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Novelist Unveils Problems in a Cosmetic World

How’s this for the makings of a miniseries: Teri, once a supermodel, is told by her less-than-sensitive husband that he’s going to trade her in for a younger model. She heads for a Southern California “rejuvenation” clinic to get a wrinkle-removing face peel, but the chemicals go awry and poor Teri loses face. Literally.

After her reported suicide, her two daughters begin to investigate their mother’s death, which leads them into the fast lane of the beauty world.

One becomes a megabuck model for an international cosmetics company, while the other is offered a six-figure income as a high-powered executive for the same conglomerate.

Is the head of the beauty firm somehow tied to their mother’s tragic fate? The girls untangle a web of deceit, dripping with glamour, love and money, not to mention a lot of extraneous sex.

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It may not be another “Roots,” but TV producers are already buzzing about “Faces” (Crown, $18.95), a new novel by Shirley Lord, who for a decade has been beauty director of Vogue. Based on case studies she has discovered in her journalistic research, the book illustrates what Lord calls the “wrong-size dream,” the unending quest for a mythical perfection.

The pursuit of youthful attractiveness has made cosmetic surgery one of the most lucrative segments of the medical profession, and according to Lord, one of its “trouble spots.”

“One point of my book,” she says, “was to introduce a note of caution for those who see cosmetic surgery as an easy answer.”

She cautions that those contemplating surgery should shop carefully for a doctor, opting for the surgeon who suggests the most conservative procedures.

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“The vain self-doubters almost always seem to be attracted to the doctors who promise everything,” Lord says. “These smoothies offer the patient unrealistic expectations. The best doctors are very cautious. They tell you you’ll look rested and well, and that’s all they say. No big promises.”

Lord urges potential patients to shop for a cosmetic surgeon “the same way that you would look for a pediatrician. Treat your face the way you would treat your child. Proceed with the utmost caution and pick the very best doctor.

“That doesn’t mean he or she has to be the most expensive. The surgeon should be very experienced in the kind of surgery you’re going to have. But the patient has to have realistic expectations as well. You can’t go in looking like an old topographic map expecting to look like a new baby’s bottom after surgery.”

The publication of her book has led to a flurry of parties. One recent soiree in Los Angeles had a stellar guest list including former President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, as well as the Kirk Douglases, the Marvin Davises, the William French Smiths, the Armand Deutsches and Betsy Bloomingdale. And while many of the guests were also authors, they had gathered to celebrate Lord’s “Faces.”

But Lord said she didn’t let it go to her head when the former First Couple showed up at the Chasen’s dinner party.

“They come to see my husband too, you know,” she says. Married to Abe Rosenthal, former executive editor and currently a regular columnist for the New York Times, Lord says she’s always cognizant that her spouse helps attract interesting groups wherever they go.

A second marriage for both, the pair were introduced by their mutual friends, diva Beverly Sills and TV-journalist Barbara Walters. Shortly after their marriage, New York’s Spy magazine turned the Rosenthals into one of the city’s most-talked-about couples, citing his political clout, her Vogue clout and her “hobby” of writing sexy novels.

Her other books, “One of My Best Friends” and “Golden Hill,” which have been panned by some critics and celebrated by fans of the “quick read,” were also set in the beauty world.

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She says that because of her extensive background in journalism, she tries to write with as much fact in her fiction as possible (“Ian Fleming called it ‘faction,’ ” she says), and “Faces” is no exception. She weaves real doctors and beauty experts into the story throughout. But she’s quick to note that there are no firsthand experiences chronicled in this work.

Lord says she has not had, nor will she ever have plastic surgery. For one reason, “I’m too chicken.” For another, “My husband has totally forbidden it.”


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