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Treatment in a Pinch

Beverly Hills masseuse Utta claims to squish out cellulite, improve skin tone and reshape her clients' bodies--all with her bare hands

June 10, 2002|HILARY E. MacGREGOR | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In this city of celluloid and image, the search for the perfect body is endless. And despite the sophistication of the populace, there is an almost naive faith that enough money can buy a cream, a salt, an herb, a wrap, a machine, an attitude, a therapy, a miracle that will strip wrinkles from your face and fat from your thighs, and keep you forever young.

Among the very pampered of this city--an underground network of the glamorous and those who serve them--pass beauty secrets unknown and unaffordable to most of us.

One of those secrets is Utta.

Utta is a Beverly Hills masseuse who claims her deep-tissue therapy will realign basic body shape, squish away cellulite and toxins and restore muscle tone. Spend an hour and $150 with Utta, and you believe that her hands could crush your fat cells and sculpt you into a Bernini statue with skin smooth and flawless as marble. Each one of her fingers could compress a Coke can.

Hidden behind a discreet brown door on the second floor of a modest brick building on Wilshire Boulevard, Utta Body Sculpture is a place that inspires superlatives, loyalty and gushing testimonials from clients. Now, Utta is routinely working 12 hours a day to fit in clients desperate for a last treatment before she departs for her traditional two-month summer vacation.

Utta doesn't advertise. Her skills spread by word-of-mouth or occasional stories about her in beauty magazines such as Elle and Allure.

She is a one-woman show who works out of two tiny massage rooms and wears a headset to answer the phone while she plies her trade. Utta's age is her secret--"Chronological age is irrelevant," she says. (Best guess: 40-ish.) She doesn't use a last name and is listed simply as Utta in the phone book.

Signed portraits of grateful celebs adorn her vestibule ("My body is still in your hands.... Cher"), and she has given last-minute tone-ups to various stars before they have stripped on screen. Those who have submitted to her kneading hands include figure skater Tai Babilonia, Daryl Hannah and Candice Bergen.

She does not claim she can make a Geena Davis into an Audrey Hepburn, nor a Marilyn Monroe into a Twiggy. A woman's frame is a woman's frame. But Utta says that women who really know their bodies will see a difference in their shape and skin tone after a session or two. Most of her clients' clothes fit differently after seven to 10 sessions, she says.

This is not just any massage. Once the client lies limp on a heated massage table, Utta attacks the fat, pulling, yanking, stretching, pinching and kneading until the skin turns pink in defense. "I go into the areas that are blocked due to little fat deposits, toxic deposits, injuries, tension, calcium deposits," says the masseuse from Munich in a soothing, singsong German accent. "I go in and break down whatever has collected. I reintroduce the circulation, and the blood comes in and flushes the waste away. It burns."

On women, those blocked areas (surprise, surprise) tend to hover between the waistline and the knees, and that irksome pad at the back of the arm.

First-timers often cry out. Occasionally they bruise.

But Utta says longtime clients get so used to the treatment they can sleep right through the pinching. Regulars swear the treatments are addictive. Anne Bennett, 49, of Brentwood, has been going to Utta twice a week for a year. She does yoga and weights regularly. She sought out Utta "basically for vanity reasons." Bennett, a mother who coordinates a conflict resolution program for at-risk teenagers, says she already ate well and got lots of exercise. But she has had her clothes taken in since her treatments began. She said her 21-year-old daughter noticed such a difference she started quizzing her on her secret. (The daughter is now an Utta addict too.)

"I've been a massage junkie all my life, and this is absolutely different," Bennett said. "It changes the texture of your skin. She really does re-sculpt your body. Your skin is not going to look like a 20-year-old, but you can look really toned and really fit without doing bizarre things." A whole group of her friends goes now: "We are Utta groupies."

Helen King (who won't reveal her age but admits to being a great-grandmother) says she has been a client of Utta's ever since the masseuse arrived in the United States 25 years ago. King first sought out Utta after suffering a ruptured disk. She said Utta healed her, and she has been pain-free ever since and has never had medical treatment for the injury. "I just have to tell you, this woman is remarkable," King says. "She just has magic in her hands. Magic in those fingers. And she is such a good human being besides."

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