Los Angeles is awash with businesses that remind the unglamorous that celebrities are just like us: a divey karaoke bar frequented by Cuba Gooding Jr. near a deli where Scott Caan gets subs; an Italian place where you’ll almost always see Jon Hamm a few blocks north of a dry cleaner that services Tim Curry and the guy from Storage Wars.
You’re clamping your butt cheeks.... If I get my fingers caught in there, I’ll be following you around the neighborhood all the rest of the day!
She barely pauses as she rips a strip of Egyptian cotton muslin, wax and hair from just below my right cheek. The hair’s thicker there, and the tear sends an electric shock through me, something between a pinch and a burn. She goes on: “But now we wear underwear and sit at tables. Nature hasn't quite caught up.”
“In the Midwest, it's probably considered sissy—you know, they have issues. But it's hygienic,” she says, tearing another chunk off me.I manage a “Hmm,” trying to signal deep thought, though it comes out like a grunt. Esser-Thorin tells me she uses her “mama hat” with high-maintenance famous clients. I laugh, confident that I’d keep up a tough exterior. But a few minutes later her tone changes, and I realize my discomfort has been found out. Her delivery slows and turns matronly. She has donned her mama hat.
“What was that?” I ask, hearing but needing a moment to comprehend.
I am at her mercy. I get onto my elbows and knees. Esser-Thorin adjusts me, pushing my knees farther up the table to better expose my “winker.” I take a deep breath and lock eyes with the little green men. She spreads the wax.
Usually I am the question asker, the one to pull intimate bits from someone by the root.
Like molten wax, word spread. Denise Richards and Carmen Electra came in for treatments. (“It's a big industry but a small world,” Esser-Thorin explains.) Both of them mentioned Pink Cheeks on The Howard Stern Show, and soon there were lines around the block. A few gay men started showing up—hirstute pioneers asking if Esser-Thorin would be offended to wax their pubic or butt hair. “I’d say, ‘No, come on, honey!’” she tells me. “Where there’s hair, I’m there.”Straight men began to trickle into Pink Cheeks, too, accompanied by girlfriends or claiming that they’d lost a bet. This was around the late 1990s, when Tyler Durden was telling men to fight to find themselves and Frank T.J. Mackey was admonishing them to “respect the cock.” Even the men of Friends, held up by some of cultural critics as proof of masculine rot, still clung to homophobia like a shield. Mainstream culture was grappling with the idea that the nation had gone soft, and these straight men needed an excuse to justify a wax.
There’s no reason to have a mohawk hanging out of your butt.