Color Me Bronzed

The gift of glow? A non-tanning guy tries the airbrush treatment.

I don't tan. This isn't some troubling physiological conditionI mean, I can tan, of course, but it's never been something I've chosen to do. I don't like to lay out in the sun, and frankly, I'm not sure why anyone who enjoys spending time that way would bother to live in the Northwest. I do, however, have a natural curiosity as a writer, so when a certificate arrived at our office for a free airbrush tanas seen on TV!from downtown's newly opened Bronze Bar (2615 First Ave., 206-374-8512), it piqued my interest.

Spray tans have been popping up in the public consciousness ever since those aggressive homos on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy started convincing pasty-faced hets that they needed a little color. The result, from all reports, is free of that troublesome orange hue that tanning beds often give. And unlike tanning bedsor the sun, for that matterthe FDA-approved dihydroxyacetone (DHA) used to coat your skin in an airbrush tan doesn't lead to malignant melanoma. (A quote from the Skin Cancer Foundation Web site: "The evidence that ultraviolet radiation causes skin cancer is overwhelming. . . . ") Airbrushing also prevents the streaked quality that self- application of tanning products can cause. And if straight guys are willing to check it out, I thought, I can certainly show the same courage. (Yes, you might add warily, but straight guys are also willing to tuck in a T-shirt and belt it. Heyyou have to ignore certain signs of foreboding in the name of investigative journalism.)

Once I'd given in to the concept, I'll admit I had a moment or two of bronzed fantasy. I secretly entertained the notion that I'd come back to the office and have to act humble and coyly embarrassed while my peers in editorial grappled with which celebrity I now most resembled ("Wait! I've got itAntonio Banderas!" "Yes, totally! Antonio Banderas!"). This reverie ended the minute I called my old college friend Jamie in Pasadena for some last-minute words of support, and she snickered, "You're gonna look like Jamie Farr." Old college friends never give you an inch when you're trying to delude yourself.

Fantasy destroyedor, rather, M*A*S*H*ed the idea became a little more daunting. Bronze Bar owner Deana Finch, armed with airbrush and sensing my trepidation as she started in on my right leg, nipped my fears in the bud.

"Don't worry," she said knowingly. "You're not going to look like George Hamilton."

The laid-back Deana, who was trained in this process in some highfalutin N.Y.C. salon, then spent the next 20 minutes or so calmly bossing me around into several different poses so she could evenly coat my entire body with the subtle glow I'd cautiously chosen (you can, in fact, get as dark as Mr. Hamilton, if you'd like). It's kind of like being an artist's model, except instead of being nude you're wearing a pouffy pair of disposable bikini underwear that no one outside of a beauty professional should ever have to see you in (I think the sight may have emotionally scarred our photographer). Protective liquid latex goes on your finger- and toenailsthe DHA isn't flattering to cuticlesand the rest of you receives what can best be described as an intense misting from the airbrush, a bit chilly but not unpleasant.

After about a 10-minute drying period, I got dressed and returned to work. No Antonio comments, but no Farr sightings, either. It was, actually, a nice, subtle golden colorand became even subtler the next day, when the initial darker residue washed off (you can't shower for 10 hours after the treatment) and I was left with a base tan that could in no way draw undue attention to itself. It's with me for about a week, I'm told, maybe less if I hit the gym and sweat a lot. I don't know if I'm ready yet to give up my natural color, but this is certainly the only way I'd ever choose to tan, and I could see it as a fine indulgence to give one of my desperately white friends. As for me, it was nice to feel like one of the boys again.

An airbrush tan at the Bronze Bar is $45 for a full body application, $50 for a "Brilliant Bronze" application, and $60 for the two- application "Bridal Tan." Appointments are necessary. Gift certificates and party and bridal packages are also available.

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