Dr. Zizmor and the Bethenny Effect

You guys. Dr. Zizmor is retiring. I don’t even know how to process this. I haven’t lived in New York City for 14 years, and yet, so inextricably linked is this man—or, rather, his image—to my life there, I am feeling a distinct loss, imagining New York City subways without his rainbow-themed ads, his smiling (smirking?) face.

For the uninitiated: Jonathan Zizmor, MD is a dermatologist whose ads, like this one, have appeared on NYC subways for, well, a very long time.

When I first moved to New York and saw Jonathan Zizmor, M.D. looking down at me as I clung to the grip pole, I was mystified. My thoughts ran the gamut:

“What kind of doctor advertises on the subway?”

“What kind of person chooses a doctor based on the ads on the subway?”

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“I feel wrong even reading these ads.” And, yet, I was a captive audience. I had to read them. Even as I was reading the newspaper or a book, my eyes drifted upward to this man’s smiling face, and his promise of an improved face, body, skin. Wondering, all the while, “Doesn’t he know this is cheesy? Does he really think people sitting in the subway are going to read these ads, and think: ‘Yes. TODAY is the day for all those dermatology procedures I’ve been putting off, and I’m calling Jonathan Zizmor, MD to help me.'”

My zealous wonder (I would bring up these ads at dinner, with alarming frequency) was informed by the fact that I worked for women’s magazines, where the editors cultivated relationships with the best and brightest medical experts. The very thought of calling a doctor from a subway ad was preposterous.

Only today, as the announcement of his retirement at age 70, appeared and reappeared all over social media, did I figure out the fact that creating familiarity was Dr. Z’s stock in trade. It reminded me of an experience years ago when Jeff and I were at a party during the Sundance Film Festival.  We saw a familiar face across the room, and commented to each other that we couldn’t place her—one thing was certain, we knew we’d had dinner with her at our house. It was mildly embarrassing, therefore, that we couldn’t remember her name. Still, we found it irksome that she hadn’t come over to greet us.  Finally, we saw her speaking with another friend of ours, and when their conversation wrapped up, we asked the friend to ID her. Oh, said our friend, it’s Bethenny Frankel. We laughed and went over to introduce ourselves. “Bethenny, we were over there at our table getting mad at you because we thought you’d been to our house for dinner, and now you didn’t have the decency to say hello!” Bethenny cracked up. “You know, we have had dinner—if you watched me on TV while you ate. Right?” Right.

This is the genius of Dr. Z. It’s the Bethenny Effect. If you’ve ever taken the subway, you know Dr. Z. I’m willing to bet that he improved the skin of millions of subway riders, for all the years he worked, just by dint of the fact that he was an omnipresent evangelist for good skin.

And, maybe this was the magic—riding with Dr. Z made you forget, for just a minute, that you were in a grimy subway car. Maybe you were thinking about making the world a better place—surely that was the idea behind the rainbow? Whatever the case, Dr. Z was there to take you away from the guy with leg sprawl, next to you, and from the other guy crushing up against your back. So, thank you Dr. Zizmor. I wish you all the best in your retirement.  Though it begs the question: What ad will replace Dr. Z, in the city’s zeitgeist?

 

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I fedora this kid

“Wait, I need to get my fedora!” Seth called out as we started to head out the door to meet friends for dinner and a movie.

It was not an occasion that called for formality. But he can’t resist the bright pink color (he’s color blind, and it’s a shade he can see, and, therefore, a favorite). And one of the friends we were meeting is given to wearing fedoras, so he wanted to show off to a fellow aficionado.  “It’s not just pink,” he said while pushing a button on the band of the hat. “It lights up!” And while it’s super-cute on the kid, it’s even funnier when he places it atop the shaggy head of a sleeping dog. (Incidentally, it was acquired at a bar mitzvah party, the night before—as if it weren’t incongruously delightful enough that the party was held at a distillery on a dude ranch…)

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I fedora this photo.

 

Haircut Magic

I have a thing about going out the night after a haircut. When hair gets the expert treatment, the hair should greet its public. You know I’m right. It’s not necessarily a date night—I just need to know that I didn’t “waste” the blowout on a night at home. Because, there are good hair days and there are salon days. But, it turns out, the blowout has special powers—more on that in a minute.

Last week, on salon day, Jeff was out of town, so I texted him a Selfie—maybe he could take to dinner a photo of his chatty wife, and get a quiet evening out of the deal? (He sent an enthusiastic, complimentary text, so that was nice.)

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Cute hair, don’t care.

Regardless, I had big plans: Seth’s third-grade concert, with Lance as my date. Throughout the afternoon, there were opportunities for the hair to see-and-be-seen. I bumped into two friends—moms of kids in Seth’s third-grade class—at the craft store (don’t ask). They gasped in admiration of hair-magician Bratis’s skills. “I’m going to have the cutest hair at the Third Grade Winter Concert, tonight,” I told them. “Or, you know, you can take up the challenge. Whatever.”

`Then, when I was at school, picking up Seth, the new music teacher complimented my hair. “I did it for the concert,” I said. “It’s the hottest ticket of the year.” Little did I know the truth of that statement.

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Pregame pic with the awesome Ms. M. The kids love her. So do I. 

Fast forward to 6pm. We arrive at the concert. Lance and I kill time taking funny Instagrams.

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Goofing off with my date.

Then, one of the Michaels Moms appears with a beautiful ‘do—and says she was tempted to go for a blowout, just to show me that she’s got game. “But I decided just to comb it,” she said, with a knowing wink. For the record, it was styled in pretty waves. Comb it, my ass.

Whatever effort went into our hair for the Big Night Out was totally worth it. I’ve been to a million (OK, maybe a dozen or so) elementary school concerts. Children have stood on risers to sing songs about every possible holiday that happens to fall in December. For HOURS. Maybe even months. But this? No kidding, not a single holiday was referenced in the musical numbers about snow and cocoa and spending time with family. The grade was broken up into teams, which rotated through singing, dancing, drumming, bell-ringing.

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Singers—that’s Seth, in the red. Note the privacy shading on everyone else’s kids. 

 

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My hipster bell-ringer

The students even conducted each other. That’s right, third graders. Layer upon layer of musical education, on display—and tied up with a bow in—wait for it—20 minutes. This music teacher is my hero.

Maybe the good hair day was a good luck charm? I’m just superstitious enough to consider booking a blowout before the next school concert.