Millions of people will sit in front of their television for the spectacle that is the Oscars. Among them: Hollywood’s starmakers. The hairdressers who spent hours crafting updos, the designers who sketched and resketched gowns, the stylists who stacked the diamonds just so. With bated breath, they watch and wait, knowing that a red-carpet shout-out could be a career-making—and majorly revenue-boosting—moment. But there is one member of the so-called “glam squad” who knows his name will be spoken exactly nowhere near the red carpet. “It’s fun to watch the Academy Awards and see your work up there,” says Andrew Frankel, an associate clinical professor of otolaryngology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles and a facial plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills. But is it going to get Frankel any new clients? Hell no.
Welcome to the world of the celebrity plastic surgeon. Treating Oscar winners, royalty, billionaires, heads of state. Meeting, greeting, injecting—and, of course, operating on—VVVIPs the world over. The things you must see. The egos you must nurture. The tantrums you must tolerate. And, yes, the bald-faced lies you must witness.
“A 29-year-old actress came in for a face-lift.”
“As a general principle for all people, celebrity or not, there is an optimal window for a face-lift. It is my opinion [that it’s best] to do these things when they’re less severe because if you wait until you look like a droopy dog, people can see that dramatic change. If the change is subtle, you’ll get away with it. People will say things like ‘God, that woman never ages. She looks amazing,’ ” says Frankel. “But when I had a 29-year-old actress who didn’t like how she looked on a magazine cover come in here for a face-lift and say to me, ‘If I do it when I’m 29, I’ll always look 29,’ I had to explain that it doesn’t work that way. It’s almost as if they think the year that you have your surgery is when you stop aging. You have to just say no. I’m dealing with that right now with several clients. I can’t do enough to put them off.”
“They’ll deny it to the hilt.”
“It’s interesting what people relay in the media when they’re interviewed,” says Robert Singer, a clinical professor of plastic surgery at the University of California, San Diego, and a former president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. “I’ve had situations where actresses have said that they’d never have plastic surgery but that they’d consider Botox or maybe fillers, and they had just had a face-lift. They’ll deny it to the hilt,” says Frankel. Even to each other: “There was a very well-known TV show. And one day I was operating on the two stars of the show. Total coincidence,” he says. “But since they don’t want anyone to know what they are doing, they don’t even tell each other. So after the surgeries, the nurses are freaking out trying to make sure they don’t see each other. But in the end they did, and it was the weirdest moment. They looked at each other; they looked at me; I looked at them. No one said anything. It was hilarious.”
“A lot of what you read in the tabloids is really true.”
“We have five exits from our building—and we use them cleverly to divert and decoy the paparazzi,” says Frankel. But sometimes the problems start on the inside. “Years ago, we were sued by a very famous actor and his wife because there was information about them having had surgery here. A HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] violation is a federal offense, so we called the FBI to investigate who might be our leak. The agents loved it because they were out here in Hollywood interviewing all these celebrities who had had surgery. The rags aren’t all bad—a lot of what you read in the tabloids is really true. I can tell you firsthand.”
But occasionally they get it wrong.
“I once had a female celebrity in for facial surgery, and we knew there was going to be a problem with the paparazzi,” says Frankel. “She was my second case that day. The first was a regular woman from the Valley who was not famous. So we delayed discharging the first patient. When we did discharge her, we wrapped her up with a beekeeper’s hat, a veil, a scarf, and really big sunglasses. The nurse walked her out as if she were someone very, very famous. Sure enough, later that week, that lady from the Valley’s picture was on the cover of a magazine. She later called up laughing that she was on the cover of this magazine as so-and-so.”
“You’re going to see a black van.”
In this world, a house call is hardly unheard of. But there is a line between a client expecting a little hand-holding and a client who equates her crow’s-feet with, say, the nuclear launch codes. “We got a call from the assistant of one of our A-list patients,” recalls Jason Diamond, a plastic surgeon with offices in Beverly Hills, New York City, and Dubai. “She said, ‘One of our friends wants to see Dr. Diamond.’ But she couldn’t tell us who it was. Then the assistant says, ‘I’m not going to tell you who she is, but if you’re willing to get in your car and start driving, I’ll tell you where to go.’ I get in the car and start driving.” Wait. It gets weirder. The woman on the phone gave specific driving directions until Diamond arrived at a particular address. “She said, ‘OK, now you’re going to come to this house. You’re going to see
a black van.’ ” The tinted window of the van rolled down, and the man inside said, “ ‘Who are you?’ I said my name, and he asked, ‘What’s your business here?’ I said, ‘I don’t know.’ The garage door opens, and a security guard asks, ‘What’s your business here?’ and I’m like, ‘I still don’t know!’ Then finally the door to the house opens. There is this A-lister at the kitchen table with her stylist working on her hair. She’s got a fashion person, too—there were ten people there. She wanted to talk about some procedures, so we went to another room, and that was it. Since that time, I’ll only go to people’s houses when I know who they are.”