"People are darker this year," sighs Marva Taylor, manager of spa development at Equinox. To the dismay of the city's aestheticians, a resurgence of eighties fashion and a bumper crop of Brazilian models with Malibu Barbie skin have made Bain de Soleil tans this season's hot accessory.
In American Psycho, a meticulously sculpted Patrick Bateman makes a memorable trip to the tanning salon, where his impressively ripped physique, clad in nothing more than eye shields, is shot lovingly and at length, first from overhead and then from the side. And it's not just fictional psycho killers who make good old-fashioned ultraviolet baking look fun: Jersey boy Jon Bon Jovi was snapped by Annie Leibovitz for the new Vanity Fair splayed across his very own tanning bed.
"That business was dead for a while, but all of a sudden it's back," says Taylor. "I yell at my clients. Every time, I tell them, 'Don't tan your face! Tan your body, and I can blend the rest!' I don't even like them to do their décolleté." She reports that clients arrive for applications of self-tanning cream with pictures in hand. "Gisele is the No. 1 person at the moment."
At Portofino Sun Center, where Gisele herself has been spotted, a steady stream of models, brides-to-be, and businessmen make up the standard clientele. Recently, says general manager Roel Kunst, there's been an influx of first-timers in search of the newly fashionable shade: "Certain people know they look better when they're dark."
"People are doing it more," confirms Emmanuelle Bourbon of Phytomer, which supplies self-tanning products to the Elizabeth Arden salon, "for one reason. You look so much better." As with any fashion trend, however, even this one is not necessarily available to all who want it. "If you don't get a tan outside," sniffs Portofino's Hunst, "if you just get pink, don't come to us."