Charles Gaines

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Charles Gaines
Gaines with his dog, Sumo, in August 2014
Gaines with his dog, Sumo, in August 2014
BornCharles Latham Gaines, Jr.
(1942-01-06) January 6, 1942 (age 77)
Jacksonville, Florida, U.S.
OccupationWriter, outdoorsman
SpousePatricia Ellisor
ChildrenShelby Gaines
Latham Gaines
Greta Gaines

Charles Latham Gaines, Jr. (born January 6, 1942) is an American writer and outdoorsman, notable for numerous works in both the fiction and non-fiction genres. His writing most typically concerns the outdoors sports of fishing in general and fly fishing in particular, as well as upland bird hunting and mountaineering, often with an intellectual and philosophical bent, and an eye towards the various cultures and traditions surrounding different forms of fishing around the world.

In addition to his outdoors writings, Gaines covered the "Golden Age" of professional bodybuilding and is the author of Pumping Iron, considered the definitive journalistic work in that field, and credited in large part for bringing greater public awareness to what was formerly a little-known subculture, as well as helping to launch the career of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Gaines also narrated and contributed to the documentary film of the same name.

Gaines is active in the conservation movement and in particular the stewardship of the North American Atlantic Salmon fisheries. He has served on the board of directors of the Atlantic Salmon Federation.

Early life[edit]

Gaines was born in Jacksonville, Florida on January 6, 1942, the son of Margaret (née Shook) and Charles Latham Gaines.[1] At the age of ten, he and his family moved to Birmingham, Alabama. As a teenager, Gaines took up bodybuilding. He briefly attended Washington and Lee University but left school to travel around the country. He later received his BA from Birmingham-Southern College and his MFA in writing from the University of Iowa.[2] In 1970, he moved to New Hampshire, where he taught creative writing at New England College.

Writing career[edit]

In 1972, Gaines published his first novel, Stay Hungry. This work of fiction focused on the subculture of bodybuilding during the early 1970s, and revolved around the lives of three characters in Birmingham, Alabama: Craig Blake, a young heir from a family of Southern gentry; Mary Tate Farnsworth, a young woman of working-class background; and Joe Santo, a bodybuilder, athlete and Renaissance man figure of French Canadian and Menominee Indian ancestry. As well as exploring the culture of bodybuilding in great detail, the novel also dealt with themes of class difference, spirituality and self-identity. In 1976, Stay Hungry was made into a motion picture starring Jeff Bridges, Sally Field and Arnold Schwarzenegger (the latter in one of his earliest roles.)[3]

In 1974 Gaines created Pumping Iron: The Art and Sport of Bodybuilding, a photo-essay with photographs by George Butler which focused in even further detail on the professional bodybuilding scene during the 1970s. It featured such bodybuilding greats as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu, Serge Nubret, Ken Waller, Mike Katz and Ed Corney, and provided a factual and philosophical exposition of the sport of bodybuilding. It is considered to be a seminal work in that field, and still enjoys significant popularity.

Pumping Iron was adapted by Butler into a documentary film of the same name in 1977, this time focusing on the 1975 Mr. Olympia bodybuilding contest and the rivalry between Schwarzenegger and up-and-comer Lou Ferrigno, though also including all of the bodybuilders from the original book.[4] The film enjoyed great success, bringing both Ferrigno and Schwarzenegger into the spotlight and increasing their public profiles tremendously. It also helped to further popularize bodybuilding as a sport and bring it into the mainstream.

Gaines continued writing on the topic of bodybuilding, publishing an exercise manual, Staying Hard: The Only Exercise Book You Will Ever Need in 1980 and writing a biography of Charles Atlas in 1982.

In 1995 he wrote the autobiographical novel A Family Place, which documented the building of a family cabin in Nova Scotia with the help of his wife and children. In 2001 he published The Next Valley Over: An Angler's Progress, a creative nonfiction work which detailed his fly fishing experiences all over the world. He also co-authored Leaper: The Wonderful World of Atlantic Salmon Fishing with Monte Burke.

Gaines currently teaches writing part-time at the Spalding University Master of Fine Arts program, and continues to contribute articles to outdoors publications.[5]

Invention of paintball[edit]

In 1980, Charles Gaines and his friend Hayes Noel, a stock trader from New York City, had an argument about whether the talent for survival was an ingrained instinct adaptable to any environment (Noel), or a pattern of learned behavior specific to a particular environment (Gaines). Noel held that his ability to survive and thrive in the Wall Street jungle was transferable to a true jungle, the woods, or anywhere else. Gaines, a life-long outdoorsman, argued that while he could not compete with Noel in the city, he would be more than his match in the woods. Gaines lived at the time on a farm in New Hampshire where he raised sheep. Shortly after the argument with Noel, a friend sent him a catalogue of products for stockmen. In it was a CO2-powered pistol, made by a company called Nel-Spot, which shot a single oil-based dye pellet and was used for marking bred-ewes, and by foresters to mark trees. Seeing a way to finally test their argument, Noel and Gaines ordered two of the pistols and some pellets and hunted each other in the woods on Gaines’s farm. Doing so proved to be so exhilarating that they decided to invite ten other men to play a game they devised off the trial run, which they named “The Survival Game”. The object of the game was for a player to collect each of four different-colored flags located at widely separated “flag stations” inside a large tract of woods, and to be the first player to emerge from the woods with all four flags without being marked by another player’s paint pellet. Gaines enlisted his friend Bob Gurnsey, a New Hampshire ski-shop owner, to help him and Noel organize the game, and in October of 1981 the three men, along with nine other friends, played the first paintball game ever played in Henniker, NH. Among the players in that game were three writers for national magazines. All of them wrote articles about the game, and Gaines was deluged with letters from people all over the country who wanted to play the Survival Game. To meet that demand, Gaines, Noel and Gurnsey formed a company called The National Survival Game, which standardized rules for both individual and team versions of the game, and was the first company to sell paintball equipment.




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  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-09-17. Retrieved 2010-04-18.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
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