Dr. K and the Women

Times Staff Writer

The tall broad-shouldered woman was not amused by the afternoon's turn of events for two reasons, neither of which involved the tiny Band-Aid on her nose.

Number one: Famed dermatologist Dr. Arnold Klein was very late to speak to her guests, the well-kept ladies in pastels who sat in a private dining room at Spago finishing up their warm Valrhona chocolate souffle cake.

Number two: Klein had invited a friend and a reporter to "drop in" on his Oct. 22 lecture to the Music Center L.A. Alive! Auction Committee, a group that presumably will help raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the center by securing expensive items to auction at an event next year.

"This isn't just an 'Oh, come pop in and have lunch!' kind of thing," said Joy Fein, blinking back her irritation. "We handpicked these ladies!" She plucked the air with her fingertips as she spoke.

Fortunately for everyone, Klein turned up moments later. He wore a black suit, a tie studded with red rhinestones (a $500 gift from a client) and a walking cane he told those within earshot was a recent gift from Michael Jackson. "I don't know what to do with this," he said, lifting the cane by its sterling silver handle shaped like some kind of jungle cat.

When she caught sight of Klein, Fein's pinched expression became a welcoming smile and she quickly guided him to the podium, where Wallis Annenberg introduced him as "a brilliant physician" who is "world renowned."

Klein, to his credit, appeared unfazed by the demands of other people's schedules and cosmetic imperfections. After all, he explained, he lectures 60 to 80 times a year all over the world. He is widely considered a pioneer in the use of collagen and Botox. In fact, in South Korea, Klein pointed out, he's "Mr. Botox."

Here in Los Angeles, Klein is the dermatologist to the stars, the man Elizabeth Taylor has christened a saint. He also is the target of a high-profile lawsuit filed by Hollywood socialite Irena Medavoy, who claims Klein's Botox injections caused a raft of ailments, including "severe and unrelenting migraine headaches" that left her bed-ridden for months. A trial is scheduled for February in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

No one at this exclusive luncheon appeared interested in Klein's legal entanglement, which was good because it wasn't covered in his 30-minute PowerPoint presentation on "Minimum Invasive Facial Enhancement, the Dawn of a New Millennium."

Klein opened with a nod to the room's most pressing concern -- the Walt Disney Concert Hall opening gala the next day. Of the building's architect, Frank Gehry, he said, "I've known him since he was making papier-mache sculptures that he couldn't give away."

Klein then launched into his lecture at warp speed, offering the science behind a beautiful face. Pointing to a photo of Nicole Kidman ("We're not going to go into her over-Botoxed forehead"), Klein told the group that a beautiful female body has a waist-to-hip ratio of .7 and that the beautiful face possesses a large, smooth forehead, smaller nose and round eyes. "A certain degree of narcissism is healthy," he said. "Next slide, please."

"The done look," he said, is a cosmetic no-no. (Mercifully, he waited until after the lecture to note that this tight, pulled appearance was worn by many in his audience.)

Modifications of the eyes and lips, when done properly, can take off years, he said. A slide of Cher popped up. And one of Jamie Lee Curtis' eye (yes, just one eye) staring out alongside her quote: "The first thing I look at in a woman is her soul, and then I check her eyebrows."

Of Botox, Klein said, "People don't understand it. It's not made to paralyze, it's made to improve. Next slide, please." He told the story of treating billionaire socialite Nancy Davis with Botox for her multiple sclerosis. (He didn't name her, but he referenced the charity she established, Race to Erase MS, erasing doubt as to her identity.)

Then it was on to his true obsession. "I'm really in search of the perfect lip," he confessed, next to a slide of perfect lips. The ladies began touching their faces, as if seeking it themselves.

"It's not the Meg Ryan approach that I want," he said. There was no Meg Ryan slide. There was, however, this non sequitur: "Too many people in profile look like a monkey."

Finally, Klein opened the floor to questions, and a woman with a Southern accent piped up to say her ex-husband, a plastic surgeon from the East Coast, had advised her against collagen, so she's going to Jamaica to have Restylane injections. "Call me and just tell me who the doctor is," Klein said.

Another woman bemoaned her sinking nasal-labial folds. Yet another complained that Botox gave her headaches. Klein had answers for everyone.

"This is my passion," he told them.

By this point Joy Fein had forgotten the party crashers and joined the group in applauding Klein. "He knows what makes beauty," she said to the handpicked group.

No one disputed it.

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