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Illusion of Beauty

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The dangers of faking it

By Bob Harris

BEAUTY MAY ONLY BE in the eye of the beholder, but that doesn't mean people won't just about kill themselves trying to catch that eye in the first place.

I live in West Hollywood, where some folks have had so many face-lifts they share the same general expression as a largemouth bass. The Diet Foods section at the corner grocery always has one or two of these unblinking lizard-women noses that appear to have come from an entirely different edition than the rest of their head. It's like Microsoft just released its copy of Face 2.0 and didn't get all of the update disks.

We guys have it pretty easy when it comes to appearances. All we have to be is anatomically correct, willing to listen, and not insane, and most women are willing to talk to us. Appearance counts, but basically, if you're free of parasites and not naked, you've got a shot at it. Women, on the other hand, face ludicrous standards of beauty. It's not enough for Playboy and Penthouse to spend gazillions scouring the planet for genetic mutations they can repackage in spandex; then they gotta retouch the pictures, transforming the unlikely into the completely impossible.

As a performer, I've met a few of these girls over the years, and while they're lovely and all, they're usually not nearly as comfortable with themselves in 3D. With good reason. They're no big deal. Frankly, the lady who delivers my mail is a lot more attractive, although her wardrobe seems pretty limited.

Centerfolds in men's magazines ought to come with warnings, like cigarette packages: The Surgeon General Has Determined That These Women Do Not Exist.

But never mind. We still strive. There's underwear to make small parts look bigger and big parts look smaller. There are implants and nose jobs and even rib-removal surgery.

Trouble is, you can really hurt yourself looking good. Excessive exercise often causes severe injury. Surgeries go wrong. Fen-Phen can kill.

And now we discover that high-heeled shoes can ruin your knees. According to research out of Harvard Medical School, even 2.5-inch pumps, worn regularly, apparently double the risk of arthritis of the knee.

I know a girl who says she always wears spike heels because a tottering, mincing walk brings out a guy's protective instincts. But think how vulnerable she'll look in 20 years when she can't even walk down the street.

Maybe she can find a pair of black stiletto crutches. Gee, I feel protective already.

Or maybe, when we evaluate beauty, we can all try to honor the same oath that a lot of L.A. plastic surgeons seem to have long forgotten:

First, do no harm.

FOR ONCE, some good news about sports arenas: It looks as though people around the country are finally starting to figure out that you can't really rebuild a faltering economy, sustain a growing middle class, attract long-term investment, and improve a city's schools by ... building a baseball stadium.

If you read the sports pages, you know that franchises in every major sport have recently become less an end in themselves than bargaining chips in a bigger game: stadium swindling on a megabasis. Owners hold their own teams as hostages, demanding a ransom of hundreds of millions of dollars in public money--which in turn is spent on new ballparks equipped with state-of-the-art skyboxes, scoreboards that can show TV commercials, high-tech signage, etc., all of which improves an owner's income far more than a community's.

Field of Schemes (Common Courage Press), a new book by Joanna Cagan and Neil deMause, chronicles a lot of the real horror stories: backroom deals, handouts to billionaires as public schools collapse, historic stadiums torn down thanks to faked engineering reports, and worse. It turns out that a lot of sports owners might talk a good game about the free market, but without massive public subsidies, they'd have trouble making a dollar.

But, finally, there's good news: voters are finally figuring out the scam. In recent months, the good folks of Pittsburgh have said no to a tax increase for a new ballpark. And in Minnesota, where the Twins are threatening a move to Charlotte, voters and fans have refused to fork over. In response, the Twins ownership escalated their threats. Until last week, anyway, when the fans down in Charlotte gave the Twins a kiss-off as well. So the Twins are staying put.

Teamwork: It's the only way fans are ever going to win the big game.

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From the May 21-27, 1998 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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