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Sports Club/LA: It Shapes Up as the Fitness Taj Mahal

August 16, 1987|RUTH RYON | Times Staff Writer

It was a scary idea--turning an old industrial building on a nondescript street into one of the biggest, flashiest sports clubs in the United States--but they did it, and they say they're glad.

They are Michael Talla and Nanette Pattee, the brains behind the Sports Club/LA, a $27-million, 100,000-square-foot prototype that has been described in the media since it opened a few months ago as "the Acropolis of physical fitness centers" and a "Taj Mahal devoted to the extinction of fatty tissue."

It already boasts 5,000 members, many of whom paid as much as $1,650 to join and $125 a month to participate. At such hefty prices, the membership roster reads like a Who's Who, especially of Hollywood and sports.

Among the celebrity members are Princess Stephanie of Monaco, Teri Garr, Linda Gray, Linda Ronstadt, Kenny Loggins, Pat Boone, George Carlin, Jack Nicholson, Jermaine Jackson, Leigh Taylor-Young, Sarah Vaughn, Hugh O'Brien, Lou Ferrigno, Jimmy Osmond, Marsha Mason, Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Marcus Allen, Tommy Lasorda and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday August 30, 1987 Home Edition Real Estate Part 8 Page 2 Column 3 Real Estate Desk 1 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
Cole Martinez Curtis & Associates is the firm that designed the Sports Club/LA, not Swimmer Cole Martinez Curtis, the company's former name, as reported Aug. 16 in a story about the club.

Jabbar had an ownership interest until news broke last spring that he lost millions of dollars through unwise real estate investments. Then, as Peter R. Feinstein, a financial consultant who works with Talla and Pattee, explained it, "We worked out a deal so we could give him back his money, and we got another limited partner.

"We wanted it so it was not a problem for him and not embarrassing for us. We didn't want the club to open with a stigma, so we worked it out, and now Kareem is a happy member and will be involved in the promotion."

Promoting the club isn't tough, considering its clientele or its prime movers, for that matter.

Talla, a 40-year-old entrepreneur whose first major business was developing racquetball centers, and Pattee, a 38-year-old former model who once sold Budweiser beer with Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show," gained national attention with their first jointly operated athletic facilities, known as the Sports Connection.

Designed for younger, less affluent members than the Sports Club/LA, the Sports Connection opened eight years ago in Santa Monica, and now operates in five locations.

Earlier this year, Talla and Pattee launched yet another level of club, Spectrum, targeted for a segment of the population that is somewhere between members of the Sports Connection and the Sports Club in terms of finances and age. The first Spectrum opened in Manhattan Beach, and a Sports Connection in Las Vegas is being turned into another.

Featured in Movie

The Sports Connection was featured in a 1982 Rolling Stone magazine article that inspired the making of the movie, "Perfect," starring John Travolta and Jamie Lee Curtis. The movie likened the health club to a singles bar.

Even so, the film didn't hurt the Sports Connection, Pattee claims, "because people who were into fitness didn't feel that this (analogy) had any validity." And the Sports Connection and even Pattee, who played a minor role in the movie, gained some recognition.

The Sports Connection experience helped Talla and Pattee launch the Sports Club/LA, but the latter has other things going for it, too. Such as location.

There wasn't much of interest around it when Michael Talla first tried to buy the site, at 1835 Sepulveda Blvd., and the building itself was a wheelchair manufacturing plant before it became a drive-through grocery warehouse that went broke.

Near Affluent Members

But the property sits just south of Wilshire Boulevard, near the San Diego Freeway and the wealthy communities it aims to attract: Brentwood, Century City, Westwood and Beverly Hills.

And, in the three years that it took to get the club built, the street as well as the building, which was gutted and redesigned, has changed character.

From Olympic to Wilshire boulevards along Sepulveda, there are many fancy offices, many of them for entertainment industry-related tenants: New World Entertainment, producer Jerry Weintraub, the Los Angeles Radio and TV Division of John Blair & Co., United Artists, Gannett Satellite Information Network, the Entertainment Network, the Movie Store, and Wometco, a TV holding company.

Until recently, the street was filled with light-industrial and small commercial tenants, said Harvey B. Mahler, senior vice president with Tishman West Management Corp., which has handled a lot of the neighborhood's office leases.

Wheelchair Warehouse

He remembers when the site at Santa Monica Boulevard, where developer Donald Bren is building two office towers, was a warehouse for the wheelchair company that also occupied the sports club's property.

There is also talk in real estate circles of nightclubs and restaurants planned to complement the offices and sports facility, which has its own restaurant, serving so-called "spa cuisine," with many entrees approved by the American Heart Assn.

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