SI Vault
Leigh Montville
November 04, 1996
The Material Mom, His Airness and the author all have one thing in common: personal trainers
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
November 04, 1996

Madonna, Michael & Me

The Material Mom, His Airness and the author all have one thing in common: personal trainers

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

"Part of my job is to plot out the course for a run wherever we are," Ray says of his work with Madonna. "We go eight or 10 miles, and I'm terrified of getting us lost. Two years ago, in Cannes, we must have run with about a thousand people surrounding us. Paparazzi. People wanting autographs. Policemen. People on bikes, on motorcycles, in helicopters. I was in the middle, yelling, Take the next right,' or 'Left at that church.' The whole crowd would follow. One of the policemen kept looking at me, wondering how I knew where to go. Then he saw me look at a stone I had put on a corner, and he smiled. I had gone out earlier on a motor scooter, figuring out the route, putting stones down at the places where we had to turn."

For the first five years Ray didn't talk publicly about his role with Madonna. He was anonymous and happy to be that way. He is 37 years old now, and his two daughters are growing toward school age. His wife, a personal trainer who worked with Joan Rivers, among other clients, pretty much has quit that job to raise the kids. Ray has formed his own company, Kybartas Fitness, and is thinking about infomercials and possibly a book and, a gym that would cater mostly to normal out-of-shape people who want to become healthy. Not a traditional musclehead gym.

His goals for his clients are fitness and fun. The traditional goal of looking good is a by-product of his workouts. Feeling good is the first goal. The workouts Ray designs jump from one activity to another, from riding mountain bikes one day to Rollerblading the next, to swimming, running and weightlifting. Diet is important. Madonna calls the daily workouts "going to church."

The pastor is ready to give the sermon to a bigger audience. "We'll see what happens," Ray says. "I say to myself, What will I be doing when I'm 50? There are days, with my different clients, when I'll run 20 miles. Can I do that when I'm 50?"

This day in July is one of his lighter ones. He paddled in the Pacific at 6 a.m. with four clients who included an actor from Bay-watch and another from General Hospital. He walked for an hour with a business executive. He ran for an hour with Matthew Sweet, the singer. Three hours on a mountain bike with Madonna in the Hollywood Hills. Now, two hours with Eloise DeJoria. Eloise is as serious about fitness as Madonna.

"Ray is the best," Eloise says. "I say he is Jim Carrey in spirit, and he is the Jack LaLanne of the '90s, and he has Arnold Schwarzenegger's body and Red Skelton's heart, and...he counts like Lawrence Welk. That's when he's making me work out. One and a two and a three." The glitter is gone. Eloise has run five miles with Ray through the foothills near the beach, in the afternoon heat, and now she is back at the big house to do her exercises. Ray is counting off the crunches and curls.

Then again, maybe the glitter is not gone. She is working out in her own gym, the biggest home gym I have ever seen, with all the machines and weights you would find in an upscale health club, soon to be replaced by a new set of machines. The air conditioning is working fine, and Ray's fee is from $125 to $150 an hour.


The attendant at the front desk of the Cold Coast Multiplex gym on North Clark Street in Chicago is not sure if Tim Grover is on the premises. The attendant looks past a group of senior citizens walking on the track, past a number of stair climbers and treadmill drones, past a field of Cybex weight equipment and then through the large net around the basketball court. He squints to spot his man. "Do you sec the little guy hitting the big guy in the stomach with that paddle kind of thing?" the attendant asks.

"Yes," I say.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9