The death of Joan Rivers following what was billed as a routine procedure in her doctor’s office has reminded me of the connection between showbiz and the medical profession. Rivers, who was famously keen on plastic surgery, certainly knew her way around an operating suite. How ironic that a medical slip-up may have done her in. I suspect that somewhere in heaven she’s making dark but very funny malpractice jokes at her own expense.
Meanwhile, following a serious injury to an elderly member of my own family, I’ve been spending quality time in one of SoCal’s spiffiest hospitals. St. John’s in Santa Monica boasts wall panels that pay tribute to such Golden Age of Hollywood donors as Irene Dunne and Jimmy Stewart, who with wife Gloria has endowed a lovely rose garden. Right across the street from St. John’s is the John Wayne Cancer Institute. West Hollywood’s Cedars-Sinai megacomplex has named streets to honor such charitable luminaries as George Burns and Gracie Allen. At UCLA, meanwhile, there’s the recently-renamed David Geffen School of Medicine, acknowledging the generosity of the record industry mogul. It’s a long Hollywood tradition to support medical facilities with big industry bucks.
How ironic, though, that this week’s Hollywood Reporter -- a memorial issue with Joan Rivers on the cover -- is also devoted to a run-down of Hollywood’s Top Doctors in various specialty areas. In some cases, the listings are augmented by endearing little vignettes, like the one about the internal medicine specialist so busy catering to the in-crowd that he sometimes finds himself flying on patients’ private planes and giving flu shots in the middle of crowded restaurants. This doc charges an annual concierge fee (the latest gimmick in medical billing) in order to be available 24/7 for services ranging from surgeries to diet planning to veterinary care of a celeb’s beloved pooch. Says he, “these are really busy people who have better things to do than go to the doctor.” Methinks that’s true for all of us, but who am I to quibble?
Some of the connections between Hollywood and the medical profession don’t seem quite so self-serving. The Reporter features a few fascinating sidebars: one about a specialist who saves the voices of rock stars; one (titled “I Am the Real McDreamy”) by a USC chief of neurosurgery who actively consults with the staff of Grey’s Anatomy to ensure authenticity; several highlighting the work of researchers and Hollywood folk who’ve banded together to find cures for an array of rare “orphan diseases.” There are also some lively statistics outlining “How Working and Living in Hollywood is Good – and Bad – for Your Health.” I’m glad to know that L.A. residents have lower rates of heart disease, lung cancer, and (who would have thought?) auto accident fatalities than elsewhere. The syphilis stats? Don’t ask. But isn’t it good to know there are 257% more shrinks per capita in L.A. than in the rest of the country?
Flipping past the ads for “aesthetic dermatology” and the “best allergist in all of Los Angeles,” I was intrigued to find a page devoted to a comparison of various SoCal emergency rooms. Handy icons indicated those with short waits, top trauma centers, and distinguished pediatric units. But you could also learn which hospitals are the most “celebrity-friendly.” Says the head of the emergency room at Cedars-Sinai, “We treat a number of celebrities and VIPs and are cognizant of protecting people’s privacy.” Not a bad thing, I guess, when you’re treating Suge Knight for gunshot wounds following an MTV Awards after-party that got out of hand.