Between A Rock And A Warm, Soft Place

Where better than a spa just off the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood to experience the true rock-star treatment?

The Sunset Marquis, a hidden, family-owned hideaway that celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, has hosted everyone from Gaga to Gahan (Dave, that is—the Depeche Mode frontman was brought back to life after overdosing here in 1996).

Located within staggering distance of such notorious rock venues as the Viper Room, Whisky A Go Go, Troubadour and House of Blues, as well as eaterie Barney’s Beanery, where Janis Joplin had her last meal, the hotel proudly wears its rock-star connections on its sleeve. Not only does its website feature a slideshow of autographs by famous guests, but just off the lobby is a small art gallery that, when I visited, was hosting a Beatles photo show. And, let’s face it: not every hotel has a quotation by Guns N’ Roses axman Slash on its home page.

Cringing as I pulled up in a car that no self-respecting rocker would be caught dead in, shoulders hunched up to my ears through stress, I was already starting to unwind as I strolled under the Marquis’ marquee, the valet’s “Hope you get to relax, Ma’am!” plea echoing in my ears.

Following a $35 million overhaul that began in 2004, the sprawling property is now home to 154 suites and villas, as well as a pool, spa, bar, restaurant and recording studio.

I wandered through the leafy grounds, lingering at the little waterfall across from the open-air restaurant, where many a record deal has no doubt been struck, before wending my way to the frosted-glass door of the spa, tucked away in a corner.

At 1,800 square feet, SPA is a decent size. No tiny treatment rooms or communal lounge here: instead, there are four generously sized, lavishly appointed private suites, each kitted out with walk-in shower (with cascade rain shower head), bathroom and even a TV (mounted to the wall, lest any guest feel the urge to throw it in the pool, Keith Richards-style). By the reception desk is a cozy manicure/pedicure area. Most treatments come with use of the pool for the day and some packages include access to Equinox, the celeb-magnet gym up on Sunset. The spa’s services run the gamut from couples’ rituals to aromatherapy massages to facials by Guinot.

I was here to experience a treatment from the spa’s Rockstar Spa Services menu. I could’ve sampled the Pipe Cleaner (an acupressure point and craniosacral massage designed to help maximize vocal strength) or the Pick Up (a deep-tissue arm and shoulder massage and hand reflexology; geared toward drum, guitar, bass and keyboard players). As spa director Hina Mufti, told me, these treatments are designed “to tune-up guests going on, off and back stage.” But I’m no Plant or Page, and the closest I’ve ever come to the Grammys is watching them on TV, so I opted instead for the Hot Stone Body Treatment (80 min./$220)—a real rock (star) service, as it were.

I took a little convincing, having had a bad hot stone experience in the past (yes—I’d been burned), but reassured I was in good hands with my veteran massage therapist Christina, I was undressed and under the sheets before she could tap on the door and whisper, “Can I come in?”

The treatment began with a gentle body massage, which gradually released the stress that had built up over the last couple of weeks. Christina explained that my muscles would need to be relaxed before they could receive the warmed stones.

Easing the stones onto my arms, legs and shoulders in succession, Christina was careful to inform me in advance if a stone was especially hot. My arms were more sensitive to the heat, a drawback of long hours spent at the computer typing. But, unlike my first hot-stone hiccup, this wasn’t uncomfortable—I just had to learn to let go. Perhaps it was the soothing music (no rock soundtrack here, thankfully), perhaps it was the warm treatment bed (designed by Porsche, no less!), but within minutes I was tuning out and dropping off, yet still conscious of each stone being smoothed across my body.

Later, Christina gently placed a warmed, scented mask over my eyes and performed an Indian head massage using aromatherapy oils (George Harrison would’ve approved). Sensing my jaws were prone to tension, her deft hands worked her magic on my face and forehead too. By the time the 80 minutes were over, I wanted to barricade myself into my suite and never leave.

As a fitting finale, the menu advertises a shot of Scotch. Instead, this rock star bookended her treatment with a reviving elixir and a cup of warming green tea, then hopped back into her beat-up Honda before anyone could recognize her.

SPA at Sunset Marquis, 1200 Alta Loma Road, West Hollywood, CA 90069, 310.358.3700.

Read more about the hotel’s history here.

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