David Barton is the 5'5 blocky founder of now-bankrupt Barton gyms, and a longtime NYC social presence. He can bench 405 pounds, in case you're wondering.
David Barton started bodybuilding as a teen and picked up the coveted title of "Mr. Northeast U.S.A" after graduating Cornell. A career as a private trainer followed and in the '80s Barton worked at a handful of gyms around town, including Chelsea Gym, Better Bodies, and Pumping Iron. His plan to save up enough money to go out on his own came to fruition in 1992, when he opened the first branch of David Barton on 15th Street. The gym achieved instant buzz thanks to its hip space, hip crowd (Sandra Bernhard, Patrick McCarthy, Linda Wells, Thierry Mugler) and Barton's fondness for cheeky marketing. (The gym's tag line: "Look Better Naked.")
Barton estimates that his gyms have grossed over 200 million dollars since he opened his doors in the early nineties, but due to poor decision making, over-decorating, and a major sag in gym club membership from the economic crisis his business hit the skids. Barton filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2011, and partnered with Meridian Sports Club to help recoup some of the 65 million in debt. Also, in December 2010 Barton announced a separation with his wife of 15 years— veteran nightlife promoter Susanne Bartsch. The two were a powerhouse couple of Manhattan's downtown social scene (including co-hosting an annual toy drive that Barton estimates has received over 150,000 toys). The couple has one son—a surprisingly well adjusted 17 year-old named Bailey.
Barton's gyms have long had the reputation as major gay pick-up spots, but apparently some straight men never got the memo. In 2005, Barton was slapped with a lawsuit for emotional distress from a member who was hit on by another man in the locker room. Barton ran into further legal trouble after being hit with harassment suits by former employees in 2011. It seems he just can't catch a break these days.
[Image via Getty]