Chapter 1 Page 3 | (Vignettes)

***

It is May 2005, Memorial Day weekend. Fabio Zamprogno, M.D., of Vitoria, Brazil, stands in a hotel conference room in Orlando, Florida, huddled with a few patients and business associates.  “How did I do?”  he asks. The question has nothing to do with surgery.  He wants to know about his presentation to prospective North American patients. Better than last year, he is told, better than in Las Vegas. His English is much improved.

Fabio smiles. In the past 2 years, he has done full-body makeovers on more than 100 North Americans who had weight-loss surgery;  perhaps no United States surgeon has done so many.  Nearly 400 separate operations, in all — at prices one can not find in the United States. Some of the women sport “Body by Fabio” tee-shirts. He does not have to ask about his proficiency with a scalpel, with a laser, with a liposuction canula. At this moment, he is more concerned with his marketing skills.

***

It is July 2005. In Pacific Palisades, California, Didi Carr Reuben’s schedule is booked for the rest of the year; she is taking reservations for 2006. Didi sets up cosmetic surgery appointments — not for surgeons in nearby Beverly Hills, but for Alejandro Lev, M.D., in Costa Rica. Dr. Lev’s credentials are impeccable, and his prices for face-lifts, tummy tucks, breast implants, and the like are typically a fifth of what his peers in ZIP code 90210 might charge. Didi might not be popular in Beverly Hills, but she is adored by the guests at her “Sleepaway Camp for the Terminally Vain,” and that is what matters to her.

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