Gladiator for the Gospel visits Norfolk church
Warren Furman went from poverty to riches overnight when he bulked-up his body with dangerous anabolic steroid injections to become a member of the ‘Gladiators’ hit TV show back in the 1990s. Sandie Shirley reports.
Four years ago, Warren became a Christian through an Alpha course and he recently shared his transforming story at the Alpha launch for Christ Community Church in Attleborough.
“I came out of the rat race and began to live a life of love instead of fear. I started to relax and knew I was born for a purpose and to be a blessing. I had subscribed to a celebrity culture; it was empty, and monochrome compared with the technicolour life I have now,” says Warren, who travels the world telling young and old about the saving grace that placed him on a new adventure.
His former life of fame, fortune and celebrity status that took his earnings to a massive £2,000 an hour was built on a surreal foundation of lies and vanity. “I was the perfect plastic person, a commercial product that was spiritually bankrupt – my life was a house of cards. I had a fast car, house and a number of celebrity girlfriends but I started to live with more fear, afraid of losing what I had,” he told his Norfolk audience.
As a teenager, Warren wanted to bulk-up to become a high earner like his movie-star hero, Arnold Schwarzenegger. “I worked hard, lifting weights but I was still only 14 stone; I learnt that I had to use anabolic steroids. I started injecting them with a 2-inch needle into my thigh – you could not get much lower than that. The bigger the risk the higher the pay-off and I immediately began to grow like an ox; I felt like Superman at around 18 stone.”
When Warren arrived for the fitness trial in the hope of making the Gladiator grade, he was 21 and living in a Christian hostel on income support. His father made him leave home because he failed to get a job and was resistant to joining the family roofing business. “My four brothers worked with my dad, but it was a hard job, living hand-to-mouth; when the weather was bad there was no money.”
Warren passed the Gladiator trial after smiling throughout the ordeal to outshine the competition. “There were around 60 other bodybuilders that weighed more than me – some were from America and they took growth hormones.”
Within days he was whisked away in a stretch limousine to Heathrow Airport and flew first-class to Mauritius to start training. “It was a hundred times better than winning the Lottery,” he recalls.
He was known as Ace during the long-running series at peak family viewing time on a Saturday night that drew a 16 million audience. But from the outset the pressure was intense. He competed against imposing contestants, including professional stunt men keen to match their strength against the Gladiators to clinch the top prizes. “If I did not win 70% of the matches I was sacked. We filmed each series, 20 episodes, in Birmingham in a month. The rest of the year, we boosted our earnings with celebrity appearances and commercial sponsorships.
“My brothers and really good friends moved away from me. In their place were hundreds of friends eager to socialise with a TV celebrity.”
Warren fed on fame, fortune and the adulation of his growing fans. He had a few celebrity girlfriends including Katie Price (formerly Jordan) but the relationships were a sham, said Warren: “We could not trust one another because we were intent on building our celebrity profile rather than genuinely investing in one another.
“Everything has a life-span, including us, and the programme ended,” says Warren, who went on to re-invent his life. He took different jobs, settled down and had two children but there were inescapable voids and growing unease.
“I decided it was time to go on a spiritual journey. Mum and dad were angry and so was I when my baby brother died. I had been to enough churches to see they were boring and reading out of the Bible made no sense.
“But I examined the evidence for two years, looking at atheism and world religions. There were lots of morally commendable religions, but you cannot have a half-truth because it is just a lie.
“I was in a place of indecision when four years ago I was invited to an Alpha course by a rich businessman who was unlike the rich and famous people I had met before. It was not in a church context and I was able to ask about the big questions in life and people would try to give me an honest answer. But I had a hard heart; I had enjoyed the glitz and red carpet and I had been corrupted by a celebrity lifestyle.
“I was suspicious and intent on disproving the Bible, but I met God through the person of Jesus Christ and was filled with the Holy Spirit – the power of God – that gets things done.”
When a clergyman prayed over Warren, he did not feel any different. “But the next week my wife saw such a change in me that she turned to prayer and was filled with the Holy Spirit too.”
Warren explained: “Until then I was disconnected from God through sin, but he wanted to restore me, not condemn me. He could do something about my sin when I recognised it and the need for a Saviour in Jesus.”
Pictured above is Warren Furman.