There is the deep-tissue massage and then there is what Dorothy Stein delivers to big-name music industry clientele: the bite massage. Stein, 48, who has gone by the nickname “Dr. Dot” since Frank Zappa bestowed it on her in 1988, has been delivering her unusual form of body work — which involves biting the backs of her clients — for as long as she can remember.
“Massage and music [were] instilled in me early on,” says the Connecticut native, whose mother instructed her to bite her back as a child for a more intense massage.
But it wasn’t until 1983 that Stein started placing her hands — and incisors — on the backs of famous musicians, starting with Phil Collen. “I went to every Def Leppard show and massaged them. I built a network with those people and eventually started massaging bands to get into shows.”
The gigs weren’t lucrative, though. Stein, who now charges between $150 and $250 an hour, worked for free until 1994, when she started making $2,000 per week on the first of three Rolling Stones tours. “[Drummer] Charlie [Watts] was the one who told me I needed to be paid,” she recalls.
In the decades since, Stein has amassed a list of celebrity clients so long she can barely keep them straight: Katy Perry, Eminem, Courtney Love and Robert Plant, to name a few. Not all of them have opted for the bite, but she says Simon Cowell liked it (“he didn’t want it too hard”) while “Juliette Lewis loved it.” David Bowie and members of the Grateful Dead also had it done, and Kanye West, whom Stein once massaged in Berlin from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m., is a fan, too. “He listened to Jimi Hendrix and was very down to earth.”
Medical experts like Dr. Holly Phillips, author of The Exhaustion Breakthrough, raise concerns about Stein’s unusual technique. Stein believes the action promotes blood circulation in the same way cupping does, however, says Phillips, “about 10 to 15 percent of human bite wounds become infected by bacteria. There is also the potential for transmission of viruses like hepatitis B.” But Stein ensures all clients know her signature move is optional. “I’m not just going to bite someone,” she explains. “Mariah Carey didn’t want it. She’s a germophobe.”
This article originally appeared in the July 30 issue of Billboard.