House of Pain

Unreal gets sweaty with the World's Strongest Man and talks with an expert in yoga for dogs. And, uh, note to City Hall: Restock the TP.

On first glance, the World's Strongest Man doesn't look so much strong as, uh, fat. Jeff Lewis weighs 500 pounds, and, now that we mention it, the Arnold resident would like to get down to about 450. "But a few extra pounds ain't gonna hurt you in this stage of the game," he imparts, adding that he, unlike many of his competitors, eschews steroids. "I'm going up against some monsters."

At the WPO Championship in Columbus, Ohio, in March, Lewis squatted, bench pressed and deadlifted more in combination than anyone ever has in a sanctioned meet — 2,799 pounds. His individual squat and bench press totals were also event records — 1,212 and 815 pounds, respectively. For these feats he won the title belt and a diamond ring.

The setting was decidedly less masculine last week as Lewis key-carded a flabby Unreal into Festus' Alpha Strength Systems gym. Clad in a House of Pain T-shirt (company motto: "Only the strong survive. Is that bad?") with the sleeves cut off and the neck enlarged to accommodate his massive neck, the World's Strongest Man righted the situation by blasting Aerosmith's "Dude Looks Like a Lady" over the stereo system.

"Genetically, I'm set up as a good squatter and bencher, but it makes it harder to deadlift."
"Genetically, I'm set up as a good squatter and bencher, but it makes it harder to deadlift."

A 35-year-old sales manager for the Tacony Corporation with a shaved head and pretty brown eyes, Lewis didn't start lifting seriously until a few years after he graduated from Bayless High School in 1988. Nowadays his regimen is ironclad: He squats on Monday; later in the week he'll pull a metal sled piled high with hundreds of pounds of free weights across the parking lot.

Today is a bench day. Owing to Lewis' prodigious girth, the bar must travel only a few inches to reach full extension. "Genetically, I'm set up as a good squatter and bencher, but it makes it harder to deadlift," he notes.

And now it's Unreal's turn. As Skid Row segues into Winger, Lewis proves an attentive and supportive spotter, telling us we're doing "great" as we bench approximately one-sixth of his record total.

He's less generous when we inquire about holy man Pat Robertson's claim to have leg-pressed 2,000. "I'd have to see it," Lewis says with a roll of the eyes. "I don't give the leg press much credence, anyway. A leg press is not a full-body movement."

Contort the Pooch
First came Doggie Kindergarten. Then the Doggie Spa. Now Doggie Massage and Yoga.

Leading the movement in the Lou is Lafayette Square resident Madalyn Fliesler. Recently certified by a Seattle correspondence course to rub down man's best friend, Fisher also started up yoga classes for pets and their owners two weeks ago. (For more info see

Unreal: What exactly are the benefits of massage for dogs?

Madalyn Fliesler: Dogs are living longer but they have complaints, like muscle wasting. And arthritis, of course, is the big thing. Massage decreases pain, increases circulation in the muscles. It's also good for younger dogs who don't concentrate well. Massage slows their brain down, so they can think — it's like Ritalin for dogs. It helps them focus.

And you can be certified in this field?

Not by the State of Missouri. But animal massage therapists are working on nationwide certification. See, for people trained on humans to switch to animals — that's better than being an amateur, but doing four-legged animals is very different. Dogs don't need deep massage like humans do. Nor do horses. And cats even less. You could harm them.

Is there a magic move to calm a dog down?

There's no magic stroke for any one dog. Some you have to work with three or four times before they recognize you and what you're doing. Some animals don't like to be touched.

Not even stroked?

Oh, yeah. People say, "I touch my dog all the time," and then they pat their dog on the head. But that dog has never had his armpit rubbed or his inner thigh rubbed. Last Sunday I did free massages in Wolfgang's Pet Stop and I didn't sit down for five minutes. I got sat on, slobbered on, peed on — and I loved it.

Bliss indeed. Yoga — let's talk about that.

It's a social thing. The other idea is to introduce the concept of massage to these people.

So the dogs won't be doing downward dogs.


City Hall: What a Dump
Unreal loves a good euphemism. So when Roger McGrath sent us a note complaining that he got caught with his pants down in St. Louis City Hall, we bit.

"I was downtown at city hall picking up some forms a few weeks back when nature called," the 54-year-old St. Louis resident explains. "I ran in to the water closet. Having finished my business, I discovered the 'paperwork' couldn't be completed because none was available."

What's a right-thinking citizen to do when trapped in such a predicament?

Why, fetch your cell phone and call the mayor's office, of course.

And that's just what McGrath says he did, asking a receptionist to notify a janitor to bring t.p. ASAP.

"She hung up on me!" says an astounded McGrath. "I called back and she tersely told me to call Facilities Management and then hung up the phone again! I called back and she didn't answer."

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