Thursday, August 16, 2007

Blinded By the White: Hollywood Teeth

Usually just one glimpse tells you those chiclet choppers aren't original equipment - but not always. Cosmetic dentistry has of the famous has evolved a long way since George Washington put his wooden teeth in a bedside glass each night. (Alright, they weren't wooden. When Washington was inaugurated as president in 1789, he had only one natural tooth left in his head. His dentures were made of a hippopotamus ivory base carved to fit his gums with ivory uppers and 'donated' human teeth in the lower plate, all fastened to it by gold screws. The whole thing was held in place in his mouth by spiral springs.)

Hollywood does a better job of preparing the stars for their big moment, but sometimes not by much. When something is out of proportion, the human eye picks up on it in a split-second and tells us so. Thousands of years ago, the Greeks set out to explain beauty as a mathematical relationship: the 'Golden Ratio' expressed as 1 to 1.618. This is not to say that you can't make it in Hollywood without your teeth. Just ask Walter Brennan!

Who has the most ridiculous fake teeth these days? Oh, the choices.

Gary Busey probably has the scariest: "[m]y teeth have been identified as a piano farm." Showing too many new and improved teeth can also be disconcerting in a big-bad-wolf way: the leering smiles of Dyan Canon and Sally Kellerman in Boynton Beach Bereavement Club (2005) or latter-day Loretta Swit all come to mind.

Of course, the British are famous for bad teeth. Tony Blair perhaps exemplifies that nation's trend to go with what you've got. And it certainly works in character parts and comedy. As Mike Myers knows, yeah baby! he can get a laugh just by opening Austin Power's lips.

But there are plenty of celebrity Brits who went in for extreme mouth makeovers with their first paycheck. David Bowie wasted no time. A long-time heavy smoker, his porcelain crowns and veneers are impervious to staining. Victoria Beckham, the poster child for healthy body image, reputedly forgoes smiling because she dislikes her teeth so much– despite having had work done.

It goes without saying that no one in Hollywood can brush their teeth without wearing sunglasses to prevent being Blinded by the White. America Ferrera had her smile insured for $10 Million through Lloyd's of London. Aquafresh White Trays is sponsoring the insurance and donating $1 for every box sold between now and August 31 to a program which provides dental care for women in need. Dental bleaching can also be done professionally in the dentist's chair using light- or laser-assisted procedures using higher-concentration peroxide gel or take-home teeth molds and application instructions.

Getting porcelain veneers is a more intensive procedure. A veneer is a thin shell of porcelain with a color, translucence, and texture that is similar to tooth enamel. It is bonded permanently to the tooth, usually the front ones, by resin cement after acid etching or filing of the damaged, discolored, or misshaped tooth. They're the up-to-date version of the crown, which goes over the whole tooth and preserves less of the original tooth.

One mistake people make is mismatching their tooth color with their skin tones, hair and age. "When somebody's teeth jump out and seem like a night light in a dark room, that's porcelain veneers or crowns," said one high-profile Beverly Hill's cosmetic dentist. "The Regis Philbin Chicklet look, that opaque white that looks ridiculous, you're not going to get that with bleaching."

Generally, veneers are used when a star's grin has spaces or crooked, chipped or small teeth. For example, Hilary Duff recently got porcelain veneers to go over at least six of her front teeth. As Duff explained, "[m]y teeth aren't the strongest, and I kept chipping them on the microphone."

The changed proportions of Hilary Duff's smile have been widely commented on. The veneers break that 'Golden Ratio' and the viewer's mind rejects the look as horsey. Another example is Jessica Simpson's fake front teeth: her ever-so-slight overbite brings on images of a rabbit once you've placed overly bright veneers over them.

Although not known for his on-camera grinning, Michael Douglas been smiling a lot after marrying again. He also has had a less-than-subtle procedure that harks back to the days of dentures look. (Catherine Zeta Jones had her own pearly whites done while performing in The Darling Buds Of May series in the early '90s.) Teeth tend to wear down due to osteoporosis of the upper/lower jaw as well as discolor with age. There is a loss in facial fat in the mouth region, a deflation of the lips as well. Look at any photograph from the turn of the century to see what tooth loss does for the over-40 mouth.

Male actors seem to have a thing for taking their teeth on and off for a part. Denzel Washington has porcelain veneers and he removed them for Malcom X (1992). Brad Pitt allegedly broke a tooth while opening a beer bottle with his teeth to get into character for Kalifornia (1993), reviewed as: "[h]alf-assed in its edginess but full-on trashy, this blood-drenched road movie features an over-the-top Brad Pitt in his Method actor phase..." And he supposedly voluntarily visited a dentist to have pieces of his front teeth chipped off for the role in Fight Club (1999); more likely a veneer was accidentally damaged during filming. Pitt's teeth were once again restored each time filming concluded. Jim Carrey's chipped tooth in Dumb & Dumber (1994) is real. He just had the cap removed for the duration of the filming.

And then there are the roles that don't call for snaggle teeth....Russell Crowe landed his first film part after being persuaded to replace a front tooth. According to Crowe:

"[u]ntil I was 25, I had one tooth missing. When George Ogilvie cast me, he asked me about it, and I told him the story and that I thought it was very false of me to go and get a tooth cap. He was very nice about it, listened to it all, and said, 'All right, well, let me put it this way, Russell. You're playing the lead character in my film, right? The character of Johnny has two front teeth....' "
Johnny Depp donned gold caps for his Captain Jack Sparrow role in Pirates of the Caribbean (2003) and then wore them back to France because he was in a rush to get home. Diamond gold grills are available for the modern gangsta look. Check it out. Rappers Lil Jon, Snoop Dogg, Slim Thug, David Banner, Paul Wall, and the Ying Yang Twins layout $10,000 or more for a jewelry box of a mouth. Nelly's smash hit Grillz is an an ode to oral ostentation: "I got my mouth lookin' something like a disco ball/ ... I got the diamonds and the ice all hand-set/ I might cause a cold front if I take a deep breath." A consumer adviser for the American Dental Association says non-stop wear traps bacteria under a grill, which can result in cavities, gum disease and even bone loss.

Who else has snap-on teeth? There actually is a product called Snap-On Smiles for those who don't have $20,000 for a reconstruction. Said the dentist-inventor:

"In the beginning, it made me sick. I thought I invented some serious medical device, but all people wanted to do was use it to make themselves look like celebrities!"
Many consumers request Sarah Jessica Parker's perfect smile, not realizing it hasn't always been so. According to one interview with the star, during a Broadway performance of Annie she knocked part of her tooth out with a scrubbing brush while singing Hard Knock Life.

When it comes to hard knocks, Eddie Van Halen went Britney and Lindsay one better when he went through rehab this spring. He got new teeth as well! (Can you pick out the before?)

Just remember, boys and girls, do what your mother says: floss and brush for 2 minutes after every food or drug.

Interested in this look?

Like the music we played on-air?

Nelly featuring Paul Wall, Ali & Gipp - Sweatsuit - Grillz

"Weird Al" Yankovic - Polka Party - Toothless People

R. Kelly - Double Up - Sweet Tooth

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Old Hollywood Styles

efore there was plastic surgery and photoshop, the stars kept up an illusion of glamorous perfection without resorting to knives, needles, or software. How did they do it? The answer is the Big Five: RKO, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, MGM, and Paramount Pictures.

During the Golden Age of Hollywood, the studio system owned the stars, who were literally created and exploited to suit a studio's needs. Actors and actresses were contract players bound up in 5-7 year contracts to a single studio, and could be loaned out to other film companies at any time. It wasn't even until 1945 that stars gained a legal right to freelance. (Quick: who was the last contract player signed? Jamie Lee Curtis in 1977!)

A star or starlet was literally a construct; a studio controlled the minutiae of stars' images in and out of pictures with their mammoth in-house publicity departments. There was nothing candid about it. What you saw was what you were meant to see.

For instance, in 1945 when a blotto Clark Gable wrapped his Duesenberg around a large eucalyptus, MGM notified the police and the press, floating the myth that Gable's car was forced over the curb by a wrong-way driver. Unlike Lindsay Lohan, the drunken escapade was not witnessed by paparazzi-- they didn't exist! (The term was coined by Federico Fellini in his 1960 film La dolce vita.) And no publicized rehab stint: Gable's alcoholism was 'treated' with a 3-day drying-out in the hospital while he "recovered" from his cuts.

In 1939, Judy Garland headlined in The Wizard of Oz, an international star at just 16 years of age. Her contract stipulated that her physical appearance not change, so MGM's studio physician prescribed "diet pills" and barbiturates to sleep. If you look closely, you'll see amphetamine shakes in one Oz film scene.

Other forms of "moral turpitude" were concealed from the public. William Mann's recent biography of Katharine Hepburn points out what Hollywood knew but didn't tell: the gate swung both ways...but mostly away from her leading men. The gossip columnists and fan magazines led a symbiotic life with the studios and revealing some truths just wasn't mutually beneficial.

Most of the iconic black and white stills that we remember from old Hollywood made the most of dramatic directional lighting and makeup techniques that would be laughable in color. Look closely at the most striking photos of Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, or Audrey Hepburn. Their lips and brows are often heavily over-painted. A fan once told Hepburn: "You have the most beautiful eyes in the world!" Hepburn retorted: "The most beautiful eye makeup, maybe."

In fact, Polish-born Max Factor was probably the one individual most responsible for the silver screen image. He was the man who invented movie makeup, even coining the term itself. When Joan Crawford wanted bigger lips she went to Max, not the needle. He ran a straight line of color across Crawford's natural lip contours and it became her trademark: 'the smear.'

In the mid-30s, Clairol Hair Color was born. The studios soon realized how great peroxide blondes looked in their black and white films and conceived Mae West and, quick to follow, Jean Harlow. Not enough hair? Transplants wouldn't come about for decades and follicular unit hair transplants became popularized only in the 1990s. Instead, wigs and hair pieces were the order of the day.Everything from Billy Burke's Good Witch Glinda curls to
Lucille Ball's bright red wig came from Max Factor. According to Shirley MacLaine, Dietrich only wore wigs because she had thin hair.

Max Factor began his career at the turn of the century as an apprentice to a wig maker. He was also the supplier of choice to actors like Jack Benny, Bing Crosby, Henry Fonda, Gene Kelly, Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, and George Burns. Factor's toupées were carefully made from imported Italian, German and Balkan peasant hair and almost invisible, each strand sewed in place on a piece of fine flesh-colored lace. On occasion you can buy a famous one, like Frank's MGM model at left.

Max Factor also created false eyelashes in 1919. They did for the eye, what photoshop now does: made them larger. You can't name a silver screen icon who didn't wear them (most still do). Carol Channing made a career on them and at one point had to paint lashes on her lids after developing an allergy to the adhesive.

And breasts? Hollywood has always been famous for sex and breast is best. While it's now one of the most common cosmetic surgery procedures performed in the US, it wasn't that way before the 1960s.There was no silicone in Jane Russell's sweater. When Howard Hughes designed a steel underwire projection bra for her to wear in The Outlaw (she refused), the film's release marked the beginning of the end of film censorship.

Marlene Dietrich once referred to Elizabeth Taylor as "that British tart with the big tits." In those days on-screen nudity wasn't part of the equation; for those who were less endowed it was addressed with padding and costume design. Bette Davis once remarked about Joan Crawford's falsies: "I keep running into them, like the Hollywood Hills." When director Alfred Hitchcock insisted that Grace Kelly reshoot the Rear Window scene with falsies inside her negligee, acclaimed designer Edith Head instead surreptitiously hiked up the straps, told the distraught (disgusted?) actress to stand up straighter, and sent her back out. Hitchcock was fooled.

And the men? It was widely rumored that Frank Sinatra—all 120 pounds of him—stuffed his back pockets with handkerchiefs for the movie On the Town. Costarring opposite Gene Kelly's dancer's derrière is a lot of competition.

Feeling chubby? There was no lipodissolve or liposuction to cure that tight-fit. Instead, actors and actresses dieted, exercised, purged and generally put up with more curves than anyone tolerates in Hollywood today.

Joan Crawford was a perpetual dieter, lunching on black coffee and soda crackers (spread with mustard). She was also a jogger before the word was even invented. On the way to work in the morning she would run for a mile or so with her limousine trailing her. Orson Welles described Audrey Hepburn as "the patron saint of the anorexics." Enemas offered quick temporary weight loss through dehydration and many actresses like Marilyn Monroe chronically indulged in them (she died in 1962 when she was given an enema containing Nembutal). Even at her "happy birthday Mr. President" best, Marilyn was full-figured by today's standards. Elizabeth Hurley’s opinion: "I'd kill myself if I was as fat as Marilyn Monroe."

And it wasn't just women. Male actors dealt with their waistlines by wearing corsets long before Tim Curry thought about it. Rock Hudson said, "I did a movie with Duke Wayne and was very surprised to find out he had small feet, wore lifts, and a corset. Hollywood is seldom what it seems." (Speaking of not being who he seems...)

And the alternative to today's ubiquitous Hollywood facelift? Old age. Yes, boys and girls, the stars just got old. But as Bette Davis said: "I will not retire while I've still got my legs and my make-up box."

Hear Anne live on the Kevyn Burger show 10:00 to 11:00am Thursdays featuring Knifestyles of the Rich & Famous.