He’s best known as gay adult heartthrob Mark Dalton, but the man born Jeremy Sons has a new focus: bodybuilding

Ronnie Coleman Strongman Classic 2010, Mesquite
Convention Center, 1700 Rodeo Drive. April 8. 5 p.m. $30–$50. 817-465-9331.

First things first: Mark Dalton is still alive and well, and has no plans to go anywhere. In fact, the gay porn icon — whose sculpted muscles have made him a gay mag cover boy and solo video performer — has a new movie out and his Web site, MarkDaltonXXX.com, is about to relaunch with tons of content. So this is not a farewell.

Instead, it is an introduction.

Meet Jeremy Sons.

Sons (Dalton is his stage name) is a native North Texan who still retains a lazy country drawl: He grew up in tiny Sanger, and describes childhood trips to Denton as "goin’ to town." It’s an unlikely starting place for a star of gay porn — especially one who’s straight and, let’s face it, effortlessly beautiful. (And young: He just turned 30.)

"Ever since I was 16, I’ve always had a six-pack, no matter what I ate," he says as steam shoots from my ears. He can’t be serious! But he is.

"Most normal days, I eat Taco Bell, Whataburger with fries, fajitas with sour cream, flan. My mom says it’s good breeding. I’ve never done cardio in my life until the last couple of weeks. For the last 10 years, I’ve been at 200 lbs., though I look different at different times."

And he’s looking a little different now. That’s because for the last three months, he’s laid off the fast food, as he’s training for his first-ever body building competition, the Ronnie Coleman Strongman Classic, which comes to Mesquite next week. And we mean ever — he hasn’t even attended one as an audience member.

"I’ve always been a ‘bodybuilder,’" he says, owing equal parts to excellent genes and an interest in working out since he was 12 (his dad is still his workout partner). But aside from power-lifting competitions — "they’re easy to get ready for: You just work out in the gym and eat. It’s just about getting stronger" — the only place you’d likely see him get ripped on purpose was in his movies. And even those, he says, didn’t take much effort. ("In every magazine I’ve even been in, I have never dieted," he says. "Never.")

His interest is the posing strap started recently. "It was only 95 days out from the competition that I was going to enter," he says, when he ran into a buddy at his gym who encouraged him to enter.

Sons had just recovered from the flu, and has dropped to 185 lbs. and looked "super-ripped without doing anything special," he says. He thought he might be able to drop another 10 lbs. and enter the middleweight class. That was not to be, though: He quickly added mass and is back up to 200. So it’s the highly competitive light-heavyweight for his runway debut.

"Once I decided to do it, I am either 100 percent in or zero," he says. And that means lots of changes: Eating "tons and tons" of protein (400 grams a day); he’s in the gym six to seven days a week instead of his usual three, spending up to three hours a shot targeting every muscle group.

He’s been helped along by a patron, David, who has financed his training ("400 grams of protein a day is expensive," he says), but his real enemy is time: Can he be ready with only three months of preparation? Others in the competition have been planning their strategies for six to eight months, possibly longer.

Sons isn’t worried: No one is going to out-train him.

"Some people start months out on their dieting — when I’m gaining weight there are probably a lot of people cutting," he says. "It comes down to symmetry and muscle quality. Going in there just skin and muscle — no water, no fat. It’s not going to be very pretty!"

He’s also planning to meet with professionals who can coach him on his presentation.

"I’ve been told by many, many people you can look better than the other guys, but if you don’t present it well enough you won’t win. I’ve been around long enough to know what to expect. Confidence has a lot to do with what you do onstage. I have the confidence: I know what I look like."

Two factors do give him pause: His tattoos, and his alter ego.

"I’ve got lots of tattoos now," he says (though none, thankfully, on those famous washboard abs). "I’ve heard lots of comments that nowadays any seasoned judge is not going to see them, but I might have a problem with any new judges. It’s not gonna help but it shouldn’t hurt."

And as for Mark Dalton? That might hurt, he admits.

"I’ve heard it ain’t gonna help, it won’t be great, he says. "I try to keep the two as separate as possible. I can’t change what I’ve done in the past, whether its tattoos or a torn bicep or [his career]."

But he’s already looking ahead. There’s another pro-am open in bodybuilding later this year, and he plans to enter no matter what happens next week. And how will he celebrate once the competition is over? Cheesecake? Blue Bell? He must be looking ahead to some indulgence.

"I’m not making any decisions on that," he says. "I’m just gonna eat and eat and not worry about it."


MEN OF STEEL | Adult stars Mark Dalton, above, and Tony DaVinci, right, have turned their bodies into sculpted masterpieces. Dalton will show his off at a bodybuilding competition next week; DaVinci can get you started on your own any time. (Photos by Arnold Wayne Jones)

Tony Giles knows a few things about getting in shape. Giles — best known to gay audiences as Tony DaVinci, a Playgirl centerfold and Men magazine model, who has been on the covers of Exercise for Men Only and Exercise & Health, among others — spent much of the last year getting fit again after a serious neck injury that immobilized his left arm and kept him out of the gym for three months. So he knows what it’s like to feel sedentary.

Even when he wasn’t working out, though, Giles maintained his diet regimen: Only carbs in the morning; six smallish meals a day; lots of protein, mostly from fish, chicken and turkey (he allows himself beef once a week, and then only lean bison meat).

Now that he’s recovered, Giles has set up some more shoots — what he calls, "cover model season." But Giles doesn’t hold his clients to his routine. Rather, he wants to motivate them into being the best they can be.

"When I train people, I don’t expect them to have a fitness model physique," he explains over a lunch of plain chicken breast and butter-less cooked spinach. "I want them in shape, and shape comes in all sizes."

Giles has been a trainer since 1999, and has always had a predominantly gay clientele, most of whom aren’t gym-rats. ("My target client is a businessman in his 40s," he says.) That’s OK with him, though — he sees his role as equal parts expert on technique and cheerleader on overall fitness.

"What motivates me is helping people," he says. "I like to build up people’s self-esteem. I tell my clients, it’s about the journey, not the destination. There are goals but you’re never satisfied."

Giles has a lot of suggestions for reaching those goals:
Food for fuel. Don’t think of food as fun, but rather as fuel for your body’s engine. Eat to live, don’t live to eat.

Protein is your friend. "Drink a protein shake right after working out, when your body is starved for protein," he counsels. "And consume protein right before bed.
There is good fat. Giles maintains a low-fat diet, but that doesn’t mean he stays totally fat free. He gets his fats from fish and nuts, which are healthier for you.
Order on the court. The order in which you do your exercise affects your results. "To gain muscle, do cardio after your workout," he says. "If you’re trying to get lean, split it up — half cardio before workout, half after." And mix it up: StairMaster, treadmill, elliptical. Don’t stick with just one.

It’s OK to cheat a little. Even Giles confesses to indulging in the occasional slice of cheesecake on the weekends. Don’t set unreasonable expectations and enjoy life a little. Some divergences don’t mean you aren’t gonna achieve all you want.
Ultimately, though, it’s all up to you.

"I tell my clients, when you’re out getting cruised, don’t blame me. You did it."

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Tony Giles works out of Pulse Fitness at the Mosaic. For training and nutrition counseling, call 469-835-5964.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 2, 2010.
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