Written by Ron Harris
23 February 2017


A Star Profile: Mike Matarazzo - The Boston Mass Interview Part 1



I first met Mike Matarazzo in January of 1991, six months before he would catapult to fame as that year’s surprise USA Champion. From the tough working-class city of Somerville just north of Boston, Mike was truly one of the most popular and recognizable bodybuilders of the 90’s. At 5-10 and 245 pounds, Mike wowed audience with his enormous 23-inch arms and the biggest calves ever seen. Though Mike never won a pro show or made top five at the Mr. Olympia, he graced the covers of many magazines and was in higher demand as a guest poser than anyone else during that decade. Matarazzo bowed out of the sport in 2001 and moved to the quiet Northern California city of Modesto, where he now lives with his wife Lacey and children Michael, 2, and Mia, just six months old. The bodybuilding world was shocked when Mike underwent a triple bypass first in 2004, then again following a heart attack in November of 2007. In an interview I have literally been waiting over fifteen years to conduct, we talked about his health, his amazing ten-year career as a pro, the potential dangers of steroids, and much more.

(Note: This interview was conducted in March 2008. Mike died on August 16, 2014 at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, CA, while awaiting a heart transplant.)


I hate to start on a tragic note, but please briefly tell me about your heart attack and the aftermath.

MM: I actually didn’t have a heart attack until very recently. What happened first was that all throughout 2004 and even long before that, I had been feeling more and more tired all the time and had no idea why. I was working out hard and maintaining 270 pounds, seriously thinking about making a comeback at a spring 2005 show. One night in December, I woke up coughing up blood and foaming at the mouth. I felt out of breath and could not seem to get enough air in. My pulse was racing at 188 beats per minute. My wife rushed me to the hospital and it turns out I had congestive heart failure. Two of my arteries were 100% blocked and a third was 78% blocked. They performed a triple bypass and put three stints in my heart. I was only 38 years old.


I don’t get it – you had the surgery and yet you still had a heart attack after this?

MM: My arteries clogged up with plaque again. I went in to my cardiologist this past November for an angiogram just to take a look at my heart and see how it was doing, and I had a heart attack right there on the table. Not only did they have to do another bypass, but they implanted a defibrillator too. Now my heart function is only between 20 and 25 percent. If it goes under twenty, they can put me on a list for a heart transplant.


Sorry, I had no idea it was that severe. Did the fact that you were in excellent physical condition probably save your life?

MM: Actually, it did. My doctor said that because I had always been an athlete, my body was strong enough to survive. With the type of blockage I had, the average guy would have dropped dead from a massive coronary. He also said that my body had built up smaller ancillary blood vessels around my heart that were allowing some flow even though those major arteries were blocked.


We have some guys claiming steroids aren’t dangerous if used properly, while others will say using them is like playing Russian Roulette. Do you personally feel that steroids were a major factor in what happened to you?

MM: I know it was the drugs that caused this to happen to me and I don’t give a shit what anyone says. All these gurus and self-proclaimed steroid experts that try to downplay the risks are just talking out of their ass. They have no idea what will happen to people. Nobody in my family ever had heart problems. It was the steroids I took for years. Anytime you put a powerful artificial drug in your body you are taking a chance. Most guys think nothing bad will ever happen to them. But you watch – you will be seeing more and more serious heart problems and worse once these guys hit forty.


How has your outlook on life changed since you almost lost yours?

MM: I appreciate every second that I have. Any moment I spend with my wife and kids is a blessing, because realistically I know it could be my last. I used to think being big was the most important thing, but nothing is more important than being alive.


Do you ever miss being as huge as you once were?

MM: I do, yeah. I miss the way I looked and felt. People used to look at me so differently. I got more respect. Now I’m just an average 220-pound guy. I look at the pictures and videos from the old days and it’s hard to believe I was so freaky. I think, was that really me?


A lot of people feel that the 90’s were when drug use really started to get out of hand in bodybuilding. Do you feel you were excessive in what you did? What was an average cycle like, if I might ask?

MM: I never did a ton of drugs, even though people assumed I did because I was one of the biggest guys of my time. I also took plenty of time off, sometimes as much as four or five months in a row. But I would say my cycles were usually around 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams a week in the off-season, a bit more pre-contest, plus GH, the cutting drugs, and the diuretics at the very end. I still have guys coming up to me and asking for drug advice, and it blows my mind how much some of them are taking – and just for a little regional show! They should be worried, because using large amounts of steroids for extended periods of time turns your body, and especially your heart, into a ticking time bomb. The truth is that almost all bodybuilders use steroids in excessive amounts. Think about what they give guys that don’t have enough natural testosterone – like 200 milligrams a week. There are guys out there taking ten times that amount of test plus a few other drugs. I thought I was bulletproof, and look at me now. I’ve been in and out of hospitals more the past four years than my whole life up to then. The really sad thing is that I made a good living as a bodybuilder and still have regrets. Can you imagine how some of these guys that just compete as a hobby, or just used drugs to look big at the gym, are going to feel when something finally happens to them?


You have said in the past that the top guys from the 90’s trained harder on average than the pros of today. Do you still feel that way?

MM: I do. Don’t get me wrong. You can tell that the top guys all train hard. But with a lot of these new guys, there is just no ‘wow’ factor. Sorry to say, but a lot of the guys that have turned pro over the last few years that I have seen all look alike. Nothing really stands out. There just aren’t many exciting pros out there today. In the 90’s, you had Dorian, Kevin, Shawn, Flex, Chris, Paul, Nasser, Priest – it was just a different era.


You were also known for your outrageous protein intake of up to 3 grams per pound of bodyweight a day, with 5-8 pounds of red meat a day. There is even the disgusting legend from your amateur days when you used to toss a few cans of tuna in a blender with apple juice and drink it. Looking back, do you think all that protein was really necessary?

MM: I was a big guy, 300 pounds in the off-season at my highest. I also trained long and hard. So for me, 600-900 grams of protein a day wasn’t so excessive. It did what it was supposed to do, because I did build a lot of muscle mass and I never got fat. I never had a thick waist. My mentality was that with my size and the way I trained, I needed as much protein as I could get. If I couldn’t finish a solid meal, no matter what it was, I would toss it in the blender and drink it. My kidneys have always been in good health, so the high protein didn’t harm them. I do have to wonder if all the red meat contributed to the plaque on my artery walls.


Who were your best friends in the sport? Was there anyone you just never got along with?

MM: I got along with everybody. We all had a mutual respect for each other. I was pretty tight with Flex, Chris Cormier, Kevin Levrone, Shawn, Paul Dillett, and Lee Priest. We all lived in LA around the same time except for Kevin. We would hang out when we happened to be guest posing at the same contest, or on the European tours. We were the crew from the 90’s.


Do you still keep in touch with anyone from the sport?

MM: I still talk to Shawn, Kevin, and Chris, definitely.


How well did you know Paul DeMayo, who grew up in the next town over from you? Were you shocked when you heard he had died?

MM: I knew him back before anyone had really heard about either one of us. We trained at the same gym, Gold’s in Everett, for almost four years at the same time, but not together. I was shocked and very sad when he died. For some reason there had been rumors that we had a bad history or didn’t like each other, but that was bullshit. What a waste of life. Paul was a good guy; he was just very bitter and self-destructive. He used to get so angry when he didn’t place as well as he had hoped at a show. Too bad he never got help and wound up becoming an addict. I think about Paul a lot since my heart attack. I also think about my good friend Anthony D’Arezzo from Rhode Island.


Oh yeah, Anthony. I knew him well. Very sad.

MM: He had serious heart problems himself, but decided he wanted to win the Masters Nationals. I don’t know what he was thinking. He died in his hotel room the night before the contest, all because he just had to do that one last show.


For our readers old enough to remember Vince McMahon’s short-lived World Bodybuilding Federation, I always wondered if he had approached you, and what type of offer he made?

MM: The week after I won the USA, he flew me out to Connecticut and took me to dinner. He offered me a hundred grand a year, which was twice what Joe Weider was offering me at the time. But I had always wanted to compete in the Mr. Olympia, plus I knew Vince’s idea wouldn’t fly. He was trying to turn pro bodybuilding into the same type of sports entertainment as the wrestling and it flopped. Joe always took good care of me and treated me with respect. He always appreciated the hard work I did at any appearance I made. I was under contract to Weider for fifteen years, not a bad run at all.






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