Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Nice Work. If You Can Get It.

Massaging movie stars and models who aren't wearing burkas...nor anything else:

Mr. [Mohammed] Bendraoua's card calls him a "relaxiologue," which translated liberally means masseur, although one who uses a variety of techniques to restore equilibrium. ....

A massage from Mr. Bendraoua typically lasts three times as long as psychotherapy session, but with faster results. And one can see him these days at all hours of the day or night wheeling a nylon suitcase containing his portable massage table down the Rue St.-Honoré or the Place Vendôme and into the Hôtel Costes or the Ritz. His first daily appointment during Fashion Week is usually at 8 a.m. Midnight is often his last.

The son of a train conductor and a housewife, Mr. Bendraoua emigrated to France in 1989, was trained as a hospital administrator and has no background in fashion. ....

Excepting Anna Wintour, Mr. Bendraoua has had his hands on most of the staff at Vogue. .... A number of movie stars also employ him in the United States, as do dancers. But his bread and butter is fashion types.

"There's no limit," Grace Coddington, the Vogue creative director, said this week before the start of the Dior show. "It's very, very rare for a masseur to go on that long," Ms. Coddington explained, referring to her shock when first booking one of Mr. Bendraoua's $170 sessions and finding "that one hour became three hours and that one had to be totally naked." Ms. Coddington adapted, somehow.

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