David Barton Gym: Fitness for your drinking problem
Oh David Barton. You make my life of Extreme fitness reporting way too easy. In July, I toured the newest outpost of Barton gyms in downtown Manhattan. With it’s Studio-54 disco ball, candlelit weight-lifting areas and the smell of sex – rather than fetid sweat – permeating every corner of the elaborate, leather-and-velvet interior, this is not your usual workout spot.
Which is exactly what convinced me to fork over $80 a month for my membership at the very location I lambasted as a small-penis-overcompensator’s wet dream. Given that I don’t have a penis, but enjoy mocking those who are ashamed of theirs, I figured working out among such grunting, comedic eye candy was a worthwhile investment for my ego.
That $80 would have been even better spent if I had a drinking problem, too. Because that’s the latest hook the David Barton Gym is using to lure in patrons, by teaming up with V2 Vodka for in-house promotions – including free samples and discounted bottles of booze. Imagine schlepping to the gym on a Tuesday around 5:30, protein shake in hand, and then yanking open the skull-and-crossbones door handle to find yourself in a three-storied, dimly-lit discotheque orgy. A scantily-clad DJ is spinning tunes upstairs, handsome hot things are pouring vodka shots and dozens of (not that there’s anything wrong with that) gay men in fishnet tank tops are sweating profusely and drunkenly ogling one another’s rear ends.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is my gym.
I don’t care that David Barton has turned gyms into tripped-out fun houses. And I’m only a little bit offended that his ads promote fitness as synonymous with hot-sweaty-sexy-times and flat abs. Flat abs that look great whether doing crunches or having hot-sweaty-sexy-times in the locker room showers, right David? But when you combine fun houses and sex with vodka, and then jumble it all into some illusion of health and fitness, I’ve got to draw the line. Drinking and bench-pressing don’t go together for good reasons, including the desire to keep all of your teeth. Which, for someone frequenting the DB Gym, is probably a priority. Says one gym-goer:
Let’s be honest here: I go to the gym to look good. Yes, being healthy is important to me, but really what’s even more important is that I look hot. It’s why I drink Diet Coke and use Splenda – I *know* it’s causing cancer, but you know what? At least I’ll be thin when I die. And that’s really where my priorities are.
Real teeth be damned! Veneers are so much whiter anyways. The same sentiment persisted when I chatted up a few well-oiled gents at the gym on V2 night last week. “God, my eyes are swimming,” said one. “I think I’m going to grab a Red Bull to mix with this,” added another. Vodka and Red Bull and intense cardiovascular exercise? Sounds like an excellent way to have a heart attack. And an excellent way for David Barton to end up with a fat lawsuit on his hands. Or so you’d think – but with a wife who’s a gay nightclub promoter, Barton’s been capitalizing on liquor companies for years. Since 2006, his gyms have co-sponsored a children’s toy drive fundraiser with V2. From Paper Mag on last year’s event:
Dammit, this is what Christmas is all about: pushing and shoving and standing in line with a gift for a sweet little tot in one hand and a vodka in the other! The legendary party queen that is Susanne Bartsch and her absolutely adorable cuddly stud David Barton welcomed “regulars” and just about everyone else in New York for their annual Toys for Tots party.
If Barton wants to collect toys for kiddies and swill vodka while he’s at it, that’s great. But if someone can tell me why vodka samples in a gym might be a good idea – and why that’s even legal – I’d be much obliged. Gyms – even when covered in red velvet and disco balls – are not nightclubs. Then again, maybe I’m just missing the point. From one patron’s review of my own Barton location:
The men’s locker room and shower/steam area? It’s unlike any other. I’ll just leave it that. Complaints about the gym mainly center on the overload of people at peak hours. Guilty as charged. However, for most members, that’s a good thing. Would you want to go to a singles bar when no one was there?
Hell, I wouldn’t go to a singles bar – period. Being straight, penis-free, married and a non-drinker, I suspect that David’s marketing ploy of, ahem, lubricating gym-goers into a good time, is a little bit lost on me. But I digress. When a gym goes so far as to not only hire a full-time DJ, but to then offer free vodka samples to patrons, shouldn’t we be asking questions about the sad state of physical wellness in America? When some of us need so much motivation to stay fit that we’re schlepping to a pseudo-fitness-drunk-sex-a-thon for our evening workout, hasn’t some fundamental truth – that exercise can just be inherently fun – been lost?
So, with all my disgust at Barton’s latest strategic venture, am I going to leave his gym for a simpler, liquor-free workout facility? Yes, but not for another nine months. Somehow, I managed to sign my way into a yearlong membership: it can be hard to read the fine print when the fog machine is on high and you’re being blinded by a strobe light.