One’s a tale of fries, the other’s a story of flyes. One serves Shamrock Shakes, the other protein shakes. One offers to sell you a Big N’ Tasty, the other to get you big and toned. But despite these differing goals when it comes to their clientele, the brainchildren of Ray Kroc and Joe Gold have some interesting similarities regarding the health of their businesses. In fact, it seems that the game plans to turn McDonald’s and Gold’s Gym into global icons came from the same playbook.
Take their nicknames, for instance. Gold’s Gym members often shorten the name to just Gold’s – and why wouldn’t they. Who doesn’t want to be associated with gold? It’s one of the most precious metals on earth, it inspired a rush and it even set its own standard. Yes, Joe Gold was lucky that his last name happened to be the same as that of a valuable element, but he had the smarts to capitalize on it. Consider this: None of the other major gym chains are mentioned in daily conversations out of exercise. When talking about jewelry, nobody refers to a 24-karat 24 Hour Fitness ring or a Bally’s-plated watch. Gold using his own name for his gym was genius.
Dick and Mac McDonald (pre-Ray Kroc) didn’t’ want to be left out in the cold when it came to gold either, so they constructed the stylized pair of yellow arches at each side of their first walk-up hamburger stand. The arches appeared as the letter ‘M’ when seen from the street, and this image was soon incorporated into the company logo. Billions and billions of burgers later, the term Golden Arches is now a part of mainstream culture. And the similarities between the Golden Arches and Gold’s don’t end there. Where would our global empires be without their ubiquitous mascots, Ronald McDonald and the Bald Bodybuilder?
Seeing as Ronald’s arguably the second most recognizable figure in the world aside from Santa Claus, there’s no discussion over which mascot has more influence, but the Bald Bodybuilder and the crazy clown aren’t really competing. In fact, you could make the case that they complement each other: Ronald guides us through our childhood and Happy Meal years and the Bald Bodybuilder through our adult, happy real years – a passing of the torch, if you will.
When you consider that the age you can safely start lifting is about the same age that you start thinking Happy Meals are for little kids, this theory begins to hold some water (at least to me). In addition, few moments in a young weight-trainer’s life are more seminal than when he’s old enough to get his own gym membership (it’s a future musclehead’s version of turning 21). More often than not, that first gym is a Gold’s. With that, the Bald Bodybuilder enters your life.
And when he does, you stop wondering exactly how Mayor McCheese could let the Hamburglar get away with stealing all those sandwiches, and you start wondering how much weight the Bald Bodybuilder has on the bending bar*. Then you start wondering how much weight you can put on the bar – and your transition into adulthood, and being a lifelong customer, is complete.
*Upon closer inspection, the little gold guy is holding a bar with four plates on each end. Assuming the largest is a 45-pounder, that would make the next one a 35, then a 25, then a 10, which would make it 115 pounds per side. So, that’s 230 pounds plus the 45-pound bar, which gives us a grand total of 275 pounds. This makes no sense because the bar is bending like there are two Cadillac Escalades on each end. But whatever, it’s a T-Shirt.
Once you’re in Gold’s, you might want to listen to the greatest workout song of all time.
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Jon Finkel is the award-winning author of Hoops Heist, The Life of Dad, Jocks In Chief, The Athlete, Heart Over Height, “Mean” Joe Greene and more. His books have been endorsed by everyone from Mark Cuban and Tony Dungy to Spike Lee, Kevin Durant and Chef Robert Irvine. He has written for GQ, Men’s Health, Yahoo! Sports, The New York Times and has appeared on CBS: This Morning, Good Morning Texas, and hundreds of radio shows, podcasts and streams.