Clevio Massimo, Most Muscular Man in America

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Clevio Massimo

From “Mighty Men of Old” Vol. I (n.d.) (Author unknown)

Clevio Massimo

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“Signora Sabatino felt justly proud of her new baby boy.  The Sabatino family were known through the village and countryside of Opi Labruza as a strong and powerful people.  Sabatino and his two brothers were renowned for their strength; the Italian farmers admired physical strength and nicknamed the brothers the “Three Giants”.  And on the warm May day in 1891 the newest arrival to the Sabatino clan, christened Clevio Massimo Sabatino, looked a fine, husky infant soon to carry on the tradition of the Sabatino as a strong and virile clan. When Clevio was a small boy the family forsook their home to try for a better fortune, a better life in America.  They landed in Buffalo, New York. Clevio, nicknamed “Tony,” found that playing rough and tumble games with his American cousins was more fun than practicing the violin for which his parent cherished the hope that some day he would be on the concert stage, perhaps a second Paganini.  The stage did claim Clevio, not as a violinist but as a professional weightlifter.  He dropped his last name, the better to suite the billboards, and became known to strength fans simply as Clevio Massimo, Most Muscular Man in America!

Clevio teamed up with Joe Lambert of the famous Lambert family all of whom were prominent strength performers on the stage.  Their act consisted of lifting, juggling and balancing.  During the Great War, Massimo was stationed at Camp Gordon, where, for the benefit of doubtful officers, he went through the Manual of Arms using instead of a rifle a 135 pound solider!  After the war he went in for wrestling, but the sport hadn’t reached the revival stage yet and he soon gave it up.  He attained his greatest popularity with his act of straight hand-balancing where his terrific strength permitted him to execute balances hitherto considered impossible.  On one occasion he supported his partner Foley, in a perfect head to head balance for 11 minutes!  In head to head balancing, Massimo was considered a close rival of Professor Paulinetti.

His measurements are: Height 5 ft. 8½ in., weight 194, pounds, neck 18 ins. upper arm 16¼ ins., forearm 15¼ ins., chest normal 46 ins., waist 34 ins. for thighs 25 ins. Massimo’s greatest strength lay in his shapely legs.  He holds what is accepted as the world’s record in the leg curl, with 227½ pounds!  When an adagio dancer on the stage his partner, Clovis Long, would perform a toe balance on his chin in the “Ballet Swan” position!  Massimo’s early training with the violin stood him good stead for he often opened his show by playing the difficult Mendelssohn’s concerto in E. Minor.  When finished he removed his clothes and went into this act.  His audiences always found it difficult to believe a man so muscular could be such an artist.

It is interesting to note that many famous artists were gifted with great strength – Leonardo da Vinci was an incredibly strong man and the Russian basso, Feodor Chaliapin was a good lifter and wrestler, Tofolas, winner of 1905 Olympic Lifting title, now sings in opera! "

(c)Mighty Men of Old

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