Politics & Policy

Dirty Needles

A Hollywood player tries to bring down Botox.

Life sure is tough when you’re a member of the Hollywood power elite. Just take the case of Michael and Irena Medavoy, whose lives (to hear them tell it) have been a living hell since the events of September 11, 2001. No, not those events, the ones that took place in New York, Arlington, and Pennsylvania; this trauma allegedly occurred in the offices of a Beverly Hills Botox clinic. And this being America, where misery shared is misery profited from, the Medavoys have launched a multimillion-dollar lawsuit that is threatening the future of one of L.A.’s–and America’s–most popular cosmetic procedures.

A little background: On 9/11, while her fellow citizens were either bugging out of Los Angeles in fear of more airplane attacks, or simply sitting glued to their televisions, taking in the horror unfolding on the other side of the country, Irena Medavoy (wife of producer and former studio chief Mike Medavoy) was rushing across town to the offices of dermatologist Dr. Arnold W. Klein. Once there, Klein–whose patients include Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson–injected Mrs. Medavoy with Botox, a medicine derived from botulism toxins that has become wildly popular because it is said to encourage tight skin, plump lips, and, in Medavoy’s case, cure migraine headaches.

And that’s where the trouble–and the lawsuit–began. According to the suit filed against Dr. Klein and Allergan, the makers of Botox, the injections caused Mrs. Medavoy to become “extremely ill” and suffer fevers, respiratory problems, and hives, as well as lose her ability to perform her, ahem, wifely duties. Bizarrely, the suit also claims that the Botox caused her to suffer migraines (temperamental things that respond to different treatments in different people), which is a bit of a stretch considering that the headaches were what she was looking to cure in the first place.

Of course, a jury–even one composed of self-obsessed Hollywood types–might have some trouble identifying with some of Mrs. Medavoy’s complaints. As a result of her September 11 dash for Botox, Mrs. Medavoy moaned to Vanity Fair, she “missed the Vanity Fair Oscar party, missed going to the Oscars. That Monday we were supposed to go to Maui–which I was so looking forward to. I missed that. I missed our anniversary trip. We were going to spend the month of June in Europe, going to Paris and then on a boat in the South of France. I missed that. People had invited me to Aspen for August. I missed that.”

As a result of quotes like that, it’s not surprising that the suit looks headed for a courtroom and not the settlement table. (One has to wonder what sort of daytime TV lawyers advertise in Hollywood: “Did your Gulfstream hit turbulence causing you to slip and fall? Call the celebrity injury helpline!”) While Medavoy claims that Dr. Klein’s use of Botox was “off-label”–meaning it was not specifically approved to treat migraines–Klein and Allergan point out that that sort of thing is standard operating procedure across all fields of medicine. As Klein’s lawyer recently told the National Law Journal, “It is common practice to use medications off-label. That’s what they do in clinical studies. That’s the way the drugs get tested.”

In the end, Medavoy’s greatest enemy may be herself–and America’s love of a cosmetic procedure that is cheap, apparently effective, and most importantly, non-surgical. (Indeed, having launched a lawsuit that threatens to end the use of the procedure for anything–not just migraine treatment–it’s amazing the Medavoys haven’t been run out of Hollywood on a rail). Orange County Weekly scribe Steve Lowery perhaps summed up the merits of what might be termed Irena v. Botox when he wrote, “Irena Medavoy is so unsympathetic as she’s shown cutting flowers in her garden, making oatmeal in her kitchen and playing board games in her zeppelin hangar of a bedroom, that I wanted to send Allergan a muffin basket. I don’t think Allergan has anything to worry about, because I have stood in a Newport Beach plastic surgeon’s office during a Botox party and have seen firsthand the hungry, (Rick) Jamesian look of women eager to be the next one stuck about the eye socket.”

James Morrow is a freelance writer currently living in Sydney, Australia.


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