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House of beauty, house of wax (6771)

6771Advocate Travel2002-10-29

House of beauty, house of wax

The soothing waters
at the Borrelli
Salon & Spa

The "Aphrodite Bath" at the Borelli Salon and Spa in West Hollywood turns out to be just as luxurious and divine as its name implies, even if it does come with a serving of Enya.

Alonso Duralde

OK, so I never go the gym, and I dress in a style that my brother-in-law likes to classify as "unmade bed." That doesn't mean I don't enjoy a good spa visit as much as the next gay man. So when the kind folks at the Borrelli Salon and Spa in West Hollywood, Calif., were kind enough to offer a sample of their Aphrodite Bath spa treatment, I was only too happy to take them up on it.

Upon arrival, I am placed in the capable hands of Everardo, who tells me he's been in the spa biz for over two years. He guides me to a private dressing room, where I take a quick steam bath before putting on the robe and sandals provided. The robe I'm given might have been roomy on Cher or Halle Berry (two celebs who I'm told are clients of the private salon rooms in back, far from the madding crowd), but on my more Drew Carey-esque physique, it's a tad snug. Not that I'm going to be keeping it on for too long, anyway. Everardo takes me to a room where I lie down on a comfy slab and begin the first stage of the process--exfoliation.

Inside the Borrelli Salon & Spa

I've never really been exfoliated before, but apparently it involves a good firm scrubbing with rock salt and essential oils. The scrapy feeling is a little jarring at first, but I soon get used to it. Soon I feel like a brisket that's just become kosher. While I remain lying on the table, Everardo rinses the salt off with several showerheads that come down from the ceiling. I have to say that while there's a lot more to come in this spa visit, taking a shower lying down ranks as one of the most relaxing and delicious experiences of my life. Borrelli could probably offer a 15-minute lie-down shower and get plenty of takers. Once the shower is completed, I get a follow-up rinse of--no kidding--honey and warm milk. A second ago, I was brisket, and now I'm baklava. Or Yemen. (It's the land of milk and honey, get it? Oh, never mind.) Either way, the whole experience is ridiculously decadent, and I'm totally loving it. Everardo sends me back to take another shower before we proceed, and on the way back to my dressing room, I sneak a lick at my honey-and-milk-covered wrist. I'm yummy!

When I return to the slab, the table now has a sheet of plastic on it, and underneath there's one of those shiny thermal blankets that campers use that looks like the product of NASA technology. Here's where the Aphrodite Bath goes all-out, as one is covered in paraffin wax. I was a little unclear as to how this was going to go down--visions of Vincent Price in House of Wax, not to mention Madonna in Body of Evidence, were going through my head. Everardo begins covering my body, starting at the feet and working his way up, with washcloths that have been soaking in warm, melted paraffin wax. (And no, they don't put hot wax there. I'm sure there are other establishments in West Hollywood that could take care of that if you so desire.) When the process is complete, you're basically mummified in the hardened wax, and your pores let out everything that's not supposed to be there.

While it's happening, however, the hot-wax treatment takes a little getting used to. It's a bit of a shock to the system for the first limb or so, but by the time Everardo gets to my upper torso, I find myself getting used to it. The next tricky part is dealing with the fact that my wax-covered arms are completely encased. I'm a born fidgeter--just ask anyone who's ever been in an editorial meeting with me. If I'm not drumming with my pen on a tabletop, I'm tapping out Morse code with my feet. So to be forced to lie still was something of a challenge. I decided that the best way to get through this part was to close my eyes and drift off into the sounds of the spa Muzak (and a volume control knob on the wall confirmed that this was, indeed, real live Muzak(tm)).

Can I digress a moment and talk about spa music? I mean, I'm no expert, but I've had my share of facials and massages over the years, and I for one am sick to death of that tinkly, floaty, post-Windham Hill new age crap. Isn't there some nice relaxing Brahms or Mozart or Miles Davis that could be played? If you can ask for a vegetarian meal on an airline, shouldn't you be able to request the "non-Music from the Hearts of Space" massage table? I'm just asking.

So anyway, there I am, immobilized with wax and unable to crack my knuckles or tap my fingers or anything, so I try to mentally drift into the spa soundtrack as a way of relaxing my physical body. Just my luck--there's an Enya song playing. So of course, while my mind drifts away, it starts drifting over a seemingly endless series of lush green hillsides straight out of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, which had an Enya song in it. And I hated The Lord of the Rings. See what I mean about spa music?

Eventually I relax, and the song changes, and things get much better. Everardo wraps the plastic sheet and the thermal blanket all around me, and puts plastic bags on my feet--he explains why, but I'm so relaxed at this point, I couldn't begin to make any sense of it--and stands by with a water bottle and straw for occasional rehydration. It's bliss. I mean, I'm one of those people who never sleeps so well as when he's wrapped up in a thick duvet and comforter, so being all mummified in warm (but slowly cooling) wax and this thermal thing and the bags on my feet is just indescribably calming and comfy. I could feel my stress melting away, my mind slowing down, my breathing becoming deliberate and relaxed. If I'd been floating in salt water, I might even have gone all Altered States. It was an amazing 90 minutes that was over all too soon.

Most body care treatments include the use of the Vichy Shower in the Wet Room.

So if, like me, you've always been dying to be pampered like a Beverly Hills matron with a relaxing and nourishing spa treatment that will leave you glowing and happy to face an uncertain world, you owe it to yourself to check out the Aphrodite Bath spa treatment at the Borrelli Salon and Spa. Because there's nothing more important than having healthy skin, especially when you dress like an unmade bed.

The Borrelli Salon and Spa is located at 8623 Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood, Calif.; for more information, call (310) 652-9597.

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