NEW YORK — Equinox, the 21-unit health club chain, called on several celebrity models to star in its new national ad campaign.

Actresses Lisa Marie Presley, “Kill Bill” star Chiaki Kuriyama, pro volleyball player and new mother Gabrielle Reece, Wimbledon runner-up Mark Philippoussis and models Lucas Kern and Tyson Beckford all worked up a sweat for the cameras. Ad man David Lipman, whose agency developed the campaign, said each subject worked out with a personal trainer for 45 minutes before they were shot last month by Steven Klein for the print ads and outdoor images.

The “It’s Not Fitness. It’s Life” campaign premiered recently in The New York Times magazine and runs through the second quarter. Shots of Reece and Philippoussis will debut in late spring. In the next few months, other images will run in such publications as Vogue and Variety — new terrain for health club advertising. Roy Jones Jr., who missed last month’s shoot due to a delayed flight, will appear in ads later this year. Next month, Equinox will show off an ad featuring an Olympic hopeful, whom they declined to name.

Ads are up on bus shelters and phone kiosks here and print ads are running in Chicago, and will also debut in Los Angeles at the end of the month. Equinox spent nearly $3 million on the advertising buy, according to chief executive officer Harvey Spevak.

Lipman said an adrenaline-rushing personal experience helped him land the Equinox account. After the first plane struck on Sept. 11, an overweight and out-of-shape Lipman dashed out of a meeting with Tina Brown and ran downtown to find his family. “The adrenaline carried me through. I’m 5 foot 7 inches and weighed 190 pounds,” he said.

Their home two blocks north of the World Trade Center was destroyed. With help from friends like Burberry’s Rose Marie Bravo, jewelry designer David Yurman, Aeropostale’s Julian Geiger, Vogue’s Anna Wintour and singer Justin Timberlake, Lipman said he nurtured his family for a few months and then decided to work on himself by joining Equinox.

A former 3:05 marathoner, Lipman took to the treadmill and quickly became hooked on his daily workouts. “It changed my whole lifestyle,” he said. “Along the way, it not only helped my mind and body, but made me feel sexier and more alert.”After sizing up Equinox’s old campaign as “all wrong,” Lipman decided he had to pitch them. Through a mutual friend, he met Spevak and the deal was done. Spevak said he wanted to capture the club’s “essence, energy, performance and results.” Among the images are Presley and Kern in a provocative stretch, a fishnet-clad Kuriyama holding a Forza sword overhead and Beckford with fists clenched.

“We wanted to take Equinox and give it a different world in this category,” Lipman said. “No one has built an image. The ads that are out there [for health clubs] are very trite. I don’t think this is fashion. It’s more cultural.”

Fitness was a priority for the campaign’s subjects. One model was called in two days before the shoot to prove her muster. Lipman said he has helped recruit new members, including Klein. Considering the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association expects more than a million Americans to join gyms this month, the timing isn’t bad either.

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