also was a recipient of some of his collection and he was always happy to help with research.

    I really hope his collection goes to a good home and thank you for all the help and advice you’ve given over the years.

    Rip

  • Talbot

    David Gentle has left us, and it is a sad loss for Physical Culture. Fortunately his written work is voluminous, and will still be informing those persons interested in Physical Culture, for centuries to come. David Gentle Pose In Peace.

  • Stephen Gardener

    First from an email from John Fearnley to me: Dear Steve, Have just seen your post about the passing of David Gentle. He was a wonderful gentle man who did so much for the sport of bodybuilding, often without any reward or credit. The iron game was his passion. David was always very kind towards me and gave me much encouragement. I sincerely hope there will be others who can carry forward David’s intelligence and vision. Although, in so many ways he was irreplaceable.

  • Stephen Gardener

    Posted by me on Facebook: Passing of a legend. Too many people I’ve known have passed away in the last few weeks and today I learn of one of the lesser known icons of Physical Culture – David Gentle – has joined them. David is up there, as a Iron Game historian, with the best in this country. He wrote 1000’s of articles on Bodybuilding and Physical Culture. 100’s in his own name and 1000’s under ‘star’ names and pseudonyms for magazines like Bodybuilding Monthly, Health & Strength and many others. He co-authored one of THE books on hand power ‘Developing Grip Strength’ with fellow historian David Webster. He allowed me to take over the editing and publishing of Muscle Mob and thus gave me a chance, not just as an athlete, but something more in the Iron Game. I, for one, will miss his influence. Gone to the gym in the hereafter… I added that I called him lesser known as I always felt he deserved greater recognition, fame and fortune than he did.

  • Gil

    It was with great sorrow that I heard from my friend Kev Collings about the passing of David. David was one of the greatest physical culture historians ever. David and Ron flew the flag for physical culture throughout their lives, There loss will leave a hole in all physical culturists hearts. Rest in peace David in Gods care

    Gil

  • Stephen Gardener

    From Richard Vizor: Incredibly sad, I will always remember his enthusiasm and story telling during our Muscle Mob meets and at the OHF. And his encouragement when Steve and I planned a muscle museum that sadly became a dream unrealised. His support and his articles in the Mobster will be a lasting testament to his endless knowledge. I can specifically remember his sandow training story from when he first started working out in the atic of his parents house and how he tried desperately to be quite so that his parents wouldn’t hear.
    Rip David (aka Mobster Dave)

  • Tony C

    So shocked to hear this news. I think I thought David would live forever. But what an incredible life and what an incredible gift he gave to physical culture, it’s practice and its history. I doubt the scale of that achievement could ever be equaled.
    I found his website and the forum only very recently and feel incredibly blessed to have exchanged a few messages with David over the days leading up to his passing. Through the many millions of words he wrote, embedded in many of the PC collections we own, his memory will shine on and on. David will be terribly missed, But we know that when we want to feel a bit closer to him, there he is thousands upon thousands of magazines and and in the wonderful articles he wrote.
    He will not be forgotten.

  • Karen Weedon

    Thank you for your kind words – I do feel he never really got the recognition he deserved for all the work and writing he did. But firstly he was my dad and and the best dad I could ever have wished for. My heart is broken that I will never see him again.

  • Lee Morrison

    David Gentle was in simple words an amazing, kind and gentle man. I met Dave some 25 years ago now after writing to him after seeing an advert in a British muscle and physical culture magazine offering buy, sell and trade of any books physical culture related! Fast forward to less than a few weeks later and you’d see how myself and Dave would regularly get together in his famous Den at the back of his house where we’d share tea and cake made by lovely Roesmary and literally chew the fat for hours! This relationship went on for many years, we’d take visits together to collectors of rare books and go to all sorts of events that celebrated physical culture history! Dave is an absolute legend in the physical culture, body building and strongman game. He knew that I had an interest in writing and wanted to write some articles for some of the popular magazines around at that time, he also knew that I was kind of dragging my feet about it and was probably not as confident as I could have been. This was before the days of modern day keyboards and computers or internet, so Dave’s response to my passion to write came in two ways! First David Gentle bought me a type writer which he taught me to use in two finger tap tap style, second he gave me a great piece of advice, in regards to how I should write! He said “always write like you are talking to a 12 year old!” Plain, simple and to the point! I remember when we both celebrated with a tipple, my first published article! Fast forward many years since and among many other things within my field I have had more than 20 books officially published. All written in the same two finger tap tap style, with the progression to a keyboard but 20 books none the less! David Gentle, told me I could, showed me I could and encouraged and taught me more than I can attribute to anyone else in my life! I loved that man like a father I swear! All I can say with the way the World is becoming, I hope and pray that my good friend Dave Gentle is in a better place now! My heart felt condolences to his most lovely better half Rose and daughter Karen and family go out in abundance! I am truly sorry for the loss of this most wonderful man! Lee Morrison

  • Laurie Smith

    When Peter called and told me David had passed, it really knocked the wind out of my sails.I began writing to David many years ago after discovering he was a fan of old movies, especially Tarzan, like myself. He loved it when i would unearth some obscure facts and send them to him and generously sent me items of interest and historical value in return. One particular time he told me that what i was revealing in my letters would make good articles and encouraged me to write some,which i did, the first for Bob Kennedy at Muscle Mag International.However i always preferred to send info to David and others for use in their own writing.David had a keen mind and a wonderful sense of humor.On his return posts to me he would often add things to the address such as Laurie Smith at the tough guy gym or Laurie Smith the Croydon crusher.We also shared a love of expanders and expander training. His knowledge of PC history was vast and legendary and he knew everyone who was anyone in the world of strength. A lovely man who will be sorely missed.Sincere condolences to his wife, family and friends.
    Laurie.

  • Kevin Collings

    I was in deep shock on Thursday when Rosemary Gentle phoned to tell me that David had passed away at 9 am in hospital.. We are all like family Dave’s Muscle Mob magazine was our bible of friendship. Me and Dave were planning to go up to see David Webster this year, Dave was coming to stay with me. We were also planning on going to see our old mate Alan Smith, who is another great man and a very dear friend. Dave and Alan were always joking on about who will get their collections. Dave said, Kevin, we will take some big mail bags up with us and have Alan on ha ha. They both has some great banter, when me and Dave visited Alan years ago and I remember Alan giving Dave some very rare photos of The Mighty Apollon, Dave was so excited and Alan was so cool and they loved to wind each other up. I am sure Dave will be sitting with The Mighty Apollon now in heaven and wanting his autograph. Everyone knows the price of everything, but not the true value. Dave like myself collected for the love of our sport and we were wanting a museum in memory of Sandow and that was our intention, to get together with our old pal David Webster and discuss this matter. Materialistic things mean nothing when you get older and wise about life in general, its the people in your life that matter. What good is living in a castle if you are on your own and surrounded my materialistic things, that are no good to you. Our health is our wealth and happiness. Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who would do anything to see you smile & love you no matter what. This amazing Forum says it all, we are one big happy family. Gratitude is the best medicine. It heals your mind, your body and your spirit, And attracts more things to be grateful for. Especially Friendship! Dave was also called Big Daddy and he was to all of us mobsters. Dave will be a big miss to all of us and in the garden of happy memories its always summer! He will now live in our hearts forever,and I thank God for his friendship along with the rest of our gang. All my love and prayers to Rosemary, Karen and family. May God rest your soul in heaven mate. RIP God bless from “Kev the rev”

  • Rosemary Gentle

    Physical Culture has always been a big part of my life. I married David when I was 16. He was God’s gift to me, my knight in shinning armour. Both our lives were enriched with the people we have met through PC and at occasions such as the Oscar Heidenstam Dinners who’ ve become long term friends. I thank you all for your help and friendship over the years. Rosemary proud to have been David’s wife for 62 years

  • Paul Shaw

    It’s amazing to read how many people have had their lives enriched by knowing Dave what wonderful tributes from all his friends. As anyone he knew Dave will know his sense of humour was part and parcel of everything he did.

    Thought I would recount Dave telling the audience how he started in physical culture when he was awarded the Oscar Heidenstam Foundation Award for Services to Bodybuilding

    Dave started with the Charles Atlas course and said that it was based on observing the animals at the zoo. He then explained that what you actually saw at the zoo was animals licking their bums and mating not doing the dynamic tension exercises. Imagine lesson 2 – try to lock your own bum.

    Dave also mentioned bathing your testicles in cold water, for vitality, was part of the course, so there he was at 14 years old with his trousers round his ankles bathing his bits when his mother came up behind him “what the bloody hell are you doing” she said.
    Dave explained it was for vitality “you’ll go blind” she said.
    Dave remembered Grimek only had one eye and he did OK so he thought he’d risk it and carried on.

    I am already missing him like crazy

    Paul

  • Peter yates

    Thanks Paul, for injecting some humor as David himself would have done.Always loved that story.Yes so many people with their own stories of how they had been helped by David. He was a kind man who loved people and wanted everyone to be as blessed as he felt he was. Irreplaceable, but how lucky we were to have known him.
    Peter.

  • Norman Hibbert

    So sad to hear about the passing of my friend David. Gentle David I always called him. I had the privilege of making a speech in his honour when he was made an award by the Oscar Heidenstam Foundation.

    Norman

  • Per Hedberg

    I am deeply saddened by the loss of David Gentle. He was a true gentleman and always responding and helping out, giving encouragement whenever I or someone asked a question on the forum. Thank you also for all the productive writing works you published over the years. My condolences and my deepest sympathies go out to David´s family. May David rest in peace.

  • Mike Hallinan

    I`m shocked to learn of the death of David Gentle, he was always a happy, smiling, fun person to be around, we made contact through Joe Assirati, as I was writing a book about his cousin Bert Assirati, something that takes all my spare time. We used to meet at the Wrestlers Reunion where he was the photographer, and have a good laugh. He contacted me one day and asked would I clear out Wag Bennett`s collection of bodybuilding memorabilia, from his Silvertown address, and without hesitation I said yes, I hired a van and drove down to Silvertown from Edgware, collected the memorabilia, drove back to Edgware, went to work, came home in the morning, and then drove to his house in Romsey, unloaded, and then had lunch with him, and Rose, before returning to Edgware, having dinner, and then off to work. He never forgot the favour, and was always looking for Bert Assirati memorabilia for me. He recently contacted me to do a story about Bert, but I was moving house at the time, and now live in Kings Lynn, Norfolk, so I just gave him the help he wanted with the article. He was always very highly respected by all those in the sports of bodybuilding, weightlifting, wrestling, etc…..and was acknowledged World wide as a true historian……………I remember him telling me he had written three thousand articles………amazing…………where did he find the time………….. to be respected by your peers is the highest acclaim one can achieve. I hope there will be a David Gentle prize in the future for young bodybuilders of outstanding achievement.
    My sincere condolences to Rose, and the family

  • Alan Radley

    Hello all, it was great sadness that I learned of the death of David Gentle. He was my best friend – and my mentor. I remember first reading David’s work at the age of 15-16 years old in the UK magazine Bodybuilding Monthly – and I had already been involved in bodybuilding for about 2-3 years having cast my own weights in lead by heating the lead in an old pan and making moulds using sand etc. This was quite crazy because lead is 2.5 times denser than steel – and so 2.5 times heavier – and we could hardly pick up the pan to pour the molten metal – dangerous indeed. I only mention the story because you can see that I was obsessed with improving my strength and physique – and really upon reading David’s articles I realised that I was in fact not crazy or alone in my interests which were not ‘stupid’ as many of my relatives told me then – but actually David let me know through his words that lifting weights was an admirable activity that had a long history with many intelligent and successful people being so engaged – reading David’s work really touched a nerve – and although an avid reader his words seemed to be more alive and personal than any others that I had read. To put it simply, David changed my life with his articles. Later when I got to know David in person – through Muscle Mob – I found him to be a wonderful kind, funny and loving human being who swapped magazines, offered life advice – and he really seemed to understand who I was in my deepest soul. David was ready to give myself and others advice outside of bodybuilding and he was a very wise human being who really cared about other people. I loved this man and cried like a baby when I heard this terrible news. Dear David, you are sorely missed, but fondly remembered, and you have touched and influenced the lives of millions.

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