“Some people are old at 18 and young at 90….Time is a concept that humans created.” –Yoko Ono
I was forty-eight, struggling to write screenplays and then struggling even harder to “pitch” them before much younger Hollywood producers. Even though I looked younger for my age, I felt my “age” as soon as I walked into an office. I needed to get my eyes done.
The doctor said it was no big deal and I could go home immediately after as long as I stay the first night with a friend. I took the bus into the office and after the surgery a good friend picked me up after her work. That night I swelled up, my eyes totally closed and I needed constant help. I could not see a thing. My girl friend had no idea what to do; we were both miserable. And I felt really bad that I had to put her through such an ordeal, especially since she had to go to work the next day.
A few weeks later I looked great, but began thinking, what a terrible night that was. “There must be a place people go”, I asked my doctor. “It’s an awful lot to ask a friend, and what if it were a facelift?” The doctor mentioned that the celebrities go to a hotel and hire a nurse for that first night and maybe even a few extra days as they don’t want to be seen by the paparazzi.
Driving home I kept envisioning these famous divas covered in white head dressings, eyes swollen, dressed in long flowing nightgowns hiding out in a hotel room; sneaking in and out of elevators, running down the long halls being chased by hordes of paparazzi with cameras flashing. What a comical screenplay that would make, especially when the Hollywood movie star would finally make it back into her room, safely; the paparazzi would turn to each other and ask, ”Who is she?”
Then reality hit, no actress would play that role! Even the idea of a face- lift could mean death to her career. Movie stars can’t age.
But in my head the “light bulb” went off. They need a retreat-like hideaway, a place where they could go after a procedure, instead of a hotel or instead of going home. After all, if they go home the housekeeper would squeal and would sell the story to the Enquirer for big bucks and even if they got fired, they could retire.
I understood the need and I was going to make this happen. After all I had always thought a Bed ‘n Breakfast would be the perfect job. I would write waiting for the phone to ring; I knew how to boil water and which bakery sold the best croissants. All I needed was the perfect nurse. I was 48, single, putting my daughter through college. In those thirteen years I rarely had a date, never finished a script, barely squeezed in a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner or a good nights sleep. The reason I wanted a quiet, secluded business was to enjoy just those things.
As the early months progressed, we found our niche. The Hidden Garden Hideaway became more of a retreat–a place to go in lieu of going home and not a medical facility, we had to insure the safety of our guests and not misrepresent what we could do and not do. Our staff of six included: at least one registered nurse, a nurse aide, private cook, chauffer for the Rolls-Royce, housekeeper and me—the house mother, food shopper and gofer, back up cook, backup driver, backup housekeeper, backup to everyone.
On the day of their surgery, the doctor would decide if his patient would be healthy enough to go home with an adult friend. Once the doctor signed off, then that person would be eligible to be one of our guests.
You would think that running a hideaway for the rich and famous would be nothing less than exciting and glamorous, after all you’re hanging out with the A-list Hollywood crowd. Well, not quite. Although we accepted most cosmetic procedures, the most popular was the facelift, simply because it was obvious to the public. Full facelift procedures require some form of a full head dressing. For the first day and sometimes two, there are suction tubes that collect the drainage, one on each side of the face. These are called Jackson-Pratt drains. If you have ever had a facelift, you will remember them.
The good news is that all the discomfort and bruising goes away rather quickly. The following days after the procedure, as the new face emerged, would be spent enjoying our spa treatments: warm baths, hair washing, breakfast in bed, lunch in the garden, dinner in their rooms, watching TV or napping. Quests could request a manicure, pedicure, hair stylist, makeup artist and personal shopper from Tiffany’s, Neiman Marcus or any Rodeo Drive boutique.
Hardly a day passed without a celebrity checking in or checking out. And there were days when every female member of a TV series or soap was booked into a room. The series character doesn’t age on TV as fast as they do in real life, so it was a popular habit to get “tweaked” every year. Yes, it was exciting to meet these people, but there was nothing pretty or glamorous about running such a niche hotel. It was more like a reality E.R. or the Nip ‘n Tuck series that runs non-stop 24/7. Tune in to The Hidden Garden at 3:00AM and something “exciting” would be happening.
I share this with you so you can get the picture of what these guests looked like and why they never left their rooms. And again, the purpose of our retreat was to give them a place to “hideout”. The Rolls-Royce windows were tinted, and no surgical guest ever came in the front door. Our back entrance was double-gated to keep the paparazzi out. You entered The Hidden Garden front door through a walled garden courtyard by appointment only. Many times paparazzi cameras hung on long, high booms reaching over the wall searching for clues as to who was inside. To avoid harassment, many times I had to enter and leave wearing a wig!
After only a few months in business, I began to see a pattern between lifestyle and healing, and attitude and agelessness. And after 4000 guests, I found the secret to becoming more youthful. With thirteen years of observations and interviews, it became clear to me that the choice theses guests made to change their appearance did not make them younger. The cosmetic procedure was only a trigger to youthfulness. It was an enhanced self-esteem that made them “feel” younger and that’s what made the guest change the way they perceived themselves. With this new attitude they began to act more youthful, their life changed.
Dr. Langer, a psychologist with thirty years at Harvard, is my hero. (See BOOKS) Her research has been devoted to the connection of health and aging to your mindset. She mentions in her research the benefit of increased self-esteem and the feeling of being younger after cosmetic procedures: “…women who have plastic surgery and see a more youthful self in the mirror, age more slowly”.
Just recently I discovered Dr. Langer’s theory: men who go bald early in life perceive themselves as older and may, because of those expectations, actually lead themselves to experience the effects of aging earlier, you can believe the reverse is very true. If you see yourself as being younger, you experience the effects of aging later. It wasn’t until I read some of Dr. Langer’s studies and realized that’s what I’ve been doing for the past twenty years in making changes in my life, striving to become “ageless”. And it all began after conversations with many guests at The Hidden Garden.