Photos of Conan in Movies

Growing Up In Newcastle (Beach)

Sunday, 02 July 2006

A brief history of Conan Stevens from 0 to 23 

School in Newcastle was typical for an Australian - some kids picked on us, we picked on other kids. I got sick of a few of the bullys giving me crap everyday and is one of the reasons I picked up bodybuilding originally.

As a typical Australian teenager I spent a LOT of time at the beach, Newcastle Beach, Nobbys Beach, Redhead Beach. 

After school I went on to the University of Newcastle - a whole new atmosphere, responsibility, bodybuilding, machine guns, a few lectures, bayonet fighting, and cheap beer - it was a fun time for me......

I was born and raised in Newcastle Australia, a seaside working class industrial town. Going to school the same comment came back every year from my teachers, "....could do better if he tried."

Going through school I was in the bottom 1/3 of the top class, I saw no benefit in trying harder - I was having fun, all those in the top studied for hours every night while I preferred to go skateboarding, riding bicycles, or swimming with my friends, often all 3.

At this time period I was very skinny, considering I also did Orienteering as a sport. If I was not running then I was skating, swimming or riding. At times I could manage to sit still for as long as 1/2 an hour to talk to some cute girl at the beach.

At 16 my friends started bodybuilding, they went from being fat kids to massive muscle men (15 inch arms were big to us then). They took me to the movies to see Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Conan the Destroyer" - that was it. I was going to go to the gym.

At 17 I too was able to attain 15" arms, imagine what would have happened if I had trained my triceps!

In those days we used to do a 3 day split, meaning that every 4 days we would train the same body parts again. We did 20 sets every body part, every set to failure. Hard core overtraining but we did not know, so we trained harder, more force reps and more negatives.  For a long time we never grew.

Thus plodding through school I was able to make entrance to the Faculty of Economics at the University of Newcastle. Why did I choose Economics, well I actually did really enjoy it, we had a fantastic teacher at school who threw out the text book and taught us from the daily business newspapers and for homework asked us to watch parlimentary sittings that were to decide Australia's economic direction. It was relevant, it had real world implications. Then at the University of Newcastle we got drone lecturers who knew the information but were so bored with it that they put 1/2 the lecture room to sleep every day. 

During my University of Newcastle years I discovered that the combined effects of alcohol + girls = fun, actually it was more like on my first day at Uni. My second day I got involved with the University of Newcastle Engineering Fraternity (The Frat) - a thinly veiled excuse to get drunk on the pretext that we were in fact studying - that I was enroled in Economics and "studying" Engineering in my free time never really occured to me as strange.

And so it was after skulling 2 pints of beer within 10 seconds at the Engineering Fraternity (The Frat) Annual General Meeting on my second day that my university days became numbered.

I was voted onto the Engineering Fraternity Council, as 1st year representative, whereby I was largely responsible for pouring beers at the 'study' sessions. I was also largely responsible for bringing numbers of Frat members up from approximately 120 members to 653 by the end of the year and in the process transformed from an introvert to an extrovert.

At the University of Newcastle I continued my bodybuilding training, though with more days off to allow me some drinking time, I think this allowed me to grow as I was no longer in a continual state of overtraining.

It was here that I joined the infantry and attained the qualification of Qualified Australian Infantry Soldier with the University of Newcastle Company (UN Coy). It was great fun. Again I worked my membership magic and got all my mates involved - "Hey John, tax free beer! And they pay you to play with machine guns! Come have a look, beers on me." 

The Australian Army is very small numerically especially considering all the territory they are supposed to defend, as a result the soldiers are very highly trained and with good experience in jungle warfare holding off  the Japanese in WW2, holding Tobruk vs Rommel, the superb effort against the Turkish at Gallipoli, defeating the communist insurgency in Malaysia in the 1950's and of course a splendid record of service in Vietnam - these factors were all brought to bear in training with Jungle warfare, ambushing and explosives being the preferred tactics with maximum effect and minimum loses for the Australian Army. 

For more information read about the Australian Army involvement at the Battle Of Long Tan, Vietnam and the heroic actions of Major Peter Badcoe VC are also a good read.

After a year and a half at the University of Newcastle it came time to either buckle down and study or leave. I left.

At that time I had started working as a bouncer (security guard) at various nightclubs around Newcastle City and was taking home more money, almost twice as much, as my friends who had "real" jobs. Back then nobody came back to shoot you or stab you. If they were not "man enough" to fight then they would just go home. Unlike the low cowards you get today. Nobody got hurt bad, if someone said stop then you'd stop and they would walk away - and probably buy you a beer next week. There was an honour system.

After University I got more serious with my bodybuilding training but could not get past 120Kg, I was stuck. 6 months later I was 140Kg.

I gained 20kg in 6 months

How did I do it? People accused me of steroids at the time, but my answer was a lot simpler, though probably not as healthy.... I got a job at a take away food joint. Money was minimum wage but I could eat as much as I wanted - meat pies, chips, fried fish, hamburgers, ice creams, everything went in and the weight went on. I would not do it again but back then I knew nothing about food except eat more and get bigger.

For the next few years I spent my time at Newcastle Beach with my mates, working on my 1968 Kingswood and genrally enjoying life in reality I was living the bodybuilding lifestyle. The same one we watched Arnold Swarzenegger enjoying in Pumping Iron - going to the beach, going to the gym, working a little at nights, hanging out with all the hot girls.(Unfortunately the movie never showed all the work Arnold did behind the scenes and the businesses he was building.)

A close friend, Steve, had moved to Sydney about 6 months before and rang me every week to go down and visit him, back then 100 miles seemed like 100 years away, soooooo farrrr to the big city. This night I had run out of excuses so I agreed, finally, to visit him that next weekend.

That night changed my life. I ended up moving to Sydney to become a Ballet Dancer with Sydney Dance Company

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