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Photo courtesy of Lake Austin Spa Resort

When the Lake Austin Spa Resort went shopping for a 25th-anniversary gift for guests, it aimed higher than traditional silver and picked treatments that incorporated gold, diamonds, and caviar. As a result, the dreamy destination spa now offers some of the most opulent, exclusive, and — at upwards of $1,000 — most expensive facials in the world.

In anticipation of its milestone anniversary in 2022, the Lake Austin Spa Resort’s LakeHouse Spa partnered with Swiss luxury skincare brand Valmont to introduce the new facials, which are as cutting-edge as they are indulgent.

Creme de la creme among them is The Regal by Valmont, which costs a jaw-dropping $1,050. The Regal was designed in Switzerland exclusively for LakeHouse Spa, and Austin is the only place in the world to get it.

“It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a lot of people,” says Becky Bence, Lake Austin Spa Resort lead esthetician. “And it’s definitely worth it.”

The 135-minute facial begins with the high-tech deep cleanse of the HydroFacial and proceeds with seven masks, including four collagen masks, a papaya enzyme, and a medical-grade LED light mask. Every single product from Valmont’s ultra luxe “masterpiece collection” called l’Elixir des Glaciers is used; some products are made with an uber anti-aging essence of gold sturgeon fish. All are applied using a Valmont signature “butterfly” motion that helps to lift and sculpt the face.

What puts the Regal over the top, though, are 35 minutes of choreographed massage, including a 500-year-old technique called “kobido,'' developed for the empress of Japan. Touted as a “surgical facelift as a massage," Bence says, kobido was once reserved only for nobility and the empress, then later handed down from masters to disciples.

So rarified is the Regal facial, that just six of the 21 LakeHouse Spa estheticians are trained to perform it. They learned at a weeklong “bootcamp” conducted by two Valmont experts who flew in to Austin from Switzerland.

“It was kind of like the Navy Seal program of facials,” Bence says. “It was kind of like being handed down something from a true master.”

The $1K price tag hasn’t kept people away. Since the Regal was introduced several months ago, guests have come from all over the world — and from all corners of Texas — to experience what the spa calls “the ultimate in anti-aging perfection and cellular renewal.” (After all $1,000 is still far less than an actual facelift or even regular nick-tuck-plump-ups by a cosmetic surgeon.)

Why reach all the way to Switzerland for the palatial new treatments? After emerging from COVID shutdowns, Bence says, LakeHouse Spa personnel “auditioned” just about every single skincare line out there. The estheticians voted, and Valmont won.

“We wanted to add something really special, something luxurious but yet something out-of-this-world amazing that truly benefited the skin,” Bence says. “Something almost to replace Botox and fillers …that gave you basically a natural face-lift without being invasive but still being relaxing.”

In addition to the Regal, other new Valmont facials introduced in this 25th anniversary year include:

  • The 150-minute Gold & Diamond Trifecta Facial that involves three massages, four masks, infra-red LED, and a hydrogel mask with micronized gold and diamonds, which costs $990.
  • The Golden Aura Rose & Caviar Facial, a 100-minute treatment that incorporates marine products containing caviar extract and Diamond Collagen, costing $790.
  • Energy of the Glaciers, a 90-minute facial that features rare ingredients from Switzerland and deep, structural massage of the face, stimulating muscles to tone and lift; $750.
  • Luminosity of Ice Facial, a 90-minute treatment described as a “toxin-flushing, facial reflexology-inspired facial” that uses a cocktail of seven plants organically cultivated at high altitudes; $650.

The spa also has a complete menu of non-Valmont facials and dozens of other signature treatments.

Luxe but laid back
Lake Austin Spa Resort’s Dallas-based co-owner, Mike McAdams, says the new facials are indicative of how high the spa wanted to aim for its 25th anniversary.

“Our guest demands a luxurious, more refined experience, and Valmont helps us deliver on that objective,” he says.

And yet, Lake Austin Spa Resort remains a place where robed guests can emerge from a $1,000 facial and step over geckos skittering along the sidewalk while a speedboat whizzes by pumping Beyonce through the speakers. It’s upscale but unpretentious, luxurious but laid-back — almost like “spa camp.”

“We never wanted to create the ‘zen’ spa with stark lines and absence of color – we aimed to create just the opposite,” McAdams says. “Your surroundings absolutely have an impact on how your wellness journey can unfold and influence your daily life. The colors and textures that surround you mimic the vibe of the Texas Hill Country and pay homage to nature.”

The top-rated spa and resort is a far cry now from the place McAdams purchased on January 1, 1997. Located along the shores of scenic Lake Austin in the Texas Hill Country, the property had lived previous lives as a fishing camp, nudist enclave, rodeo ranch, and diet camp.

McAdams — at the time a commercial real estate developer for Dallas-based Trammell Crow — experienced a personal work-life-balance crisis that's wholly relatable in today's post-pandemic, "great-resignation" world two-and-a-half decades later.

“I was living on a plane, traveling a lot. It was high stress, and high energy and I loved it,” he says. “In 1984, I found a place that changed my life — the Ashram in Calabasas, California. It was a true bootcamp, with physical activities and dietary restrictions that were very intense… This experience forced me to come down from my hectic lifestyle of traveling, eating, drinking, and not exercising."

After adopting healthier habits in his own life, he and an LSU fraternity brother, Billy Rucks, seized an opportunity to buy and transform the Lake Austin Spa Resort; they still co-own it today. “It was a diamond in the rough," McAdams says.

More 25th anniversary offerings
One of the biggest challenges running the spa the last 25 years (besides navigating a global pandemic), McAdams says, has been continually evolving in an industry dominated by fleeting fads and headline-grabbing gimmicks.

“The changes in the last 25 years in the spa industry have been monumental,” McAdams says. “The global wellness industry is now a $4.5 trillion economy, with ‘spa’ being one small part of the bubble. We are all seekers looking for ways to look and feel our best, and I think the growth is due to a demand in wanting to take our health into our own hands.”

One of the resort’s newest touts (proudly stated on their home page) is that they’re Texas’ only destination spa on a lake. Recently they’ve introduced a full range of water activities, including a water taxi that transports guests to the spa and back.

“When we bought Lake Austin Spa Resort in 1997, our guests would put a toe in the water — but we’ve also evolved and now understand the power of being near a moving body of water and how it affects your health, happiness, and even alleviates depression,” McAdams says.

Along with the new fancy facials and lake programming, the resort has also added new classes and activities and upgraded amenities for its 25th anniversary. Befitting its location in the “live music capital of the world,” Austin-area musicians now entertain guests nightly around s’mores pits. There’s new artwork around the campus, too.

“My favorite part of celebrating our 25th anniversary this year has been to watch a very special piece of commissioned art be installed in the first few months of the year,” McAdams says. “A local Austin artist created a 64-foot long, 400-square foot abstract mural of stone, glass, and tile designed to honor our magnificent natural location on Lake Austin.

"Within the creation, I wanted to honor all of the amazing past and present people who helped get to where we are today. Their names are included in this mural, discreetly placed within this homage to nature. Because of these special people, Lake Austin Spa Resort has enjoyed many wonderful accolades through the years.”

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To mark its 25th anniversary, Lake Austin Spa Resort is offering 25 percent off stays of at least two nights or more, through January 31, 2023. Reservations must be booked by October 31. Some packages include generous spa credits, but sadly, the $1,050 Regal facial is not 25 percent off. Find more information at www.lakeaustin.com.

Photo courtesy of Lake Austin Spa Resort

A red light mask is part of the $1,050 Regal by Valmont facial.

Photo by Roj Rodriguez

Austin's acclaimed burlesque troupe returns to stage for first time since pandemic

Super Troupers

One local dance troupe with international reach is coming back to the stage for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. The Jigglewatts Burlesque Revue focuses on performing to live music, which often means centering local artists performing in historical styles, and almost always means they deal in the art of the unexpected.

Jolie Goodnight, a lifelong Austinite, and lover of and participant in music history, sees improvisation as a way to keep the spirit of jazz alive. She flows in between historical accounts and talking about The Jigglewatts, for whom she serves as co-producer with another native Austin dancer, Ruby Joule, who is trained in ballet and hula.

“[Musicians and dancers] got so good at working together, that the drummers would try to screw up the dancer a little bit and make her laugh, and see if he could keep us on our toes,” Goodnight says. “And, same thing, she would do something kind of wacky and the drummer would have to keep up. It's cool to go do that again.”

Shaken up by the pandemic, the Jigglewatts had to divert from their live music “symbiosis,” using what both Goodnight and Joule called “canned music,” which Joule points out has only been available to dancers in recent history. On Thursday, May 26, the troupe is returning to the stage with jazz swing band The Copa Kings, in a vaudeville revue emceed by drag queen Selma Bawdy. The commentary will touch on the historical significance of each performance, letting the eight dancers let loose and simply dance.

As an audience ambassador, Bawdy’s job is not to make the show accessible, but to expose the accessibility it innately carries as an art form. Goodnight compares burlesque to the friendliest table in a school lunchroom — a safe haven for people who haven’t found their crowd yet. Despite the inclusive nature, there is a taboo audiences have to get around just to make it to the show. Decades ago, that might have been shame about sex in entertainment. Now, it might just be the feeling of showing up naive in an audience deeply invested in the very intersectional burlesque culture.

“Now when you go to our shows, they don't feel particularly taboo ... You have access to many number of things that look tame, but there is something about taking the step to come to the show that people will feel a little apprehensive about,” says Goodnight.

There’s a strong element of theater involved in this semi-improvised dance, often touching on cultural memes and current events. When Brooklyn's famous House of Yes streamed Justin Timberlake's 2018 Super Bowl halftime performance — his first return since exposing Janet Jackson in 2004 — an aerialist dressed as Jackson dramatically unveiled one gloriously pastied breast. Drag fans, in explosive numbers now, understand this in cabaret art, but the in-jokes and unspoken etiquette can be intimidating for newcomers despite how mainstream drag has become.

Joule adds that audiences often expect something more scandalous than what they ultimately see. “There's always that gasp when you drop the bra strap … you're looking at them, you're seeing them see you, and they're like, ‘I wonder what's under there … Oh, it's pasties.’”

For this show, the theme matches what the Copa Kings play, jazz standards reminiscent of the Golden Age of Hollywood, revived for Austin’s entertainment and maybe a little paradoxical reflection. Goodnight points out that in recordings of Austin blues greats, it doesn’t sound like there’s much of an audience — often, because there isn’t. She sees the population influx since artists like Townes Van Zandt and Blaze Foley as an opportunity to support great artists while they’re up-and-coming, rather than immortalizing them later.

“This has the chance to be a heyday. It has the chance to be the roaring ‘20s,” says Goodnight. “If the number of people moving here really [does] support live entertainment, then I think people will be able to look back on this time really, really fondly.”

Tickets for The Jigglewatts Burlesque Revue featuring The Copa Kings at The Ballroom at Spider House ($25 for general admission) are available through Eventbrite.

Photo courtesy of Milan Laser Hair Removal

Austin experts list 5 things to know before you get laser hair removal

Smooth Like Buttah

Does never shaving again sound too good to be true? It's not! There are so many pros to getting laser hair removal, but even if you're certain you want to ditch unwanted hair forever and give laser hair removal a try, it's important to study up to know if this method is right for you.

Austin's laser hair removal experts, Milan Laser Hair Removal, share the top five laser hair removal questions on everyone's mind before they decide to live that stubble-free life.

1. Does laser hair removal hurt?
Lasers on your skin? Sounds scary, so we get the concern. But it doesn't come close to the pain of waxing. Many say it stings like a rubber band snap, but only for a millisecond — the time it takes for the laser to zap your hair.

Many lasers, such as the Candela GentleMaxPro used at Milan Laser, even have built-in features to minimize any potential discomfort. And to make sure you have the most comfortable laser hair removal treatments possible, go to a provider that has highly trained medical professionals operating the lasers, as Milan Laser does.

2. How much does laser hair removal cost?
Laser hair removal is surprisingly cost-effective. Here are the facts: The average person spends $3,800 in a lifetime on shaving essentials such as razors, creams, and exfoliators. But has anyone ever shaved and then never had to again? Nope! The regrowth sometimes happens in just a day or two. With waxing, the average person spends $24,000 in a lifetime on salon appointments — again, just for temporary results.

Since the results of each laser hair removal treatment are permanent, you can view the cost as an investment rather than an expense. The average Milan Laser client is 95 percent hair-free in their treated areas within seven to 10 treatments. So in the long run, you're saving time and money.

Milan Laser also offers affordable payment plans, with payments that can be as low as $29 a month.

3. How permanent is laser hair removal?
Light from the laser targets and destroys the hair follicle, so it can never grow again. When laser hair removal is performed properly, the results of each treatment will be permanent — many see a noticeable difference after their very first treatment. However, not all hair follicles grow at the same pace, so multiple treatments are needed to ensure that each one is zapped, and peach fuzz and white hair cannot be removed with laser hair removal.

That being said, new hair follicles can become active for a variety of reasons including age, hormones, and genetics, causing new hair to grow. So if possible, try to choose a provider who offers unlimited treatments at an affordable price for those occasions. Milan Laser will guarantee your results for life, so there's no worry about touch-up fees down the road.

4. Is laser hair removal safe for all skin tones?
Laser hair removal is safe and effective for all skin tones, as long as the correct technology is used. For instance, Milan Laser uses the Candela GentleMax Pro, which contains two separate laser technologies: Nd: Yag and Alexandrite. The Alexandrite is used for lighter skin tones, while the Nd: Yag is best for brown to black skin tones.

But it's more than just having the right technology. For the safest treatments possible, you'll want to select a provider who has experience treating all skin tones and knows how to tailor your treatments to your specific skin tone and hair type. That way they know exactly which laser to use and use the appropriate settings for each treatment.

Milan Laser providers have extensive experience with both Alexandrite and Nd: Yag laser technology and develop a custom treatment plan for each client, allowing them to safely and effectively treat all skin tones and make hair-free skin a reality for everyone.

5. How do I choose a laser hair removal provider?
Research, research, research! Who offers pricing plans to fit your budget? Who uses the right laser for your skin tone? What happens if you need touch-up treatments down the road? Who has great reviews? Laser hair removal is never a one-size-fits-all process, so the more in the know you are, the better experience you'll have.

Ready to kick your razor to the curb and never shave again? Give Milan Laser a call at 833-NO-RAZOR or go in for a free consultation. Visit with a local laser hair removal expert at any of Milan Laser's Austin locations, conveniently located in Austin North and a new location coming soon in Austin South.

Learn more about laser hair removal in Austin here.

Think of it as an investment.

Photo courtesy of Milan Laser Hair Removal
Think of it as an investment.
Photo Courtesy of Kendra Scott WELI

Kendra Scott's $13M gift funds future of UT Austin institute for female entrepreneurs

Designing Dreams

Local entrepreneur and jewelry maven Kendra Scott has a proven track record of giving back, especially in her hometown.

Now, the founder and executive chairwoman of the global accessories brand that bears her name has announced a $13.25 million endowment to expand and support offerings at the Kendra Scott Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute (KS WELI).

Housed at the University of Texas at Austin, the institute’s mission is to strengthen the next generation of female leaders by fostering an environment of community, diversity, inclusivity, and empowerment. The program, which aims to redefine leadership and entrepreneurship by growing the number of women-owned and women-led businesses, is a cross-disciplinary partnership between UT’s College of Fine Arts, the McCombs School of Business, the College of Natural Sciences, and The LaunchPad in Undergraduate Studies.

“Since 2019, the KS WELI has supported more than three dozen women-led startups and engaged with and equipped thousands of students through rigorous coursework, mentorships, and enriching workshops,” says founding director Lesley Robinson in a release. “This investment will help us continue to make an impact.”

At the institute’s inaugural Dream to Venture event earlier this week, Scott revealed plans for the endowment, part of her ongoing commitment to support KS WELI in perpetuity. A combination of personal and company investments, the gift will help more than 24,000 women pursue their business aspirations in the coming decade.

“This gift is about supporting the next generation of women entrepreneurs,” says Scott. “Since the inception of the KS WELI in 2019, I’ve loved seeing UT create a space where women are inspired, and motivated to be leaders in business and to use their knowledge, skills, and energy to keep changing the world and outdated business stereotypes. Through this new gift, women will continue to dismantle barriers and forge ahead to redefine entrepreneurship for many years to come.”

As part of UT’s ongoing What Starts Here fundraising campaign started in March 2022, the investment will seed and launch the Women in Entrepreneurship (WiE) Specialization in the fall 2022 semester. The partnership with the McCombs School of Business provides students with an opportunity to earn a minor in entrepreneurship.

Photo courtesy of the Black Hair Experience

Austin artists bring touring Black Hair Experience home for local debut

Curl World

Two Austin artists are creating space for Black Austinites to celebrate their hair with an exhibit called The Black Hair Experience, which opened in Austin on March 12. The interactive "selfie museum," which has locations in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C., continues its Texas tour after opening in Dallas last year.

Whether Black women want to talk about their care routines, celebrate their style against a professional background, or just bask in the spotlight for experimental shots that need never see a social media feed, the museum's co-founders did all the leg work to let the imagination run wild.

Visual artist Alisha Brooks and photographer Elizabeth Austin-Davis joined forces to "transform nostalgic moments of shared experiences into instagrammable spaces that connect visitors to moment from their childhood, the vibrancy of hair in present day, and create memories for them to cherish in future," according to their website. The duo filled several phone booth-like enclaves with props relating to Black hair, creating more than 15 scenes or surrealist backdrops for deceptively effortless posing.

“We have people of different ages, different demographics,” says Elizabeth Austin-Davis. “We have a lot of affirmations and self love. It's all about fun and being able to have creativity in our space.’

To the right of the entrance is a tiny gift shop, filled with not just hair products, but apparel, sunglasses, earrings, and notebooks. Jet Magazine covers grace the wall to the left, saved since the print publication went digital-only in 2014. One cover, featuring Aaliyah, is dated July 23, 2001. The exhibit opens into one central room: one inlet is black and covered with bamboo earrings, and another situates a black salon chair against a graphic wallpaper depicting different Black hairstyles against colorful backgrounds.

Some of the scenes refer to actual settings, but with a little more pizzazz than one could expect in a real life photoshoot. A peachy pink shopping aisle lined with hair products features a prop shopping cart, encouraging viewers via wall decal to “support Black business.” Another pink scene depicts a chic hair salon with classic checkered tiles, while the scene directly next to it deconstructs a retro at-home approach with vintage hot combs and curling or straightening tools suspended above the stove.

Austin-Davis brought her young kids to the opening event, and says she thinks her daughter understands the purpose of the project. Washing hair in their house means dancing, singing, and creating positive associations with hair care.

“We talk a lot about it,” she says. “During her wash days, I always tell her about the experience and why mommy does it. This is the actual first [opening] that they've been able to come to.”

While the Black Hair Experience has been in other states, the collaborators chose Texas as its next destination in part because the CROWN Act still hasn’t been passed after falling through last year. The legislation would have prohibited discrimination based on protective hair styles. On a national scale, the CROWN act has been passed by the House and was read in the Senate on March 22.

As part of the exhibit’s education efforts, it maintains an outreach program with a full-time community manager in every city. Local groups are encouraged to reach out and schedule time for youth to enjoy the space and take a workshop about friendship and self-love through hair.

Located at the Southpark Meadows shopping center in South Austin, the exhibit is set to run for at least 90 days with no official end date. Tickets ($30 GA, $50 with “swag bag”) are available weekends at theblackhairexperience.com.

The pop-up has plans to open in Houston later in 2022.

Owner of Austin’s newest blow dry bars jumps in headfirst with 2 salons

good hair day

The owner of two new Blo Blow Dry Bar locations wants you to know that it’s never too late to change your life.

Bindhu Isaac, the owner of the newly opened Circle C location of Blo Blow Dry Bar and the soon-to-open Cedar Park location, is a longtime physical therapist who decided to blow up (pun absolutely intended) her career to pursue her dreams.

Isaac, who graduated from the University of Texas in the 1990s, always thought she’d be a doctor of some sort. During a Zoom conversation in early March, she told CultureMap that was something her parents had always wanted for her, but she wasn’t sure she wanted the same for herself. But she went for it anyway.

After graduating from UT, she moved to New York City to pursue her physical therapy career. That’s when she met her husband and, she says, put her career on the back burner to follow his career. Then she had two kids — so her career stayed on the back burner.

“When I hit my late 30s, I told myself that I was going to make a big career change, because I wasn’t truly happy in the career that I decided to do,” Isaac says.

Even though her career had been lower priority as she focused on her family life, Isaac still made time for herself.

“I used to go get blowouts all the time. Every week, that was my downtime,” she says. “It just made me feel so good.”

She became fascinated by the beauty industry and how accessible it was becoming for everyday people. So she started doing research into how she could get involved, and she discovered the CEO of Blo Blow Dry Bar is a woman. That was the moment she decided opening franchises of Blo was the route she wanted to take.

Isaac wants to use her new career as a business owner to inspire women like her and give them a safe space to take care of themselves — “body, mind, and soul.”

“As women, we take on so much. We have many hats. A lot of us work, and a lot of us are mothers, and a lot of us are part of the community. And we need quiet time, even just getting our hair done,” she says. “As women, we need to prioritize ourselves because we get caught up with doing everything for everybody else.”

And, Isaac says, she’s discovered that it’s not all that different from her physical therapy practice.

“This is all customer service. I’m looking at somebody, greeting them, making sure they’re feeling good. And as a physical therapist, I was doing that daily,” Isaac says.

She says she recognizes that some people treat their hairstylists as therapists — and that’s pretty similar to her old career, too.

“It’s just providing motivation, giving them a safe space and providing an outlet, either verbally or physically or how to just feel better about themselves,” Isaac says. “Obviously, they’re coming in because they feel like they need to work on themselves, either physically during physical therapy or even when they’re coming into a salon.”

Isaac says it’s been a long road to get where she is now. She signed her franchise deal in 2020, right before the pandemic hit, and she’s thrilled she’s finally seeing the fruits of her labor.

And now that she’s at the salon every day, she’s moved her weekly blowouts to every three days. And her favorite look? The “red carpet.”

You can find the Circle C location of Blo at 5700 Slaughter Ln., suite 230. The Cedar Park location is coming soon.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

H-E-B unveils merch for super fans, plus more hot Austin headlines

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. H-E-B unveils merchandise for brand super fans, available exclusively at one store. Kerrville was chosen to launch the company's new line of H-E-B-branded merchandise in celebration of its 117th anniversary.

2. Austin bar transforms into a magical winter wonderland this holiday season. Don your favorite elf socks and meet the lovely citizens of “Tinseltown.”

3. Draft 'Vision Plan' for Zilker Park unveils land bridge and more possibilities. Austinites are invited to comment on a vision plan that will inform the future of Zilker Park.

4. Austin ranks among world’s 100 best cities in prestigious new report. Austin is the No. 43 best city in the world, according to a new study. (And yes, we beat Dallas.)

5. Austin airport launches new SkySquad travel assistants in time for the holiday rush. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is keeping lines moving during a period of heavy travel with a new team of airport assistants.

Steven Spielberg opens up personal history in The Fabelmans

Movie Review

For over 40 years, director Steven Spielberg has been delivering some of the most popular blockbuster movies of all time as well as a bevy of Oscar-quality dramas, a combination that’s unique to him. For his latest, The Fabelmans, he’s decided to go more personal than ever, telling a thinly-veiled version of his own childhood.

Sammy (played mostly by Gabriel LaBelle) is one of four children – and the only son – of Mitzi (Michelle Williams), a concert pianist, and Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano), a computer engineer. From an early age, Sammy is enthralled by the art of filmmaking, first remaking a train crash sequence from The Greatest Show on Earth, and gradually moving on to more adventurous stories.

Burt’s advancing career, which moves the family from New Jersey to Arizona to California, causes stress for various members of the family, most notably Sammy and Mitzi. Sammy must deal with anti-Semitic bullies, while Mitzi falls deeper into a mental health crisis. Sammy’s movies continually offer a respite for the family, though, giving him a creative outlet and the rest of them a chance to forget their troubles for a while.

Written by Spielberg – his first writing effort since 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence – and Tony Kushner, the film is heavy on emotions but presented in a way that those feelings don’t always translate. Spielberg is no stranger to depicting fraught family situations in his long career, but in showing ones from his own family, it feels like he pulled back, not wanting the scenes to be overwrought or schmaltzy.

The result is a story that isn’t as universal as some of his other films. As the film is told from Sammy’s perspective, it’s easy to get caught up in his pursuits and various discoveries as he gets older. The mindsets of the rest of the family are less clear, even though his parents and sisters are ever-present. Mitzi’s state of mind is a concern from the start, but it’s not always treated as such by other important characters.

Just as Sammy’s movies are an escape for his family, so too are they some of the best parts of the film. Sammy figuring out the process and secrets of filmmaking is informative and often thrilling, especially if you’re a cinephile. Spielberg has been considered a master for so long that watching him revisit the days when he was learning as he went is catnip for movie lovers.

In addition to being a dead ringer for a teenage Spielberg, LaBelle is a fantastic actor. It’s no easy feat to carry a movie on your shoulders, and LaBelle makes the assignment look easy. Williams’ performance will likely be more polarizing; she employs a very mannered speech pattern that works in some situations, but not all. The film also includes memorable short appearances by Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch, and David Lynch.

Spielberg has provided the moviegoing public with such pleasure over the years that he deserves to have a movie that’s mostly for him. The initial viewing of The Fabelmans left this critic wanting, but perhaps it will gain more traction on a second screening.

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The Fabelmans is now playing in theaters.

Photo by Merie Weismuller Wallace/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Gabriel LaBelle in The Fabelmans

Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta acquires award-winning California resort

tilman goes laguna

Fans of Tilman Fertitta's nationwide hospitality brands are in for a treat. The Billion Dollar Buyer has just secured an award-winning, 30-acre resort in sunny Southern California.

Fertitta has purchased the acclaimed Montage Laguna Beach Resort Hotel, a premier beachfront property in the sunny SoCal getaway destination. Notably, the Montage Laguna Beach Resort Hotel is one of only six hotels in the U.S. to score the Forbes Triple Five-Star hotel status. The Montage has also been included among Travel + Leisure’s Top Hotels in the World.

Image courtesy of Montage Laguna Beach

Fertitta's newest purchase overlooks the ocean in Laguna Beach.

“I am truly thrilled to acquire this world-renowned property and add one of America’s most iconic trophy resorts to our luxury hotel portfolio,” Fertitta noted in a statement. “I have been traveling to Laguna Beach for over 30 years. It is one of my favorite places to visit and one of the most beautiful areas in the world. The Montage is a stunning oceanfront property and one of the premier hotel brands in the world.”

Press materials didn't list the property purchase price, but Law360 reports that the deal is in excess of $660 million.

The Craftsman-style resort sits on a coastal bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Impressive amenities are highlighted by the 20,000-square-foot Spa Montage, which offers eucalyptus steam rooms, dry redwood saunas, ocean air whirlpools, fireplace lounges, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a movement studio, and a lap pool.

More outdoor fun includes two pools and direct beach access, a museum-quality fine art collection, and more than 20,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, per press materials.

Every resident space — the 260 guestrooms, including 60 suites, beach bungalow-style rooms, and multi-bedroom villas — boast stunning views of the Pacific.

Dining destinations offer chef-driven interpretations of coastal California flavors inspired by region. The property is designated and included in the distinctive Legend Collection of Preferred Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

“We are thrilled that Tilman is the new owner of this one-of-a-kind property and welcome him into the Montage family,” said Alan Fuerstman, founder, CEO, and chairman of Montage International. Mary Rogers, the Montage's GM added, “The staff is thrilled to be working with Tilman. Everyone here at the property is tremendously excited about his purchase and look forward to continuing to provide a world-class experience to all of our guests."

Aside from his palatial Post Oak Hotel in Houston, Fertitta also owns 14 other hotel properties around the country, including the award-winning San Luis Resort in Galveston, plus five popular Golden Nugget casino and hotel locations.

Another feather in Fertitta’s luxury portfolio cap is the iconic Huntting Inn, one of the most charming and historic locales in East Hampton, New York.

No stranger to California, Fertitta's presence there includes Catch Seafood and Catch Steak, Mastro’s Ocean Club and Mastro’s Steakhouse, Morton’s The Steakhouse, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, The Palm, and more — all part of his 60 brands and more than 600 concepts nationwide.