At 72, Hightower leads the fight against agism. Say "Iron Man," and Marvel Comic fans automatically assume you're referring to Tony Starks from the Avengers crew. But unlike the superhero, 72-year old Geritol Hightower didn't need a shrapnel wound to the chest nor did he have to sell out to the Vietnam Communist party to become Iron Man.
"How do I feel being compared to a comic book character? You're a reporter, right? How would you feel if you were compared to Clark Kent or Peter Parker?" he says reclined in a cushioned wicker chair at his Miami home. "It's kind of sick if you ask me. I'm flesh and blood while this...this thing prances around in tights with his friends. And he's a super-hero?"
Joined by two auburn-colored women apparently in their mid-30s -- whose rippling backs and carved buttocks are visible through the thin fabric of their two-piece bikinis -- he takes off his shades while one of the women rubs the throbbing vein at his left temple after patting down the onyx shine the perspiration gives his cool, charcoal-colored skin.
A two-time Olympic Gold medalist and the Ironman Pro champ five consecutive times, Geritol defeated Puerto Rico's Gustavo Badell and Australia's Lee Priest in the 2005 competition.
Right now, he's the most sought after power-lifter turned body builder, appearing on the cover of the current issue of Iron Man Magazine with Fitness Olympia's spokesperson and hardbody model Timea Majorova.
Growing up, Geritol knew something wasn't quite right when he discovered he could outlift most men twice his age. At 15 years old, all he wanted was to be noticed by Carla Dibbs, who he'd had a crush on since elementary school.
Attempting to catch her eye, while playing a prank on a faculty member, he and his boy Drink Water lifted their high school gym teacher's car three feet off the ground and walked it to another parking spot. That day, he and Drink Water were etched into high school history.
Geritol smiles as if the moments were reeling before him.
"Man, we didn't know what girl troubles were before that happened," he says. "But afterwards, we damn near needed a stick to beat off the ones that were begging for a bit of our time."
"Things were different when we were coming up," Hightower continues. "It was 1949. We had just gotten the right to vote and went crazy with whatever little freedom we had."
During that time, the U.S. had entered into World War II, and with his father off fighting, he took a job at Dino's Diner in Silver Spring, Maryland as a short-order cook, earning 43 cents an hour.
"We were hardworkers, our generation. You don't get that from the kids these days. And certainly not that wannabe-cartoon figure," says Hightower, taking a bite of his veggie club and munching his beat chips before washing them down with a wheat grass smoothie.
"This generation doesn't understand that. Most of them looking for a quick way to everything. Some even turn to violence for a means to an end," he says. "Well, for you young people out there who think robbing old folks is fun, you won't be the first or last to be introduced to a good ol' fashioned, never had it quite like this, ass whuppin'."
He continues, "I'm talking 'bout giving one of those type of beatings where the paramedics checking to see if you still breathing. Just try me."
Geritol remembers such a case, when a young man assaulted him in a 7-11, wildly wielding a switchblade. The guy, who stood at 6' 4" and 320 lbs., had Hightower by four inches.
He acted like he was going for his wallet in the back pocket, then delivered a fierce backhand that sent a bloody tooth spiraling out of the boy's mouth before he stumbled backwards.
After disarming his attacker, Geritol was still beating the boy when the cops arrived. It took 10 men clubbing him with nightsticks and shocking him with tazers to handcuff him while they strapped and rolled the kid out on a gurney.
"It's not just the young. People, in general, see an elderly fella and dollar signs pop up where their pupils oughta be. Shiii.. Folks'll never be done exploiting us," he shakes his head. "Some guy from the drug company asked if I would be in one of his commercials for Viagra."
Just then, the women start chuckling. Geritol stops abruptly, and without being verbal about it, he shoots them a look that says get the hell out the room! One makes her way to bring him some more beet chips while the other goes to prepare him another vegetable shake.
"I looked that fella in the eye," he continues, "and said 'Is you crazy, boy? Would a healthy man such as yourself allow his likeness to be used on a poster for herpes and gonnorhea? Get the hell outta here 'fore I beat your ass off GP.'"
The interview's interrupted again when Geritol's eyes expand like rubber "O's" after answering his cell. Then he jumps up. "Iron Man Mag wants to know if I'm available for a cover shoot with Lenda Murray and Anja Langer," his pitch rises with excitement. "Hell yeah! How many 70-something year olds you know that can say they shared the covers with two legendary hardbody models?"