January 28, 2013

Turning dreams into reality one step at a time

Robby Love’s name says it all.

Robby Love’s name says it all.

He’s done a little bit of everything, and loved it all.

Here’s just a sample of the things the owner of The X Gym Sports Complex in Myrtle Beach has done and the jobs he’s had: “Millionaire Matchmaker” contestant, singer/songwriter, entrepreneur, community activist, philanthropist, real estate developer, exercise guru, documentary filmmaker and actor.

And that’s just the beginning.

Following the dream

After graduating from State University of New York, Love began working in Buffalo in the marketing industry. Soon he realized he didn’t want to market other people’s businesses – he wanted to market his own dream. He wanted to build a sports center that housed places to play and practice several types of sports, along with space for shopping, dining and other vendors. So he moved to Florida.

Love had the dream and the plan, but no capital. He needed money and he needed someone to believe in him. He spent only a few cents a day to eat and survived on nearly nothing while trying to make his dream a reality.

When his roommate mentioned he had a wealthy relative who invested in projects, Love thought this could be the break he needed. He happened to answer the phone one day when the relative called and Love pitched his idea.

A check was in the mail soon after that phone call, and Love set out to build his dream. He designed and built his sports mall, turned it into a huge success, then sold it. He made enough profit to repay his debt with interest and was able to walk away with money in his pocket.

The music video in Miami

Love’s next dream was to make a music video. He wrote a song, hired musicians, actors, dancers and a film crew and hit South Beach to make his video.

Love recalls one crew member coming to him after his first day and saying, “I can’t work on this video. It is just too cheesy for my reputation. But if I were you, I would embrace the cheesiness and go all the way.”

So that is exactly what he did; he filmed it exactly how he wanted in his own style.

While filming the video, KC and the Sunshine Band’s manager, Howard Lee Gatch, happened upon the production. He approached Love and told him that he thought what he was doing looked cool but that he should consider having his music reproduced by KC. He told him his music needed to be polished; apparently, it wasn’t ready for radio play.

Love took him up on his offer and ended up meeting with musical genius Rick Finch and eventually recorded eight songs on a CD.

With the music video done, it was time for him to follow his next dream. He packed up his clothes, laced up his roller skates, and he was off.

Skatin’ 66 Tour

It took 40 days to roller skate from Chicago to Los Angeles on Route 66 – 2,567 miles. Love had decided to cross the country on his roller skates to raise funds and awareness for St. Jude’s Cancer Research.

He visited as many facilities as possible on his journey and brought smiles to every child he encountered.

A bus full of production crews followed him the entire time to film Love skating, performing, visiting the sick children and talking to strangers along the way. Love would ask one question to as many different people as possible: “What does unconditional love mean to you?” This tour is documented in the documentary “Skatin’ 66.”

Love admits that when he originally set out on this mission to cross the country on skates, it was a publicity stunt. Then when St. Jude’s got involved, he started to see that he could make a real difference.

After visiting the first hospital and seeing those kids, he knew there was a bigger reason for his mission. The patients touched his heart in a way he didn’t think was possible. The children he met were so innocent, sick, grateful and sweet. He was changed forever.

He laughed, kind of embarrassed thinking back at the initial reaction of the kids. They just looked at him like he was crazy. It took a while for the kids to warm up to him and his roller-skating act.

He said it would usually take one kid to finally say he was “cool,” then the rest warmed up to him. He found that younger kids in rural areas were much more accepting of his skating show.

As his trip down Route 66 continued, he came across ghost town after ghost town, towns that were dead because the expressways took away business and people were forced to leave. But he e always found a handful of folks who stayed and those were the people that Love wanted to talk to.

The more he skated and the more people he met in the ghost towns it began to become clear to Love that there needed to be a means of raising awareness of the people in our country who are doing good things.

The Hollywood experience

When he rolled into Hollywood, it was time to pursue his next dream; Love wanted to be an entertainer. He checked into the Highland Gardens Hotel and moved into the suite where Janis Joplin died. He stayed there for two years.

When Love heard that Virgin Mobile was auditioning for a roller skater to be the new face of their Rock Sack campaign, he jumped at the opportunity. It was a Sunday morning and the auditions were taking place right down from where he was staying. He put on his skates and literally crashed the auditions. He he rolled into the room unannounced and asked them to give him a shot. He rapped some Shakespeare as his audition.

The next day, an executive from Virgin Mobile in Australia called and told him that after watching his audition tape, he thought that Love was hilarious and offered him the job. The character he would portray was named Leroy and they wanted him to dress in ‘80s gear.

“I am not wearing blue spandex,” Love told them, “Furthermore, I think the character should be me, The Roller Rapper/Robby Love, and I should wear what I want! Not some ‘80s gear-wearing Leroy!”

They eventually agreed and Love ended up assisting with the production, storyboards and wardrobe. Unfortunately, the commercials and campaign were dropped after that first summer.

‘The Apprentice’ experience

Love then decided he should be on Donald Trump’s show, “The Apprentice.” This was before the show changed its format to featuring celebrities only. He made an audition tape and sent it off.

He had quite a few call backs to be on the show. He met with different casting directors in several locations. He recalled that at the last call back, he was warned not to speak to anyone else in the waiting room. He said it was a strange feeling, as if they were secretly watching him.

Unfortunately, he consulted with someone prior to this last interview to practice several different questions and get some coaching about how to answer. He regrets that he just wasn’t himself. All of his answers were canned because he didn’t show his true personality. He was never called back.

“I should have just been myself instead of trying so hard to be so normal. I never heard from them again,” shared Love. “This was a big life lesson for me.”

‘Millionaire Matchmaker’ experience

“One day, an executive from the television station Bravo called. They asked if I would consider going on the show ‘Millionaire Matchmaker,’ ” Love said. “At first I was not sure. I didn’t want to go on a show and go on a fake date with someone. They spent some time explaining that I would be able to choose who I wanted to go on a date with and I decided to go for it. The experience sounded fun.”

“When I pitched the idea to take my date on a picnic in the hills, they said no. I knew then that I had agreed to something I wasn’t too sure about. I really liked the producers. They came to my hotel, where I was living, and warned me that Patty (the matchmaker star of the show) was harsh and just to be myself,” he said. “From the beginning she never asked me what I was looking for or what I wanted. It was all about what she wanted and what she thought I needed in a date. It was total fiction from the beginning. Design in editing!”

On the second date, he took his date to the premier of his movie. He was thrilled to be able to show off his documentary, “Skatin’ 66.” This made him feel good to be able to promote his work on television. They showed the date on the show and he hoped it would make his documentary more popular.

When he was approached to be in season two of “The Millionaire Matchmaker” he hesitantly agreed. He knew he had to try to stay relevant. However, he quit after just a day into shooting.

“It was not organized and they tried to get me to start off my scene by saying I was sorry to Patty. I tried to go along with it but it was so different this season, I just couldn’t,” Love said.

He regrets not sticking with it. It was a great experience for him and ultimately led him to where he is today.

After that, Love realized he needed to get out of Hollywood. He felt like everyone was out to get something from him. There was always someone there building him up, telling him they could help him get to the next level of fame, and, as he soon realized, charging him every step of the way.

He felt like he was getting nowhere. He needed to go home and regroup.

His journey ‘home’

He packed up his car and took off for home. He reflected on his life and what the past years had taught him. He had experienced so much, but now what? How was he going to catch that next dream?

A friend who had reconnected with him on Facebook after seeing him on “Millionaire Matchmaker” called. She told him about the Plex in Myrtle Beach. Apparently, she had some equipment inside when the bank took over and locked the doors. She was frantic, asking Love what he thought she could do to get her things back.

Intrigued by the situation and feeling confident he could help his friend, he offered to come and see what he could do. He was in Columbia when she called, so he turned off the expressway and headed for the beach.

That was two years ago. He never made it home to regroup.

Today, Love is the proud owner of the former Plex, now known as The X Gym Sports Mall, located in Fantasy Harbor off U.S. 501 in Myrtle Beach.

“I knew this was a sign from God, this was what I was supposed to do,” said Love.

The X Gym Sports Mall

Love has used the last two years to create his dream. He has transformed the 200,000-square-foot facility into a sports, fitness and entertainment wonderland that offers space to practice a variety of sports, fitness equipment, workout classes, massage chairs, a coffee bar and more.

He is looking forward to filling the facility with vendors from several sports-related businesses and retailers to go along with the array of sports and fitness equipment currently available. When he reaches 100 percent capacity, this dream will be his reality. He continues to improve the Sports Mall every day and has hopes of future development in the area surrounding his business, which includes the now-defunct Freestyle Music Park.

The Roller Rapper novel

During the transformation of The X Gym Sports Mall, Love found the person he had been looking for. It was one evening when there was a professional wrestling match going on at The X. Love happened to look over the shoulder of a disheveled-looking man. He had a sketch book and was drawing. Immediately Love knew that this was the artist he wanted to make his next dream become reality.

He approached the man and found out he was homeless and didn’t have a dime to his name. Love reached out to him and offered him an opportunity to get back on his feet. Love would provide him with what he needed to get his life on track and help him start over in return for his artwork. Love wanted to create a graphic novel and needed an artist.

The graphic novel takes the story of the Roller Rapper and puts it into a different format from the documentary. The use of fictional, cartoon-like characters make it easier for everyone to understand the true message behind Love’s story, he said.

He started to think about the story when he was skating down Route 66. He wanted to use the book as a mode of entertainment to spread the message of love and tolerance of others. He came up with one of the main characters, the Roller Rapper, who creates the “cool to be kind movement” and promotes random acts of kindness.

“What if people were nice and kind, life wouldn’t be so bleak, we need to stop all of the violence, quit all of the fighting. Maybe with a positive role model like the roller rapper, we could start changing this,” said Love. “Things fall apart when people don’t cooperate; we definitely need a ‘cool to be kind’ movement. If we all begin to care for each other, the world will become a better place.”

His next experience

“I would really love to see the Fantasy Harbor area and [Freestyle Music Park] open soon. My goal is to take this large abandoned building and turn it into the catalyst to jump-start the redevelopment of this district. The community can help by supporting locally owned and operated businesses. I can’t do this alone. I need the community to help. Together we can make this community that we live in a better place and do something for ourselves rather than focusing only on the tourist industry and large corporate businesses,” said Love.

Love will never stop making his dreams come true. Besides finishing his novel, his other dreams include making the novel into a motion picture, filling The X Gym Sports Mall to full capacity, finding the woman of his dreams, and having his own television show one day.To contact Love, call 236-0009 or visit The X Gym Sports Mall at 568 George Bishop Parkway in Myrtle Beach. He can be reached via email at xmyrtlebeach@gmail.com.

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