By J. D. Oxblood

Through a random sequence of events and acquaintances I was invited to attend a party at the Crunch Gym on Lafayette, just below Astor Place.  I was a little confused—a party?  At a gym?  Like a work-out party where we all hang out and pump each other up?  Chat with personal trainers and drink some smoothies?  Rub each other down in the shower?  I am IN.  But, no, it was a party party, with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres (that’s French for “snacks”).  At a GYM.  I had to check it out.

Arriving at Crunch, the first thing I noticed was that the two broad windows facing Lafayette were filled with “strippers” pole-dancing.  One dancer in each window, wearing tiny lamé bikinies, on raised platforms, shaking and grinding and attracting a wide sidewalk audience of passers-by not invited to enter.  Entering the gym, I was slapped with a view of more scantily-clad models using the machines and lit from below.  Sadly, I do not have pictures, but I will say that the talent at this particular party was a little lacking.  I couldn’t quite figure out what the aesthetic was meant to be.  It’s a gym, right?  So shouldn’t the models be hardbodies?  Half of these girls were too skinny to work out—I wanted to hand them a sandwich, and, really, didn’t we get enough of the super-skinny models during fashion week?—and even the hottest were like my daddy’s old caddy (nice body, busted grill).  I couldn’t discern enough of a similarity to evoke a theme or enough of a spectrum to evoke a cross section of humanity.  And how to respond to a model on a machine inches away from you?  Should you look at them and engage, or act like they’re not there?  They clearly didn’t know, either.  Throwing a party is just like a putting on a show—the devil is in the details.

Of course, the GUESTS at the party all looked fantastic.  As the doorman commented to me as I was having a smoke, why is it that the people at gyms are the ones who don’t need to be there?  I countered with the obvious—they look good because they come to the gym—and he asked, “So why can’t they bring their girlfriend who needs to lose a few?”  When I went back in I imagined what a sick, sick party it would be if all the models on the machines were overweight people who truly needed to be in a gym, and were up there actually sweating for us.

I will add—ladies—that the best looking machine-using model was, hands down, a young black man with a body cut with a chisel, who wore aviator sunglasses the entire night and seemed to be the only one who actually knew how to use the equipment.  He had the kind of body most women would die for, and that most men would die OF.  Trying to get into that kind of shape would kill me.

I kept swinging by the pole dancers to check out the skills, as the ladies were rotated in and out.  By and large it was the same generic grind found at most strip clubs these days, but there was one fantastic brunette—with a voluptuous, curvy body—who truly knew how to work it.  Upside down tricks, leg holds, climbing… impressive.  This is the sort of thing that inspires women to take a pole-dancing class.  Talk about strength-building.

Which, of course, just made me think of the ladies of burlesque.  Did any of you know about this party?  Or gigs like it?  It can’t pay much, but it’s a corporate gig so it’s got to pay something.  And I have to believe that just about any of my favorite burlesque performers would have looked better—and been more engaging with the crowd—than what was on display.  Can you imagine Gigi Lafemme on one of those assisted pull-up machines?  Or Jo Boobs smiling on a stairmaster?  Or Gravity Plays Favorites working the poles in the windows?  Snap and double-snap.

I missed my burlesque ladies all the more as I moved through the party.  Upstairs, a couple ladies in spandex jumpsuits were rolling around in hammocks.  Downstairs, several ladies in swimcaps were rolling around on pilates equipment, making anyone with a sense of Busby Berkley long for the World Famous Pontani Sisters.  And in the spin room, another white spandex-clad figure was furiously pedaling away, lit up in black light, which looked super-cool from the end of the hallway but intimidated most from getting too close.  In the yoga room we were promised a hula hoop performance and I got excited—is Miss Saturn going to be here?  But as often as I checked back I never saw a hula hoop.  What up?  Was that you, Ms. Saturn?  Did you no-show?  Or was it some hack imitating you and you took her out on her way to the gig?

A large section of the main level had been cleared to create a dance floor, and after a small Asian man performed a choreographed routine with a caped gold outfit—involving a lot of robot dance moves and some M.J. imitations—the dance floor did manage to kick off.  But it didn’t take long for the crowd to gravitate back to the bars, slamming cocktails and perching on the edges of exercise equipment to watch others meander around.  I kept waiting for people to try out the machines—“Yo, I’m not drunk!  Slap another 50 pounds on”—a lawsuit waiting to happen.

The bar on the main floor was serving pink vodka and beer; the upstairs bar was also serving absinthe, with sugar cube/water service—the whole bit.  Feeling the blissful lightheadedness of absinthe, I ordered another, and had a brief moment of clarity:  I WAS ON MY THIRD COCKTAIL.  IN A GYM.  Passing models were handing out veggie burgers and other “healthy” snacks—ok, I buy it—but also vodka shots in test tubes.  Hearing, “Have you tried our vodka smoothie?” I began to wonder… what about the regulars at this gym?  Wouldn’t it be strange to come back here tomorrow, work out, grab a shower, order a smoothie and find out that it’s virgin?  “Hey, can I get some vodka up in this?”

Is it strange to throw a booze party at a gym?  Or is it just another venue in the world of New Yorkers… any space larger than your apartment is worth throwing a party in.  Or is there something inherently perverse about inviting people to a sanctuary of the body and inviting them to poison theirs.  Or is it a trade off—work out five days a week, feel free to pollute your liver on the other two.  (The beer onhand was no-carb Michelob, after all.)  Or does it all boil down to marketing, damn the torpedoes.  The shills and touts were in full effect, the desk clerks working their magic, and while I have no idea how many new members Crunch signed that night, I am curious:  how many of those new members woke up the next morning with their heads pounding, found a Crunch contract crumpled up in their jacket pocket, and said, “Oh, crap!”

My favorite part of the party was the condoms the models handed out:  emblazoned with the Crunch logo, they read, “Enjoy your workout.”  Indeed.

Kiss kiss,