In Uncorrected, our weekly series, we hunt for the media’s recent misprints — and imagine the possibilities in a world where the errors are reality.
An April 29 Washington Post Style section review of Tori Murden McClure’s memoir incorrectly said that the author could bench-press 650 pounds. In fact, she could leg-press 650 pounds.
Champion bodybuilder Tori Murden McClure’s new memoir, “So Jacked: One Woman’s Story of Love, Loss and Weight Lifting,” was published last month by Collins. North by Northwestern’s Eric Felland sat down with McClure at her suburban Philadelphia home to discuss her compelling story and newfound fame as an author.
NBN: I notice you have a steel girder in your living room. Have you taken up art collecting since retiring from sports?
TMMcC: No, I use that to work on my biceps and abs. It’s nothing too fancy, only about 650 pounds, not nearly as hefty as what I would lift back in my professional days. A couple sets a day keep me toned for vacation in Florida.
NBN: What are we talking about when we say “hefty?”
TMMcC: For the lower body, I used to do the leg-press with a junker Ford Taurus.
For the upper body, at my peak, I would bench a refrigerator. Maybe I’d ride a lawnmower if I was doing max-outs. God, I was skinny back then! 530 pounds, all muscle, not an ounce of cellulite.
NBN: What first led you to weight training?
TMMcC: I was always kind of a geeky kid in elementary school and middle school. I hated gym class and was a complete klutz at sports. The boys called me McClumsy to my face. In high school, the gym teacher introduced us to the weight room and I sort of fell in love with the sheer mechanical simplicity of the the machines. Given my aversion to team sports, I preferred to work out alone, so I would go in after school and lift to blow off stress.
NBN: Did you realize at the time that you’d found your calling?
TMMcC: No, actually, that took me a few more years. A good girlfriend of mine got dumped by her boyfriend about a week before senior year prom. He was a football star and shamelessly said he wanted to go with this really hot girl instead. I was so mad I went over to his house and beat him up — he was crying like a little kid who let go of his balloon. He was like putty in my hands, this football player macho-guy. I realized then and there that I could command far greater success in life using my natural physical endowments, rather than following my misguided dream of staying in accelerated math and becoming an expert in symbolic logic.
NBN: That seems reasonable. Microelectronics design has lost some its sexiness since the ’60s.
TMMcC: I moved to San Diego and hit the beaches and the gym. I’d work out for like, five, six hours a day, and then go tanning. Kind of like Mickey Rourke. It was the ’80s and life was just a party all the time. Me and my friends would race around in this beat up ’69 Oldsmobile convertible and blast heavy metal music. I worked at a little grocery store run by a Korean family who sold fake fingernails and cosmetics out the back door. And I met Hal, my first true love, one day at the laundromat when I tripped over his foot and dropped my basket of socks.
NBN: You planned to spend the rest of your life with him?
TMMcC: Yes. He was an absolute gentleman and just the most funny and thoughtful person I’d ever met. He was doing a tour in the Army at the time, and he was sent to Grenada during the invasion. I was devastated when they came to tell me he’d been killed fighting the Communists. In those dark days, I turned to my friends and my passion for weight training. Like back in high school, it helped me deal with stress.
NBN: How did you get into competitive bodybuilding?
TMMcC: One day I saw a flyer advertising cash prizes for a local competition. I felt like I could be a winner, maybe even alleviate my gloom over losing Hal, with a victory. So I put in some extra effort, went on a crash protein diet and gave it a shot. That first tournament, in some drippy basement below a bar, I won fifty bucks and left me with a hunger for greater glory. So I quit my job at the Korean grocery store and threw myself full-time into working out. In a few years I was on top of the world. I was the women’s all-around weight lifting champion. I broke the world records. Some people commented that I was too ripped to ever win a pageant contest, but I threatened to beat their skinny asses and they quickly realized that buff is beautiful. I even have a signed photo of me with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
NBN: What led you to retire from the sport?
TMMcC: Well quite simply, it got to be physically exhausting. I still enjoy fitness — I run about twenty miles every morning to stay in shape. But I decided I needed to return to a cerebral job, and so I moved back east and went to college. I got into the real estate business, which turned out to be a great blessing because I helped sell the dream mansion of a man who was divorcing his wife at the time. He and I hit it off and got happily married a year later. Edwin’s a golf pro who teaches lessons at the local country club. He can devote his time to the game since his uncle, who worked in the fertilizer industry, bequeathed him several billion dollars. Part of the reason we fell in love was that we shared a deep passion for our respective sports, and that gave us a way to connect and discuss our lives.
NBN: What led you to write this memoir?
TMMcC: I guess I felt like it was a story that people would love to hear. All about inspiration, hard work, following your dreams and all that business. My publisher wanted me to make up a section about my struggles with cocaine, heroin and lesbianism during my wild younger days, but I insisted that I keep the story true and straight.
NBN: How has fame treated you?
TMMcC: You know, it really has been positive. The exposure hasn’t been excessive and the media haven’t been hysterically sensationalizing my past life. People in the community respect me for who I am and the choices I’ve made. Best of all, nobody argues with me anymore at PTO meetings.
NBN: Any words of wisdom for the kids, any aspiring lady bodybuilders?
TMMcC: Do what you love. Do what makes you happy. Live every day like it’s your last. And stay off the juice — it’s all fun and games until you’re shaving your back with a power razor.