By Tom Gesimondo
As owners of True Pilates NY, my wife Carol and I are considered by so many people in the industry as dyed-in-the-wool Pilates people. But unlike some of you “Pilates babies” out there, we came to the game a little later in life. Here’s our Pilates timeline.
One night, watching TV well past our bedtime, Carol and I see an ad for a Mari-Winsor-endorsed product. I turn my slouched shoulders to my wife and say, “Hey, honey, let’s try that.” But I have Carol order it, because I like to keep my record of never having bought a product directly from an infomercial clean. Of course, this is probably the 25th time Carol has played middleperson to my search for late-night-infomercial nirvana.
We start to work out at home. One day, we mention the word Pilates to one of the owners of the radio station we were working for at the time (in our previous life, before my midlife crisis landed us with a loud thump in the Pilates world). “Oh my god!” the boss says. “Do you know who’s next door to you? Romana! The Romana! You have to go to Drago’s and take a lesson with her!” So Carol and I go next door and book a Pilates private. I don’t get put with Romana, I get her granddaughter Daria, and Carol is booked with Cynthia Shipley. We immediately love the experience. In fact, we become Pilates snobs, but good snobs (wink.) When we let the cat out of the bag to friends of ours and they tell us that they do Pilates, too, we say, “Yeah, but do you do Romana’s Pilates?” Friends tolerate us with knowing smiles, but our passion is fueled by each lesson.
A few years later, radio is slumping (though my shoulders are rising), and a casual comment in the studio about the state of broadcast prompts the owner of Drago’s to tell me, “You know, Tom, you should consider buying this place.” And the next thing you know, Carol and I are having a meeting in the lobby of the Parker-Meridien hotel, where Drago and I negotiate the deal without lawyers. But this being the Pilates world, even though Drago and I reached an agreement, the deal can’t close until Romana and her family give their approval. Let me tell you, this isn’t the way deals are done on Wall Street. No lawyers, no book-size contracts: just some honest talk, a dinner, a handshake, a hug, a toast and Romana offering an endorsement with her famous words, “love all around.”
I begin my dream job (this is a job?), and Carol remains at the radio station for financial stability. Just one little problem with that plan: Carol has to deal with me being obnoxiously happy every day while she is still going through tough changes at her job. A year later, she joins me at Drago’s, and we change the name to True Pilates NY. Six months later, our son Bill leaves his job at MTV to join us as well. (Full disclosure: Bill always says MTV, but I do need to point out periodically that he was technically working for the Country Music Network, a division of MTV.) Today, it’s truly a family business: Tom, Carol and Bill along with Romana, Sari and Daria.
After years of running the studio, suddenly we find ourselves taking on another challenge, as True Pilates NY is beginning to handle the day-to-day operations for Romana’s Pilates. We are so lucky to work closely with this family and be touched by the work daily. We are proud to be able to help them do more of what they were born to do: lead, teach and touch thousands. Oh, and p.s.: I’m also working toward my own teacher certification while we do all of this. So if you come into the studio on West 57th Street and see the middle-aged man with the happy face moving at 100 mph, you’ll understand some of the “why.” And I will get through the apprenticeship as well—provided I don’t fall victim to the three-ring rule. What is the three-ring rule? That’s a story for the next time. So stay tuned and remember, with all the proper respect to Romana, “love all around.”