Up Close and Personal With 'America's Personal Trainer'

Photo: Up Close and Personal With Americas Personal Trainer: Infomercial Institution Tony Little Rules $3 Billion Fitness Empire

He's known as "America's personal trainer," the Florida fitness freak with the ponytail and the trademark shout.

He is Tony Little and he can be seen on television sets across the country snuggled in spandex and perennially peppy, constantly urging America to get off that couch and get into shape.

Little is an infomercial institution, but even after 25 years perfecting his routine on the Home Shopping Network, he told us he still gets the jitters before he goes on air.

"I am always nervous. I am always shaky, I am always very intense," he said.

On the day we shadowed him, he did two live shows, hawking his "Easyshaper" to millions of viewers. Over the course of his career, he's done more than 10,000 shows and for every single one of them he's wound up tighter than, well, a Gazelle.

Americas Personal Trainer
America's Personal Trainer

"I don't like taking chances. I'm a perfectionist," he said. "I like to have everything ready to go because on live TV, if you mess up once you're gonna lose money."

And Little hates to lose money. To date, his products have brought in $3 billion and been sold to 48 million customers worldwide. A recession has not slowed down his success.

"When people are cocooning and ... staying out of retail stores ... they're at home, flipping through the television ... and that's where I'm at," he said.

These days, Little has branched out from the fitness products that made him famous. He's got a line of micropedic therapy pillows, a line of bison beef jerky and his "Cheeks" sandals, which he sold 80,000 of in one day.

VIDEO: Fitness guru tells "Nightline" the real deal behind his luscious locks.
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America's personal trainer is building an infomercial empire. Or as Little puts it, "I now exercise you, feed you with my bison products, and put you to sleep with my pillow products."

Little has been on the air so much for so long, he's the butt of jokes everywhere. He was parodied by Alec Baldwin on "Saturday Night Live" and on "Beavis and Butthead," "The Simpsons" and "South Park." He's even popped up in lyrics by Bruce Springsteen.

He easily brushes off the mockery.

"When they're not talking about you, that's when you're in trouble," he says.

And he recognizes how lucky he's been: "You know I've had nine infomercial hits. You know you're lucky to get one in a lifetime."

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Gazelle: Little's Biggest Infomercial Hit

The Gazelle, his biggest infomercial hit, by far, accounts for half his sales volume and has brought in nearly $1.5 billion in sales over the years. The Gazelle is so iconic that two years after the infomercial was off the air, Geico made a parody ad of it -- an infomercial -- within a commercial.

"What would it have cost me to brand that?" he said. "You know, they must have had $20 [million], $30 million in that."

Little Overcomes Obstacles

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Sure, it sounds like easy money. But success hasn't exactly come easily. His book, "There's Always a Way," recounts a laundry list of adversities that would make anyone take pause.

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