2006-03-23 / Editorial Page

Last week I lamented the fact that many of my childhood heroes had died. This week I'm bemoaning the fact that not a few family members, friends, television and movie personalities, though they haven't died, have disappeared. Let me explain.

Due to the current rapidly growing trend toward easily accessible elective plastic surgery, people I once recognized (not necessarily idolized) have clearly become aliens, people who have no resemblance whatsoever to their former selves.

Have you seen all the national celebrities who have opted for a nip here and a tuck there and in so doing ended up looking like something out of a horror movie? Perusing the Atlanta Journal current events page online this morning, I caught a glimpse of what used to be Kenny Rogers.

I say, "used to be" because his ruggedly handsome 67-year-old face now looks like a defective Halloween mask. Instead of allowing himself to age naturally and gracefully he has had some surgeon pull his face so tight he looks like he's in constant pain, and it's no wonder. His nose is where his forehead used to be.

Priscilla Presley, widow of Elvis, once a beautiful woman, now looks like a stand-in for the Joker in the Batman films. Mary Tyler Moore is another once famous face that now looks like a puppet with the strings pulled too tight. Ditto: Sarah Ferguson, Betty Ford, Joan Rivers, Cher, Bruce Jenner, and my next-door neighbor in Valdosta, Georgia.

And who doesn't have nightmares of sicko Michael Jackson's garish Casper the Ghost imitation? Even perky young Marie Osmond has stretched her face so far and wide she's now a human Cruella Deville.

Burt Reynolds has had so many face-lifts he's even changed his ethnicity. By yanking up his cheekbones to where his eyebrows once were he went from being a Floridatanned ex-football jock to looking like a hairy Charlie Chan.

And what's with this fat lip look? Botox, they call it. For those of you who don't know, botox treatments involve injecting (yes, with a needle) a solution into your lips that causes them to temporarily swell up. It's supposed to look, oh-no-not-that-again, sexy. And from what I've been told, the stuff is quite expensive.

Dear hearts, do you realize what's happening here? People actually pay big money to have someone stick needles into their lips! And folks say I'm crazy.

The way I figure it, if you just must have poofy lips you'd come out a lot cheaper just letting a hive of bees loose on them. The effect would last just as long and you wouldn't be out any money, except maybe for some aspirin.

Judging by the number of Americans who visit plastic surgeons every year it's evident we are no longer satisfied to age naturally; it seems we'll do anything within our power (or pocketbook) to defy the laws of nature.

In Alabama recently I was standing by the casket of a friend who I remembered had undergone several "cosmetic procedures." I remarked to the funeral director, "Funny. I don't remember her having a dimple in her chin like that."

"She didn't," the funeral director told me. "Her husband said that used to be her belly button."

Face-lifts, boob jobs, body sculpturing, hair transplants, brow lifts, ear pinning, liposuction, teeth whitening, tummy tucks, butt implants, skin abrasion, and nose alignment have all of a sudden become commonplace, at least with the more affluent among us.

Truth be known we'd better be careful about making drastic changes in our appearance. A middle-aged woman named Betty had a heart attack and was taken to the hospital. While on the operating table she had a near-death experience. Seeing God, Betty asked if this was "it." God said, "No, you have another 43 years, 2 months, and 8 days to live."

Upon recovery Betty decided to stay the hospital and have a face-lift, liposuction, breast augmentation, and a tummy tuck. She even had a beautician come in and change her hair color figuring since she had so much more time to live, she might as well make the most of it.

She got out of the hospital after the last operation and while crossing the street was run over and killed by a speeding ambulance. Arriving at the Pearly Gates she demanded, "I thought you said I had another 40 years!" God said, "Sorry, Betty. I didn't recognize you."

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