Backstory: 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 1980s Barton worked at a handful of gyms around New York including the 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 in Manhattan. The gym achieved instant buzz thanks to its hip space, hip crowd (comedienne Sandra Bernhard, Allure editor Linda Wells, designer Thierry Mugler) and Barton's fondness for cheeky marketing. The gym's tag line: "Look Better Naked."
Barton expanded the franchise a few years later when he opened a branch on the Upper East Side in 1995. These days Barton has outposts in Chicago and at Miami's Delano Hotel. In addition to his 25,000-square-foot Chelsea flagship, Barton also has a 32,000-square-foot gym on Astor Place in Manhattan, which opened in 2009.
Soundbite: "I wake up and bounce out of bed and look in the mirror and I'm so happy to be David Barton!" he once told Village Voice writer Michael Musto.
Legal file: 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.
Personal: Barton was married to veteran nightlife promoter Susanne Bartsch (right) for 15 years before they split up at the end of 2010. (The couple's 1995 wedding was sponsored by Playboy magazine.) They have a teenage son together named Bailey. When they were married, Barton and Bartsch occupied a three-bedroom apartment in the Chelsea Hotel decorated with crimson walls and gothic candelabras.
No joke: Do be sure not to confuse this David Barton with noted Christian evangelical David Barton, one of the most outspoken opponents of the separation of church and state. Not only is the gym impresario partial to frosted tips and spray-on tanner, he's also Jewish.
Full Name: David F. Barton
Date of Birth: 06/19/1964
Place of Birth: Queens, NY
Undergrad: Cornell University
Residence(s): New York, NY (Chelsea); Milford, PA
Filed Under: Health/Fitness
[Photos via WENN and Getty Images]