ETOPS is artist Yngve Holen’s magazine about specialized industries today. The title is taken from a passenger aviation acronym for “Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards,” referred to as “Extended Operations.” While the first issue of ETOPS, from 2013, focused on the experience of long-distance commercial air travel, the second installment of the magazine features in-depth conversations Holen conducted with plastic surgeons and porn professionals in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Monaco.
The following two interviews are excerpts from the original publication.
I'M A VIRGO WITH SCORPIO RISING AND A PISCES MOON
–Blue skies today.
The rain was nice last night. It kind of washes the sins away. Fresh start.
–This house is really far out. What's this area called?
–Are you cold?
–I'm always cold. This just keeps me from getting sick.
–What's going on?
–We're trying to figure out how to navigate the scene. Because it's a three-way with a strap on. The cameras can get awkward.
–It's difficult to shoot sex.
–A lot of times. We're doing stills.
–So you take photographs of the scene before you shoot the scene?
–Yeah, the stills are sort of a warm up for us. Some people shoot them at the end, which doesn't make that much sense to me because people are tired at the end. That way you can film the scenes and just be done. Some of the stuff I film for Evil Angel, I never do sex stills, because I think screen grabs are fine.
–So who's this shoot for?
–This is for Sweetheart. I do lesbian stuff for them. I do hardcore for Evil Angel—the gonzo stuff.
–We’re meeting John on Thursday.
–He’s great. He’s my hero. He’s why I wanted to make porn.
–You’ve known each other for a while?
–Yeah I’ve known him for a while, since I started. When I was just performing I signed to his company. I worked a lot with John Leslie, Joey Silvera. I’d always wanted to be a director for the company. So I’ve been doing stuff for Evil Angel since 2012.
–What’s the difference for you being
behind the camera as opposed to being in front of the camera?
–I feel in some ways being behind the camera is more natural for me. I like to perform, but I’m not consistently strong in performing. I can be consistent as a director, but as a performer everything has to be exactly right for me to feel good. As opposed to someone like Dana DeArmond, who can do anything. She’s just consistent. I don’t think she’s ever done a bad scene. These days I don’t work for many other people other than myself.
–Because it’s a matter of trust?
–Trust, and how I want to be depicted now. In the beginning it was more exciting to me and I was open to everything, and it was a way for me to find things that I liked. A DP? I’ve never done one, but maybe I’ll love it. And i did. A gangbang? Maybe I’ll like it. I hated it. So you learn what you like and over time you become more particular about who you perform for and what you do. There are certain directors, i’ll just never say no to them. Mike Adriano? Anytime. I really like him. I like the directors who are passionate about what they do. James is really passionate about what he does. He’s fun. Very cinematic. When people have a strong vision of what they want, I tend to work with them. When people push out product and they don’t care and it’s just about the money, I think that’s gross.
–Something we’ve discovered is that the people who aren’t in it for the money have the best personalities. Is it interesting to work with people who aren’t trained actors?
–Oh yeah, because they don’t take themselves too seriously. —Do you direct the acting or the sex or both?
—I feel like if I have to direct the sex, it’s not a good thing. That aspect should be handled before the shoot happens. I’m not about taking someone I don’t know, who I’ve just seen in pictures, and putting them in a situation like this. It’s just been disastrous in the past. I tend to work with people that have high recommendations. Then there’s more positive energy on set.
—How did you choose this house?
—There’s a lot of factors. Safety is one. We don’t want cops to show up. We don’t want it to be restrictive, that we can’t shoot exterior things.
—Why would cops show up?
—Permits. There are certain houses that get busted. If you don’t have a permit, or if there’s a boy/girl scene there’s supposed to be condoms.
—That’s actually a regulation that’s in effect right now?
—It is, but it’s not being enforced.
—Because the guy from Vivid, he’s really pro condom. Steven Hirsch.
—I don’t think he’s pro condom, I think he’s … You can’t shoot a Vivid film without using them. It’s too obvious. They’ve got trucks and large cameras. We’re kind of a smaller operation. When I shoot for Evil, it’s just me and a camera, and sometimes I have
a PA. And I’ll shoot stills. I’ll shoot camera.
I don’t shoot larger sets. In the few times I have I just pick a location that I know will be safe and I structure everything around that location. So choosing this place, it’s varied. There’s this room, which we’ll have be like a college dorm. Or for the next scenario, we have a living-room situation that can then go into a bedroom situation. I may incorporate the tennis court. They’ll be tennis players. There’s the balcony to sort of break it up. This is what kind of job the husband has. It would sort of make sense they would live in this home.
—It’s a very california home.
—What’s amazing about Los angeles architecture is the indoor-outdoor flow. It’s perfect for porn. Hi Dana Dearmond.
—It’s now officially a four-Spiegler Girls shoot.
—You know, this is the first time I’ve met Dakota skye.
—Really? You know I call her my baby sister. She’s a quarter asian.
—I can see it. That’s like my kids. They’re a quarter Asian.
—Have you guys met Dakota?
—You should talk to her. She’s like 12. No, I take it back. She’s like 16, but she fucks like she’s 12.
—Don’t you have to be 18 to be a porn star?
—Who are you guys anyway?
—Don’t listen to her.
—You studied comp lit, right?
—When you’re looking at how to produce a set or a shoot, are you looking at literature at all?
—Well there’s the obvious, like Story of
O. Lolita. But Nabakov’s best porn is Ada. Father-daughter incest in Beatrice Palmato. Tropic of Cancer, which is, uh, despite taking place in France, a very California mythology. Maidenhead, that’s good for my Sweetheart videos. I just reread The Fermata, which is about this guy who stops time to have sex, explore sexuality. And it sounds cheesy, but Dante’s Inferno is really good for porn. And, like, the Decameron is also good Italian sex from the Renaissance.
—What about Houellebecq?
—It’s good literature, but not very good for porn actually.
— Sure, that’s really fucked up. Barthes has inspired some of the stuff I do.
—Certain Mythologies. It has something to do with the relationships between the people. Or like, some stuff, meditation. Like a meditation on suffering, which was this lesbian feature that I did. It had to do with a film producer and a prostitute, and the relationship between them. For a lot of the features, they’re more stories, or labors of love. I don’t think they make much money in comparison with the TS movie that i did.
—Transsexual. Shemale. Or I did, like, a series called Fluid, which is about the fetish of fluid and water bondage and stuff.
—What’s water bondage?
—It’s a type of BDSM thing that incorporates water.
—Like high-pressure water, or waterboarding?
—There can be high-pressure water, like against the genitals, or in the face. Waterboarding, dunking. Just sex in water. A lot of spit play. That’s one of my favorite things to shoot. It’s pretty ambitious and it takes a lot of energy for me to do. It can be expensive.
—No, water bondage in general. Bodies of water are expensive to come by and shoot. Or I have to find ingenious ways to do it without going broke.
—Are you a water sign?
—I’m a Virgo with Scorpio rising and a Pisces moon, so I have a lot of water on my chart.
—You mentioned waterboarding. Do you think BDSM and Guantanamo Bay are at all linked, like trending together? It sounds horrible, but just wondering.
—Well, porn is not something done in a bubble, although it might seem that way. Desire is informed. And no matter how private the consumption is, it’s still a part of this world. You could say Guantanamo Bay and you could say, like, Fifty Shades of Grey, too.
—I read somewhere that dolphinic zoophilia is really big in beastiality.
—Sex with dolphins.
—Well, yeah, there’s like mermaid fetishes, which have a lot to do with breathplay. Aiden Starr did that professionally in Florida before coming into more mainstream porn.
—Exclusively water bondage?
— Yeah, a lot of breathplay stuff, which was a lot of what her stuff is about. The fluid play has not only to do with water bondage but also with spit, lactation, urine. But there’s stuff I can’t legally shoot.
— Not even at Kink?
—At Kink a little more. I get away with a lot of it with Evil Angel, if it’s stuff that’s suggested and not actually on film. So the water bondage stuff I became interested in through Kink, watching the water bondage where there’s actual physical bondage and submersion. I did that a little bit in the first version of this with Aiden Starr and Justine Joli, where she’s actually in bondage, and is at the mercy of Aiden, who keeps her underwater and pulls her out for air. So some of it just has to do with, like, the kind of connection between fear and arousal, which for me, I’m incredibly claustrophobic, so I have a fascination with water bondage, and breathplay, and all that stuff because it’s really scary, and I watched it more to amuse myself and get sort of scared watching people get dunked in tanks and pulled out. Oh my god that’s so scary, and I would just go to the next trailer. And then I saw a scene with Phoenix Marie and Steven St. Croix, where he has her in bondage—and he’s a very good dom, and a very trustworthy dom—and he’s doing a lot of the dunking and stuff, and he’s having sex with her, but I found myself actually turned on because you could see that she was really into him and really wanting to please him. And it’s like, how far do we go as subs to please our masters? From that, I was shooting a lot of spit play stuff and the idea of fluid and what that means. What I find—because it’s also visually appealing with all the back lighting, and it’s very intimate. And that’s sort of where I got the idea to shoot all of that stuff. Also because it’s a learning experience for me, and I’m really drawn to watching human behavior and how people react or respond to things. If they’re really scared. Overcoming something is really awesome. Even with Justine Joli, she’s just such a power bottom, and she’s just so into giving up her power to Aiden. And Aiden is responsible for taking care of her, and pushing her a little bit, a little bit, a little bit. And so it’s really gratifying to observe that. And I’ve worked at Kink and I know what it feels like when you go really far, and you come out of it and you have this adrenaline, and you feel good. It’s empowering. That’s kind of where my interest in water bondage is. It’s ultimately something I find really terrifying, but I keep being drawn to it. And I just love it when people want to try different things.
—What makes a good dom?
—When would you like lunch, Dana?
—Maybe after the first scene?
—Maybe after the first Pretty Girls, because they didn’t eat that much.
—Then after sex stills, if they want.
—I know we have to do Pretty Girls for the next setup. And then we break.
—Then that’s what we’ll do then. Because I think we’ll be done with the first scene in that amount of time. Because they’re doing sex stills now. We’re just going to knock out the first scene. Then we have to do Pretty Girls.
—Or maybe after? Because we’ll be done with this scene in about an hour.
—Exactly, so that’s perfect.
—A good dom. I think a good dom is somebody who is … some people have this misconception that a dom is mean. I think that a dom is humble and kind and understands that they are there for the sub. The sub is not there for them, they are there for the sub. What makes something like Aiden Starr amazing is that she’s incredibly maternal, and incredibly loving, and she understands that her job is to keep the sub safe, and she understands that the sub is ultimately in the power position, because the sub is giving you the gift of their power, and they’re entrusting you with it. So I’ve seen some people mistake being a good dom with being violent and rough. No, your ego has to stay out of it. The ego has to stay out of it. I think a good dom is ultimately someone who’s thoughtful, kind, and who recognizes that ultimately the power lies with the sub, and is respectful. So I think Aiden is an amazing dominatrix. If someone were like, you have to do a water bondage scene, I would only do it with her.
—Do you think that BDSM allows you to overcome fears?
—Yeah, I think it’s a way to work through issues, but I think sex is a way to work through issues. I don’t want to say … it really depends on how deep-seeded it is and where these things come from. I don’t think that BDSM is a substitute for psychotherapy, but if you sort of have a handle on what your phobias are, it’s a way to work through them. For me, a lot of the stuff, when I have to be in bondage, it’s awful for me. I’m terrified. I didn’t use to be that way. It came later. I used to be able to do sex in submission, and be restrained, and do sort of hanging from the ceiling type stuff, but i can’t do that anymore.
—Not with hooks?
—No, just bound. I used to be able to do that kind of stuff. I used to be able to be left like that, in bondage, but something happened, I think that’s just even through shooting it. I’ve also sort of graduated from being a sub to being a dom. I think I’ve sort of paid my dues. And it’s not that I’m like, I won’t be a sub. I still sub here and there for people I absolutely trust, and really enjoy working with. I would sub for Aiden in a heartbeat. But as a general thing at, like, Kink, I’m not interested anymore.
—What do you want to do next in terms of water bondage?
—Fluid Volume III. I’m going to start shooting in a few months. And that will include a whole assortment of different types of bondage. I might just include a few scenes that
have elements of fluid exchange and water, cause it isn’t just about bondage, it’s about fluid exchange. The scene with Kayden Kross is about lactation, where she lactates into my mouth. We do a lot of backlit beautiful stuff. There’s also a lot of gender transgression stuff that I like to incorporate in my work. And power transgression. Where suddenly there’s
a shift. But definitely there will be at least two water bondage scenes. It’s tricky because I also have to look in terms of sales. My stuff tended to be almost too subversive to appeal to a wider market. So with Fluid, there might be one or two scenes that have more of a BDSM aspect. But the rest of the movie does not. It manages to be subversive in some ways but not in the way where it alienates audiences. This
is how I make a living. It’s the marriage of art and commerce. But that particular series is where I might try to push it a little bit.
—Is it because … the exchange of fluids can be an alarming thing in terms of health issues, right? Is it also …
—Not at all. It’s honestly about bondage. It’s a very taboo thing. I always communicate with John. Is it okay if I do this? Is it okay if I do that? How to make it palpable for an audience. So the fluids that people tend to really like is the fluid-exchange stuff.
—Piss, no. The only way I could get away with shooting that—I did it once with Adriana Chechik in a movie. And I remember I emailed John and he said, we can establish it’s about to happen. She has an anal speculum in, she’s like back. I mount her. It cuts to her face. You hear peeing happening. Then it cuts back. The pee is done, you don’t see anything going in, but you know that it happened. And she can sit up and dump it onto the floor. And you could make the argument, it’s actually water, so it’s okay. But most audiences know that if it’s Evil Angel, it’s Adriana Chechik, it’s me, it’s going to be piss! But you can’t prove it. That’s the way you get around it.
—Is it the audience or the law?
—The law. You might be able to distribute it one place, but in another, no.
—Some parts of Europe, yeah. It’s pretty crazy.
—What about mermaid fetish? Is there anything from your history that pushed you towards this?
—I shot Fluid I, and I thought it was a one-off. I don’t have the funding to do anything on the scale that Kink does, with these huge clear tubs, and shoot from the outside in. So I had a conversation with Kasey, who’s another amazing, thoughtful performer, and she had mentioned the way that she got in to adult was through working as a professional mermaid and doing a lot of bondage. She was a bondage model in Florida. So I asked her about this mermaid thing. I was like, are you crazy? And she’s like, no, there’s a whole fetish behind it. She had a full tail. She would swim in the water in this mermaid park, where people could go and pretend that these are real mermaids, if you’re a real hardened mermaid fetishist. But it’s also amusing to go, hey, look, it’s cool that they know how to swim like that. Or she would go out in the ocean to be submerged and there would be a scuba person to give her air when she needed it. It was this whole thing. And I was like, is
it like this oral sex fantasy with these guys? And she’s like, no, it has more to do with breathplay—that’s a whole fetish. So I thought about it. A week went by. And I sent her a message, and said, would you do a scene? I sort of imagined a fantasy of a man—played by Mick Blue—and he’s, you know, sitting there. Here’s this woman. You can pretend while you’re watching the scene that either he captured a mermaid, which is a fantasy
for some people, or you could be on the other side, where it’s this weird dynamic he has with his partner. You can see by the dynamic, you see he lifts her out, you can see her tail coming out from the bottom, then you see her legs. It all came from the conversation with Kasey. I thought, I’m going to do this. This is great. And with Adriana Chechik, the blow bang and the dunking. That was just a visual thing of having the GoPro at the bottom of the tub, and seeing her face going in and coming out. These figures around her. And of course it’s massive spit play. Vanity is in the blow bang, who’s a very popular TS performer. And that goes again in gender transgression, male-to-female. You know, I’m shooting with
a strap-on from POV, with a fake penis, and everybody’s doing this free-for-all, it’s a community kind of group thing. Because usually blow bangs tend to be more … it’s just this girl with all these faceless penises. And I wanted to do something where we’re, like, collectively with her. It was incredibly symbiotic the way we did it. I was like, we’re all friends. We did Chechik. Everybody kiss her, be involved with her. We’re sort of all having sex together in this weird way. Versus it just being her with this mouth that’s open taking on all these cocks. She’s being taken care of. She’s being kissed, and fondled. People are invested in her getting off too. And Vanity’s there. And the guys are also jerking Vanity off. Everyone’s there and feeling, you know, it’s like a love in.
—They say when you’re floating in water it kind of brings you back to the embryonic stage of connectivity, of being in the womb.
—Water’s transformative for everyone involved. It’s symbolic. I’ve always been involved with water sports, or you know, also with my oldest son, anytime there was a problem when he was a baby, I’d turn the running water on and the sound would calm him. Now when he has issues, if he’s having a shitty day, I automatically take him and we sit in the tub together, and he automatically comes back and we can talk. So water for me is symbolic of so many things. When I dream about water it’s always really good. Yeah, I think the fluid stuff has that connection. And then the bondage thing, it’s the ultimate trust. You have to trust your partner.
—Dana, where’s the strap-on please?
—Uh, Sovereign had it last. Or no, is it there? Wait, no. Let me see.
—Okay, sorry about that.
—What makes a good porn star? You mentioned intelligence. I think people who know what makes them feel good and people who have empathy. There are some girls, some porn stars that I’ve known that don’t like … I mean, like, yeah, I guess, like, empathy. Having a good understanding of what feels good for them. I see some of these people that tend to dissociate. As a director, I’ve seen stars completely succeed and I thought they were terrible. Not good performers. But they’ve managed to, through whatever, achieve a level of good rate recognition and stuff. So for me, I can only speak for myself. The best stars I’ve shot are present, their eyes are open, they’re fully aware of what’s happening. I think a really good porn star has a healthy set of boundaries. I think some people think boundaries are a bad thing, that it makes someone rigid, but no, you just … it keeps you from dissociating. Perfectly good porn stars are like, I’m not okay with anal. Some girls just have no interest in anal at all. And that’s okay. Because they know they don’t want to do it. I’ve seen girls shut down and take drugs and they’re just trying to get through the scene because they think they have to do it. And then they crash and burn very quickly.
—What about directors?
—I think good directors—everyone on Stagliano’s roster—are passionate about what they do, and they would be doing it even if they didn’t make a living out of it. People like Joey Silvera, Jamie Jameson, Mike Adriano. All of them are absolutely 100 percent in their element when they shoot and they shoot what they love. Nobody shoots a TS movie like Joey or Jay Sin. They absolutely love and respect their TS performers. They’re not just in it for the money, they’re in it because they couldn’t do anything else. I firmly believe that everybody at Evil Angel is there because they can’t imagine doing anything else. That goes for John, too. He’s a true pornographer.
—Is pornography more mainstream than it was 10 years ago?
—It really has become more mainstream. Just in general. There’s attention paid to people and topics that wasn’t there before. Even people like Belle Knox.
—Yeah. And Stoya, and Kayden Kross. I was in a 20/20 segment with Kayden and Manuel. She’s talking about the ways that different families function. And we’re a family that exists in the industry, and so yeah, it didn’t use to be that way.
—What is your kids’ kind of exposure to this?
—They don’t have any exposure to this. Because it’s not appropriate, They’re children. As they get older, it’s that thing of like, what they will know is based on what’s appropriate for their age. Before the age of 14, it’s very likely that I’ll have to have a conversation with my oldest about what it is that his father and I do without getting into crazy details. I’d like to beat his friends to the punch, as far as saying, you know, your father and I, we make adult movies, and what we do is legal, and it’s controversial, and not everyone understands it, and if anyone brings it up to you, you can say that this is not a conversation I need to have. It’s my business, and we don’t need
to talk about it. And then let them know, I starred in these movies, your father starred in these movies. No one made us do it, we do it because it’s something that we enjoy. It’s not for everybody. But we also raise our kids to be very open-minded in general. Everybody likes to be naked at home. We’re both pretty liberal about it, encouraging a healthy appreciation for their own bodies. Being open-minded to different ways of living.
—Were you at the AVN nominations last night?
—I wasn’t. I was writing scripts. I’m excited to go to Vegas though. It’s sort of sensory overload. Because it’s everyone in the industry and it’s Las Vegas.
—It’s really in the middle of the desert, even more so than LA. It’s like this city does not belong here.
—Yeah, it’s like mankind’s hubris. We defying nature by being there, it’s weird.
THEY'LL CHEAT ON YOU
—Let’s take a walk and look at the facility. So this was an empty shell in about 1993. I built this, uh, 21 years ago. So I’ve been in practice 34 years. 21 years here and the first 14 years are through the dark now. I wish you had seen it. It’s a really beautiful, true picture of Beverly Hills. It’s a really unbelievable spot here. The lights might come on. Lets see if you can see the contour. You see that tall building right there? The tallest building you can see?
—That one in the hills?
—That’s on Sunset and Doheny. My mentor, Dr. Parks was his name—he was like three plastic surgeons at the same time. So I finished school in Chicago and I came to study under him. After the first 14 years I worked with him, the State of California said that you cannot do surgery in your office unless it’s licensed by the State Health Department. It has to have the standards of a hospital. so instead of remodeling that, I came to this unit and took over this whole floor and I built this very elaborate surgery center and the doctor’s office and I brought in five other plastic surgeons to do different things. It was a very good transition, because you know you can’t do surgery during remodeling. Friday I did two noses there and the next Monday we moved here and we did two noses here.
—Very smooth. It’s like changing airports in a city or something. You know you have to make it as smooth as possible.
—Yes. So this space becomes a hospital. I just finished three operations here today. One came from Moscow, one came from Australia, and another one was an Italian lady who lives in Florida.
—So the majority of your patients are traveling?
—Yeah, and they stay in town. They come in the day before. We do a lot of email. So let’s say you want your nose done and you’re in Norway. You do your research and send me an email. Then I’ll say, hey, send me some pictures of you. if I like the pictures, then I’ll say, okay, we’ll do it. And my surgical coordinator will talk to you, tell you, hey, you can do your blood test in Norway, do everything we need. They send it to me and when you arrive, everything is done. You arrive one day, surgery is the next.
—What’s your waiting list like usually?
—Yeah, if I sent you an email today …
—It would be around three to four months until you get your first appointment. Because I’m a super specialist. I only do noses and I do facial contour with injections. You know, I like to contour the face. It’s like, you know, more artistic. I don’t do boobs or liposuction. I have different guys who do different things. This is the recovery room. And if you look out here it’s a beautiful view, you can even see the ocean. I have to have a view—everywhere. That building has the presidential suite on the top, where Pretty Woman was shot. The regent Beverly hills. You see the top, uh, little lip? A lot of my Russian patients say, ahh, I wanna stay in that suite. In recovery, I say, can you see your suite? after the surgery you’re going to be staying there.
—What are your criteria for accepting a patient?
—Let’s say, just for discussion purposes, the face or the bones are not good, nothing is good, so what’s the point in me doing the nose? I mean, I don’t want to take your money if I can’t make the painting really meaningful enough.
—So for instance, you can’t take a two-dollar painting and make it into a $20-million Rembrandt. You can’t. You have to have a Rembrandt to begin with—and I’m lucky enough to get those kinds of patients that are out there in the world. so when I lecture, all the professors from Berlin and from all over the world, when I show them really beautiful faces, this is the before, this is what I did, this is how I did it. They go, we don’t see such beautiful people, they all go to you. So I’ve created a sort of thing. Because i have been doing it for a long time—34 years. It’s no overnight success. The word gets out. Particularly with the Internet now, my main client base is 17-, 18-, 19-year-olds. And you’d say, why do such young people do it? Because of so much photography—Facebook and stuff. They look at each other a lot more. When I was 16 or 17 there weren’t that many photographs taken.
—Do people send you a lot of images of noses they want to imitate or be adapted into? —Yes, but I usually say I can’t do it. I can’t take a Renoir and make it into a Rembrandt. I can’t take a Rembrandt and make it into a Monet. I can’t do that. There’s only so much you can do with the face. This is the back half of the hospital.
—Yeah, you can tell the difference in the floors.
—In the daytime you have to have a gown. We just finished so we could walk through. Now they’re going to sterilize it and clean it.
—Why do the beds have those arms out? Is that for liposuction of the arms? It’s like a crucifix. Do they always lay like that?
—No. My patients lay like this. But I’m working on the nose. The breast patients sometimes lay like that because a surgeon can get in and work with the breast. So we had two guest surgeons today—including Dr. Fisher, who’s one of my colleagues. He’s probably the most famous plastic surgeon. He’s very famous for breasts, and did a few breasts today.
—So when women get their breasts done they’re all pretty much laid out in that form?
—No. It depends on where he’s entering from. If he’s entering the breast from here, the armpit incision, then it has to be this way. If he’s entering from the nipple, then it doesn’t have to be that way. Then the arms can stay there. It depends on where the incision is gonna be. And sometimes it’s for the liposuction under the arm. So today he did both the breasts, a little bit of lipo here, and a little bit of lipo above the knee.
—We’ve gathered that you have this impulse to transform what you see, to sculpt and to shape the face of the world around you. We’re wondering where that comes from.
—It’s my obsession for beauty. When I was about 10, 11, 12 years old, in india, I decided to become a doctor. My mother got ill, and instead of going to the clinic in those days, the doctor came to the house. And the way my father was—he was a straight shooter, very strict, a very genuine personality my father had. But I’ve never seen him so impressed or intimidated by anybody. I saw him, and I said, wow, I’ve never seen my father like this. So right then I said, I wanna be that person.
—The guy who intimidates your father?
—Yes. It’s funny, I remember it so clearly. And then my obsession is for beauty. I loved the beautiful girl in my class. I would just stare at her and then give her a flower or something. So healing, to get my father’s respect, and beauty. What am I going to do to combine the two? Then came plastic surgery. To this day my obsession and passion is beauty.
—I have one of the best gardens in LA. I give horticulture classes. I collect. All these flowers are from my garden. This is a very unique flower. Nobody knows about it. Just smell it. It has a very unique smell. It’s called champak.
—Wow, beautiful. It’s like a gardenia.
—But it’s stronger. It’s a tree. Nobody has this tree—I have 30 of them. There’s another very rare flower with a unique smell called a wild ginger. So that’s the kind of stuff I do. If I find rare plants and flowers, I bring the seeds or the branches back and I propagate them. Around once a year, UCLA students come and I give them a cultural sort of class and show them the different unique plants.
—And you’re self-taught? In terms of horticulture.
—Self-taught, yes. I was in London just now and saw a Rembrandt. Rembrandt is one of my favorite, favorite painters. The way he captured the light, how it reflects on his faces. And Vermeer, Johannes Vermeer is another one. The reflection of light is very fascinating. When I’m looking at you and making eye contact and we talk to each other, it’s all about the transmission of light. The light bounces to your cheeks, and then it comes back to me and I perceive your contours. I perceive depressions of light sinking here. So you need to create those convex contours, those are useful contours. People talk about symmetry. Oh, my left nostril is high, my right nostril is high, my left cheek is a little fat and my right cheek is high. No. it’s not about symmetry. Symmetry is … we’re not a geometrical drawing. God didn’t have time to have a ruler. Your mother didn’t have time to have a ruler. I don’t have time for a ruler. It’s all about the contours.
—Having a view. Optics.
—Optics, yes. And the center of the painting is the nose. That’s why I love doing the nose, and then highlight the cheeks or the lips. I don’t do facelifts, I don’t do eyes, I don’t do breasts. I leave it to the experts. so my fascination is to look at the center of the painting, I want to make the best center of the painting. I say jokingly, God knew what he was doing, your parents knew what they were doing, but you know they didn’t have time to finesse it. So I’m just going to finesse the painting. But I want to preserve the character. I want to fool the mother’s eye. That happens when the painting is so beautiful. Like there is a Rembrandt and there’s one little scratch somewhere and I fix it and I don’t touch anything else. Or it’s your Prada dress, and you have a little coffee stain here. This stain always bothers you. You know it’s there. You always look at it. shit, that’s my Prada dress. So I fix that. I have a look at my patients, and go, my god you are beautiful. What do you want from me? But they know that stain, so they go, oh, this bothers me. Like this kid from Brisbane today—he came a long way…
—That’s really far.
—I look at him and say, wow, you’re good looking. What do you want? He says, oh, it’s depressed here, it’s depressed here, it’s depressed here. So then I’m looking at it and I say, okay, yeah, he’s right. If I fill this here, then it’s going to look amazing. And I just finished about half an hour ago. I put the graft, I filed, didn’t change the tip, didn’t change anything. Just fixed that and it looks stunning. He’s going to be so happy that he came all the way from Australia.
—He’s flying back happy with a new nose huh?
—And yet I didn’t change it. I would say 95 percent of his friends and family will not know what I did.
—Do you know Megan Fox?
—Very well. She was on my flight recently. I went to Barcelona to teach. She has two kids now.
—Yeah, she married the 90210 guy.
—That’s right. So I did her nose. It’s public knowledge.
— Yeah? I’m fascinated by her face. It’s one of those instances you’re talking about where it was already very beautiful before surgery.
—It was one of the moments. she walked in and I go, ahhhh, oh my god, what do you want from me? She goes, you know what I want. And I said, yeah, I do. And she goes, I want to hear it from you. This part was beautiful, so I didn’t touch it. She had broken it, so it was a little crooked. And the bone was a little wide. So I gave it a little filing and I just squeezed the bones. It’s literally like I took a Rembrandt and I preserved the character.
—So you also keep imperfections.
—Do you recognize them immediately, or do you have to spend time with someone?
—Let’s say a woman is 5'10". She’s got very strong cheekbones and a good bone structure. She’s not going to look good with a scooped nose. Her angles here dictate that she should have a strong nose. So I’ll leave the bridge. If the bridge is four millimeters too much, I take it down three. I leave one millimeter of imperfection. Cameron Diaz broke her nose three or four times surfing. She couldn’t breathe. But she said, don’t straighten it all the way. So I said, okay, we’ll straighten the inside to help you breathe, but only a bit on the outside. We’ll leave it a little crooked. Because the world knows your nose as a crooked nose. We don’t want to straighten it too much—we’ll have a little bit more illusion of straightness, but not perfectly straight. On a man, I insist that we cannot completely make it straight like a table top. I like to leave a little bump here to keep the character of that man’s nose. If they are taller, then I want a stronger bridge. If they are 5'4" then I can have a little bit of straight nose. It depends on the cheekbones. It depends on how high they are. It also depends on their personality. If they have a type-A personality, they are very strong and forceful, you don’t want to give them a … I don’t like scoop nose anyway. But you want to keep the personality, and the nose sort of dictates personality. A lot goes into design.
—Why do people sneeze differently?
—Is it all the architecture of the …
—Inside of the nose.
—It’s not what we see or anything. And you don’t do open surgery—it’s all closed rhinoplasty.
—I do closed, from inside the nostril. I’m one of the very few. It’s an art which is extinct and that’s probably one of the other reasons why people, patients, they come to me. They don’t want a scar in there. Even the plastic surgeons, their daughters want me. They say, Daddy you’re good but you cut, and I don’t want a cut. The fascinating thing about noses is that it’s the only operation where you go from outside to refine the frame. and the skin molds to it. In a facelift, we cut and we pull and we get rid of the extra skin. Gone. Garbage. But here, you don’t because then there would be a scar. Let’s say your nose is 40 millimeters this way, and your frame is 40. So the skin is draped on the frame. Now when I go in, and I file it down, let’s say I rub the frame down to 36 millimeters…
—The skin just goes with it?
—Not right away. Within one year the skin will mold. That’s why you do it from inside, change the framework, whether you’re sculpting this, filing the bone. Everything is done from inside and the skin just molds to the frame.
—How long does it take to design a nose?
—I can do the nose in 10 minutes, because I’ve done 7,000 of them. But every second in there is an artistic dilemma. Should I go one more? Should I just file it a little more? Should I not? if I do that will it get scooped? Will it get too narrow? No, let’s … So I look and I feel and I walk around the nose and I keep feeling it and I keep thinking if I do this what’s gonna happen? Should I take out one more sliver to give it a little more sculpting? So that’s called ambivalence, artistic ambivalence, you know? I go through it with every nose I do.
—You have to step back and, like, look at your painting for a few minutes.
—Exactly. You need to make decisions like an art coming through. Michelangelo said David was always there. David was already there in the marble, just take away pieces of the marble. Michelangelo was just …
—Searching, yeah, till he got to it. I had three different plans for this patient I had today. What am I going to do, what am i going to do? And the first plan that I thought of, last night before I went to bed, I’m lying in bed. I have this picture in my mind and I was thinking in this quiet moment, how am I going to approach that nose?
—Yeah, I pray. I meditate and pray five minutes before every surgery. I meditate every morning before I come. I almost feel there’s a higher power which sort of guides my art.
—The big nose in the sky.
—So I was like a little kid today. Everything came together better than I could have envisioned. Just, wow! And if this doesn’t work, then I’m going to push this, cause he had these sort of holes here. I used the cartilage and pushed it and … perfect line. The line was so beautiful, such a beautiful reflection. Light was sinking right here, and right here. So you had one indent, and just by putting in some cartilage, like a stent, I was able to fix it. It was brilliant. And other times …
—You might make a mistake.
—No. I don’t make mistakes. I don’t have that. Michael Jordan has that. Tiger Woods has that opportunity. I do not have the luxury of making mistakes.
—Can I ask you something? I feel that my left nostril is lower than my right. One of them droops.
—It doesn’t bother me at all.
—It doesn’t bother you?
—You would say don’t do anything?
—Because it’s about the light hitting the top?
—Yeah, lighting the top. In your case, when I’m looking at you from the front front, the way the light is, this is beautiful. This contour is really pretty. The nostrils are pretty. The distance is pretty. Your bones are a little wide. As a child you had an injury, and the bones, instead of being like this, they went like that. They spread out. So they are wide here and that’s crowding your eyes and your…
—So you would narrow that sliver?
—Yeah. and nobody would know, including your mother.
—That’s the kind of thing you did to Megan.
—Mhm, exactly. So there lies the art and that’s why I am so different and unique. You know, it shocks me and surprises me still that people come from Moscow, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, to see me. Kuwait’s health minister, his daughter is 17 years old, and she said, Daddy we’re going to go to Los Angeles to get my nose done. And he goes—little girls nowadays have more power than their daddies—what are you talking about? I’m the health minister. I can get any doctor to come to Kuwait. And so she said, okay, call him. So he calls me from Kuwait and he goes, would you come? And I say, no way.
—Really? Not even if they pay you several hundred thousand extra dollars?
—It’s not worth it. Cause I lose time to go there. Plus it’s not my team.
—Not your facility.
—I’ve done it occasionally for royal members of Brunei, but my preference is everybody comes here. Having said that, at the moment, Dr. Fisher and I are negotiating to open a center with a hotelier in Dubai in about anywhere from 15 months to two years. So people from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, India, Moscow, they can meet us there. All these years they’ve been calling but I can’t go for one person no matter how important they are. But there are some people who don’t like America. America is arrogant. Too far. Between Dr. Fisher and me, we lose out on about 30 percent of our international clients because they don’t want to come to America. so we’re working with a guy, a gentleman who was a Swiss banker and he used to own one of the best hotels in the Czech Republic, in Prague. When he met us, he decided to close prague and use his hospitality knowledge to do something in Dubai, because he met somebody, one of the royal family members who wanted him to, you know … so there’s a lot of moving parts. You just gotta put them together.
—Into a surgery spa.
—It’s going to be a new hotel and the mantra is: “Where the first class is not good enough.” Anything first class, anything that you’re used to, is not good enough. We’re gonna take you to a level where, when you walk into this suite in a hotel, there’ll be butlers and maids. Cause there’s a lot of wealth now. I mean, I’m the most expensive nose doctor.
—How expensive are you?
—Two dollars for a Kmart painting, $20 million for a Rembrandt painting, you know.
—How expensive would it be to shave mine?
—In your case, it’s not going to be shaving. It’s going to be breaking the bone. and squeezing. Your bones are sitting here and I gotta bring them here. Like I showed you here on this girl. The shaving will not do anything. I have to break it and bring them together.
—Normally I charge from $15,000 to $18,000. Which includes anesthesia and the operating room. So, it’s funny, I was lecturing in Monaco last year. Five professors, one from Italy, even from Germany, and one from London, and then the German doctor, he says, I’m the best and I do 250 noses a year. And so, like, he just asked members in the audience, you know a thousand doctors or so, so let’s ask the panel. You know, we’re on the stage. So the German guy was 6,000 euro. And he thought he was the most expensive. The Italian was 5,000 euro. And these are good professors, they do …
—Yeah, yeah, yeah.
—And the English doctor was about 6,000 pounds. And so when I named my price, everyone goes, huhhh! You know, crazy! I said, you know …
—No. Here’s the thing. I’ve paid my dues. I can afford to charge. People spend $25,000 on a couch. I’m changing the art of the face. I’m changing the sculpture.
—So this place in Dubai will be like a sculpture garden.
—And it will also be anti-aging. It will also be nutrition. We’re going to get the biggest and the best, you know, stem cells from Germany, finance from Switzerland and the Middle East. There’s a new machine where you can scan your whole body in four hours by taking very thin slices. It doesn’t miss anything. If there’s something in the liver or the lungs or the pancreas or somewhere, it can detect it. MRI, so no radiation. If you do a CAT scan, which is available—a total body CAT scan—there’s quite a bit of radiation that you’re subjected to. So we’re gonna provide this kind of care, so prime ministers, heads of state, princes—people who can afford this kind of treatment—we can scan them, and we can teach them about nutrition. One of the things you’ll find in the Middle East is that the rich people don’t work out, they don’t take care of themselves, they’re overweight, grossly, they do liposuction. So no matter how healthy you are or how famous you are, you have to work out. I mean, I work out 7 days a week. I have 7 different trainers. Weightlifting, flexibility, you know, so I like to stay in shape. But it is one thing you cannot pay the trainer to do. Hey, here’s $200, work out for me.
—You believe in discipline.
—Life is about discipline. That’s my middle name. so you have to have discipline. I mean, you have to enjoy life but you … also I think it’s a gift, this life, and we need to take care of it. You know, don’t abuse it too much. and the day I lose it, that’s it. Okay, I’m done.
—You mentioned this super scanner. What other technologies are you looking at?
—Well, needles are getting sharper. But as far as my rhinoplasty is concerned, there’s nothing new. Some of the tools are the ones I designed 28, 30 years ago, and so I use them. In rhinoplasty, it’s not the technology or the tools, it’s the eye and the artistry. But in contouring, there’s the Botox and fillers. And in fillers, the natural filler is hyaluronic acid, and the two commercial products are called Juvéderm and Restylane. And Juvéderm was created by a French company called Corneal and which was bought out by Allergan. And I know the owners very well cause I’m deeply involved with injectables. I teach all over the world. This year, I’ve already taught in Barcelona, Rome, Monaco, London, Paris. There’s constantly new hyaluronic acid fillers, with more flexibility, with more resilience. Doctor, will you try this? New products, 6 syringes, here, try it.
—Are fillers for filling in lines or is it to create something like cheekbones?Aand what is the lifespan of this acid whatever … what did you call it?
—Hyaluronic acid. It’s natural. It’s like a gel. It’s present in your joints and it’s present under your skin. It creates flexibility and elasticity.
—Like baby fat?
—Exactly. So baby fat, hyaluronic acid, and collagen are the three things at the top of the skin, supporting it. So young skin looks tight. As these things start to disappear, as things start to sink and … Okay, I’ll show you. —But you don’t suggest fillers for, like, 20 year olds?
—Are they already losing elasticity?
—It’s preventative. So this is a picture of me 25 years ago. You see the strong bone structure, a little baby fat. There’s a little hyaluronic acid and it starts to disappear, so the face starts to sink. so if I see something sinking here I’ll mark it and allow my nurses to inject me while I watch in the mirror. I direct them. Oh no, no, no, go a little deeper, change the angle.
—It’s so painless that you don’t have to do anesthesia?
—No, no, it’s just like Botox. In 15 minutes you’re going to look better. So this is what I want to look like for the next 30 years, and I think I’m doing a good job.If I look at it, I probably have all over here, you know, maybe 30cc’s of hyaluronic acid in the last 15 years.
—What about women like Heidi Montag?
—That’s why she’s so inflated? It’s just too much of that? Or did she get something else injected?
—I turned down Michael Jackson in 84. 84 and 85, Michael came to me—Jackson— and he said that he wants to look like Diana Ross, he wanted a very pointed tip nose. I said, Michael, there’s no way I can do that. And he said, no, but I want it, I don’t like my nose. And then he came back two days later and he said, I wanna look like Elvis Presley. I wanna be white. I said, you can’t. You’re black, how are you gonna look like Elvis? But every time I said no, some doctor was willing to say yes and do it. Even today, look at Renée Zellweger’s story. She ruined her face. She was beautiful. You can’t recognize her.
—Nicole Kidman too.
—Yeah, too much Botox. The problem is that celebrities don’t want to take no for an answer. And most doctors feel pressure because they want to work on a celebrity so they don’t say no. Everyone caters to them. When I say yes it’s easy for me to do it—then I can contour the way I want it. But no means you have to explain why no. I actually have to spend more time with them. And they’ll get it done anyway.
—They’ll cheat on you.
—I mean, I just had a major celebrity who had a major problem. I had to fly to New York to take care of it and the first thing I said when I walked in was, you cheated on me. She was very apologetic, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. My makeup artist sent me to this doctor and I’ll never do that again.
—She got you.
—And then she got me back. But she was sincere in her apology. Here’s the thing: I say, look, this painting is mine. That painting is mine. I cannot have someone do the eyes, me do the nose, he does the Botox—it doesn’t work. I need to have the total control of the painting because I don’t want my name on this painting if she’s going to use you and you and you. Either you stay with you or me. I don’t want two people working on the same face.
—What if someone wants a full facelift?
—Well, I try to create the lift with the fillers. With fillers I’ve been able to delay the need for a facelift from age 45 to 60. Before the fillers and Botox came out, the face would sag and there was nothing to pick it up.
—Does it freeze or deaden the muscles?
—It’s just relaxing the muscle. The negative to Botox and fillers is that you have to do it often. It’s an ongoing process. But even with facelifts, the face gets pulled and it gets flat. So all the plastic surgeons who don’t do injectables, they do the facelift, and they send them to me to contour the face to make it look natural. So it doesn’t look pulled. Because the contours are disturbed after a lift. When you pull this direction, no matter how good you are, there will be some flattening.
—So you slice open the face and then?
—You’re cutting it here and then just kind of pulling it.
—Yes, that’s important. You don’t want a horizontal lift.
—Do you design anything else aside from noses, and, uh, your tools?
—I design everything. I can design clothes. When I go to India, I’ll give them to a tailor. I say, can you do that for me, cause in India it’s very easy to find tailor work. I design certain animals for my garden. My garden is very beautifully designed, and yet there’s a sense of randomness there. I design homes. My current home I live in is my design. And the home I’m building, right across the street, it’s ultra contemporary. I’m involved with the fabric, I’m involved with the surfaces, everything. I deal with millimeters, so when i put that intensity into designing a home …
—Have a look. My front entrance is gonna 32 feet high, in French limestone. And the right side there will be two levels and the left side there will be two levels. So I’m designing a painting, kind of a sculpture, rough three dimensional, with letters engraved into it, seven languages. Pring. Pring is love. Shanti is peace. So love and peace written in seven different languages, scattered all over.
—So when you come into the house, that’s the message that you get.
—Yeah, yeah. But it’s done in a very playful contemporary art design. This is a new app, called i-Pano. You can go 360 degrees with this. So this is the bar downstairs. I have a movie theater for 24 people. This is a sitting area. If you don’t like the movie you can come out and hang here.
—Is it indoor-outdoor?
—It’s indoor-outdoor, yes. And so, there’s the bar, so you can hang out there. And you can hang out in the sitting area. You’ll have to come over the next time you’re in town.
—We’ll call you when we get 40 grand.
—You don’t need 40! I’ll give you a discount. Twenty, we’ll take you for 20.
Editors Yngve Holen and Matthew Evans
Design Per Törnberg
Publisher Galerie Neu, Berlin; Neue Alte Brücke, Frankfurt am Main; and Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London
Cover Image Dakota Skye photographed by Yngve Holen, Los Angeles, 2014
Web Design Jon Lucas