A fascinating read from the New Times Miami:
Michael Salzhauer, Miami's Wackiest Plastic Surgeon, Risks Everything for Internet Fame
It's an awkward admission to make in the midst of surgery, but Dr. Michael Salzhauer is speaking to a captive audience. His patient — a ballerina-thin young woman named Joanna Gonzalez — lies unconscious on an operating table beneath giant flood lights. A plastic tube snakes down her throat and pumps oxygen into her tiny lungs. Her face has been smeared with iodine, leaving her looking like an Oompa Loompa.
Besides, Salzhauer's first nose job was more than ten years and 10,000 patients ago. Since then, he's augmented, reduced, reshaped, or rebuilt body parts for famous actors and aspiring models, porn stars and professional athletes' wives. His rhinoplasties, in particular, are so good he has been dubbed Miami's "Dr. Schnoz." Salzhauer wears the moniker like a heavyweight title belt.
Trading free plastic surgery for publicity might sound sketchy, but it's Salzhauer's specialty. In the past four years, he's racked up more controversies than Lindsay Lohan. When he wrote a children's book about plastic surgery, parents cried foul. When he held a runway show for his patients, critics were aghast. And when he created an iPhone app so people could envisage themselves after a nip or a tuck, critics flipped out.
Then, in February, he reached new heights of flagrancy by commissioning a music video called "Jewcan Sam, a Nose Job Love Song," featuring a Jewish teenager trying to impress a girl by getting nasal surgery. The video went viral, but so did the outrage. The Anti Defamation League accused him of exploiting Jewish stereotypes. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) launched an investigation.
For many, the video made Salzhauer into a pantomimic villain: the flashy, heartless, obscenely wealthy Miami plastic surgeon. Salzhauer hardly tried to counter the image. Instead of backing off, he's doubled down with increasingly outrageous videos, openly pushing for ever younger patients to go under the knife.
But in a city of contradictions, he's a much more complex man than the character portrayed on YouTube. Behind the persona is a deep personal belief that plastic surgery is an answer to teen bullying, a key to adult happiness — even a divine calling. Spend an hour with Dr. Schnoz, and you'll begin to believe in him. Spend a day with him, and you'll be a convert. After a week, your new best friend will be shooting Botox into your forehead.
The television show is a welcome distraction for Salzhauer, who for the past month has taken a beating in the media for his "Jewcan Sam" stunt. The idea struck Salzhauer at a party. He found himself sitting next to the producer for a group of Jewish punk rockers from New York called the Groggers, who told him that the lead singer was from Hollywood, Florida. The next day, Salzhauer called and asked the band to write a song about nose jobs.
The result is "Jewcan Sam," which manages to insult nearly every race, color, and creed in just over five minutes. Groggers lead singer L.E. Doug Staiman plays a yarmulke-wearing high school geek with a large nose and a crush on the popular girl. When she tells him she dates only guys with "perfect" noses, he gets rhinoplasty. But even after the surgery, she still won't go out with him.
Salzhauer likes to point to the plot twist as a message that people should get cosmetic surgery only for themselves. But then there's the video's final scene, in which the nerd's hot teacher gives him her number. Score one for surgery!
The video is littered with stereotypes, including the casting of a white man in blackface as Oprah. And, originally, it offered a free nose job to whomever made the best video promoting Salzhauer's practice. The doctor called it a parody, but not everyone got the joke.
"It was distasteful and offensive," said Andrew Rosenkranz of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). "Historically, Jews have been caricatured in a negative way by showing them in cartoons with a hook nose. This video plays into that stereotype."
The ADL wasn't alone in condemning the video. After national media picked up the story, the ASPS announced it was probing whether Salzhauer had violated his pledge to "uphold the dignity and honor of the medical profession." The association threatened to kick him out.
Before Gonzalez's surgery, Salzhauer laughs off the threats. "It was pretty good marketing," he says with a shrug. "I now have people calling from literally all over the world. And CNN called me 'Dr. Schnoz, the nose king of Miami.' That's something."
My Beautiful Mommy hit bookstores on Mother's Day 2008. In bright illustrations, it tells the story of a young girl whose mother gets a tummy tuck. Dr. Michael — Salzhauer's superhero-like stand-in with broad shoulders and a square chin — also gives the mom a nose job. By the end of the book, when Mommy's bandages come off, she is a veritable cartoon cougar.
Public reaction was fast and furious. Bloggers nationwide accused Salzhauer of selling plastic surgery to little kids and, even worse, sowing inadequacy. "That's an excellent message to send to your daughter," wrote Jezebel's Jessica G. "Isn't she going to think that her nose is inadequate too?"
Instead of selling surgery to soccer moms who watch reality TV, Salzhauer is targeting teenagers who compulsively watch YouTube on cell phones. Roughly 30 percent of his patients are now under 25. He'd like to triple that number. And he says he routinely operates on kids as young as 15, in part because he believes surgery can help teens avoid years of bullying.
"Public attitude is changing," he says. "Fifty years ago, people thought braces were evil. Nowadays, if you don't fix your kids' teeth, you're considered a monster."
But Goodman points out that teenagers' faces continue to change until they are in their 20s, and that counseling is a much safer option. "This sends a very sad message," Goodman counters. "This is caving in to the very worst of adolescent peer pressure. We used to tell kids to stand up against bullies. This is telling them: 'Give into bullies, and we've got just the surgery for that.'"
Salzhauer dismisses that argument. "Some people languish in life," he says bluntly. "They never reach their full potential because they are unhappy about some part of their body. People always say character is what really counts. Yeah, right. Try telling that to the kid crying into his pillow every night."
Read the rest here - it's long, but is super captivating.
And, of course, the video that set off all the outrage: