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STYLE : LOOKS : KING FOR A DAY : Getting the Royal Treatment at Salons That Groom Men

June 09, 1991|CRAIG FISHER

Every 12 days, George Bush goes to a small barbershop in the west wing of the White House for a haircut. At the same time, he gets a manicure. Yes, a manicure. And a facial, if he's not pressed for time.

According to Milton Pitts, who has cut the President's hair for 16 years--and been a barber in Washington for 43--a lot of other men in the capital have become similarly fastidious. In fact, says Pitts, it's reached the point where half the customers who go to his downtown establishment for a manicure request clear nail polish. (Bush doesn't.)

So what's it like to receive the extra attention? Is it something Dad might enjoy? In Los Angeles, you can certainly find out. And recently, that's what I set out to do.

I decided to start with a full Day of Beauty (actually, about five hours' worth) at Burke Williams on Wilshire Boulevard.

Burke Williams promotes itself as "a world-class European spa . . . nestled within the heart of West Los Angeles." Since that's the ground floor of a high-rise, the overall effect is more like a doctor's office with very dim lighting. But Margaret, the young woman who called softly to me from beyond the door to the men's dressing area, did indeed seem to be European.

Margaret ushered me to a small room, then waited outside until I'd climbed between the sheets covering a table much like a doctor's examining table. Then she announced, "Now I'm going to exfoliate your skin and use essential oils and creams to make it smoother."

What ensued reminded me of what I used to do when I kept my bathroom floor really clean. First, Margaret scrubbed me with a brush. Then she used a luffa to slather me with those creams, and finally she wiped them off with a damp cloth. After that, she applied hot liquid paraffin to my back and hands to help moisturize them, and she massaged my feet.

About 90 minutes later, she led me down the hall to another room, where she introduced me to my masseuse, Maureen, who showed me how to climb into the tall, cylindrical tub that stood in one corner, all ready for my Austrian Camomile Whirlpool Bath. Maureen suggested that I soak for 20 minutes, take a quick shower and be between the sheets of her massage table by 3 o'clock.

As a bath person, I had no trouble enjoying the lightly scented, slightly churning water. But as a novice when it came to massages, I was unprepared for the feeling induced by Maureen's Pure Relaxation Full Body Massage--in a word, bliss. Sometimes I concentrated on the pressure of her fingers, kneading, it seemed, in rhythm with the New Age music piping softly overhead. At other times, my mind drifted. Before I knew it, another 90 minutes were up.

Back in Margaret's sanctum, I put up no resistance as she spritzed me with something that smelled vaguely herbal and then enfolded me in clean sheets--the Aromatherapy Body Wrap. It was time for my Spa-style Gentleman's Facial.

This was nothing if not thorough. Margaret gently squeezed my pores with tissues. She steamed my face. She creamed it and covered it with masks--one she said was clay, the other wheat germ ("This will smell like breakfast"). She also massaged my feet some more.

At 6, I returned to the dressing room. Studying myself in the mirror, I decided I looked . . . glowing. Whether this was worth a total of $280, plus tips, is another matter. Still, I was struck by how so much attention to my body could result in what felt almost like an out-of-body experience.

Yet I still had done nothing for my hair and nails. So the following week, I headed down Rodeo Drive for a scalp treatment ($55), plus a manicure and pedicure ($45), at Georgette Klinger.

The Klinger salon is a venerable temple of beauty, and the scene behind its imposing metal doors was bustling. I could also glimpse, sitting in the back, a young man who looked--well, fairly ridiculous. His jeans-clad legs stuck out from beneath a short, peach-colored robe. On his head rested a plastic shower cap.

Shortly, that man would be me.

First, though, another young man--a sort of maitre d'--led me up a flight of stairs to the hair salon. It was a little like leaving the opening scene of "The Women" and walking into "Steel Magnolias." The room was strictly utilitarian. My guide introduced me to Zina, who would be giving me my scalp treatment. Then I changed into one of those peach robes.

Zina sat me down and told me to relax. She turned an adjacent chair toward me and said, "Put your feet up." She would begin, she explained, by massaging my scalp with a toner and conditioner.

This was a vigorous, though not unpleasant, process. She followed it by massaging my neck and shoulders. Eventually, she ladled a protein pack onto my head, then stuck a steamer over it. After a few minutes more, she crowned me with a shower cap and escorted me back to the main floor for my nail appointment.

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