From the moment the New York Times describes thickly muscled 5'5" gym owner David Barton as "cube-shaped," you know their in-depth profile is going to be a particular kind of Style Section delight. The truth is that Barton's having a tough time right now: His company filed for bankruptcy, he separated from his wife of 15 years, and he's fighting a sexual harassment suit from two former trainers. But his showman's spirit remains undaunted, and what could have been a sad look at a bodybuilder's midlife crisis winds up feeling more like a greatest-hits rundown of Barton's flamboyance through the ages. Our three favorite details:
1) Drag queen Amanda Lepore says Barton's first gym, in a basement on West 15th Street, changed her life. "David showed me that I could sculpt my body with weights," Ms. Lepore said, "which is better than plastic surgery, because you can control it more."
2) Barton's 1995 wedding to party promoter Susanne Bartsch was sponsored by Playboy. Among the 43 bridesmaids were many drag queens and Betsey Johnson. Bartsch wore a skintight Thierry Mugler bodysuit, Barton wore a loincloth, and their wedding photo makes Lady Gaga look like Taylor Swift.
3) Before the breakup, Barton, Bartsch, and their son lived in a suite of three combined apartments in the Chelsea Hotel. It sounds like their home wasn't all that different from a David Barton gym: "It was filled with massive canvases of sexy superheroes, an all-red master bedroom, Chinese opium beds, a separate bathroom for the cat and an endless parade of characters filing in and out."
To summarize: David Barton convinced a famous plastic surgery devotee that working out was better than going under the knife, got married in a loincloth, and used to have a sexy cat bathroom. Somehow, despite his current woes, we think he'll be just fine.
· The Man Who Made Working Out Cool [NYT]
· Vodka Parties Couldn't Save David Barton Gym from Bankruptcy [Racked NY]