The man known best as TV’s “The Incredible Hulk” has spent his life overcoming adversity.
But as actor and former bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno told Palmer College of Chiropractic students and staff Monday afternoon, “adversity builds character.”
The former two-time Mr. Universe was in Davenport for an appointment with Dr. Mitch Mally, a Davenport chiropractor of whom he has been a patient for the past three decades.
“We met in Cedar Rapids, I believe, about 1982. We struck up a friendship,” Ferrigno said of Mally before his 45-minute talk and question-answer session at the college. “I trust and believe in him because he knows his expertise like no other doctor.”
As a motivational speaker as well as an actor, Ferrigno talked about the difficulties in his life, beginning with an 80 percent hearing loss because of repeated infections as an infant. He said he felt shut off from the world.
“I was very insecure, very introverted,” Ferrigno, 60, added. “I was an isolated kid.”
Telling the crowd of about 300 that anger builds into hate, which escalates into suffering, he began lifting weights as a teenager.
“I learned at an early age to be best friends with my body,” he said.
He made his own weights out of cement-filled buckets and had earned his first Mr. Universe title by the age of 21.
Working to overcome the speech impediments related to his partial deafness, Ferrigno took speech classes, which led to drama classes and classes in movement.
His 1977-82 role as “The Incredible Hulk” came about because he had stretched his abilities and used the pantomime he learned in his acting classes to create the creature who spoke in ear-piercing screams.
“I was not afraid to take chances and embarrass myself,” he said. “Everything I’ve wanted to do, I’ve conquered.”
After his 30-minute motivational speech, he answered questions about his time on “Celebrity Apprentice” — “It was a very powerful chess game. (Donald Trump) could see everyone’s weakness” — and his contact with fellow bodybuilders —“I keep in touch with Arnold (Schwarzenegger) once in awhile.”
Mally also told the audience that Ferrigno was recently promoted to lieutenant with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which he joined in 2006.
Mally said he has a number of other well-known clients, but he would not divulge their names.
“We have a whole wall of fame, and Lou’s been probably the longest-term patient,” Mally said. “Hopefully, good news travels fast. People spread the word, and it’s always about patient outcome. Good word-of-mouth travels fast.”
Taylor Clifford, who is in her final year at Palmer, said she was impressed with Ferrigno’s positive attitude.
“His struggles, and how he overcame them all, was inspirational,” she said.