Shawn Ray's Where Are They Now with Alq Gurley
Where Are They Now with Alq Gurley
In 1990, Philly native, Alq Gurley burst on to the NPC Scene like a rocket! Winning the Lt. Heavy & Overall Titles at the Nationals then later winning the IFBB World Championships the same year on his way to becoming an IFBB Pro. Born in Philadelphia, Pa.1961, Alq had his sights set on the “Big Time” before t all came crashing down after he blew out both knee’s and would never be the same again. I caught up with him recently, now living in South Florida and busing himself as a respected Personal Trainer. Still looking good and only half his age, Alq is a study of making the most out of a bad situation.
Q) You won the Light Hvy & Overall NPC National Titles in 1990 and competed for a few years thereafter and tell me how that experience for you was getting your IFBB Pro Card?
A) I was thrilled when I won the title waaaay back in 1990...seems like a loooong time ago!! Oops you won it waaaay back in '87!! LOL Sorry man, we're getting old. Seriously, it was the first step because I wanted to win the Universe in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia two weeks later. The whole process, (at least for me) was complete validation for the conformation of becoming a Pro.
Q) What was it like back in the early 90's competing on the Pro Circuit, did you have many Pro friends or was it strictly business?
A) It was both. Bodybuilding is and was a little different. It's not a team sport. So, it seemed at times that everyone was keeping "trade secrets" especially if you were real the competition. However, things were different when the crew hit the road on tour. I remember the tour buses in Europe and everyone as talking and having a pretty good time...except after some of the shows...placings...hey, you know...competition!! My experience was good, I miss the camaraderie. All the guys...Henderson Thorn, Ron Love, Mike Ashley, Steve Brisbois, Sonny Schmidt, Milos Sarcev, Vince Taylor, Dexter Jackson, Flex, John Sherman, Kevin Levrone, Paul Dillett, Porter Cotrell...you too man! Good times...I miss it.
Q) What was your purpose competing as a Pro, did you have an agenda?
A) Yes, I had an agenda. It was to compete, establish a solid reputation and use it as a spring board to go into commentating...Flex Magazine Workout and other things relating to the sport. I wanted to go into T.V and movies. I wanted to do a "dual thing". I did it for a few stints but things didn't work out as would have wanted them to...my focus changed.
Q) What contest really sticks out for you back in those days and why?
A) My first Olympia. I realized that I was in the Big Time and I had so far to go. It's like going from High School to College or better yet, like College to the Pros. There were guys who have been in the game with more time and experience and it shows when it's your first time out of the box. You have to wake-up, smell the coffee and realize you have a lot more work to do.
Q) Who did you think at that time was your chief competition?
A) LOL everybody. You have to knock people off so you can claim your place...then, zero-in on the Big Dogs. I came up (you did too) in a very competitive era. A lot of big names and quality " classic" physiques. Every show was serious business. I wanted to win not just place.
Q) What was your impression of Dorian Yates during those days as being Mr. Olympia and the so called, "Standard" of Bodybuilding?
A) I can appreciate what Dorian did in retrospect. He pushed the envelope. I thought he took it upon himself and raised the bar not necessarily in the best way because it changed the way the sport was viewed. Bodybuilding had gained prominence and was slowly becoming accepted. When it went the way of the Mass-monster route that killed any momentum it had worked so hard to achieve. All in all, it was good for him (6 Olympia's)...bad for the sport... it lost acceptance and TV spots that were growing at the time.
Q) Where did you train all those years back then and who was your inspiration?
A) I trained in Philly, starting at a small spot called the Muscle Factory in the Frankford section. Bounced around to other gyms ( The Y in West Philly, Gold's Gym a couple spots in South Philly and eventually to River's Gym in West Oaklane where I trained for both Nationals and the World games or "The Universe" as I like to call it...(Hey, it sounds better!!) My training partners were the guys who I looked up to and admired. Antoine Mays, Horace Jackson, Henry, Paul Daniels, Jefferson Philips(great bodybuilder and poser) Todd Howe, Al Faraz and all the other brothers who were there and helped me out! Much love and respect!! You never truly do it alone...life has taught me that.
Q) If you had not become a Pro Bodybuilder what would you have pursued instead?
A) Architecture. I went to school for that. I was recently in Construction and Development, building residential homes and commercial properties in the Miami area before the industry collapsed. It's a very rewarding field...building a structure from the ground up...it gives you a great sense of accomplishment and appreciation.
Q) Tell me a funny story from back in the day that you remember as a good memory?
A) Woo who...let's see...ok. I have a few but here's one. In 1992 I was on the European Grand Prix tour and a group of us were in Holland in a restaurant. Everyone was hungry and beginning to complain before the food finally came. Well, you how it is when you've got a bunch of over-sized hungry, grumpy and angry bodybuilders in a restaurant...chaos...fuckin hilarious. Attitudes, words...tempers...and the food finally comes, they wolf it down and (I'm going to name drop here...Sonny Schmidt (R.I.P) lays down on the floor holding his stomach and starts moaning in pain because he ate too much too fast. The owner of the restaurant is paralyzed because he's got all these huge guys in his place...he's got the "what-the-fuck" look on his face...and people come in, they see Sonny on the floor...holding his stomach moaning in pain, they look around and walk out...I mean a few people. I was in tears...you had to be there...funny shit!! Imagine if it was your place! Business just walking out the door!!
Q) What happened to you, it seemed like there was never an "Official" retirement statement yet you suddenly disappeared from the sport?
A) The Double Knee injury ended my brief and illustrious career. (Tongue-in-cheek) I tried to come back but I think I did it too fast. The surgeons told me that if I tore them again, they couldn't guarantee that I would be able to walk again without a cane or walker. So, that was it. I entered a couple of more shows just to try but that was it...I wanted to compete but I didn't think it was worth it...health-wise.
Q) What are you up to these days and how old are you, where do you live and what drives you these days?
A) I'm 47...I'll be 48 in March...wow, imagine that!! I'm living in sunny S. Florida ...Miami. This is a sexy town...wish I moved here years ago...hey, all things in their time!! I love it here!! Beautiful weather, beautiful women...did I mention beautiful women? Yes, I'm still single...I think it's about that time now...hmmm. I'm still training, keeping in shape...representin'!! Tuning' up for the Big 50!! LOL. I think about how I want to live in my twilight years. A beautiful home here in sunny S. Florida...working on a DVD training series...I'll keep you posted.
Q) Looking at Pro Bodybuilding now, what do you think it needs and why?
A) Bigger prize money...I mean upper six or seven digits. Better salaries from these companies who benefit from athlete's images. You've got some of the hardest working athletes in sports and they aren't rewarded for it. A more professional presence, a union and bring back the TV coverage. Oh yeah...I need my commentating spot!! This question requires far more time and research...I don't want to give an off the cuff answer. I'd like to see so much more for the sport.
Q) If you had it to do all over again, what would you do differently?
A) I'd be better informed and more realistic with my expectations of the sport. I'd like bodybuilding to have more of an infrastructure and better overall treatment and organization for the athletes.
Q) How would you like the world to remember you when you 80 plus years old?
A) Helluva question...I had principles and I spoke my mind. Hey, I did things on my terms...all n all good man.
Q) Tell me what would your "Ideal" Call out have been prior to leaving the Pro Stage for good (Past, Present or Future) with you in it with 5 other Pro's?
A) Ronnie...(gotta have Mr. Olympia in there), Flex (still hasn't added me as a friend on Face book...what up Bro...show some love!), Kevin Levrone, Kai Greene (Star in the making), You (...cause you're showing love by giving me this interview) Dexter Jackson (cause he shared his Nachos and Salsa with me...alright Two Mr.O's). I know that's six...I'm entitled, I’m older than you. LOL
Q) What advise do you have for someone coming in the sport today that might help them along their way?
A) Be informed, be aware and be realistic.
Q) What's a typical "Day in the Life for you these days?
A) Its warm here...I wake up in beautiful S. Florida. I have some very interesting friends...where I'm able to travel, work and train. I want to get back into the building industry which was very lucrative...I miss it. It's definitely not a 9 to 5...I have to be creative...you'll find me out in the Miami nightlife.
Q) What would you like people to know about the retired Alq?
A) I'm doing fine, my health is good and my knees are holding up well...I appreciate the love from the fans that I meet. Some people still want me to come back...ahh no!! Gotta know when to hold em’ know when to fold em’!! I had a great run and I had a blast...now if I was 15 years younger... I'd do it!! LOL
Q) Where can people reach you if they wanted to write you?
A) I'm creating a Gmail account for that...I'll forward that to you. Thanks dude!! We'll rap in a few...Peace.
Thank you sir, Time has been very good to you thanks for being such a great ambassador for the sport!
Grand Prix England - IFBB, 9th
Grand Prix Germany - IFBB, 5th
Grand Prix Holland - IFBB, 2nd
Grand Prix Italy - IFBB, 2nd
Ironman Pro Invitational - IFBB, 3rd
Olympia - IFBB, 13th
Pittsburgh Pro Invitational - IFBB, 6th