Billy Sullivan

The Anti-Grunge Channel's fitness maven, Billy Sullivan, has led quite a full life. As a youth, he was drawn to the beauty of the Catholic Mass as an altar server at St. John Vianney Chapel in Maple Hill, Kansas and seriously considered a priestly vocation, going as far as second-year studies in the seminary. "At some point, I realized that the episcopate in this country had been watered down to a bunch of wimps," he offered, "and I knew I'd never be able to vow obedience to any of those marshmallows. That's when I started thinking about military life." He spent fifteen years as a Marine before his discharge with high honors. "I'd say the most important thing I ever did was to defend the people of Southwest Mandola when pro-grunge guerillas tried to impose grunge on them." As the small nation of 68,000 found that it was unable to defend itself, Sullivan and his fellow Marines were instrumental in repelling the guerillas. "They thanked us again and again," he recalled.

After his discharge, Sullivan was unsure of what to do next. "Not long after I was a civilian again, I drove past a ballet school and thought that perhaps I could lend my talents to the improvement of that genre of entertainment," he said. He opened Sullivan's Ballet Camp in Dodge City, but the methods he learned as a Marine did not translate well to civilian life, and the camp closed after only nine months. "I tried to impose a rigorous level of discipline. We hiked twelve kilometers a day, ate grasshoppers, and cooked pigeons before we settled down to practice our ballet steps in the mountains near Dodge. I started with seventy students but had only two left at the end of the nine months; I just don't know why they were all so ill-suited for ballet," he told us.

Later, Sullivan tried opening a fast-food restaurant in Salina. "I didn't want my customers getting fat eating the great hamburgers I cooked, so I had an exercise requirement before I would serve anyone," he remarked. "We had a great gym with a treadmill, and an indoor track. It was either two kilometers on the track or two kilometers on the treadmill plus thirty bench presses before I'd hand anyone the certificate of completion to take to the counter to be served." This venture also failed after only seven months. "The people of Salina just didn't appreciate a good thing when they saw it," he declared solemnly, adding, "I even reduced the requirement for a small bag of fries from sixty sit-ups to thirty, but it just didn't help." Office workers on their lunch break also demanded to be allowed to wear sweat pants while they worked out, which Sullivan found abhorrent. "No way I was going to allow that!" he exclaimed. "I even gave away free neckties to the men and decorative scarves to the women, for heaven's sake, and they just wanted to pollute my clean gym with jeans and sneakers," he concluded with sadness.

It was when the fast-food restaurant folded that a story about it on Internet caught the eye of Gregory Palthus, senior executive producer at the Anti-Grunge Channel in 2008. Palthus recalls, "I just liked something about Billy's determination to do the right thing, even if he couldn't make a dime on it on his own. I really wanted to meet him and see if we could fit him into our little world." When Palthus approached Sullivan and his wife Tricia on the unemployment line in Salina and introduced himself, their eyes lit up. Tricia explained, "We had never heard of Greg, but we certainly had heard of the Anti-Grunge Channel, and we were excited at what looked right away like a great opportunity!" Palthus pulled them off the unemployment line, bought them lunch, and drove them back to Des Moines, where Sullivan auditioned before a live audience that had no idea what was planned. The reaction was instant and clear. "We want Bill-ee!" the audience cheered, adding, "New Show for Bill-ee!"

Palthus told us, "While I was driving to Des Moines, I had my top staff put together the format for an exercise program just for the Anti-Grunge Channel. They built a beautiful set in a day and a half, and we still use most of it to this day. When Billy beheld it for the first time, he had to turn his head away so that we wouldn't see a tough ex-Marine crying." Tricia continued, "We vowed then and there that we would give our all for the Anti-Grunge Channel. Billy knew that he had found his niche in civilian life." Palthus added, "He loved the audience full of well-dressed people, and they loved him. He even got a few volunteers to come on stage and exercise with him. The chemistry was dynamite!"

The Sullivans now live in Fremont, Nebraska, with their eight children, including two sets of identical twins, and they are known as "The Fittest Family in Fremont!" The entire family often appears together on the program, especially at Christmas, when they exercise for the first half of the program before indulging in small shot glasses of egg nog before the Yule log. Sullivan is grateful to the viewers of the Anti-Grunge Channel for all their support. "I couldn't do it without them," he insisted.

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