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Special fall fashion issue | Metropolis / Body

We Got Beauty

Looking Fine in a Big, Gorgeous Town

August 17, 2003|Hillary Johnson | Hillary Johnson last wrote for the magazine about hair-conditioning treatments.

The four-handed Balinese massages and Vichy showers may be what draw Eastside mavens to Ona, the eclectic Asian spa above Laurent D.'s Prive salon on Beverly near La Brea (after all, what on earth could be better than taking a shower while lying down after a great massage?). But I suspect the special charm of the place comes from the building's Hollywood noir history, a moody, romantic story that bears telling.

In the 1940s, Johnny and Pearl Carreto's Original Spanish Kitchen was a fashionable celebrity hot spot. What Spago pizza is to today's stars, the Carretos' menu was to a host of Hollywood icons. But one night in 1961, the Carretos closed up, stacked the chairs on the tables, folded the napkins, locked the door, put a "closed for vacation" sign in the window and retired to their upstairs apartment--never to return.

Puzzled employees eventually gave up on the place ever opening its doors again and drifted away. Pearl remained holed up in their apartment for the next 20 years, never speaking to a soul (Johnny died in the '60s). A neighbor left her groceries on the back porch every day, but other than that no one ever saw the elderly widow. Generations of Hollywood residents, from hippies to hipsters, walked by the restaurant's "closed" sign, peered through dusty windows at the chairs, napkins, tables and salt shakers all ready to go, and wondered.

By the time Ona opened, all trace of the Carretos' mysterious, poetic lives had been renovated out of the place (a process that included some spiritual technicians as well as drywallers), but the sense of haunted magic surrounding the place remains. If the room where you get your massage seems particularly still, it may be because Pearl Carreto is yet gliding silently from room to room, trailing secrets in her wake.

Revivified in body and soul, one can always drift down La Brea to Y.M.I. (which stands for yoga, meditation, insight). Y.M.I., which has lovely indoor and outdoor asana rooms, is a yoga studio in the quintessential L.A. mold, meaning that everything about it is completely over the top--in a good way. Y.M.I. holds dozens of yoga classes, but it also employs a financial planner and an insurance specialist to help you "harmonize" your checkbook as you align your spine. This fall, Y.M.I. will also offer a program for kids that combines yoga and academics, a kind of chichi boys-and-girls club for the rich and limber (though you don't have to be rich to go to Y.M.I., where a daytime yoga class is only $8).

Ona, 7373 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 931-4442. Y.M.I., 1245 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 964-5222.

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