Sun, Mar 01, 2009 - Page 14 News List

[PAPERBACK: US] Who better than Joan Rivers to dish out plastic surgery advice?

The comedienne’s hymn to artificial youth may leave a nasty taste in readers’ mouths — especially since she mocks other stars who have gone under the knife

By Carole Cadwalladr  /  THE GUARDIAN , LONDON


Nazi jokes are part of Joan Rivers’ stock-in trade. Last year, for example, she compared Heidi Klum to Hitler (it was something to do with a frock). Hilarious! So here’s one for her. Should the worst happen, and the economic downturn lead to the rise of far-right parties across Europe and the re-emergence of the kind of tactics last seen on Kristallnacht, I will personally offer to burn this book.

No, really, Joan, it would be my pleasure. It’s not that Men Are Stupid ... And They Like Big Boobs: A Woman’s Guide to Beauty Through Plastic Surgery is poorly written, desperately unfunny and has a stupid title (though it is all those things). It’s that after reading how a micro-cannula is put into the fatty area of the labia majora in order to perform a vulva lipoplasty, or how you shave a dorsal hump (by scraping the excess cartilage on the septum with a scalpel and then using a chisel and a mallet to hammer away the nasal bone), I found myself having strange and violent thoughts.

But first things first. A wise man once told me that the worst refuge of the journalistic scoundrel is to criticize someone for the way they look. But there’s no point in beating around the bush: there’s a conceptual flaw at the heart of this book, namely, do you really want to take plastic surgery advice from Joan Rivers?

Joan feels no such compunction, laying into Melanie Griffiths’s face, Meg Ryan’s lips, Robert Redford’s brow and Priscilla Presley’s entire body: “Did you see her on Dancing With the Stars? More like Dancing With Madame Tussaud’s Wax Figure.”

She’s pleased with her own work, though. She’s an entirely wrinkle-free 75 and helpfully runs through her “procedures”: she had her nose thinned while still at college, the bags under her eyes done when in her 30s and her first full facelift in 1975, in her early 40s, “a truly major turning point in my life and looks.” Next up was liposuction on her thighs, then a breast reduction and a tummy tuck. She’s had her under chin “cleaned up three times,” an upper eyelid lift and “every six months or so, I go in for my Botox cosmetic shots, collagen in my lips, and if I have something to burn off, a mark or spot, I do it. I’ve also had a chemical peel ... the only procedure that has ever been painful. Last year, I had my upper arms lipo’ed so they’d look skinny in sweaters.”

She’s evangelical about plastic surgery, a true convert. “I’ve always said, ‘If everyone around the world got a nose job and lost 20 pounds (9kg), there’d be no wars.’”

But there’s no mention of the fact that she used to have bulimia, that she’s suffered throughout her life from depression and that her overcommitment to plastic surgery might in some way be connected to the fact that she was having liposuction when her husband committed suicide. Nor is there any hint that her rationale for her latest surgery — “What drives me to have both my legs and my arms attended to is the beauty ideal of the long, lean-limbed woman” — would be considered unhealthy in a 13-year-old girl; in a 75-year-old woman, it verges on the obscene.

But then, taking Joan Rivers’s advice on plastic surgery is roughly the equivalent of listening to George Best on alcohol. It’s the answer to everything. It cures all ills. It’s the American Dream made flesh. “Which would you rather have?” she asks rhetorically. “Sagging, scar-free breast or nice, perky breasts with some scars that will fade over time? (Answer? No man will ever try to cop a feel around your ankle).” Or what about a facelift? “You’ll have a feeling of rebirth, of second chances and new beginnings.” She will admit there are risks, though — just the small matters of “death, disfigurement, nerve damage, bruising, bleeding, infection, pain, numbness and scarring.”

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