If it’s Wednesday, it must be Michael’s. The faithful flocked to the scene to be seen today–but it was a heck of a lot harder to be heard. We noticed several power-lunchers (Lesley Stahl, Lynn Sherr, Esther Newberg and Faye Wattleton, to name a few) who engaged in a fruitless game of musical chairs in search of a quieter spot in the dining room. I know I’m beating a dead horse here, but why does everyone have to yell? Perhaps we’ll order some ear plugs on the side with next week’s Cobb salad.
Despite the din, I was very excited to lunch with Joan Kron today because I’ve always been a big fan of her exhaustive, meticulously researched pieces on plastic surgery for Allure. PR maven extraordinaire Judy Twersky, who knows everyone, arranged for us to meet. Next March will mark Joan’s 25th anniversary with Allure. She is the only contributor besides EIC Linda Wells who has been with the beauty bible since the very beginning. Joan told me she was first hired to cover “the psychology of beauty,” but quickly segued into writing about plastic surgery. In certain circles, you can’t have one without the other. N’est-ce pas?
Having interviewed virtually every doctor and so-called expert in the field, Joan is largely considered to be the go-to resource for all things plastic surgery. The veteran of three face-lifts herself, she is also very much its most fervent cheerleader. “It’s a fact that people feel better about themselves when they think they look better, and for many people the way to do that is through plastic surgery. Let’s face it, attractive people are treated better.” Joan told me she just doesn’t understand what compels people to spew vitriol online posting vicious comments about someone else’s appearance, especially those who have undergone procedures, noting “People who have had plastic surgery are the last group that is OK to criticize.” After all, she said, “There were 15 million procedures done last year — 120,000 face-lifts, so there are plenty of people doing it.”
Not surprisingly, Joan was a friend of Dr. Fredric Brandt, the well-known dermatologist who committed suicide at his Miami home last month. His somewhat startling appearance seemed at odds with the subtle work he’d done on many celebrity clients, including Kelly Ripa and Stephanie Seymour, and was the subject of plenty of unkind comments and insinuations in much of the press he received. A short time before his death, Dr. Brandt was profiled in The New York Times, which, according to Joan “walked a fine line” on the subject of his appearance. “I worried every time there was a story in the paper [about him],” she said. “Fred was very sensitive. A lot of people told him not to read the comments [about him online], but he read all of that stuff.” Joan had dinner with Dr. Brandt three weeks before his death, and while she had no idea he was struggling with clinical depression, she was very much aware the character played by Martin Short in the Netflix comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, widely believed to be a fictionalized version of him, upset him greatly. Days after his death, in a blog post for Allure, Joan wrote, “Those of us who knew Fred Brandt well can attest that he had been obsessing about this obvious portrayal of him.”
Between bites of Dover sole, I asked Joan what celebrities she thought had the best and worst plastic surgery. “Paul Newman had it and he looked great. You only notice the bad plastic surgery,” she explained. “Most celebrities do it in little increments now so you don’t notice, but Jennifer Aniston — please! Something is going on.” When I asked her what we can expect from Bruce Jenner‘s big reveal after he’s fully transitioned into becoming a woman, she simply said, “He’s already pretty.”
At 87, Joan has embarked on a new chapter in her storied career as executive producer and director of her first documentary film, Take My Nose… Please, about — what else? — plastic surgery. She described the 55-minute film as a “seriously funny and subversive look at nearly a century of comedy and the role it has played in exposing the pressures on women to be attractive and society’s desire-shame relationship with plastic surgery.” Currently in production, the film is slated for a February 2016 release.
Joan, who has been interested in doing a film for some time, told me the idea for the documentary came about after a conversation she said with Bill Scheft, a longtime writer for David Letterman. She told him “comedians are the only people who tell the truth about plastic surgery — all the other celebrities lie” and he said, “That’s your movie.” The next time she sat at her computer, she came up with the clever title (“It just came out of me!”) and hasn’t stopped since. Bill is an executive producer on the film. Joan has assembled an impressive team of producers and film editors, including television veterans Andrea Miller and Rachel McDonald Salazar (The Sopranos, Behind the Candelabra).
The documentary follows two comedians, Emily Askin, an improv performer in Pittsburgh who has always wanted a nose job, and Jackie Hoffman, a seasoned Broadway performer here in New York City who has always regretted not having her nose done when she was a teenager. “I’m not going to tell you how it ends,” said Joan. Also included are tales from comic Lisa Lampanelli, among others. Joan Rivers will make a cameo appearance through the audiotape of one of Joan’s in-depth interviews with the late comedienne. “When I told her about the project, she said ‘I love it! That’s me. I have to be in it.'”
Last week, Joan was invited to screen a rough cut of the film for the Producers Guild of America East documentary committee and was thrilled with the positive feedback she received. “They applauded afterwards. I was told they don’t always applaud.” But, she said, getting the film completed is going to take more money–$450,000 to be exact–and she’s in search of investors. “We’re having a pitch party in two weeks.” Paging Sheila Nevins! Doesn’t it sound like the perfect fit for HBO? Joan told me she isn’t sure where Take My Nose… Please will wind up. “My goal is to be the oldest director at Sundance.”
Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:
1. Penske Media’s vice chair Gerry Byrne and Hollywoodlife.com’s Bonnie Fuller, presiding over their monthly schmoozefest. In attendance: Brandon Ralph, Michael Davis, Rob MacDonald, Meghan Peters, Susan E. Lee, Laura Lubrano, Joanie Dougherty, David Rubin, Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, Karen Bailey and E!’s Alicia Quarles
2. My friend Jill Brooke who was just named EIC of Travel Savvy with the Hampton Sheet’s Joan Jedell
3. LAK PR CEO Lisa Linden and Suzanne Dawson
4. Producer Freddie Gershon and Marty Granoff
5. Mitch Kanner
6. Act One: PR guru Paul Wilmot; Chapter Two: Niche Media’s Jim Smith and Bo Dietl
7. Book seller Glenn Horowitz
8. What were they talking about? Uber agent Esther Newberg with newsgals Lesley Stahl, Lynn Scherr and Faye Wattleton
9. PR maven Liz Kaplow and a young dark-haired power gal
11. Lynn Nesbitt
12. Writer Lisa Birnbach and three pals
14. Accessory maven Mickey Ateyeh with fellow fashionistas Hal Rubenstein and Judy Licht
15. Michael Griffin
16. Nick Verbitsky
17. Brian Sliwinski
18. Joan Kron, Judy Twersky and yours truly
20. People’s Jess Cagle (who lunched with me a few weeks ago) and agent Rob Weisbach, in for a quick trip from Los Angeles
21. Author (Jackie as Editor) Greg Lawrence
22. British Heritage owner Jack Kliger and former Saks Fifth Avenue CEO Steve Sadove; Second seating: producer Beverly Camhe, fresh off her trip to Cannes
23. Heidi Roberts
24. Legendary ad man (“BMW: The Ultimate Driving Machine”) Martin Puris
25. MTV’s Ross Martin
26. Jason Hirschhorn
27. Author Wednesday Martin, whose new book, Primates of Park Avenue, is raising plenty of eyebrows (even the Botoxed ones!) around town
Diane Clehane is a FishbowlNY contributor. Follow her on Twitter @DianeClehane. Send comments and corrections on this column to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.