Mary-Ellen Galeo had been going to her surgeon since 1985. He often joked about giving her free services after her fiftieth one since she’d long ago paid off an attachment to his mansion on Camden Drive. But he never did make good on his joke of a promise. This didn’t irk Mary-Ellen; she had plenty of money to spare. What did vex her, however, was that Dr. Wiseman didn’t bother to ask her to Thanksgiving after she had announced that she was separating from her husband of twelve years a few weeks earlier.
The truth was, most of Mary-Ellen’s surgery had not been to impress her now ex-husband or even herself, but to get Dr. Wiseman to notice her—to see her as his masterpiece. She was approaching her sixty-eighth birthday and didn’t have much time to play these sort of coquettish games anymore. Thus, it was with a tinge of nervousness that she returned to his office for a routine consult about getting her ear lobes shaved off just a touch. To entice him to her proposal, she brought with her a pair of cufflinks and a tie purchased from Salvatore Ferragamo on the corner of Rodeo and Brighton.
Dr. Wiseman entered the examining room with his usual appraising manner. “Mary-Ellen, you look wonderful as always.”
She clutched to the gift box in her hands. “I owe that all to you really. I wanted to give you these as a thanks. You’re the reason I’m thankful this year—and every year.”
Although Dr. Wiseman was Jewish and therefore not exactly attuned to flirtation, this form of it was overt enough on Mary-Ellen’s part for him to take her meaning.
“Oh, Mary-Ellen. This is…too much,” he remarked as he opened the box to reveal their contents. “You’re too generous, really.”
He set the box on the sink and looked at her sympathetically. “Mary-Ellen, you know I’ve been with my wife Rachel for a long time now.”
Mary-Ellen scoffed. “You think two years is a long time?”
“For a fourth wife, yes.” He put on his surgical gloves and snapped each one against his wrist. “And I know you may not respect marriage at this moment in your life, but I’m going to have to ask you to respect mine.”
Mary-Ellen bristled as he caressed her ear lobes. She wanted him, for once, to touch her in a non-clinical way. And then, he said something that changed her perspective on human motivation forever.
“Of course, I’m willing to work with you on giving you what you want. For a price.”
“What price is that?”
He caressed her face, tracing his fingers up to her hairline and pulling it back to see the faint scars he had left behind. “You must let me decide from now on what I get to do to you. How I get to change you.”
She seemed momentarily aroused by this, but then contemplated what such power could actually mean for Dr. Wiseman.
“I’m not sure that’s such a good idea,” she returned.
Dr. Wiseman pulled his hand away. “Well then, I guess you won’t mind keeping things strictly business between us.”
Mary-Ellen, without being able to control herself, gasped. She was so close to getting Dr. Wiseman’s sexual affection. She didn’t want to lose her chance and, in a moment of unavoidable weakness, she said, “Fine. What do you want to do to me?”
“Why don’t we discuss that further over dinner tomorrow?”
“Don’t you have to be with your wife for Thanksgiving?”
“She’s going to see her parents in Pasadena. I naturally refused to accompany her to such a frivolous affair.”
Mary-Ellen smiled at him. “Well then, I guess I’ll see you for dinner.”
Dr. Wiseman held her back as she tried to get up from the examining table. “Don’t want your ear lobes shaved anymore?”
She paused and shook her head.
“Oh don’t be silly. It’s what you came here for, isn’t it?”
“Just an estimate.”
“Let me give you more than that,” he asserted as he took a scalpel off of the nearby tray. “I want to give everything you ask for.”
When Mary-Ellen left his office, her ears were covered in bandages. No one looked at her strangely, though. This was Beverly Hills, after all. If anything, they looked at you strangely if you weren’t walking around with some sort of bandage on. Her driver, Consuelo, was waiting for her faithfully at the curb, opening the door for her as though she was a countess or a curer of ills.
Now that Dr. Wiseman was going to be a part of her life in the way she had always wanted him to be, Mary-Ellen had quite a few preparations to make—starting with a feast for Thanksgiving that he wouldn’t soon forget. Granted, she wouldn’t actually be doing any of these things herself, but she would be, as Diane Keaton said in The First Wives Club, “supervising.”
The first call she made was to Spago, a restaurant she still regarded as being in its 1990s prime, to have the head chef specially create a menu for her and her guest of honor. The next arrangement she had to make was for her interior decorator to develop a room palette and according place settings for the meal. Luckily, Arielle, who had been changing her interiors since the late 70s, was always available at a moment’s notice to Mary-Ellen.
Then there was a matter of procuring the perfect ensemble and shoes to look her best for Dr. Wiseman. This was a job for Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood on Melrose. She wanted to appear as dramatically striking as possible and these were the two designers for the job. When her personal assistant was done buying out most of these stores, he brought the goods back to Mary-Ellen to try on in various mixed and matched incarnations. She at last settled on a crimson strapless dress with yellow and brown beading along the skirt and a bird on twig appliqué at the bodice. She paired it with maroon stilettos and a black bolero jacket. She decided to keep the rest of the clothes she did not use in the creation of the outfit for another occasion.
The next afternoon, once all this had been settled, she reached out to her hair and makeup artist, Amada, who came over in a pinch to curl Mary-Ellen’s hair so that it fell in place to one side of her shoulder and then gave her a scarlet lipstick shade with a yellow and brown eye shadow composition to match the dress. By the time Mary-Ellen’s body was ready, it was four o’clock, just thirty minutes from the time she had told Dr. Wiseman to arrive.
She straightened herself in her full-length mirror trimmed in gold and then waited for her servants to notify her of Dr. Wiseman’s arrival so that she could descend the staircase in a breathtaking fashion. At 4:46, Mary-Ellen began to worry. Had he decided to abandon her? Had he gone to the wrong address? She rushed down the stairs inelegantly to call him just as her servant was letting him in with a gang of surgically masked minions.
Mary-Ellen regarded him inquisitively. “Who are all these people? I said just you.”
But before anything could be explained, she was being pinned to the floor and injected with a sedative. Her hired help looked the other way when Dr. Wiseman offered them a fistful of cash and the promise of continued work in his house or when he took over this one. With that, there was no one to prevent Mary-Ellen from the fate that was to befall her in order for Dr. Wiseman to achieve his end of the bargain in getting to do what he wanted to her, to change her however he saw fit.
Hours later, the work was done, and Dr. Wiseman’s assistants placed the completed product onto the dining table. Mary-Ellen had been plucked of her clothes and given an allover plastic sheen of skin that was fashioned into the common pose of a turkey. Dr. Wiseman smiled as he took a picture of her and said, “Now say, ‘Gobble, gobble.’” He laughed to himself as he watched her struggle to move her collagen-inflated mouth.
He took the head of the table and instructed his aids, “Everyone sit down. Let’s eat.”