In 2010, when reality TV star Heidi Montag landed on magazine covers across the country after undergoing ten cosmetic procedures in a single day, Salzhauer created an iPhone app called "Heidi Yourself" that allowed women — and girls — around the world to upload photos of themselves and tinker with their appearance. More than half a million people downloaded it, but again Salzhauer was accused of going too far.

Yet nothing compared to the uproar over the "Jewcan Sam" video. At first, Salzhauer sent it out to a few hundred of his former patients. A week later, only a few thousand people had watched it. Then the doctor got a call from ABC News asking for permission to post the video on its site. Within hours, more than 50,000 people had clicked. The ASPS quickly announced its investigation.

Salzhauer was oblivious, however. Like many Orthodox Jews, he doesn't watch television. His children listen to songs sung a cappella in Hebrew. "My teenage daughter wouldn't even recognize Britney Spears," he says. "That gives you an idea of the type of bubble I live in."

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."

Indeed, although Salzhauer's two-story, Mediterranean-style house is worth more than a million dollars, it's no Nip/Tuck bachelor pad. It's large and boasts plenty of marble, but the floors are littered with toys belonging to the surgeon's five kids. When Salzhauer and his wife decided to buy a second home, they chose the one behind theirs so their children could have room to play. They let visiting rabbis stay there.

Even if he had a TV set, he'd hardly have time to watch it. The doctor wakes up at 4:30 every morning, swims at a local gym for two hours, and heads to the shul to pray. By 8:30 a.m., he's in his office meeting patients. He drives his Lexus SUV home each evening for dinner with the family, and then he returns to work until 9 or 10 p.m. for more consultations. By the end of the day, his hands are black from drawing on patients' faces.

On March 14, the day ABC posted "Jewcan Sam" and the video went viral, his routine ground to a halt. That night, someone from his office called and told him to turn on the news. He crept into his maid's quarters and turned on a tiny TV set to see a local news reporter standing in front of his office building. You've got to be kidding me, he thought. After the ASPS complained, he abandoned the video contest. But the web hits kept coming.

"I had people calling me and asking me if I was going to prison," Salzhauer says.

Even that firestorm didn't sate his thirst for publicity. A few weeks later, after the "Jewcan Sam" hubbub had subsided, he stumbled upon an op-ed on the Jewish Press website in which a woman named Yitta Halberstam advised Jewish mothers to buy their daughters plastic surgery to marry them off. The op-ed quickly accumulated almost 1,000 angry comments.

Salzhauer soon added his own: "This article is 100 percent on target," he wrote. Then he made an offer: free plastic surgery for Orthodox Jews who needed it to find a match. He called the promotion "Operation Chuppah," referring to the Hebrew word for wedding canopy.

"There is a singles crisis in the Orthodox Jewish community," Salzhauer says. "There are more women than men, so the guys are being very picky."

He quickly adds, "Not that the guys couldn't use a nose job too. But something has to be done to get them together."

Call it sexist or shallow, but Joanna Gonzalez looks great when she arrives at Salzhauer's office a week after her surgery. The single mother wears a short black summer dress and high heels. Just a hint of blue remains beneath her eyes from the broken nose, and a small bandage straddles her new chin.

Salzhauer takes her face in his hands like a Fabergé egg. He inspects the features he's given her with the love and pride of Pygmalion polishing his Galatea. "You look awesome," he says definitively. She beams.

"It's almost like he sees it in his head beforehand," Gonzalez later says of Salz­hauer. "He's a genius." Asked whether she felt strange knowing a TV crew was filming her surgery or if she was put off by the viral videos, she shakes her head. "Nowadays, it's all about the YouTube hits."

A decade into an already controversial career, Salzhauer has reached a happy equilibrium. Patients such as Gonzalez don't care about the ethical questions. The doctor, meanwhile, quieted his own conscience years ago. Let the haters hate. I'm going to make people happy, his mantra now goes. And I'm going to put it all on YouTube.

When it comes to carving new faces, Salz­hauer's skills are unquestionable. His viral videos, however, are another matter. Each one is a marketing Hail Mary that will bring either thousands of new customers or national controversy. Ever since My Beautiful Mommy, Salzhauer's shameless approach has rubbed the medical establishment the wrong way. Several fellow plastic surgeons declined to comment for this article. And "Jewcan Sam" has driven ethicists insane.

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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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