Eva persuaded her young husband to do his medical residency in Miami. The hours at Jackson Memorial Hospital were grueling 48-hour shifts of nonstop gunshot and car crash victims. Occasionally, however, Salzhauer saw firsthand cases that needed a good plastic surgeon — usually because an amateur had botched the job. Debriding a patient's buttocks — literally, tearing the person a new ass — was gross, but it indulged his creative impulses.

Salzhauer had another revelation during his residency. The marathon days of saving dying people had desensitized him and inflated his ego. He had begun to see his patients not as people but as problems he could fix. So when a young Orthodox Jewish woman arrived with a serious infection, Salzhauer made it his mission to save her. He checked on her obsessively, devoting extra hours and concocting elaborate treatments. In the process, he grew close to her husband.

When she died a few months later despite his efforts, Salzhauer was deeply shaken. Yet the woman's husband and family seemed miraculously prepared and at peace.

Salz­hauer's risqué videos belie his personal life. He has five kids and twice ran for Surfside City Commission.
Giulio Sciorio
Salz­hauer's risqué videos belie his personal life. He has five kids and twice ran for Surfside City Commission.
Salzhauer strikes a faux-gangster pose during his latest video, a Justin Bieber spoof titled "If I Was Your Surgeon."
Courtesy of Dr. Michael Salzhauer
Salzhauer strikes a faux-gangster pose during his latest video, a Justin Bieber spoof titled "If I Was Your Surgeon."

"They had this simple faith, this spirituality that was missing in my life," he says. Salzhauer began attending the shul on Collins Avenue in Miami Beach, an orthodox temple where the sexes sit separately and men wear black boxes inscribed with Torah verses on their heads during prayer. "I realized that I wasn't in charge," he says of his epiphany. "No matter how smart or diligent or good I was, there are some things that are out of my control."

Dr. Schnoz had found God.

Linda Salzhauer shrieked at the sight of her son. Dr. Michael Salzhauer had just finished a shift at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic Florida in Weston. But when he slipped into her car, his face was covered in bandages like that of a burn victim. For the past year, he had honed his skills alongside the clinic's finest cosmetic surgeons. He was remarkably young for a doctor and undoubtedly talented, with a multimillion-dollar career ahead of him. But the taunts from high school had stuck with him. And as he learned how easy it was to change someone's face, he decided to change his own.

His colleagues did it for him as a graduation present. They filed down the knot in his nose, boosted his chin with a silicone implant, and liposuctioned his love handles. His mom was in shock. "I would never, never have told him to do that," she stammers a decade later. "I thought he was perfect the way he was."

Salzhauer's own plastic surgery was both a personal decision tied to memories of abuse over his nose, and a business move, because who wants plastic surgery from a guy who hasn't done it himself? But the surgery would also have a more lasting impact on his side career as a professional shit-stirrer.

Until he returned home, Salzhauer had kept his plans from his daughter. "Is Daddy going to die?" 4-year-old Aleah wailed when she saw her father's bandaged face. Realizing the trauma his surgery could inflict on her, and trying to explain his operation, he had an idea: Why not write a book to help other parents explain their operations?

My Beautiful Mommy hit bookstores on Mother's Day 2008. In bright illustrations, it tells the story of a young girl whose mother gets a tummy tuck. Dr. Michael — Salzhauer's superhero-like stand-in with broad shoulders and a square chin — also gives the mom a nose job. By the end of the book, when Mommy's bandages come off, she is a veritable cartoon cougar.

Public reaction was fast and furious. Bloggers nationwide accused Salzhauer of selling plastic surgery to little kids and, even worse, sowing inadequacy. "That's an excellent message to send to your daughter," wrote Jezebel's Jessica G. "Isn't she going to think that her nose is inadequate too?"

Child psychiatrists also sounded alarm. Elizabeth Berger, author of Raising Kids With Character, told the Daily Beast that Salzhauer was right to tell parents to talk to their children about surgery, but that it was dangerous to raise body image issues with girls too young to understand them.

As the firestorm raged, something curious happened: Instead of shrinking from the derision, Salzhauer grew to crave it. In part, it's because the doctor thought the book's critics were ridiculous. "People see it as a sign of the decadence of Western civilization," he says. "But... plastic surgery helps people feel better about themselves. If something bothers you about your appearance, fix it. If it doesn't, then don't."

But the kerfuffle also kindled something more basic: For years, Salzhauer had been so focused on med school, his residency, and his practice that he'd never really had time to be a kid. He could perform most surgeries on autopilot, yet courting controversy was different. It was dangerous. It was fun.

Rather than move on, Salzhauer sought to start more trouble. A year later, he hosted a highly publicized fashion show for his plastic surgery patients. Ten artificially enhanced women in skintight dresses sauntered down a makeshift catwalk, fake boobs bouncing to the music's beat.

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10 comments
Erik
Erik

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Jack Grimshaw
Jack Grimshaw

What the hell does rhinoplasty or any other surgical procedure have to do with "g-d," as you so strangely phrase it? And what exactly is this "g-d" you speak of? The man in the sky? Some volcano g-d? The Easter Bunny? The Tooth Fairy? Mohammed? Obi-Wan Kenobi? And who informed you that someone's body belongs to this "g-d"? You're speaking in tongues, pal ...

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