Why Kathy Griffin is going under the knife. Joel Stein wrestles with his love of surgical perfection and simultaneously outs the comedians plea for publicity
Credit: Plastic Man: Illustration by Eric Palma

Why Kathy Griffin is going under the knife

I don’t want to like fake breasts. I want to recoil at their mannequin inhumanity, their pathetic cries for attention, their desperate screams of ”Fondle me, Joel.” But while refined men are drawn toward natural beauty, I’m turned on by perky fake noses, cheek-popping face-lifts, and sleek Brazilian waxes; the latter, while not technically plastic surgery, look like they hurt just as much.

Luckily, our culture has evolved to the point where I no longer have to feel bad about my affinity for the artificial. Celebrities have been getting work done for decades, but now they’re okay with admitting it. Same with noncelebrities, or, as I like to call them, ”people whose names I don’t need to memorize.” ”Extreme Makeover” — the reality show on which people are made beautiful and then ditch all their old friends — is the second most popular thing on ABC with adults under 50. Both TLC and the Discovery Channel air similar shows, one of which is called, in an odd nod to discretion for a program that depicts women getting their breasts sawed into, ”A Personal Story.” And, while I don’t get a lot of scoops, since that would require making phone calls and stuff, I’m breaking the news right here that Kathy Griffin — thanks to some publicity-happy doctors — will unveil the results of her plastic-surgery spree on ”Entertainment Tonight” on May 27. They have to run something on weeks when Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones aren’t suing someone.

Griffin, who had previously paid for a nose job and ”a mini face-lift” with her own cash — a botched liposuction was on the house — decided she couldn’t do ABC’s reality show. ”There’s not enough of the real me left to have an extreme makeover,” she told me exclusively over the phone between procedures. Instead, she got a brow lift, Botox between her eyes and on her crow’s-feet, Japanese hair straightening, laser removal of lines under her eyes and above her top lip, a vacuuming of dead skin from her hands and neck, and a full set of veneers for her teeth, all for free. ”I’m not trying to look 20,” she said, ”but I am trying to look ‘Suddenly Susan’ season 2.”

Though she did get the approximately $40,000 worth of upgrades just before hosting NBC’s summer reality offering, ”Average Joe,” in which an NFL cheerleader is fooled into dating schmucks, Griffin claims she did it for herself. ”I don’t feel like this would help me get jobs,” she said. ”It’s just pure vanity.” Griffin became my hero when, on last year’s ”Celebrity Mole,” she became the first star in history to pocket her winnings instead of donating them to the Dogs Who Need Snausages Foundation. Now she has gifted her body to ”ET” before bragging about plastic surgery becomes so common that self-abasement is worthless. ”Why would this be more embarrassing than anything else I do in my career?” she asked. ”I was a judge on ‘Star Search’ last week.”

Wanting plastic surgery isn’t a failure of acceptance, it’s just wanting more of it. ”I like who I am fine, but I would like a free brow lift,” Griffin said. Like people who wear those cruelly deceiving water bras, Griffin is making herself more attractive by using the technology available to her, as well as what ”ET” would spend monthly on Bob Goen’s tan. ”Nobody says you’re pathetic for going on ‘Oprah’ and getting a makeover,” Griffin says. Actually, I and most people I know do, but I understand her point.

I understand because every time I’m admiring the work of a truly gifted surgeon in public, my wife gets upset and threatens to get implants. And I feel awful for making her think she’s less than beautiful. Worse yet, if she did get plastic surgery, there’s a good chance that I’d find her less attractive; I’d be embarrassed by her superficiality and self-involvement. Sure, that makes me a hypocrite, but even Griffin thinks outrageous surgical modifications are wrong. ”I’m not gonna go Wildenstein on your ass,” she says. No matter how much plastic surgery becomes accepted, men like me, she says, are always going to be a problem. ”The last thing I need is you staring at my fake rack on your way to hell,” she told me. Exclusively.