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GIRL BEHIND A GOLDEN DOOR
Barbara La Fontaine
November 02, 1964
A Sports Illustrated writer, hoping fitness can be bought with money, goes through the gilded and glorious portal at right that gives its name to an esteemed California beauty resort. Inside for a week, she learns how those who have a few pounds and several hundred dollars to spare get themselves toned up and slimmed down
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November 02, 1964

Girl Behind A Golden Door

A Sports Illustrated writer, hoping fitness can be bought with money, goes through the gilded and glorious portal at right that gives its name to an esteemed California beauty resort. Inside for a week, she learns how those who have a few pounds and several hundred dollars to spare get themselves toned up and slimmed down

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As for pleasure, my nightdress has been laid out for me and my bed has been turned down. I have had my herb tea, have taken my bath with the Semiramis bath oil in it and have applied some Elixir d'Or—forthrightly subtitled wrinkle oil—on top of that, as instructed. It has been a long time since Eve put in a day like this, and I am not the woman I was at 13, so I am going to turn my negative ionizer on and my light off and go to sleep. (A negative ionizer, they told us at dinner—and I do not have the slightest intention of disputing what The Golden Door would teach me—emits negative ions, and negative ions are supposed to make us feel good. Ours not to reason why.)

Tuesday

They do do lots of nice things to us here, in between making us leap about with metal dumbbells and touch our toes with our elbows. We have massages every day and facials with creams that the beauticians tell us are made only with avocado and turtle oils, and manicures and pedicures. They rub our hands and feet with goo and then put mitts and boots on that warm up like heating pads, and my feet came out so soft that it hurts to walk around the swimming pool—which I guess is progress. However, I am not yet with the Herbal Wrap.

Dr. B. says, a little opaquely, of the herb wrap, "What is good for the gander is good for the geese, and what is good for the dead is good for the half alive.'" The dead in this appealing figure of speech are the mummified Egyptians, and the half alive, of course, are us. The best thing for the dead has often struck me as being burial, which I had not thought of as a treatment for the half alive, but never mind.

The herb wrap involves being enveloped, like the mummies, in a lot of spices and linen—hot, wet linen cloths, steaming and covered with herbs. Rubber sheets arc laid on a blanket, and on top of them goes the heavy wet linen, then a sprinkling of sage or rosemary or whatever. You lower your naked self in a gingerly fashion and stretch out flat, and then Doris, who is wearing what appear to be asbestos gloves to handle what you have just stretched out naked upon, wraps you all up in the rosemary, hot linen, rubber sheets and blanket.

"Do you get claustrophobia?" Doris asked as she put me away for the first time, and even as I said, "No," claustrophobia swept over me in waves. Layers of hot, wet linen weigh a ton, and they cling. You can't move a finger. Doris put a cold cloth on my steamy brow, and I lay there and regarded the ceiling, my thoughts running mostly to grave-clothes, winding sheets, wet packs in asylums and the streets of Laredo, with that poor "cowboy wrapped in white linen—wrapped in white linen and cold as the clay." I wasn't cold as the clay, anyhow.

After about five minutes real panic set in, and I raised my head to make sure somebody was going to be around when I screamed. At the same moment Ann Becker, across the room, raised her head, and we peered at each other like two turtles on their backs. Mutually reassured by our mutual alarm, we refrained from going to pieces.

The herb wrap is grand for aching muscles and, Doris says, for purifying us generally (heavy smokers exude so much tobacco that the linen reeks of it), and since I certainly do ache and no doubt need purifying, I shall try to learn to love the herb wrap.

What else? The food here is beautifully cooked by a chef named Herman McCoy, known as Harmony, who can take all sorts of healthy things and make them palatable and create desserts "as good as if they were fattening," as one of us puts it. However, tomorrow is watermelon day, and we are going to be beyond the reach of all of Harmony's skill.

Harmony is 5 feet 9 and he weighs 268 pounds, but he seems happy in his roundness from which I feel I ought to conclude something.

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