Well Being

Who’s Creepier Than Terry Richardson? Ron Harris, The Guy Who Started ‘Aerobicise’

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We’ve all heard of ‘Aerobicise,’ the workout series that launched a million leotard-and-leg-warmer ensembles—but did you know that its founder was a celebrated fashion photographer who went on to run a porn empire? Yep. And here I thought Aerobicise was no different than the Jazzercise classes my mom taught at the YMCA …

Aerobicise premiered on cable television in 1981, and quickly became a hit. Today, television workout programs are a dime a dozen, but this was the first aerobics show to air, and its associated exercise video series became the highest-grossing of the era. Perhaps because not everyone who purchased the tapes was using them for working out …

The show was actually intended to be implicitly erotic. Ron Harris, its creator, worked in the New York fashion, publishing and television worlds for over 40 years, shooting for Vogue, Cosmo, Elle and others, and directing hundreds of TV commercials. But apparently Harris’ ambitions weren’t quite so PG. After the success of Aerobicise, Harris went to work for Playboy Television, creating a series of specials such as ‘Ron Harris’ Camera Up-Close and Dangerous,” and earned the nickname ‘The Granddaddy of Softcore.’

Harris also began to direct aerobics videos of a different nature at this time, such as 1995’s ‘Totally Nude Aerobics’ (re-released on DVD in 2000, in case you’re interested), and launched his own soft-core porn site.

Then, in 1999, he launched ‘Ron’s Angels,’ a website that put female porn stars’ eggs up for auction, with bids starting between $15,000 and $150,000. Outrage ensued, but Harris told the BBC the site represented “Darwin’s natural selection at its very best.” One 25-year-old model said she was doing it because her 79-year-old grandmother needed the egg money to “not be dependent on a man.”

The site was a hoax—or the egg auctioning part of it, anyway. The controversy surrounding the auction drew 5 million visitors to the site within the first few days—exactly as Harris had hoped. In the end, there weren’t really any eggs for sale—just soft-core photos and videos for a $24.95 per month membership fee. Will you ever look at Aerobicise the same way again?

Photo: Aerobicise