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Victor Coclough signed on as a floor trainer at Results, The Gym, in the fall of 1997, less than a year after it opened on U Street NW. Thanks to a publicity blitz coordinated by Results owner Doug Jefferies, the gym was booming, siphoning members away from other, established clubs in the area. After having worked as a salesperson at Bally’s gym for a few years, Coclough was drawn to the Results mystique.
Coclough’s honeymoon at Results never quite got under way, though. In a May lawsuit filed against the gym, Coclough says he’d barely gotten there when assistant general manager Darin Lentz started to harass him. Within days of his arrival, Coclough told Lentz that he wanted to move up into a sales positionand Lentz, according to the complaint, implied that sexual favors would win him the promotion. From then on, Coclough alleges, Lentz “would touch [him] in an unwelcome and sexually suggestive manner” at least three times a day. That included holding his hand, giving him “sexually provocative looks,” and “luridly” feeling up his shoulders and back, the complaint charges.
The situation escalated quickly, according to Coclough. He says Lentz became irrationally jealous when Coclough spotted for black men lifting weights. (Coclough is black; Lentz is white.) In December, Lentz sent Coclough a bizarre Christmas card that read: “I know you’re going to kill me, but you won’t get away with it! If I didn’t like you, boy, you’d be in trouble.” Coclough says he considers the card threatening.
But Results management denies that any sexual harassment ever took place. They point out that their employee handbook explicitly forbids sexual harassment. And Results general manager Allen Tardiff says Lentz sent Christmas cards to every staff member. The strange message in Coclough’s card was a “joke,” Tardiff says.
Lentz himself would not comment on the case, but Jefferies describes him as a highly valued employee who has tirelessly worked his way up through the gym’s hierarchy. As for Coclough, his lawyer Mickey Wheatley refuses to let him talk. “You don’t see Monica Lewinsky getting up and talking,” Wheatley explains.
Since it opened for business in December of 1996, Results has bottled Dupont Circle’s reigning subculture within its four walls. The club’s mostly gay regulars make for a tight clique, with Jefferies at the center. “He knows everybody there. He knows all the club girls, the circuit queens, all the cute guys,” says former member Cole Shelton. They go see Hair together in tie-dyed Results T-shirts. They rollerblade to Eastern Market on weekends. They build a massive Gay Pride float and perch the Results cheerleaders on the latest cardiovascular equipment. They win first prize. When they’re done, they sip smoothies at the juice bar attached to the gym and attend after-hours birthday parties in the club itself. “They’re everywhere,” says Shelton.
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Coclough’s suit threatens the cuddly environment that Jefferies has built on treadmills and weight benches. “When I hear things are going in a negative direction, it upsets me,” Jefferies says, struggling to contain his words. “I built this thing for the good of the community. I think I’ve done a wonderful thing.”
The abuse that Coclough claims he suffered at Results is more than a coincidence, according to Wheatley. “When there are guys who have a lot of muscles and they’re showing them off…the milieu is going to be more sexualized,” he says. That charged atmosphere includes even more permissions at a place like Results, Wheatley says. “There’s an attitude among gay men that ‘we’re all sisters here, so it’s OK,’” he says. “It’s not right. The fact is, for mengay or straightto be subjected to that sort of pressure in the workplace is very different than when you’re at a club and someone starts flirting with you.”
It’s true that Results is not your average D.C. gym, with the requisite hairy backs chatting up spandexed girls on stairmasters. Results is more like a planned community, a gleaming biodome for urbanites, mostly gay, with a smattering of breeders to keep things interesting.
Walk in, throw down your gold card, and you never have to leave again. There’s a gay-art gallery to the left, a healthy-start cafe to the right, an ATM straight ahead, and a waterfall coming soon in the rec room. Jefferies denies that Results is a gay man’s gympointing out that he has stopped advertising in the Washington Blade and that 35 percent of the 2,600 members are women. But you wouldn’t know it from the looks of the place. Aside from the third-floor corner weight room set aside “for women only,” it’s an Adonic playground. Men drape themselves across abdominal machines and gossip on the Cybex Circuit. Over by the barbells, a man in full-length jeans chats on his cell phone.
In his complaint, Coclough claims that he took his concerns to upper management and got no significant response. But Tardiff and Jefferies say he did no such thing. They say the first they heard of the harassment allegations was when they got a letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission detailing a complaint filed by Coclough in January. And they point out that Coclough voluntarily quit his job at Results.
As in most employment suits, the ad hominems run both waysJefferies and Tardiff claim that Coclough was never a model employee. “Basically, he didn’t like our rules,” Tardiff says, in an interview at Results. Coclough routinely showed up late for work or didn’t show up at all, he says. He claims he did in fact offer Coclough a sales positionprovided he went through the required training. But Coclough refused to be trained, claiming his past sales experience was sufficient, Tardiff says. “I think he realized it wasn’t that easy here, and he wanted to move on.”
If its members’ gushing reviews and the immaculate look of the place are any indication, Results is not a place for slacker employees. Jefferies runs the gym like an overprotective mother, watching over his family of employees and clientele and bristling at any sign of attack. As Tardiff talks, Jefferies props his white Nike Airs up on the table and starts gnawing on his nails. Suddenly, he interrupts the interview to rebuke Tardiff: “Answer yes or no. She’s going to take a lot of what you’re saying and put it in whatever context she wants. She’s a reporter,” he says, jaw clenched. Thirty seconds later, he asks Tardiff to leave the room altogether.
Jefferies is determined to prevent what he considers a “completely frivolous lawsuit” from undermining his empire. He’s pouring tens of thousands of dollars into the ordeal. A recent settlement session went nowhere, and the plaintiff’s one-time proposed settlement of $90,000 is now a distant fantasy. A hearing is set for August. “It’s a shame that there are some people out there who think they can get a free ride by claiming frivolous lawsuits,” Jefferies says.CP