Noses out of joint over plastic surgeon's satirical promotional video
By Elinor J. Brecher
IAMI (MCT) A Jewish plastic surgeon in Bal Harbour, Fla., hired a Jewish rock band in New York and a Jewish filmmaker in Broward, Fla., to make a promotional video, and everyone involved got what he wanted out of the deal: Free national publicity.
That some of it is bad probably won't hurt the entertainers - so far the media have been spelling their names right - but the medical board that certified the doctor is investigating him for possible ethics violations, and a powerful voice in the South Florida Jewish community has condemned the video for reinforcing negative stereotypes about Jews.
The five-minute music video, about a Jewish high school kid who's been rejected by a gentile girl because of his big nose, is called "Jewcan Sam (A Nose Job Love Song)." Jewcan Sam is supposed to be a takeoff on Toucan Sam, the tropical bird on the Froot Loops box.
The video stars L.E. Doug Staiman, 24, lead singer of The Groggers, a band that does live gigs and makes satirical, Jewish-themed Internet videos.
Staiman grew up in South Florida, where he attended Jewish day schools.
Partial payment from the plastic surgeon: a free nose job for Staiman.
Dr. Michael Salzhauer, 39, markets his practice via the iSurgeon app, and a website offering "free online digital imaging" for rhinoplasty (nose jobs), breast enhancement, and "Brazilian butt lifts."
To reach him, call 305-NEW-NOSE. If you want one, it'll cost $5,000.
He once wrote a book titled "My Beautiful Mommy" (Big Tent, $19.95), aimed at 4- to 7-year-olds whose mommies have surgery to correct what he has called "the ravages of pregnancy," and has referred to himself as Dr. Schnoz.
He was also just honored at a gala by Chai Lifeline, a nonprofit organization that benefits children with life-threatening illnesses.
Hollywood, Fla., filmmaker Farrell Goldsmith brought the band and the doctor together, and says they all collaborated on the script and lyrics to the song that the band plays in the video. Salzhauer appears in a cameo - as a plastic surgeon.
"I want her, but she don't want what I am. She says you got a beak like Jewcan Sam," the song begins.
"She says I only go with guys with perfect upturned noses, so cut yours down to size."
The girl throws scissors at him and replies: "And I would love you till forever If you got your nose circumcised."
So he does, but she still doesn't want him.
However, someone else does: a bedroom-eyed young teacher who hands him a slip of paper and purrs: "Call me."
Salzhauer insists the video is "humorous and self-deprecating," and makes the point that you should never alter your appearance to please someone else. But to both the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) and the Anti-Defamation League, none of this seems kosher.
"It's highly distasteful on the level that historically, Jews have been shown in a negative way by depicting them with a hook nose," said Andrew Rosenkranz, ADL's Florida regional director.
That everyone involved is Jewish doesn't make things acceptable, said Rosenkranz.
"ADL works so hard to try to teach children about the effect of negative stereotypes," he said. "We know about the many taunts and teases that are experienced by Jewish students which are rooted in these kinds of myths. . . . It's hurtful to people, and if you know the consequence is going to be hurtful, why would you do it?"
ASPS officials released a statement saying it reviewed the video and finds it "offensive and inappropriate," and is investigating Salzhauer for violating its code of ethics.
Salzhauer then hired a Massachusetts publicist, who said her client was "more than willing to comment" on the ASPS statement, and "is also giving away a nose job to anyone in the United States who makes their own video."
During an interview at his duplex offices on Kane Concourse, Salzhauer said he originally just commissioned a song that could be used in a commercial.
"I was looking to expand my rhinoplasty practice, since that is my passion and the operation I enjoy the most and connect to personally," he said. "I thought I should do some radio ads or commercials to let people know I like rhinoplasty."
And, according to his publicist, he wanted "to connect to a younger audience."
The father of five said that growing up in Rockland County, N.Y., with a "typical big Jewish nose," he "stood out in family pictures" among siblings with "perfect button noses."
"It bothered me for a long time," he said, though it never troubled his wife, who "had reservations" when he got a nose job and a chin implant at the end of his residency nine years ago at Cleveland Clinic in Weston, Fla.
The procedures were a gift from the then-head of his department, Salzhauer said.
He sees many children with "self-esteem issues, and some begin at a very young age: first, second, third grade. The more precocious come in as teens to get it fixed."
Salzhauer said rhinoplasty makes up about 30 percent of his practice, and the number of African-American patients who seek it outnumber Jews. A small percentage are younger than 18.
Salzhauer and Staiman got in touch late last year.
"(Staiman) told me that everyone in the band has these massive, deformed noses, and asked about a group rate on rhinoplasty," Salzhauer said.
Then they decided to shoot a video. They shot in his office, and at Brauser Maimonides Academy in Dania Beach, Fla., which Staiman once attended. Rabbi Avram Skurowitz, Head of School, is a Staiman family friend, and according to Goldsmith, 39, "was very gracious."
The school acknowledged the band had permission to record there, but said Friday the rabbi was unaware of the video's content. A statement issued by Maimonides said the school did "not condone or approve of the content."
However, in the closing credits of the video, the band thanks Skurowitz and his wife, among others.
Salzhauer said that he shares "ownership of the song" with the band, which posted the video on YouTube, where ABC News found it, uploaded it to its own site, and sought comment from ASPS.
Salzhauer denies he did anything unethical.
"I knew that humor is a matter of taste and that some wouldn't like it, especially when the band told me the name of the song. I had a lot of reservations about that."
But he said he gave the band "total creative control."
Salzhauer said he's worried about the medical board, which could pull his certification if he's found to have transgressed its ethical standards.
He thinks that his troubles with the board are generational, that older doctors "see ads as absolutely wrong, and doctors like myself of the Internet generation only know of medical advertising."
"I remember being in college on the subway in Brooklyn, seeing signs: 'Hemorrhoids? Call Dr. Tush!' Especially in elective branches of medicine, you have to bring people in. If you're a trauma surgeon, your patients come to you."
Angry Jews are another matter.
"They're not happy about what?" Salzhauer said. "Acknowledging the fact that some Jews have big noses? Are we so sensitive and so PC that we can't acknowledge our own flaws?"
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