What Is True/Slant?
275+ knowledgeable contributors.
Reporting and insight on news of the moment.
Follow them and join the news conversation.

Oct. 5 2009 - 7:18 am | 369 views | 0 recommendations | 16 comments

David Barton Gym: Fitness for your drinking problem

Hm. Somehow I seem to be resisting?

Hm. Somehow I seem to be resisting?

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.


Active Conversation
4 T/S Member Comments Called Out, 16 Total Comments
Post your comment »
  1. collapse expand

    It still sounds better than my sad old Y, with worn-out mats and dirty walls.

  2. collapse expand

    Hilarious. What’s even funnier is that this weekend I was in a drunk pull-up duel.

    All I can say is that I know what you’re thinking after reading this… and the answer is yes… very, small.

  3. collapse expand

    Matthew: Thank you for sharing?

    Caitlin: I dunno. I used to think so, but this weekend I was invited to be a “wing-woman” at an all men’s mixer. Gives new intensity to my desire for co-gym-goers to leave me the hell alone.

  4. collapse expand

    I think that 70% of the guys I graduated HS with would love Mr. Barton’s gymnasium. I think this would make their working out together more interesting for them. :)

    And Katie, a year-long contract with this place? I feel very much sorry for you.

  5. collapse expand

    Time for a refund….Curves?

    Is there a gym anywhere that is attractive, affordable, not grossly overused and women and men both feel comfortable?

  6. collapse expand

    Um. Wow? Any bets that whoever hands out liquor licenses in your area is a single gym member?

    When I was a member of a gym, I hated everyone there so much that it was unhealthy – to a point where no amount of exercise could balance it out. I also hated how they two different collection agencies after me when I moved, even though I offered to pay out my membership. Twice.

  7. collapse expand

    Seriously? Are you effing kidding me? I work out at DB – 5 days a week – and I’ve never seen a scantily clad DJ, definitely never a fishnet tank, and never any rear end ogling. Is there a DJ? Yup – behind a tiny window that barely allows one to see his/her head. Are there tanks and revealing cut-away t-shirts? Yup, its a gym – it gets hot. Is it cruisey? Maybe, its a gym and a kinda gay one at that – it happens. Is the vodka thing odd? Yup, but the only ones I’ve seen sippin’ on a ‘tini are potential customers on a tour who probably have no intention of signing a contract but do enjoy a free cocktail.
    DB is an amazing gym. Amazing! Its beautifully designed, its smartly layed out, its big enough that even at peak hours it doesn’t feel crowded. Works for me.
    If you find it so horrible, my suggestion is that you leave and stop hatin’ on it.

  8. collapse expand

    Mark – thanks for the comment. I’m sorry if the post offended you, but it was nothing more than tongue-in-cheek. DB has great equipment and it’s a posh place to workout. Still, I’m troubled by the booze – I don’t think it has a place in a gym, tour or not.

    And hi to Megan. :)

  9. collapse expand

    I think you’re confused. You’re mixing Chelsea and Astor Place and I don’t think you have any idea what you’re talking about….

    (And this is coming from a Straight Female DBG member.)

  10. collapse expand

    Notadrummondfan: I think your name says it all, but thank you for taking the time to register to comment.

    I generally do have a decent idea of what I’m talking about. I hope you’ll look beyond snarky posts like this one and read some of my other work.

  11. collapse expand

    I agree wtih you about this gym- somehow, i got sucked in by all the talk of concrete, velvet sofas, meditation area,new equipment, great classes, etc…and i am VERY disapointed and actually miss my old gym. i feel like they put more effort into the placing of dark velvet sofas and creating skull furnishings than they did the actual gym… the steam room hasn’t been open in months- waiting for their permit? …but they can hire djs and serve vodka- i’m with you- disturbed by promoting the party adn the drinking more than the workout.

  12. collapse expand

    Eastvillager: Yes, you sound like you live in my world of leather-and-velvet shock and awe. At least the equipment is new?

Log in for notification options
Comments RSS

Post Your Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment

Log in with your True/Slant account.

Previously logged in with Facebook?

Create an account to join True/Slant now.

Facebook users:
Create T/S account with Facebook

My T/S Activity Feed


    About Me

    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.

    My first foray into journalism came in middle school - at a French-speaking plaid-kilt-wearing educational institute somewhere in the Canadian tundra. It was there that I decided to start my own newspaper, to disseminate my sarcasm and attitude problem among my peers. We lasted three issues.

    From there I started to freelance, and when I became a medium-sized fish in a small Canadian lake, I decided to move to New York, and become a spore in a vast journalistic ocean. The adventure continues.

    I try to parallel my personal interests with my professional work - so most of my writing has some connection to health, science and animal rights.

    Email me Extreme story ideas at


    You can also find me:

    At Danger Room on Wired's website.

    Or on Twitter @katiedrumm.

    Otherwise, I'm either triathloning, eating, breaking my pelvis, or sleeping. Extreme, I know.

    See my profile »
    Followers: 203
    Contributor Since: May 2009
    Location:N to the YC

    What I'm Up To

    • Danger Room at Wired.com

      wired-logo-2I contribute coverage of the military medical beat at Wired.com

    • World Politics Review

      3818788252_e035c9a711I contribute military/defense coverage to World Politics Review

    • On Twitter


    • +O
    • +O
    • +O