Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Plasticonomics & F. Scott Fitzgerald

oday we discuss the latest plastic surgery scandal: our credit is maxed!

A NYTimes reporter "using a script, made identical anonymous calls to the offices of 48 prominent plastic surgeons" this month, mystery-shopping all the A-list offices across the US, and found...business is down. The article dubed it "plasticonomics: the new economic reality of vanity."

About 90 percent of the doctors' offices offered consultation appointments in three weeks or less; about 94 percent offered surgery dates in June or July. Granted, plastic surgeons exaggerate much in the same way men do in locker rooms ("I'm bigger and I get more") – but this kind of accessibility means top flight knife wielders are seeing business drop off pretty dramatically.

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote that the very rich "are different from you and me."* The Grey Lady thinks F. Scott got it wrong. The article cites a recent downturn in sales by retailers like Coach, Polo Ralph Lauren, and Tiffany's – but that's not where the very rich plunk down their Centurion Card; that's where the middle class shoppers ape the rich. It's the disposable income of the upper and middle-class that is disappearing. There's not much belt-tightening going on at Herm├Ęs, Chanel Haute Couture, and Van Cleef & Arpels.

If you're struggling to make the house payment the same week you've filled the gas tank, then yes, you're going to think twice about plunking down $7,000 for a browlift. You might opt for $500 worth of botox instead. As the economy has headed down, the number of non-surgical procedures has risen. But the number of cosmetic surgeries performed has never recovered to pre-9/11 levels. Data from the last six months of economic turn-down isn't yet available.

And that's why we love Hollywood. They are rich and they are different from you and me.

Two movies opened this week at the box office: "The Love Guru" and "Get Smart."

"Get Smart" has as it's premise that our aging Agent 99 has undergone extreme plastic surgery to reinvent herself as a 20-something ("and prettier, too"), all in the name of espionage. Casting Anne Hathaway (26) isn't much of a stretch. Steve Carell (45) is meant to be her peer.

I wonder why anyone in the screenwriters' guild thought that was fiction?

Well, perhaps they just couldn't find any 45 year-old actress who'd undergone surgery to look 20 years younger to play the part.

The 1960s originals were not an option. Don Adams (82) died in 2005 just four years short of his agent number. Barbara Feldon (76) is still kicking.

While Adams clearly had some unpleasant visits to the dermatologist in his later years, Feldon appears to have stayed out of the sun. Prior to promoting her 2002 "Living Alone and Loving It" she spent her book advance on a facelift and browlift with nice results. The teeth are a little much. She's continued to have work done but is beginning to look less like herself these days.

And the competition on screen number two? So far, Mike Meyer's rubber nose in "The Love Guru" is not making him any richer at the box office.

The rumor about Le Coq smuggling a schnauzer in his speedo? Not true– that's just careful positioning of Justin Timberlake's junk in a too small box. And co-star Jessica Alba (27) has not spent her vanity dollars on a pair of flotation devices, either. Come to think of it, Romany Malco may not look much like a hockey player, but what a swimmer's body!

Okay, I digress.

Back to economically-challenged you and me. What's a middle class girl to do? Pay off your credit cards! No, wait, I understand. To make your vanity dollars stretch the farthest consider the following economies:
  • Don't buy OTC anti-aging products– shop the high-strength brands available only through physicians' offices and ask about satisfaction guarantees.
  • Try Botox before surgery– in the right hands a modest investment will give you a chemical browlift and open up your eyes for 4-6 months.
  • Buy packaged services, like lipodissolve for spot reduction or laser treatments for veins– you know exactly what you are spending and the results are great.

*from The Rich Boy, published 1926: "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft, where we are hard, cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand."