I was doing the Couch Slider 3000 — you know the move. Your torso is on the seat while the rest of your body melts like a Kraft single on the floor. It is the corporeal form established when one learns of another eleventy thousand cases of the coronavirus in Florida.
Then he came to me in a Cricket Wireless commercial. Tony Little. Pony-tailed fitness star. Product man du jour. Optimist to end all optimists.
“Get your rear in gear!” He was moving a million miles a minute on his most iconic workout product, the Gazelle Glider. He screamed at the Cricket mascot, but he was really screaming at us. “You can do it!!!”
I hadn’t spoken to Tony since 2011, when I profiled him for the Tampa Bay Times. It remains one of my favorite stories. I followed him in his Tampa home, his St. Petersburg office, at HSN, where he filmed a segment and passed out his meat products in the cafeteria.
He was surprisingly introspective and unsurprisingly entertaining. He could sell nearly anything. One day at HSN, I watched him offload 700 units of Body by Bison in 30 minutes.
He has endured his share of tragedies, including a difficult childhood and a crash with a school bus that nearly killed him. For every negative, though, he says there’s a positive. He started doing personal training on television decades ago, helping people inside their homes. At “63 years young,” he has come full circle.
It seemed imperative to siphon off a Little Tony at this stage of 2020. I wanted a pure pep talk.
I called him at home north of Odessa. In 2011, he was dreaming about moving out of Beach Park in South Tampa to a quieter part of town. He made it happen.
“I went to hide out in the woods,” he said.
He has been stuck there since March, filming for HSN via Skype. He did the Cricket Wireless spot on his iPhone 11. For someone with his bandwidth for motion, this hamster wheel has not been ideal.
“When I wake up three times a night, I thought it must be my age. But it’s not. It’s because I’m in the same place for 110 days. I don’t even know what time it is. You know?”
Yes! Yes, we do!
As one of his many trademarked expressions goes, there’s always a way. He gets to spend more time with his wife and twins. And the home shopping business is benefiting from quarantine, he said. He’s selling lots of products: the New Body Express Ultrathin Vibration Platform; Egg White Bites; Sweet Leaf Stevia Drops; Cheeks Fit Body Health Sandals; Tony Little’s Perfect Trainer.
For those stuck in small spaces with no disposable income, he suggests a pair of dumbbells or even soup cans. Put on headphones, listen to music and move.
“You stay positive,” he said. “You change your life!”
“In the history of us as human beings, and in America and everything, we’ve always had adversities. And the whole important thing to remember for us is there’s always going to be adversities. And the key to an adversity is always working around it and turning an adversity into a victory, OK?”
“You have to go for the victory. You can’t stay and sit down and get depressed. You’ve got to make positive moves. I believe there’s always a way.”
Yes there is!
“But this is major. Everyone’s experiencing this. But we all have to realize something. We’re all responsible for how we think and the results we get out of how we’re thinking. So we have to stay positive. Because it’s always a better outcome. Always believe in yourself, always go for your dreams. Do not quit! Do not quit, because you’ll win! You’ll always win!”
“You can do it!”
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