Singular Profile: Practice Makes Perfect

Singular Profile: Practice Makes Perfect

Singular Profile: Practice Makes PerfectPoncho, an 11-year-old polo pony, relaxes his tight withers as Conrad Loreto, an acupuncturist and naturopathic healer, inserts another long, thin, stainless steel needle into his horse’s shoulder. Then another, and another — and with each needle, the horse’s tension seems to dissipate into the night air. “Animals know when you’re helping them,” Loreto says as he places the last of 12 needles into another energy site similar to those found in humans. “Like people, they’re sensitive to healing energy.”

A small fountain dribbles in a narrow courtyard by the main house as he leads Poncho back to his corral. Nearby is the one-bedroom Malibu cottage where Loreto lives. It’s a cozy den decorated with his own polo-inspired paintings, imported antiques and an enormous 600-year-old teak doorway that dramatically frames his bed.

Unlike most bachelor pads, Loreto’s is filled with the aroma of homemade vegetarian ragout. He serves up a dish of penne pasta drenched in delicious sauce and sprinkled with salt he informs me is 250 million years old. As we chow down, Loreto, a modern magus if ever there was one, says that unlike people who are too afraid to seize opportunities that cross their paths, he’s the type to grab on and ride hard. Like his passion for polo, which began when a friend invited him to watch a game. “He put me on a horse for the first time in my life,” says Loreto, who grew up in a suburb of New York City. “I loved it and within a week bought my first polo pony.”

Since then, Loreto has played polo all over the world but modestly says that he’s still learning to play the game. “It’s a lifetime deal, but I practice, and like everything else in life, the more you do it, the better you get.”

Glitter, glory and rock & roll

Loreto’s quest for adventure began at the age of 18, when he met a man named Jerry Morrison at an East Village health food store. Morrison, a jazz aficionado, former manager and publicist to Louis Armstrong, and close friend of Jimi Hendrix, convinced Loreto to move to Woodstock, where he became the personal driver for Hendrix, the Who and other legendary rock bands. Loreto says it seemed like an inconsequential decision at the time, but it put him at the very epicenter of the peace and free love movement, just months before the greatest rock ’n’ roll concert in history. That summer, Loreto found himself driving Woodstock headliners directly to the stage steps.

The experience led to a job offer to manage Studio Instrument Rentals in Manhattan, which provides top recording acts with rehearsal space and equipment. “It was a wild time,” Loreto says. “My Rolodex was incredible. Everybody wanted to be my friend because of my connections.” Soon after, Studio 54, notorious for hedonistic glitterati, opened just beneath his office — bringing yet another level of ground-zero pop culture to his doorstep. By then, however, the flower power of Woodstock had dissolved into the white-powder mania of the ’70s.

Time to make a move

Feeling at odds with the energy there, he took a six-week-long trip to Tahiti and decided to relocate to Los Angeles, where he worked at SIR’s Hollywood location. He later opened a restaurant called Laredo Café on the Columbia Pictures lot, site of the original “drugstore cowboy” luncheon counter. But despite his success, he’d seen his fill of showbiz types and looked for a sign.

It came when he sought treatment from a back-alley acupuncturist in the Chinatown section of San Francisco. Cured of a polo-related back injury, Loreto was inspired to enroll in the California Acupuncture College in Los Angeles. The school was the first four-year accredited acupuncture college in the country. His fascination with the healing powers of Eastern medicine inspired him to move to Asia to study with a master acupuncturist, Dr. Wa. After spending a year there perfecting his acupuncture technique, a friend asked Loreto to help him with the purchase and resale of some gold uncovered deep in the Asian jungle.

“It turned out to be 11,000 metric tons in 75-kilo bars,” says Loreto. “What was supposed to be a weeklong business deal turned into a yearlong quest to return the gold to the rightful owners. It was pretty intense.”

Conrad LoretoKeys to happiness

That adrenaline ride prompted Loreto to move to Connecticut with the idea of finally settling down and becoming a country doctor. He received his doctorate in naturopathy in 1988, the same year that he met his ex-wife. She was beautiful, “like Jaclyn Smith from Charlie’s Angels,” but Loreto says they were poorly suited. He was vegetarian, she loved burgers. She found his spiritual beliefs kooky, his conversations about reincarnation and Taoism quaint. Soon after they married, she stopped coming to his polo games. He would drive to New York to enjoy a cultural event; she preferred to remain at home. The marriage lasted three years.

“In Chinese, the character for ‘adversity’ or ‘problem’ can also be interpreted as ‘gift,’” says Loreto. “The breakup of that marriage taught me to always be true to myself.”

Loreto recalls how a swami once told him the key to happiness is to “just do the things you like. It’s that
simple” — which is pretty much how he lives his life these days.

He plans to open a healing center in Italy and has already designated a 13th-century castle for its location. He is launching an alternative medicine and nutraceutical company called Health Dynasty, selling, among other products, sexual enhancement remedies designed to heighten “random acts of passion.” In addition, he is co-producing The Golden Rule, a movie he describes as an Indiana Jones kind of story, based on his own adventures in Asia, but with a spiritual twist.

Reflecting on his life, from Woodstock to the gold bars he found in the jungle, to acupuncture and marriage, Loreto says there is one thing he’s realized. Unless the chi (or energy) is right with someone, he’d rather be alone.

“At this point in my life, I only want to be in a relationship that is whole and nourishing,” he says. “And I have pretty high standards.”

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