A former Mr. Universe, Paris is an unexpectedly eloquent guide through his bodybuilding career, wiping off the posing oil to reveal a sport populated by insecure, drug-gobbling competitors, all beholden to a single Machiavellian puppet master. Paris, who has previously cowritten a perky memoir of gay marriage, Straight from the Heart (1994), and several exercise books, started lifting weights as a teenager in the late '70s, discovering in this pastime an enticing, self-esteem-building alternative to partying with his slacker friends and enduring the abuse of his alcoholic father. After being thrown out of the house at 19, Paris made his way to the bodybuilder's mecca, L.A., and endured many harrowing months of struggle before getting steady work as a trainer and winning his first competitions. Although Paris believes bodybuilding to be an intrinsically worthy sport, he paints a damning portrait of its chief booster, Joe Weider, who publishes muscle magazines and sells training equipment and nutritional supplements; Weider's brother is the head of the organization that sanctions competitions and awards the titles. Bodybuilders make their money on contracts with Weider for endorsements and appearances; to be useful endorsers, they need exposure in his magazines and, of course, victories in his brother's contests. Paris carefully expresses his gratitude for Weider's sometime support, but he also suspects that calling for drug testing and being openly gay cost him titles in the latter part of his career. The book alternates between past history and the issues involved in Paris's recent contemplation of a comeback at age 35: Unwilling to go back on the steroids that give musclemen their ``freaky'' bodies, and wary of the Weider way of doing business, Paris seems understandably unlikely to return to the fray. At once empathetic and scathing, Paris's memoir conveys with equal persuasiveness both why he became a bodybuilder and why he found it impossible to remain one.