Daniel Duchaine 1952-2000 by Lyle McDonald
I can’t say that I knew Dan extremely closely, but more so then a lot of people who claimed that they did. I did get the opportunity to hang out with him a few times (stories below) and feel privileged to have experienced what I consider the ‘real’ Dan (i.e. not what most people saw in his writings in the magazines or on the net). In many (if not most) ways I owe my career to Dan but telling that story isn’t relevant here. This is about Dan.
I think it’s safe to say that the entire bodybuilding industry simply isn’t the same without Dan. Not only did he bring a brilliant and inquisitive mind to the entire industry, he brought a sense of humor and attitude that I think is missing these days. Oh sure, others try to live up but nobody seems to quite capture the magic that was Dan Duchaine.
Granted, he did step on a lot of toes but this has to do with the fact that he refused to bullshit anybody; he told the truth (as he knew it) and didn’t care what anybody else thought. If that pissed people off, that was their problem.
Most people tended to think of Dan as reckless or without scruples, but I didn’t agree. I remember talking to him extensively the first time I hung out with him. He was clearly very concerned about the potential effects of everything he talked about. The health of his athletes and the people he consulted with was always at the forefront of his mind even if it didn’t always seem that way.
Dan was always his own guinea pig on everything. If anybody was going to be possibly harmed in some way, it was going to be him first and foremost. At the same time, as I said, he didn’t pull any punches. He felt that his duty was to bring the information to the public, what they did with it was sort of their problem. He presented the facts.
I think one of my most memorable events with Dan stems from the first trip I made to San Diego to hang out with him. I was in Southern California for some reason and bopped down to SD for a few days. Dan was nice enough to put me up in his apartment and put up with my endless stream of questions. During that trip, Dan told me about a diet product he wanted to develop called the P&S pill. The ingredients included a mild thermogenic (lobelia), a couple of diuretics, and cascara sagrada which makes you ‘poop’. I was confused, and figured this had to be a precontest bodybuilder thing to clear out the GI tract and eliminate water. Dan had told me no, that it was for general dieting purposes mainly for women. Dan had pointed out that women love to see the scale go down, and because of this, in his words, they just loved to Piss and Shit (hence P&S pill). Frankly, I couldn’t argue with him but that is representative of both his wicked sense of humor and overall attitude. Dieting, he knew like the back of his hand, and bodybuilders sought his advice to get their extremely low body fat percentages from around the world.
There was also another trip where he told me that, given his choice, he’d get out of the bodybuilding industry entirely and just build bikes (he had a fascination with recumbents). After years of being at the top of his field, it was pretty clear that he didn’t enjoy it very much anymore as the changes at Muscle Media had really extracted his intelligence and character from his articles. He also wanted a family and children more than anything but circumstances prevented that from ever occurring.
A second story is from a time when Elzi Volk and I went down to San Diego to visit Paul Chek (to see if he could help her with a long standing injury issue). After that visit, we were to meet Dan who lived in Carlsbad and Shelley in San Diego for lunch. Well, things ran a lot longer at the Chek Institute and even though I made sure to call to let Shelley know we were running late. Dan was simply livid at how late we were and he read me the riot act. Shelley found the situation to be quite comical because according to her, she never seen Dan so pissed off before. Apparently, it was all because he had something better to do than to wait around for some Chekies who were not only wasting their time, were now wasting his!
As a final story I’d like to tell involves the year of Dan’s death. As it turned out, he passed away approximately 4 weeks prior to the Arnold Classic bodybuilding show and expo (arguably the biggest US expo at that time). This had meant that none of the magazines had time to let anybody know about his death because they are usually printed months in advance. I bring this up because I was at the show that year and, as usual, Dan was supposed to hang out at the QFAC booth with Shelley and her posse of hot chicks. Instead, I ended up spending most of my time at the show there (trying my best to fill impossibly large shoes and reduce the stress that Shelley was dealing with, and yes of course, to flirt with the girls).
I think that situation more so than any other, really pointed out how much of an influence Dan had has on people. I say that because I ran into an innumerable number of people who had made the trip to the Arnold Classic to see Dan, usually because he had helped them out (for example, one guy reported how Dan helped him kick a rather nasty Nubain habit) in the past. He may have come across as an unbearable all-knowing prick in his articles, but he was as willing to help people out as anybody I’ve ever seen. The look on those people’s faces when they found out he had passed away told the story as far as I was concerned.
Dan Duchaine was a man at the top of his field, who could have easily become just another high priced guru who only answered questions for money. Instead, he was a man who would go out of his way to help people as much as he could. He was the one who started the concept of the Guru consultations, and according to Shelley, no other came close to his sold out appointment bookings!
Without Dan, I daresay that the industry as it stands would be much different. It’s certainly a different (and far less humorous or interesting) place since his passing. I can’t say that I always agreed with him, but I did respect him. Like many, I suspect I owe my career to him and I certainly miss him.