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Jul. 20 2009 - 2:02 pm | 937 views | 0 recommendations | 6 comments

David Barton Gym: Fitness for small penises

Where fitness meets skulls.

Where fitness meets skulls.

For the record, I don’t have a penis. But if I did, and it were very very small, I know where I would take it for a daily dose of sweaty, grunting, uber-masculine overcompensation.

David Barton, the unbelievably large fitness guru and all-around tattoo-and-hair-gel beast, opened his first gym in 1992. So confident was Mr. Barton in his physical allure as a primary selling point, he actually named the gym after himself and regularly appears – slicked with Vaseline and nearly nude – in advertisements for his health clubs. It seems to have worked. Barton gyms now crisscross the country, from Seattle to Chicago to my own hometown.

Recently, a new location of Mr. Barton’s namesake opened in New York’s East Village. On a walk last week, I noticed the gym door handles were actually metal skulls. Seriously. Given that I’m a hardcore extreme freak-lover, and, you know, a health writer, I immediately requested a tour.

If only they provided free headlamps for the uninitiated. The gym is dark – not only are rooms lit like nightclubs, but inky black and violet walls and cherrywood floors soak up any glimmer of invading sunlight.When I inquired about whether runners ever tripped and fell off their treadmills in the cavernous space, I was met with stony silence. I’ll take that as a yes.

And a diaper might be advised for those over 50, because the space seems to have been based on Marilyn Manson’s fitness oriented acid trip. Complete with faux candles glowing over treadmills, deafening death metal, altars to worship Michelangelo statuettes, and plush red and black settees lining the hallways. And, of course, like any gym worth it’s $400 initiation fee, this David Barton location also features a gigantic disco ball once housed in Studio 54, from which a DJ performs live music on evenings and weekends.

David Barton. And his hair.

David Barton. And his hair.

Gymgoers seemed few and far between on my visit. Maybe because the gym has just opened, but more likely because I couldn’t see them amid the labyrinth of funhouse mirrors, hallways and reflective black tile walls. But those I did spot weren’t decked out in wizard hats and assless chaps. They were exceedingly normal gym-goers, and all of my favorite eye candies were around to savor – the scrawny pale science geeks, ultra-thin cardio queens and portly panting treadmill walkers – if only I could better discern them in the darkness.

To the gym’s credit, they’ve accumulated a stunning collection of fitness equipment that could keep any gym hamster happily spinning away on their indoor workout wheel. TVs, iPod docks and virtual trainers are all a button-click away on cardio machines. And while I can’t speak to the quality of the weight systems (that phallic absence keeps me from hitting the bench press very often), they certainly looked shiny – particularly by candlelight.

But don’t worry if  hallucinating through an LSD binge on an elliptical trainer isn’t part of your fitness routine. David Barton gyms aren’t all about freaky gothic ambience. Like any gym, they want you to want to look sexy, too. Classes like “ASS Blast” and “Six-Pack Attack!” are held daily, so you’ll have regular opportunities to strain your groin, step on someone’s toes and feel flabby and inadequate compared to your hardbodied aerobics instructor (who is probably also a vampire).

In an interview with Fitness Biz Pro, Barton says he thinks “people deserve to have the body of their dreams.” Just don’t join thinking there’s something different about working out in a gothic metal music lair. Barton’s formula for gyms-on-acid isn’t a magic potion: no matter how many Michelangelo statues you ogle or DJ-spun tunes you pump iron to, a large penis is not included.


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  1. collapse expand

    This was a very satisfying read. I approve thoroughly!

  2. collapse expand

    Katie writes:
    For the record, I don’t have a penis

    Don’t feel bad. I can tell by reading what you write that you have an absolutely cavernous vagina.

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    I'm a full-time heath & science writer at Sphere and a contributing editor at True/Slant. I also contribute military health news to Danger Room at Wired.com, and have recently written for Marie Claire, World Politics Review and Next American City.

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