The world’s only superstar luxury gym mogul is a ripped fireplug of a man with a multihued new-romantic explosion of hair. David Barton takes off his crushed-velvet Revolutionary War–style coat to reveal a tight denim vest with no shirt and multiple silver chains around his neck. He has a perfect smile. “They’re all fake,” says the 46-year-old trainer. “All of my teeth have been broken—some from sports, and some from not minding my own business.” With the recent openings of his Los Angeles and Las Vegas outposts, Barton now has nine self-titled fitness centers. He opened his first in 1991 in New York City. “The aesthetic status quo of the male body would have happened without me,” Barton admits. But what he did do was pioneer the gym-as-luxury-hangout concept. “Gyms were stuck in a time warp,” he says. “I wanted an alternative to the chains. When I started, I lived in nightclubs.” His gyms are an extension of this formative disco existence, drenched in goth finery and dim lighting. “Most of the guys live intense lives,” he says. “Working out and their appearance are important to their livelihoods.” Barton, a Far Rockaway, Queens, native, can still remember the visceral experience of going to a gym for the first time. “I was 11 or 12,” he says. “My sister’s boyfriend took me to this grungy basement gym at the Jersey Shore. It was hard-core and sweaty. You could smell muscles being ripped apart. I didn’t want to leave.” Now he never has to.
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