risa sheppard close up

A lot has been written lately about the late, great, Pilates elder Ron Fletcher. I can’t add much else to the eulogies given him by those who knew him. He was an innovator, a charismatic man, a genius, and an inspiration to all. But those of us who were lucky to know and work with him in his heyday in Beverly Hills, have some fun stories to tell.

It was the early 1970′s: A time before AIDS, a time before cell phones, before computers, a time before 9/11. I was the “kid” on the block. Just out of UCLA, I discovered the “Ron Fletcher School of Body Contrology” through a magazine article and I fell in love with the work. I did not like aerobics, but I loved to move. Ron was a mover. I loved his classes, his technique, and his philosophy.

Although I was not a dancer, I felt like one without being one. Ron was a modern dancer. He incorporated that technique into his studio and classes. Floor classes were his domain, and it became mine as well. The reformer seemed too static, too rigid. Ron’s floor classes were more flowing, more intuitive. I loved it – and still do to this day.

We had every celebrity of the 70′s you could imagine: Katharine Ross, Ali MacGraw, Ann Margaret, Barbara Streisand, you name it. We had big producers and directors as well. Heck, we were charging $75 a private session back then! We were above Aida Grey on Rodeo and Wilshire, across the street from the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

Many of our clients stayed there. Many of our clients’ husbands had mistresses there (but of course we would never tell). I quickly discovered that being a movie star did not mean living a life without problems or without having body issues. Diane, Carol, Mike and myself (all his staff) became close. We made sure the other’s clients were well taken care of. We loved Ron, we loved the work, but I was always a bit in awe of him.

When he left to move back to Texas, I thought we would never hear from him again. We all went our separate ways; I began teaching privately in homes, the others opened a studio. But I always give Ron credit for starting me on my Pilates career journey. When I opened my West LA studio in 2003, Ron contacted me. He wanted me to open a Ron Fletcher Studio, but I had been on my own for 25 years already and I couldn’t afford to shut down my studio and study with him in Tucson.

I am grateful I started with Ron 35 years ago. He will never know, but he gave a 22-year old young girl a great life and “eye popping” experiences. One day, however, I will write a book entitled “I’ll never exercise this town again!” Wait for its juicy debut!


Risa Sheppard
The Sheppard Method Pilates Studios