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Betsey Johnson on Turning 68, Plastic Surgery, and Tina Turner

The birthday girl.

Betsey Johnson has never been one to hold back, whether it's a McQueen tribute, neon-pink anything, or her battle — nay, full-on assault — against breast cancer. So naturally, she rode a large pink bicycle to her cupcake-laden, open-bar 68th-birthday bash last night (the fuchsia invitations were titled "Ain't It Great To Be 68!?") while her design team trailed close behind in a bubble-gum-pink Mini Cooper stretch limousine. Inside her Soho store, the designer held court in the corner of the room, yelling hoarsely over the music, clutching her cocktail, and shrugging matter-of-factly when the occasional balloon exploded loudly next to her ponytail. "Wooo! When they hit the lightbulbs, they burst," she rasped, touching our shoulder with what almost felt like maternal reassurance.

But getting down to business: How exactly does Betsey manage to keep kickin' it at her age? It’s all part of a long-term plan. "When you get older, your life shows on your face," she warned. "I knew that when I was little, so I always tried to have a good life so that I could look good at 68!" Tina Turner also gets some credit: "When I was younger, I was always just crazy about Tina Turner. I thought, 'That's the kind of woman I want to be when I grow up.' You know, gorgeous and strong and still performing no matter how old. So I try to be a good old model for young kids." Do people ever ask her offensive questions about being over the hill? "No. I've always loved being out there and up-front about my age, and my surgeries," she said, pointing to her face. (We hadn't even asked about plastic surgery yet, so this was a bonus.)

But since she brought it up: With girls getting Botoxed in their tender early twenties these days, how young is too young, in Betsey's opinion? "I don't know if we can stop that machine," she said, shrugging. "I heard on television the other day that they're hitting puberty at 7 or 8? I mean, I don't know. But it's a free country, it's a free life, do what you want. But get a good doctor! For crying out loud, pay the money to have a good doctor!" Spoken like a true child of the youthquake.

Photo: Patrick McMullan

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