“She didn’t lose her face,” I say.
“She gained it,” says Rosenberg.
I decided to e-mail Liz Rosenberg, Madonna’s publicist since fuh-evah (and no relation to the doctor), to see if she would have lunch with me and talk about celebrities and plastic surgery. “Absofuckinlutely,” she wrote back. “Though why you think anyone I represent has done anything to their faces is beyond me. Ha-ha. Getting any artist besides Joan Rivers and Kathy Griffin to go on record about the subject is not easy. Of course one of the great quotes came from my gal Cher, who said in an interview, ‘If I want to put my tits on my back it’s my business.’ Whatever Madonna has had done—and I really don’t know—she looks truly amazing.”
A week later, the two of us are sitting at a window table at the Modern at MoMA during what has turned out to be Madonna’s biggest shit-storm in years. She is everywhere, including the front page of the Post, portrayed as a MAN EATER (while looking sort of like the Unabomber) for supposedly tempting A-Rod away from Cynthia with her forbidden middle-aged lady fruits—while at the same instant dealing with the fact that her once-devoted gay brother, Christopher Ciccone, is just beginning his Bite the Hand That Feeds Me book tour. Rosenberg, ebullient in black pedal-pushers and a fuchsia sleeveless top, tells me that she was just with Madonna while she was rehearsing for her upcoming Hard Candy tour. “She was double-Dutch jump-roping with a bunch of 18-year-old girls, and she outjumped them all. I can’t believe how fit she is.” She pauses for a moment before referencing all the recent tabloid stories. “Madonna could give a fuck. The disparity between what you read in the paper and reality is just huge. She’s perfectly fine.” She catches herself. And then lets it rip. “Guy Ritchie is homophobic? It’s so stupid. No, Christopher, it’s just you he didn’t like. It’s a Ciccone family trait: You can justify any behavior.”
I had asked her to have lunch with me before Madonna’s latest travails hit the papers because I wanted to talk to the person who, with Cher and Madonna as clients, has probably had to field perhaps the most phone calls ever about plastic surgery. Rosenberg, who has never had any surgery or even a Botox injection (“I’m not putting that poison shit in my face!”), is nevertheless practical about the cosmetic needs of her clients. “Improve the product!” she shouts. “I know they’re humans with beating hearts, but, you know, these people, they are commodities, and improving on your product is the business they’re in.” Still, she’s not about to traffic in specifics. When I ask what Madonna has done to her face, she takes a sip of water and says, “I don’t know. I have never represented anyone who has spoken to me about plastic surgery. Nor have I asked them. I don’t want to know! Anyone who has had it done, I’m all for it. It’s great. People ask me about Cher all the time.”
Cher is the very essence of Old Face cosmetic surgery run amok: too-tight skin, weird lips, eradication of interesting nose, all of which adds up to a woman we almost don’t recognize as the Cher we grew to love in the seventies. There are other, more recent examples of women who have made themselves unrecognizable as the star we once knew: Melanie Griffith, Faye Dunaway, and Jennifer Grey come to mind. They were a few of the unfortunate evolutionary steps on the way to the New New Face—not to be confused with the super-freaks and 50-footers (hot from a distance; like a cadaver with a wig close-up) who fell all the way down the slippery slope. “I once saw Jocelyn Wildenstein at an airport,” says Rosenberg. “This right here”—she touches the skin under her eyes—“looked like an ice-skating rink. I have never seen anything like it, the most translucent skin. It wasn’t human, but it was fascinating in a sort of awful but fabulous way. She must have only one layer left. These women have jumped past being uptight about it and have said, ‘I don’t even care if I don’t look human. I just don’t want to see a fuckin’ line on my face.’ ”
Instinctively, Rosenberg understands two things that many plastic surgeons agree on: One, people who start with amazing bone structure are the ones who often look better with plastic surgery. “Like Sophia Loren,” she says. “What is she? One hundred? Fucking fantastic.” And two, “you will never look natural if you get shit done to your lips.” This, of course, is the main reason that, as a friend of mine pointed out recently, Madonna is starting to look a little like Faye Dunaway: She seems to have done shit to her lips.