Bob Paris is a memoirist, poet, screenwriter and novelist. During a long and varied career he has also been a public speaker, social activist, an actor and a (now-retired) professional athlete…
He was born Robert Clark Paris, on December 14th, 1959 and grew up in Brown County and Columbus, Indiana. He immigrated to Canada in early 2003, becoming a Canadian citizen shortly thereafter. He resides in the southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia.
Starting as a boy, Paris was an enthusiastic outdoors-man – hiking and backpacking through the wooded hills of southern Indiana, riding his bike on the area’s scenic back-roads and canoeing its rivers. He was also an artist and writer who won National Scholastic Awards for his drawing and painting, and wrote short-stories in his spare time. His interest in acting and the theater began early and by the time he was in high school he had performed in – among others – the musicals, Pajama Game and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. He was a member of the International Thespian Society and a successful member of his school’s speech and debate team.
He was a well regarded high school football player and was active in both track and field and golf. When he was a high school sophomore, Paris accidentally discovered a dusty weight-machine in a backroom of the basketball gym. He began experimenting with weight training and very quickly built both size and strength, to such a degree that he lost interest in team sports and dedicated both his athletic and artistic efforts toward the - then highly misunderstood - sport of bodybuilding.
After high school graduation and a summer spent in U.S.M.C. boot camp at Parris Island, SC, Paris attended Indiana State University, later transferring to Indiana University. He served with the 4th Marines, while also attending university.
He had an itch to see the world and set out for California to pursue his dream of becoming both an elite-level bodybuilder and a working actor, with an eye toward becoming a successful writer.
When first in California, Paris survived a time of hand-to-mouth existence, often living out of his car. Within a relatively brief time, his efforts in bodybuilding caught fire. Just two years after arriving in LA, he'd won the Mr. Los Angeles and Mr. Southern California. In 1983 he won both the NPC National Championships (Mr. America) and the IFBB World Championships (Mr. Universe). Paris went on to become one of the greatest professional bodybuilders in the sport’s history. During his competitive career, he was outspoken regarding the rights of athletes and in the quest to bring legitimate drug testing to the sport. In 2006, the official publication of the IFBB, Flex Magazine, named Paris the most aesthetic athlete in the history of bodybuilding. He retired twice from competition. The first retirement was in 1985 and lasted two years. He made his final retirement from the sport in 1991.
Maintaining that early interest in theater, Paris spent his initial competitive retirement enrolled full-time in the advanced theater program at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. He also studied with other well-regarded acting teachers, including Vincent Chase and Arthur Mendoza. Over the years he has performed in a number of regional theater productions including Blythe Spirit and Glass Menagerie. In 1997, he made his New York stage debut in the Herbert Ross-directed production of the Cole Porter-Moss Hart musical Jubilee. He has also worked in network television, most recently in a recurring role on the ABC series, Defying Gravity.
As a model, Paris has been photographed by some of the world’s leading photographers, including Bruce Weber, Herb Ritts and Robert Mapplethorpe.
As a writer, Paris is the author of several best-selling books. His fitness books include, Beyond Built, Flawless, Natural Fitness and Prime. He has also written three works of personal memoir. His novelistic memoir, Gorilla Suit, has been called the greatest book ever written about coming of age in the world of bodybuilding. He is presently finishing the literary novels, The Preservationist and Grow.
He is also a screenwriter. Among many other scripts, he developed and wrote the feature screenplay, Grow. He is currently writing/developing the semi-autobiographical feature, The Return; and writing the feature screenplay adaptation of his memoir, Gorilla Suit.
In 1989, Bob Paris came-out in the media, first in an interview with Ironman Magazine and then shortly thereafter, on Oprah. He was the world’s first active professional athlete – in any sport – to come out in the media. Although Paris initially believed he would do the interviews, then seamlessly return to his career, events of the day compelled him to undertake several years of intense social activism. In addition to scores of media appearances, Paris began touring to speak on civil rights and self-esteem issues, eventually being nominated Lecturer of the Year on the US University circuit. He also co-founded the Be True To Yourself Foundation, providing monetary grants to a diverse range of LGBTQ youth non-profits.
Today, Bob Paris lives with his husband, Brian, in the southern Gulf Islands of British Columbia, Canada. Together since early 1997, Bob and Brian were married in Vancouver, BC in 2003.
Photo and Text: (c) Bob Paris. All Rights Reserved