Dr. Fredric Brandt, at fundraiser held at 583 Park Avenue, NYC in May of 2014. (Photo by Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan/Sipa USA) (Sipa via AP Images)
When you begin to deconstruct the above photo in light of today’s headlines, it yields a multitude of insights into a left-leaning celebrity culture gone horribly wrong.
Currently making the rounds at the New York Post’s Page Six celebrity gossip section, and the often equally gossipy London Daily Mail, is a cautionary tale of the limits of wealth, medical experimentation, pop culture narcissism, and arguably satire as well. “Famed dermatologist to the stars hanged himself aged 65 at his Miami mansion after being left ‘devastated’ by comparisons to Martin Short’s doctor character in the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” Short’s Netflix series, the Daily Mail reported yesterday:
Cosmetic surgeon Dr Fredric Brandt hanged himself on Sunday at his Miami mansion.
Miami Herald columnist Lesley Abravanel told Daily Mail Online exclusively that sources close to Dr Brandt said he had hanged himself.
The City of Miami Police Department confirmed that Dr Brandt’s death was a suicide by hanging on Monday.
Abravanel said Brandt, 65, was ‘devastated’ recently over rumors comparing him to a character on the Netflix show, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
The London Telegraph adds that Brandt “was an American dermatologist known as ‘the Baron of Botox’ who owed his exhaustive knowledge of fillers to repeated experiments on himself”:
Working out of clinics in Manhattan and Miami, Brandt pioneered a look that has been dubbed the “New New Face”, attributed to the likes of Madonna and Demi Moore. A carefully calibrated regime of Botox, collagen and Restylane injections created a plump, youthful appearance that disparaging beauty critics likened to a baby’s. Brandt specialised in a procedure called the “Y-lift”, which involved the injection of filler into the area just below the cheekbones.
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After graduating from Rutgers University in New Brunswick in 1971, Brandt went on to Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia, where he toyed with various specialities before settling on dermatology. He completed his residency at the University of Miami in 1981 and set up his private practice there, branching out to a New York office in 1998. Eight years later he expanded the Florida clinic to include the Dermatology Research Institute, which currently has more than 200 patients involved in clinical studies of muscle relaxants and dermal fillers.
Brandt’s “celeb clients included Madonna, Kelly Ripa and Stephanie Seymour,” MSN reports, along with Allure magazine editor in chief Linda Wells and many others.
“Brandt also admittedly used himself as a guinea pig,” Yahoo notes:
“I’ve been kind of a pioneer in pushing the limits to see how things work and what the look would be,” Dr. Brandt told the New York Times. “Would I change anything I’ve done? I might not have used as much Botox, because you don’t want to look quite as frozen.”
Occasionally, expensive plastic surgery, diet, and an intense exercise regimen can produce amazing results. Christie Brinkley, at age 61, looks fantastic. But far more often, we’ve all seen the photos of Hollywood actresses “of a certain age” with waxworks skin and collagen-stuffed lips who more closely resemble Janice, the lead singer for the Muppets’ Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem rock group, than actually anything remotely human. And more recently, Bruce Jenner has made all of the gossip sites, as he seems to determined to transform himself from aging Olympic superstar to the second coming of Michael Jackson to…well, who knows where his surgical experiments will ultimately lead?
Or as the New York Times noted last year in its profile of Brandt:
To visit La Grenouille, Le Cirque, the Four Seasons or the Core club, or to travel the benefit circuit in New York and Los Angeles, is undoubtedly to encounter a Brandt creation, a person whose skin is smooth and yet not freakishly taut, whose cheeks possess the firm curvature of a wheel of Edam, whose unblemished flesh calls to mind a Jumeau bisque doll, a baby’s bottom or, perhaps, Madonna.
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Over a recent lunch of grilled salmon and sparkling water at La Lunchonette in Chelsea, Dr. Brandt remarked that his goal was to “restore a face to harmony.” As strong winter sunlight streamed through a window, he instinctively moved to the shadows, shielding his pale skin. “I approach each face with a visual perception, an artistic perception and a medical perception,” he said.
When Garren Defazio, the hairdresser who gave Farrah Fawcett her wings, cropped Victoria Beckham’s hair into a pixie and turned Madonna into a blonde, first saw Dr. Brandt 14 years ago, it was because, as he explained by phone from London, when you are surrounded all day by a mirror or cameras, there is a certain business imperative to look fresh.
“Fred wants everyone to be fresh,” Mr. Defazio said. “You’ve got to remember that he’s perfecting his patients. That’s his fantasy, himself.”
Back in 2011, Adam Carolla had a brilliant metaphor for the current state of plastic surgery. In one of his podcasts, he described the technique, along with Botox and other surgical/medical techniques, as currently going through the same experimental phase as digital special effects went through in 1990s Hollywood, i.e., some outstanding examples when it all works, and plenty of weirdness when it doesn’t. Like CGI in Hollywood, there’s no doubt, in the coming decades, plastic surgery and its spin-offs will become even more seamless and difficult to detect — and even more ubiquitous.
But in the meantime, the quest for eternal youth, combined with, as Diana West dubbed it in 2007, The Death of the Grown-Up, continues to produce some head-shaking results, even amongst those who perform the procedures on celebrities, and should have enough sense to know that they’re going too far.