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Alice Kahn

The Nose Knows: A Cautionary Tale

June 28, 1989|Alice Kahn

Baby, baby, where did our nose go?

This must be the question Michael Jackson is asking Diana Ross as reports circulate that Jackson's nose is disappearing, the result of too many plastic surgeries. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Rather than adding insult to injury by having another operation to put his nose back, Michael may want to consider a simpler solution. He could try lying and hope for a Pinocchio.

"Plastic surgery? Never heard of it," he might say.

The missing nose is just the latest mystique-making chapter in the tragicomic story of the talented superstar. He now joins such great mythic-nosed characters as Lee Marvin's silver-schnozzed villain in "Cat Ballou." Or Woody Allen's "Sleeper," who holds a nose hostage. Or Gogol's nose that roams St. Petersburg.

If the eyes are the window to the soul, then the nose is the truth-teller. When Michael Jackson starts talking to the man in the mirror, what he must confront is as plain as the nose that's not on his face.

Many of us thought Michael should have quit with the 1986 nose. That seemed to be when his career and his beak were at their peak. He was riding the success of "Thriller." He had thrilled us all with his new look, new act--the greased and gloved moonwalking stunt on the "Motown 25" TV special. Unfortunately, he or his council of economic advisers seemed to feel he had to continue to outweird his own weird act. And for this, Jackson is paying through the nose.

There is a fine line between the weird and the too-weird. Sleeping in a temperature-controlled glass coffin is weird. Having it shipped to Japan is too weird. Two nose jobs is weird. Four is a nose-dive.

Jackson's story is oddly poignant. We pay attention to him for several reasons. First, because he has song and dance talent. Second, because he has done so much for charity. And finally, because he is the only role model for young men who amass millions of dollars and a personal zoo.

Jackson's story should serve as a lesson to all of us about the limits of remaking. You just can't create the Jackson Five on your own face.

What makes Michael run to plastic surgeons so many times?

De-ethnicizing is probably the main reason people have their noses bobbed. Once we were a nation of blacks and Jews and Italians and Your-People-Here . We had accents and texture and soul food and pizza. We had matzo balls. Today, we seem to be evolving into a nation of Morgan Fairchilds.

It has also been suggested that Jackson was obsessed with a need to be like his dear friend, Diana Ross. As if we didn't have our hands full with one Supreme one. But on the bright side, he didn't attempt to emulate his other pals--Brooke Shields or that pet monkey.

One insight into the Michael Mystique came from a woman who once worked closely with Jackson. Like other Jacksonian employees, she had to sign a paper saying she would never reveal his secrets. But she revealed one to me. She said, "He's boring--boring."

So let this horror story be a lesson to all those ordinary people laboring away at quiet lives, too busy for glamour. When you keep your nose to the grindstone, you at least know where it is.

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