Ken Waller

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For the English actor, see Kenneth Waller.

Kenny "Ken" Waller (born March 20, 1942) is an American former bodybuilder featured in the 1977 movie Pumping Iron, which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger. Waller also won the 1975 International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB) Mr. Universe contest in Pretoria, South Africa. He was known for his curly red hair and freckles — to this day, one of the only redheaded professional bodybuilders in the sport — and his graceful, confident posing style.

Early life[edit]

Ken Waller was born on March 20, 1942. He is originally from Jeffersonville, Indiana.[1] He attended Western Kentucky University at Bowling Green (class of 1965), where he was a member of the undefeated 1963 Tangerine Bowl football team.[2] A photograph of Waller still hangs in the WKU football team's locker room. Ken could often be found at the 13th St. Barber Shop near WKU where his buddies, Howard Poindexter, Fred Turner, and Slick Thurman cut hair.[3] He went on to play professional football in Canada, after serving in the United States Marine Corps and teaching high school in Louisville.[1]

Bodybuilding career[edit]

Waller, at six feet tall and 230 pounds, was one of the most frequent winning amateur bodybuilders of the 1970s. His most notable win was depicted in the film Pumping Iron, at the Mr. Universe contest of 1975. He edged out Roger Walker of Australia, Paul Grant of Wales and his fellow Pumping Iron co-star, Mike Katz, of the USA, to take the first place. He went on to compete at the professional level the following year in the 1976 Mr. Olympia contest, where he again defeated Mike Katz to win first place in the heavyweight (over 200 pound) division.[4] He continued to place in the 1977, 1980 and 1981 Mr. Olympias, taking second place in the tall category and fifth overall in 1977.

Appearance in Pumping Iron[edit]

Waller was briefly featured in the photo-essay book of the same name by George Butler and Charles Gaines, but gained much more notoriety from the film documentary of 1977. In it, Waller is portrayed in a somewhat negative light as the antagonist and chief competition of Mike Katz, whose storyline was featured much more prominently in the film. Waller is shown as a devious and cunning character who tries to undermine Mike Katz's concentration by hiding his lucky T-shirt, and discussing his plan to do so with fellow bodybuilders Roger Callard and Robby Robinson in one of the film's most memorable and infamous scenes. In reality, the "T-shirt incident" was staged to add drama to the film, and the scene where Waller confides his scheme was filmed after the Mr. Universe contest actually took place. Waller can actually be seen wearing two different shirts in different camera angles in that scene, making it obvious that it was set up. Waller and Katz were, in fact, friends - as Waller recounted in Raw Iron - The Making of Pumping Iron - but his reputation as a "villain" remained. "I would go to contests and get booed, after that!" said Waller in a later interview.

Other film appearances[edit]

Waller had an uncredited, but prominent, cameo in the film Stay Hungry as "Dougie Stewart," the rival of bodybuilder Joe Santo (Arnold Schwarzenegger.) This film was written by Charles Gaines, co-author of Pumping Iron. He also appeared in the B movie Kill The Golden Goose in 1979 and in "King of the Beach," an episode of The Incredible Hulk, in 1981.[5]

Contest placings[edit]

Year Competition Placing
1968 AAU Mr. Olympia 4th
1968 AAU Mr. USA 4th
1969 AAU Junior Mr. USA 1st
1969 AAU Junior Mr. USA Most Muscular, 1st
1969 AAU Mr. America 3rd
1969 AAU Mr. USA 1st
1969 AAU Mr. USA Most Muscular, 1st
1970 AAU Junior Mr. America 2nd
1970 AAU Junior Mr. America Most Muscular, 2nd
1970 AAU Mr. America 2nd
1970 AAU Mr. America Most Muscular, 2nd
1970 AAU Mr. World Tall & Overall, 1st
1971 IFBB Mr. America Tall & Overall, 1st
1971 IFBB Mr. International Tall, 1st
1971 NABBA Mr. Universe Tall & Overall, 1st
1971 WBBG Pro Mr. World 2nd
1972 IFBB Mr. International Tall & Overall, 1st
1972 IFBB Mr. World Tall & Overall, 1st
1972 IFBB Universe Tall, 2nd
1973 NABBA World Championships 1st
1974 IFBB Universe Tall, 2nd
1975 IFBB Universe Tall & Overall, 1st
1976 1976 Mr. Olympia Over 200 lbs, 1st
1977 1977 Mr. Olympia Overall, 5th
1977 1977 Mr. Olympia Over 200 lbs, 2nd
1979 IFBB Night of Champions 6th
1980 IFBB Grand Prix California 7th
1980 1980 Mr. Olympia 16th
1981 1981 Mr. Olympia 16th

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Gaines, Charles. Pumping iron: the art and sport of bodybuilding. Photos by George Butler. Designed by Martin Stephen Moskof. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1974. ISBN 0-671-21922-7.

External links[edit]

Mr. Olympia
Preceded by:
Arnold Schwarzenegger
First (1976) Succeeded by:
Frank Zane