So. You say your biorhythms are a bit out of whack, your psyche is sickly and your epidermis needs a lift. Stop whining and listen. Judy Kennedy and Judy Babcock, two enterprising crusaders from California (where else?), recently completed a grueling nine-month, 100,000-mile journey through the health spas of North America. The distilled wisdom of their sweat is now available in The Spa Book (Crown, $14.95), published in April.
“So what?” you ask sweetly. Well, dear, you might be interested to know that “the spa will be the vacation spot of the ’80s, and not just for women,” according to Babcock.
Anticipating this—not to mention book royalties and free fun in the sun—the two Judys volunteered to perspire for your sins. They visited 30 spas (three together), and gathered information by phone and mail on 34 others. By the time the ordeal was over nine months later, they had suffered through a lifetime of exotic spa treatments—560 exercise classes, 300 massages (Swedish to Shiatsu, apricot oil to Tiger Balm), 200 whirlpool baths, 25 salt rubs, 25 hours of serious scrubbing with loofahs, kosher salt and crushed pearls, 40 hours wrapped in Dead Sea salt and herb-infused linens, yoga classes, reflexology lessons and polarity therapy.
The results were both impressive and exhausting. By the end of the project, the two had long since blown their publisher’s advance of $10,000, Babcock was $5,000 in the hole, Kennedy was out $2,000, the manuscript was three months late, and both needed yet another spa fix to de-stress. Was it worth it? Consider that if not for The Spa Book the authors might never have discovered that:
(1) George Hamilton and his mother often go to spas together.
(2) Whenever Dick Cavett visits the spa at Gurney’s Inn on Long Island, he just doesn’t feel the day’s complete without a massage out-of-doors on the deck by the sea in moonlight.
(3) During her occasional stays at various spas, Liz Taylor—who once lost 20 pounds in three weeks at the Palm-Aire in Florida—is shy.
Of course, there’s also a lot of practical information in the book—most of it quite vital for anyone planning a spa vacation. The book divides the country’s spas geographically, listing prices (from $50 per week at the Bermuda Inn in Lancaster, Calif. to $2,500 per week at The Golden Door in Escondido, Calif.), diet plans, health and beauty services, social ambiance and fitness programs available at each. Also offered are tips on wardrobe, matching your particular needs to the right spa, getting the most for your money. An added bonus: hard-earned hints on such esoterica as The Third-Day Spa Slump, What to Do with Your Head after an Oil Treatment, and Massage Without Fear.
The book is not, however, a Guide Michelin to these body shops. The authors neither make comparisons nor rate the spas. “It would be like trying to compare apples and rutabaga,” says Babcock. “How do you compare a rustic cabin and a diet of bean sprouts at Northern Pines with poached salmon at the elegant Greenhouse in Arlington, Texas?”
This isn’t the first time Babcock and Kennedy have collaborated. In 1972, unattached and tired of looking, they set up a singles’ service in Tucson and began working on a book designed to tell women how to live with men and preserve their sanity. But after Kennedy met and married third husband Bennet Greenwald, a real estate developer, the project was shelved.
In 1980, when the two got together again to discuss the living-with-men book at the Rancho La Puerta, a spa outside San Diego, Kennedy, now 42, came up with the idea for the spa guide. Babcock, 39, divorced, and an ex-college administrator at Cal State, did the bulk of the writing.
From the New Age Health Farm in Neversink, N.Y., where “coffee is served but not in the usual way”—meaning that at a designated hour each day guests are treated to a coffee enema—to the holistic Alive Polarity spa in Murrieta, Calif., which prefers its guests to be celibate, Kennedy and Babcock have tried it all and lived to tell the tale. Next on their agenda: a catalog of romantic things and places. Just the treatment for the post-spa blues.