Name: Ray Stern
PWHF New York State Award, 2005
Ray "Thunder" Stern
Walter Bookbinder was born in Brooklyn, New York on January 12, 1933. His family circumstances were extremely modest and at the tender age of
thirteen, he joined the Merchant Marines using the name Paul Davis. While in this civilian branch of the United States Coast Guard, he began to
become very serious about bodybuilding. He even used to carry a PAIR of fifty-pound dumbbells in his duffel bag to be certain he could exercise
In 1949, Walter went to CaliforniaŐs famed Muscle Beach to continue his bodybuilding endeavors. When his unemployment benefits ended,
he planned on leaving the land of perpetual sunshine. Joe Gold, of ŇGoldŐs GymÓ fame, and Armand Tanny, of bodybuilding fame, convinced
Walter to stay in California and make a living as a wrestler. Both Gold and Tanny had grappled professionally themselves. A promoter told
Walter that he needed to change his name for commercial reasons. Bookbinder was changed to his motherŐs maiden name of Stern. The promoter
wanted a one-syllable first name so Walter became Ray. The ŇThunderÓ was added due to the spectacular aerial maneuvers in the ring for which
Ray became famous. The Dusek brothers, who were wrestlers-turned-promoters, help to start RayŐs New York wrestling career in 1950. Ray
wrestled in approximately thirty-six hundred matches over a nearly twenty-year career. He held versions of the World and Tag Team titles.
In-ring flying techniques were not the only aerial activities for which Ray became well known. A friend introduced him to flying a
plane and Ray went for pilot training and received a pilotŐs license after only two weeksŐ instruction. Thus began a life-long passion
and tremendous financial success for Ray. He founded Stern Air and his company became recognized as a reliable transport system around
the world. Ray also became proficient at acrobatic flying.
Stern also became hugely successful in the health club business. He started AmericaŐs first coed health club and had the first
health club with a childŐs nursery in it to allow the parents to exercise. In 1958-59, a club of his in San Francisco was taking in $100,000.00
PER MONTH! He also had phenomenal success developing real estate and rental properties.
We hope that RayŐs business ventures will allow him to join us for the 2005 PWHF Induction weekend. If he is able to attend the
ceremonies to accept his award in person, please note the quarter-million dollar watch that he wears. A 1994 biography entitled
ŇThe Power of ThunderÓ outlines SternŐs principles of business success. We are proud to include Ray Stern as a 2005 PWHF honoree.
- Bob Bryla