Bob Peoples and His Night in Music City III

Published 12:19 pm Friday, January 14, 2022

BY ALEX CAMPBELL
Bob Peoples had personally selected the Nashville, Tennessee YMCA Variety Show in his home state to finally complete the first official 700-pound deadlift. The shocking part was that completing a feat of physical strength never before done in the world was not top billing.
Pudgy Stockton with her husband and friend were supposed to be the stars of the show, but someone forgot to tell Bob Peoples.
We do not know exactly what spectacles were completed by Pudgy and her compatriots that night as records are scant, but we do have plenty of information about the feats of strength and acrobatics that they did throughout the country and undoubtedly did that night.
We are not sure of the exact order of events, but from what records are available, we can piece together a hazy picture of that night’s order of events.
Pudgy and her husband, Les, probably began the act with acrobatic feats that had made them famous and were a part of almost every act they did and served as a great warmup.
Les would often raise Pudgy over his head with one hand as her feet balanced on just one of his palms until his arm was straight overhead.
Other times, Les would lay on the ground and balance his wife in the air with her hand in his as she did a one arm handstand. Performances like this still grace the stages of places like Las Vegas as they are amazing to watch people with so much strength, balance, and poise perform these spectacles.
There is no doubt the crowds of nearly 80 years ago were astonished by these scenes as there was no TV or internet for people to be exposed to these spectacles like there is today. The crowd undoubtedly gave them their hearty approval as they took a break by allowing the other acts to take the stage.
As the Stockton’s rested and gathered their breath, different acts progressed through the show including Bob Peoples opening with his first lift.
The crowd must have still been in a buzz from watching the glistening and tanned exotic athletes from far away California. However, an athlete without peer in his own right was about to take the stage.
Less than two years ago, Peoples broke the world record with his 651-pound deadlift, but tonight he planned to open with about that weight to get things started.
It is not recorded how easily the lift was completed, but from what we know of Peoples’ lifting power, he did not begin to show signs of strain until he was very close to his top weight.
The bar with nearly 50 pounds less than his best must have flown up. Undoubtedly the crowd was pleasantly surprised to see a home state athlete perform such an amazing weight with ease.
Seeing a 115-pound woman balancing her own weight was undoubtedly impressive, but a wiry mountain man lifting 3.7 times his bodyweight with what appeared barely any effort was a real attention getter.
If that was an easy weight that he opened with, how much further could this man push himself? The crowd would just have to wait and see.
Before long, the crowd was distracted from the memory of Peoples and his amazing lift as the Pudgy Stockton Show returned to center stage. The Stockton’s had come a long way and were the headliners, so they were ready to up their game with some more difficult performances.
The 115-pound Pudgy would clasp hands with her 225-pound husband. She would then lift him over her head until he was balanced into a handstand position directly above her. It must have been amazing for the crowd to see such a tiny woman not only have the strength to raise her husband that weighed almost twice as much as her over her head but also maintain the balance.
The Stockton’s were traveling with John Farbotnik, eventual Mr. Universe and Mr. America winner, who would now join in the show.
They are famous for doing acrobatic stunts that included Farbotnik and others. This one usually started with Les laying on the floor, then he would support Pudgy above him with his outstretched arms on her back and her legs bent at the knee and resting on his knees.
Then Pudgy would support Farbotnik above her with one hand and he performed a one arm hand stand above her. In this amazing pyramid of human precision, balance, and grace, people were amazed at the strength of all three of the athletes. The crowd was no doubt on their feet cheering to see this amazing display in person.
As they waved to the crowd and trotted off the stage, the next acts came and went biding the time until Peoples was ready for his own version of a second act. This time he called for a weight near 680.
This was within just 20 pounds of the 699 he had completed a few months prior when was so agonizingly close to the barrier of 700. This weight would really help him see if he had prepared his body properly for this final record lift.
The crowd was intrigued after Peoples first lift. The locals had come to see the headliners from the magical land of California only to become enamored with their own home state strength phenom.
They were intrigued to see what the powerful Tennessean had up his very long sleeves. As they loaded the 680 pounds, the crowd became mesmerized. The bar was completely stacked all the way to the end with weights.
There was not even enough room now for the collars to secure the plates onto the bar. The promoters decided to put a man on each side of the bar with hands inches away from the end of the weights ready to push them back onto the bar if they began to slide off the end of the bar.
Finally, the bar was ready for Peoples. The bigger the weights got on the bar the tinier he looked. He weighed a sinewy 175 pounds.
Against the weight that was right at 3.9 times his bodyweight, he looked like an insect: thicker torso, tiny arms and legs, and able to lift incredible weights that were many times his own.
Peoples bent down and secured his massive hands around the bar. Then he pulled his body down securing his now stronger hips into position. He then took a massive breath and released half of it.
When the pull began, the bar did not sit long on the floor and slid quickly up his legs to lockout. The bar was returned to the ground so quickly and deftly that the crowd was left stunned for a moment before breaking into a standing ovation.
Pudgy and her entourage stood off stage behind the curtain with looks of dismay. They were just as amazed as the crowd, and they were in real fear of having something happen to them that is to be prevented at all costs in show business.
Surely these superstars from the West Coast didn’t come all the way to rural Tennessee to be out-shined by a tiny little hillbilly they had never heard of.
But the roar of the crowd convinced them that they, despite their top billing, were about to be upstaged. Pudgy looked at her husband, and they both knew what they had to do next.
Only the most dangerous stunt in their arsenal would hope to hold back the onslaught of Bob Peoples.
The only question was, “Would both of them survive?”.
…to be continued