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The nip/tuck duck

When it comes to plastic surgery, celebrities play it close to the chest.

June 11, 2005|Shawn Hubler | Times Staff Writer

Rarely has such a thin torso caused such a fat commotion. When a paparazzo last week smashed into Lindsay Lohan's Mercedes-Benz, photographers say, it was clear what he was after: Telltale shots of the tween idol's rapidly diminishing frame.

"She's lost tons of weight -- that's the hot story. How anorexic she looks," said veteran celebrity photographer Phil Ramey before the car crash. That, plus the inevitable Hollywood follow-up question: Did she or didn't she?

Specifically, did the 18-year-old tween idol, star of "The Parent Trap," "Freaky Friday" and the upcoming "Herbie" sequel, acquire her new Paris Hilton-Nicole Richie-esque physique with the aid of, among other things, plastic surgery?

Never mind her representatives' flat-out denials. Inquiring minds wanted, needed -- were in fact paying cash money -- to know whether liposuction was involved. Or breast reduction. Or whether she'd secretly had breast augmentation last year and then secretly undone it when her bombshell body began to conflict with her brand as a wholesome Disney protege.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday June 16, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 83 words Type of Material: Correction
Plastic surgery -- In an article and photo caption about plastic surgery and Hollywood stars in Saturday's Calendar section, The Times incorrectly reported that Sharon Stone filed a lawsuit against a plastic surgeon who claimed to have done work on her. The article should have said that Stone filed a lawsuit against a plastic surgeon who Stone says falsely claimed to have worked on her, but the surgeon has denied ever making such claims. The case is pending in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Lohan is far from the only star lately to be forced into issuing vehement plastic surgery denials that the chattering public then just as vehemently ignores.

Even as the world's all-media-all-the-time culture pressures those in the spotlight to look increasingly perfect, the boom in celebrity gossip -- abetted by globalized tabloids, digital cameras and an explosion of scoop-hungry websites -- has made nip-tuck speculation a factor for even the lesser stars.

Online Nosy Parkers, for instance, can link from any number of tabloid websites to awfulplasticsurgery.com or goodplasticsurgery.com, its sister, and see close-ups of Jessica Simpson's lips, which her publicist says were not injected with collagen.

Also there for perusal is Tara Reid's breast, which slipped from her evening dress in public last year and was photographed clearly enough that several websites have handily zoomed in on what may or may not be the scar from an implant. (Reid's response then and now was "no comment," according to her current and former publicists.)

But if anything has grown faster than celebrity plastic surgery accusations, it's the anger of accused celebrities. Sharon Stone sued a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon who claimed to have worked on her last year. "Desperate Housewives" star Nicollette Sheridan went on Access Hollywood last year to deny rumors she'd been to a plastic surgeon after syndicated gossip columnist Liz Smith said she looked "a little transgendered."

Local news anchor-turned-actress Bree Walker blogged on her sheblog.net about "the meanness that's infected our popular culture" after what she termed a "creepy plastic surgery website that's full of lies" implied that she'd had work done.

Meanwhile, publicists for Lohan's film "Herbie: Fully Loaded" are presenting entertainment reporters with a long list of topics about which Lohan cannot be asked during the movie's press junket, including, most prominently, her body and her weight.

Polls may show that cosmetic surgery is losing its stigma; prime-time television may be riddled with tummy tucks, nose jobs and extreme makeovers; you may have just bought a Botox party at your kids' school's silent auction and the guy in the next cubicle may bore you all day with tales of his new life-altering hair plugs.

But when it comes to their bodies and faces, "celebrities are talking the same amount as they always have," says Joan Kron, who pens Allure magazine's "Scalpel News" column and wrote the book "Lift: Wanting, Fearing and Having a Face Lift."

"Which is, they don't talk. It's as if their stock goes down if they're not what they appear to be."

Why deny?

"Don't people know that plastic surgery makes them look weird?" demands the founder and sole employee of goodplasticsurgery.com and awfulplasticsurgery.com, a 31-year-old Los Angeles Web hobbyist who agreed to be interviewed on condition that she be identified only as "Tara," her first name.

"People's lips don't get bigger as they age. Their hairlines don't grow backwards. They don't get cat eyes."

These facts of life, she said, have generated some 8 million hits a month for the two sites she launched two years ago as a lighthearted diversion from her day job in "customer service"; over time, she's come to view the then-and-now photos she runs as a "wake up" for both those in the limelight and the culture that makes them.

"Why don't these people stand up to these corporations that run TV and the movies?" she asked. "You shouldn't have to maim yourself just to stay competitive."

"You can't blame them," answers Santa Monica plastic surgeon Steven Teitelbaum, who, like most of his Westside colleagues, forbids his staff to discuss clients, well-known or otherwise. "A celebrity's only bankable asset is their persona."

Whether it's speaking out politically or parsing their weight loss, he said, "what they say or do can affect their careers."

Online examinations

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