Photos courtesy of Tony Martinez.
Like all locals, Tony Martinez loves Long Beach. But unlike everyone else, when this health guru scored massive success by becoming the personal trainer to the likes of Janet Jackson and Britney Spears, he opted out of reasonable moves to metropolitans—particularly Los Angeles—in favor of keeping it Long Beach.
“Long Beach has a vibe that I am down for: chill, happy, and just good,” Martinez said.
A graduate of San Diego State, Martinez moved back to his home of Long Beach after completing school and fell into a situation he calls “a complete blessing.”
Training at a gym—“That was twenty years ago so I can’t quite recall the name”—Martinez was approached by none other than a producer—and not just any producer, but a straight-up, no-apologies Hollywood producer.
“Hey, you a trainer?” the producer asked, with Martinez confirming. “You know Ray Liotta?”
Martinez was a bit miffed given he had never heard of Liotta but was admittedly excited that, over the course of 1991 and 1992, he would be flying to New Zealand to train the actor for the ’90s-action-and-cheesy-awesomeness that is No Escape.
“I had no idea who Ray Liotta was—I just 21 or 22 years old,” Martinez said. “But it was just the right place and the right time, like the universe’s stars lined up—and everything just took off from there.”
“Taking off” is putting it lightly: Martinez became a household name for celebrities as he began to traverse the Warner Bros. lot training actor after actress. One specific example was Val Kilmer, training for what would become the first of the much-maligned duo of Batman films by Joel Schumacher. However, the three-month training stint became one thanks to Kilmer’s obsession with roller hockey, forcing Martinez to play more roller hockey than actually train.
Though these gigs were big, they weren’t the massiveness that was his first world tour with Janet Jackson. The two met in Europe and after he trained with her for a few sessions, Janet was forthright in what she wanted: “You’re not going back to the States; you’re going on tour with me.”
Jackson, at the time, was at her peak: having just followed her enormously successful Janet album, she launched one of her largest tours ever in support of The Velvet Rope LP.
Spanning Europe, North America, Japan, New Zealand, Africa, and Australia, the nearly 18-month tour was not just a massive hit—the airing of its appearance at Madison Square Garden earned HBO its highest-rated program ever at the time—but, like Madonna’s arena shows, took athleticism to new levels. Janet even had the precociousness to have two at-the-time unknowns open for her: Justin Timberlake and his N*SYNC crew, and Usher, just off releasing his My Way album that would catapult him into stardom.
And simultaneously, the tour took Martinez on an entirely new journey.
“My first tour ever was beyond an amazing experience,” Martinez said. “I was only home for eleven days… And I challenged her right from the beginning: she was basically trying to continually outdo herself because she is an extremely competitive person. Her shows were anywhere from 90 minutes to two-hours so I would have to train her specifically for each show since she had no rest. Her only rest was costume changes during the show so we had to train for show after show after show using circuitry training—something that really wasn’t being done at the time. And luckily, I’ve been with her ever since and I train her to this day.”
Soon after, Martinez would be connected to another massive pop star during her peak: Britney Spears. At the time, Spears had finally collaborated with her longtime icon Madonna for “Me Against the Music”—and it was that video that Martinez specifically trained Spears for. Even more, given he was simultaneously training P!nk, he then flew to Rome to film the famous 3-minute Spears-P!nk-Beyoncé Pepsi commercial which featured them as Roman gladiators singing their rendition of Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”
Thereafter, Spears became, like Janet, a permanent fixture in Martinez’s professional life. Of course, his role meant going all over Southern California but that didn’t mean he hasn’t successfully brought Long Beach to the stars. Janet has been to Gold’s Gym on Pine—“She liked it, no doubt”—but he has yet to get Spears to come on down.
“But that doesn’t mean I am not gonna keep trying—I’ve told her I’m gonna get her surfing,” Martinez said with a laugh. “Y’know, I work in LA and OC—it’s kind of required to be honest, but that doesn’t mean I don’t try to bring them down here. I call it ‘trickeration’: ‘Why don’t you come out to Long Beach? There won’t be paparazzi and you can walk on the beach here.’”
After two decades of dealing with the stars, it is clear that Martinez will not be leaving the LBC any time soon—and if naysayers try to think otherwise, Martinez shows no shame in admitting his love for all things Long Beach.
“I just love Long Beach—the whole thing about it is how artsy it is,” Martinez said. “It has culture, it has values… I often compare art to your actual body: just the way that art affects you, you picture your body the way you want and you work to get it there. Just as worthy to show in a mirror as it is to hang a piece of art on the wall.”
For more information on Tony Martinez, including his at-home workout program, visit www.trainertonymartinez.com.