“Blessed” is the word he uses. It wasn’t what I expected him to say.
“We have, despite being gay, lived a very conventional life,” says Joey Gonzalez, 39, CEO of LA fitness chain Barry’s Bootcamp. Husband Jonathan Rollo, 39, and he have “worked hard, gotten married, had children, [have] a committed relationship…all of that is possible as a gay person today.” And by “committed” he means monogamous.
Yeah, sounds pretty conventional.
Gonzalez grew up a Catholic, first-generation American in a “very homogenous, white” suburb outside Chicago. His mom is Italian, his dad Cuban. “It was difficult,” he said, referring to being Latino. “Anything that makes you different makes your life challenging.”
He came out at 21 and, although he struggled to accept his sexual orientation, his friends and family were “extremely evolved and supportive.”
So what he means is: “a lot of life is luck.”
“There is no other way to attribute the way I feel about our life than saying ‘blessed’ – because I don’t walk around feeling like I deserve everything I have.”
It’s hard to argue with his perspective. Handsome, fit, wholesome smile, positive attitude, energetic yet calm demeanor, gorgeous husband, Hancock Park home, West Village apartment, two blonde children (a boy and a girl) both under two years of age, many friends, loving family…and a burgeoning fitness lifestyle brand set to have 41 locations around the globe by the end of this year.
But it wasn’t always this way.
SO THIS GUY WALKS INTO A GYM
It was 1995, the year Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” topped the Billboard charts and best picture “Forrest Gump” was released.
Gonzalez arrived in LA to be a part of what so many young people dream of: becoming a star. He studied acting at USC, yet despite some success landing commercials and film roles, something just wasn’t clicking.
“I was just at a point with the acting,” Gonzalez said, “where my input and my output didn’t match up. And I am someone who…I’m all about efficacy.”
He floundered a bit. “I started to do anything else. I got my massage certification. I was a real estate salesperson. I started a dog-walking company. I, literally, had, like, five different jobs in two years.”
Then, maybe close to hitting bottom, Gonzalez stumbled into the famous (some might say infamous due to the fear it ignites in so many) high-intensity cross-training workout still known as getting a “Barry’s body.”
“When I walked into Barry’s, there was definitely not this ‘What I’m meant to do moment.’ It was a workout. A workout [that] changed my life.”
Gonzalez was “never super athletic” and “Barry’s was my first experience with fitness.” His “soft” body became hard. His 20 percent body fat shrunk to 10-12 percent. All of this in “less than a month.” He also convinced his then overweight roommate to join. “She lost 25 pounds in six weeks,” he said. She now teaches at Barry’s in New York.
He has seen this narrative many times. “There’s like an emotional transition you go through, whether you’re a customer…or somebody who works at Barry’s,” he said. “You start to work out here where it’s not just body, but it’s mind and spirit and everything.”
Warning: you may begin feeling something. It’s called envy.
Rollo is “Commander-in-Leaf” of Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop, a chain of all-natural eateries throughout SoCal. His corporate office is adjacent to Barry’s WeHo.
He has sandy brown Kurt Russell-style hair, light golden brown eyes, a winning smile, and, like his hubby, Rollo is in exceptional physical shape.
Of course they met at Barry’s Bootcamp. “Yeah, he took my class,” admitted Gonzalez. “He was the first student I ever even kissed.” That was 2005. “We were being set up. [A friend] brought Jon to my class because he thought we would fall in love.”
“A bunch of weddings” followed, “it depends who you ask,” Gonzalez chuckled. “2014 is when we legally married [but] we consider ourselves married on 11/11/11.”
Children are now in the mix: Francesca and Jake Stone. “Two under two,” each of them says separately, unbeknownst to the other. It must be an agreed-upon shorthand the couple uses in social situations to telegraph how crazy-busy their lives are.
The kids share a last name with each other, but not entirely with their dads. The guys wanted to create a surname that felt authentic; one “created together.” Instead of Gonzalez-Rollo or Rollo-Gonzalez, “difficult to navigate…and a mouthful,” they went “with what people had been calling us for years and years.” Ladies and gents: meet the Gonzollos!
Many power couples maintain a fierce boundary between their personal and professional lives. Not the Gonzollos. Though, they “never worked together formally until two years ago,” Rollo said.
Barry’s Bootcamp’s newly enhanced concept adds FuelBar to the format, a healthy made-to-order smoothie bar Rollo designed. Bootcampers pre-order shakes before working out so they are waiting for them after class.
However, they also started Au Fudge, the upscale family ice cream place on Melrose (in partnership with Jessica Biel) and are about to launch CAMP, the “Center for Arts Music and Play. It’s more like Barry’s [with] classes all day,” said Rollo. It will be next to Barry’s WeHo.
CONSIDER THIS WORKOUT
You wait around in a lobby with a throng of fitness types, both men and women. You’ve never done Barry’s before so you’re nervous, maybe a lot nervous. “What’s it gonna be like?” “Is it really gonna be as intense as people say?” “Will I survive, or be carried out on a stretcher?” These are the questions flashing through your head as you do your best to act cool. No sweat, you tell yourself.
Ha, the joke is on you. Because there is gonna be sweat. Buckets of it. If you are not drenched in a slick, warm emergence of your own aggressive perspiration at the end of a Barry’s workout – trust me, more sweat than you ever knew your body could produce – you did not fully commit. You did not fully invite the savior into your heart.
And Gonzalez agrees. He transformed his life through working out, so it can be true for you, too. Maybe not exactly an ugly duckling when he walked in 14 years ago, he’s definitely a power swan today. He wants the same for you.
That is, if you want it.
He started the worldwide expansion of the Barry’s brand because “I wanted to share what I had experienced with as many people as possible. I wanted other people to be able to go on that same journey.”
Gonzalez teaches only one class a week now (in Venice) so I felt lucky to see him in action. He’s relaxed and jazzed simultaneously, buzzing around the studio wearing a wireless mic/headset, dee-jaying high-energy music, motivating subjects to “Keep going…That’s it…Don’t give up…You’re awesome…Yaaaaassssss!!!”
It is hard work, but somehow we don’t really care because we look stunning bathed in Barry’s signature red and “aesthetically pleasing” lighting (standard in every Barry’s studio). We feel like we’re working out in a nightclub, writhing on top of a platform like the hottest go-go dancer ever, ready to vanquish any competitor, real or imagined – capable of seducing the lover(s) of our choice – Snap! – like magic.
Yes, Barry’s Bootcamp made me feel that good.
I even discovered I could run again thanks to the Woodway Treadmills. Teslas of their kind, “They cost five [times] what normal ones do,” Gonzalez shared. “They’re even better than running outdoors.” I was amazed at how I felt. All of the pain I usually feel after running (hips and knees), I didn’t feel.
Soaking my workout towel when wicking the sweat from my exhausted, quivering, yet delighted body, I wondered: Am I about to join the Revolution? Wait…is this a cult?
WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW
Gonzalez had an epiphany. “I told Jon, I’m gonna take this global.”
Barry’s started in WeHo in 1998. Locations throughout LA followed. (Original founder Barry Jay still teaches in Hollywood.) Then came gay enclaves Hillcrest in San Diego and Chelsea in New York.
But now it’s about everybody, says Gonzalez. When I took his class in Venice I saw mostly thin blonde women. Men were the minority.
“The world has become a more integrated place. The Castros are a thing of the past. Everybody is living everywhere, which I love,” Gonzalez explained. “Our community…is very much in our DNA. Those are the roots of who we are. We are gay-owned and operated…out of WeHo, but the audience [now] is much broader.”
How broad? “We’re going to be in Paris before we’re going to be in Kansas City, if that makes sense,” Gonzalez explained. So cosmopolitan cities with successful professionals it seems are the target. “As far as what’s coming down the pipeline, we’re gonna be in Atlanta, Stockholm, Dallas, D.C. and Toronto before the end of the year.”
Barry’s Bootcamp is not just a workout. It’s a lifestyle.
I adopted it myself, if but for an hour. In a class of 30 people I didn’t know, because the workout is so intense, I bonded with the two exercisers on either side of me. We had just climbed Everest together. “Good job!” the 20-something woman to my right said to me at the end of our four brutal circuits. I admitted I was a Barry’s virgin and she added, “Then really good job!”
The gal to my left, slightly bent forward, her hands resting on her knees, smiled at me as if to say, “Fuck yeah, we did it.”