1 p.m. Dec. 6----
Updated with Palmer House history 3:30 p.m. Dec. 8
Here you can check out whats new with the Palmer House and take a spin through a pretty cool photo gallery. See you in the lobby...
They redid the Palmer House.
Now can they redo me?
It was only fitting that the Palmer House's brand spanking new Spa Chakra is on the former 5th floor location of the Gaslight Club. The last time I was in this 10,000-square foot space was in 1985.
Jo Collins, the 1965 Playboy Playmate of the Year had been hired as manager of the Chicago Gaslight Club. The terminally Baroque Italian club opened in 1953 and closed in early 1987. It was a men's only joint filled with really friendly waitresses in skimpy flapper outfits. The Gaslight Club was regarded as the template for Hugh Hefner's Playboy Club. I spent much of that interview grilling Collins about her 1968 marriage to baseball casanova Bo Belinsky.
I have only visited one other spa in my lifetime...
HEY, WHO'S THE PAPARAZZI? Its Sun-Times lensman
Scott Stewart snagging my rubdown from Spa Chakra
Massage Therapist Coredlia Williams
.....That was for a chocolate spa treatment at the Hershey's Spa in Hershey, Pa. I've also been patted down by a sweaty Russian dude at the Division Street Russian and Turkish Baths, 1914 W. Division St. in Wicker Park, but I don't think that counts as an upscale spa treatment.
During a recent weekend stay at the Palmer House, I broke away from watching the Ohio State-Michigan football game to have a spa treatment at Spa Chakra. The spa name denotes the body's seven chakras. Chakra means "wheel" in sanskrit. The concept is that the wheels are aligned through services and thearpies in the spa. The balance of chakras begins a healing process.
This wheel is in motion.
This wasn't my idea. My pallie Ken Price, the esteemed PR Director of the Palmer House, wanted me to get a complete feel of the hotel experience, so to speak. The spa opened in late September. There are 21 Spa Chakras world wide. A Spa Chakra recently opened in the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.
I met Anna Swies, Spa Director of Spa Chakra. She stood in front of an extremely soothing space with New Age music wandering about in the background. "You'll be getting a massage and a facial exfoliation," she said.
I have one face that shouldn't be exploited.
Suddenly I feel like Norm Crosby.
Spa Chakra has its own entrance on State Street. Guests can take elevators directly to the 5th floor. Swies said about 70 per cent of the clients are hotel guests, the other 30 per cent are Chicagoans. The spa offers 90 minute services that range between $315 to $420 (for 120 minutes, www.spachakra.com). "Other spas are about 50 minutes," Swies said. "The duration of the therapy is benefical for the body and well being. And its all Guerlain products." Of course. The Guerlain Methode' is a patented facial and body massage techinque used in Guerlain's Champs-Elysees Institute since 1939.
Before the spa treatment, clients make a selection from six different scents which travels with them throughout foot baths and even linens. "It can relax you or rejuvenate you," she said. "Clients are asked which scent they prefer." I needed rejuvenation. I wound up with linstant por homme (an invigorating citrus-jasmine scent).
I also got a 15-minute foot massage, which is complimentary for first-timers like myself. Here, before my foot massage you can obviously see I needed rejuvenation.
I ran into John Popin, a 42-year-old Manhattan attorney who was in Chicago for a convention. I don't expect to see many other guys at spas. "I'm stressed out," he said as he was picking his scent. "I'm an uptight New York lawyer. I checked out of the Palmer House at 11 and my flight is at 7. I got to burn half a day. I'm really not a spa person, but I want to drop some money, get a massage. They handed me this brochure and I'm looking at 'Wrap yourself up in leaves' and put things on your eyes (for the exfoliation). And get a vichy shower (pre-massage, 30 minutes, $105), where someone is rubbing you down. Kind of like the Kentucky Derby where they're rubbing down a horse before the race. Its bizarre, but I'm willing to go for it."
Popin loved staying at the Palmer House.
"I thought the service was wonderful," he said. "The lobby is like a landmark building with that domed top. I was very impressed. This hotel reminded me of the grand old hotels in New York. It has this yellow glow to it in the evening. The lobby bar was great. Everyone was friendly. I thought the gym was better than the standard work-out gym in most hotels. I got a good feel about this whole experience. We'll see what the spa is like."