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The Massage Dialogues

August 14, 2005

Over lunch at the Chateau Marmont, actress, writer and NPR contributor Annabelle Gurwich, who is editing "Fired," a collection of tales about jobs gone bad, and former stand-up comic Caroline Pinkey, who is currently taking a motherhood break, talked about their most basic kneads: frequent massages at undiscovered salons that don't charge a king's ransom.

Caroline Pinkey: Where do you go?

Annabelle Gurwich: I can't say. It's really important to keep it secret because you might go. But Hollywood has discovered it. There are pictures of Angela Bassett and Wesley Snipes there. I even saw Billy Zane's picture. I mean, I was like, "OK, this is over completely."

CP: I won't give you the name of my place either. I don't want to run into you there naked.

AG: I've gone from the high-end massage places to the ones where I'll lie on the floor. I don't care about the amenities. I just want a really good massage.

CP: And who wants to put on makeup and do your hair and all that stuff? You want to get down and dirty. You don't want to run into your neighbor or your mom's best friend.

AG: It's sort of like going to the doctors of the stars. I've given that up. I used to go to Barbra Streisand's gynecologist. You have to wait if the gynecologist is appearing on a morning talk show.

CP: At the Great Jones Spa in New York they beat you with oak leaves. They offer you all the extras--nice robes, green tea, antioxidants. They treat you with white kid gloves. Whereas at our places, they push you down on a mat, they push you around--and you're like, "Thank you."

AG: I prefer anonymity. For me, going to a really low-end massage place is the greatest equalizer.

CP: At the high-end spas, you have to have your legs shaved or your masseuse may say something about it. "Wow, you need a wax."

AG: It's true. And I think we share this: I want it to hurt.

CP: One lady pulled on my toes so hard that I was about to cry. Then she got up onto my back and she was walking on me.

AG: I like that.

CP: I wasn't going to say uncle.

AG: I got a call from a friend who's a casting director, and she asked me if I would spend my Saturday doing a reading for a movie. At first I said I like to spend Saturdays with my son. She said, "I'll give you a massage certificate." Before she could say "Burke Williams," I said yes. (I prefer to work for a massage. I don't get taxed on it.) Burke Williams has all kinds of crazy treatments. You go into a wet room and the woman there has on something you would imagine she would wear if she were working at a nuclear power plant. Water comes down and hits you as you lie on the table, and then they roll this seaweed thing over you, and then they massage you, and then they do some oils, and then they exfoliate you.

CP: At some spas they do that and your skin falls off.

AG: They should institute exfoliating at prison. After getting one of these treatments, you'll tell them anything. I imagine that's how they'll get Karl Rove to cave in. I mean, there are no secrets left after they have scrubbed off the outer layer of your skin with salt.

CP: If you're flying under the radar and going to the right places, you can get a great massage, $110 for three hours of pure heaven. Two hours of massaging and one hour of soaking.

AG: I'm going to follow you out of here and stalk you.

CP digs in her purse, finds a card and hands it to AG.

AG: One thing that's more important than the female bond of friendship is to be trusted with the name of a great cheap massage place. I'm so honored.

CP: It's such a perfect place.

AG: If you tell someone else, you'll eventually see Angela Bassett's picture there.

From an edited transcript.

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