De Alba on Dr. Foster
By Entertainer David de Alba*
You may wonder why I selected a surgeon to participate in my online interview series of entertainers and artists. In the field of cosmetic and reconstructive surgery, Dr. Lawrence H. Foster is a celebrity in his own right, and from my personal observation he is truly an artist. I met Dr. Foster many years ago when I was working at the world famous Finocchio Club in San Francisco. Many of the entertainers there went to him and praised his work. They told me I should go to him if I ever wanted any cosmetic surgery. Though his practice was in Lake Tahoe, CA, he had an office in San Francisco that he used for consultations and post-op exams. I was amazed and impressed at the diversity of clients I observed in the waiting room. There were entertainers, both male and female, and a few gay males as I would have expected, but also some very straight-laced ladies and square looking men that were perhaps looking for a little boost in their self esteem. (It's my opinion that two hours under the surgeon's scalpel can do more for your self esteem and is a better value than two years on the psychiatrist's couch!) I am honored that Dr. Foster accepted my online interview and I hope others who may not know of his unique work will learn not only about the masterful surgeon that he is, but also a little about the sweet man behind the surgical mask. So ladies and gentleman of my Cyberspace audience, I present to you Dr. Foster, the man who helped extend this entertainer's on-stage career long past his prime. As Judy Garland once said to a young member of her audience "Nobody's 18 anymore".
You may wonder why I selected a surgeon to participate in my online interview series of entertainers and artists. In the field of cosmetic and reconstructive surgery, Dr. Lawrence H. Foster is a celebrity in his own right, and from my personal observation he is truly an artist. I met Dr. Foster many years ago when I was working at the world famous Finocchio Club in San Francisco. Many of the entertainers there went to him and praised his work. They told me I should go to him if I ever wanted any cosmetic surgery. Though his practice was in Lake Tahoe, CA, he had an office in San Francisco that he used for consultations and post-op exams. I was amazed and impressed at the diversity of clients I observed in the waiting room. There were entertainers, both male and female, and a few gay males as I would have expected, but also some very straight-laced ladies and square looking men that were perhaps looking for a little boost in their self esteem. (It's my opinion that two hours under the surgeon's scalpel can do more for your self esteem and is a better value than two years on the psychiatrist's couch!)
I am honored that Dr. Foster accepted my online interview and I hope others who may not know of his unique work will learn not only about the masterful surgeon that he is, but also a little about the sweet man behind the surgical mask. So ladies and gentleman of my Cyberspace audience, I present to you Dr. Foster, the man who helped extend this entertainer's on-stage career long past his prime. As Judy Garland once said to a young member of her audience "Nobody's 18 anymore".
David: My dear Dr. Foster, where were you born and where did you spend most of your youth?
Dr. Foster: I was born in Bakersfield, California and lived there until age 19 where I went to UCLA for pre-medical studies.
David: When did you first know you were destined for a career in the medical field? Was anyone in your family a Medical Doctor or Surgeon?
Dr. Foster: I first knew I was destined for a career in the medical field at the age of 7 when I was the victim of an auto/pedestrian accident, which caused a mangled right arm that was at considerable risk of amputation above the elbow. Once it healed and became normal I was very impressed with the medical field. There are no other doctors in my family.
David: I read in a short bio of your career that in the Korean war you worked in a M.A.S.H hospital. What type of work did you do there, and do you feel that the experience enhanced your ultimate career in cosmetic surgery?
Dr. Foster: M.A.S.H stands for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. It is only surgeons and supporting doctors that help the surgeons that are staffed in a M.A.S.H. hospital, so we did trauma surgery including all of the things that can happen to troops in the field that require emergency surgery, like appendicitis, acute gall bladder, and collapsed lung, and every major type of injury leading up to fatal injuries. I became known in that part of Korea as the surgeon that would accept burn patients from the civilian population, and before I left Korea severely burned patients were traveling the full length of South Korea on a train all bandaged from the nose to the toes just to come to my hospital because of my reputation that had developed in less than 13 months. Of course trauma surgery enhances your skill in cosmetic surgery.
David: In your 30+ years of experience of working primarily on women and entertainers, when did you first notice an increase in male clientele and what types of surgery did they ask for?
Dr. Foster: Cosmetic surgery has always had about 10% of clientele as males. In recent years that may have increased to 12%, but still it isn't any higher than 15%. Males of course are interested in surgery to erase the stigma of age, such as removal of eyelid bags and jowls, "turkey wattle", and deep lines and creases on the face. We're now doing liposuction on "spare tire" and "love handles" quite frequently, and occasionally the male requires liposuction of the male breast to decrease the normal fatty deposit that occurs there more commonly in older men.
David: Comparing similar procedures on women and men, are there any unique challenges with men?
Dr. Foster: The unique challenges with men are related to returning them to the marketplace, to their job, as soon as possible without noticeable scars or fresh healing. Men do bleed a little more in the face because the beard requires a much greater blood supply to grow, but it's not a challenge, just a nuisance. Men are just as appreciative as women are for the extra years they gain through cosmetic surgery.
David: Talking about a "full face lift" is the procedure now pretty much "by the book" or does each surgeon have his own techniques and secrets? The reason I ask is that a good friend of mine has had two successful facelifts done by you and he still has all of his sideburns. Some surgeons leave men with a women's hairline.
Dr. Foster: I have performed face lifts a little differently than all the rest of the plastic surgeons for 25 years just to avoid the gradual elimination of sideburns. It happens with repeat face lifts on patients of both sex. By making a horizontal incision underneath the sideburn, I actually pull the sideburn down with each facelift rather than have it slowly disappear the way most other facelifts are done.
David: Have you ever performed sexual reassignment surgery? What is your prognosis for the success of this radical procedure?
Dr. Foster: I have not done genital sexual reassignment surgery, although I have frequently been asked to correct and refine both vaginalplasty and neophalloplasty procedures. Actually it's cosmetic surgery of the genitals that is sometimes requested by genetic male and female also. It's not a radical procedure. It's well established and perfected and the complications are no greater than with any other major reconstructive surgery. The surgeons that are doing that around the world are very skilled at it. I really couldn't expect to become that skilled unless I performed as many as they do, which is several every week.
David: You stress natural life extension through diet, exercise, and nutritional supplements in addition to surgery. Is this approach unique in the industry, and do you feel it enhances and extends the effectiveness of your surgical work?
Dr. Foster: I have become very interested in anti-aging medicine, as I've grown older myself. I practice anti-aging medicine pretty much as a hobby, as plastic surgery is my primary business. It certainly is a complement to plastic surgery in that once you make the outside look young you've got to make the inside feel and perform as a young person, and that is now possible through the supplements and hormone replacement with anti-aging medicine.
David: It seems to me that present day MD's primarily dispense drugs to suppress the symptoms of an illness and know very little about disease prevention. As a professional in the surgical branch of medicine, what are your thoughts on this subject?
Dr. Foster: After 30 years in the medical field I have come to realize that although most all doctors are very dedicated and honest individuals they are operating on information they have been "spoon fed" by the pharmaceutical industry for profit of the pharmaceutical industry. I have been disillusioned to see many good "old standby" drugs that worked much better than present day drugs be discontinued by the pharmaceutical companies once the 17 year patent expired so that they could be replaced with a slightly altered version that is now available at 10 to 100 times higher cost. Almost without fail these new drugs altered to qualify for new patents are not as effective or as good as the ones they replace. I have come to not believe most of the pharmaceutical industry propaganda that is constantly "spoon fed" to doctors in the medical journals that are personally controlled by the pharmaceutical industry.
I'm very happy to see alternative medicine growing by leaps and bounds. In essence alternative medicine is the healthiest way to prevent disease by eating the freshest nutrients in the greatest variety, and avoiding all the toxins of modern life, which are unavoidable if you live in a city. The only way you can breath fresh air and drink clean water is to live on a mountain top, and that's where I am.
David: Is there any advice you could give to someone contemplating plastic surgery, and any general advice concerning health and aging issues you have learned through your career?
Dr. Foster: Anyone contemplating plastic surgery should avoid taking aspirin or anything with an aspirin effect [blood thinning] for 30 days prior to the surgery and avoid ibuprofen, like Advil and Lotrin, for 7 days prior. On general health and aging issues, you need to avoid toxins, smog, tap water, and drugs of all types. Only eat absolutely fresh foods that were picked "yesterday" and lightly steamed or cooked and consumed "today". Don't eat leftovers. Always drink distilled water. As you get older you need to take multivitamins, including about 10 different hormones to maintain the health and vigor of a 25 year old.
David: Do you have any hobbies or interests that occupy your time when you are not at the clinic? At one time I understand that you liked to play some kind of musical instrument to relax, I think it was the sax? Also do you have any pets?
Dr. Foster: My hobbies are now all physical, like downhill skiing in the winter and mountain biking in the summer. I also ride horses and do wagon trains in period costume every summer. I was an accomplished musician with my own band in college. I still play the trumpet occasionally, and I play the bugle on the wagon train ten times a day to signal reveille for "get up in the morning" and starting and stopping of the wagon train, "at ease", and "take a break" and then taps at night. There are no pets in my house at the moment, but I have frequently had dogs and cats for many many years.
David: Many surgeons work out of major hospitals in large metropolitan areas. What attracted you to Lake Tahoe where you have lived and practiced all these years?
Dr. Foster: Most surgeons work in less than ideal living conditions, hoping to retire early and then move to the place they wanted to live all the time. I decided to go where I wanted to live all the time at the beginning and then I would never have to retire, and that's how it's worked out. I will continue working half time until I'm over 80. If you have a job that you like you'll never have to work a day of your life!
David: You have traveled all over the world. Is there somewhere besides the beautiful Lake Tahoe area that you might consider a retirement Shangri-La?
Dr. Foster: No, I wouldn't move to anywhere else for retirement, although I do enjoy visiting France, Italy and Monte Carlo.
David: Have you ever considered writing an autobiography of your exciting life and career someday?
Dr. Foster: No, not an autobiography, but I am writing a book entitled "Mother Nature is a Bitch" which is an explanation of evolution, human growth development and aging, and the biological facts of life.
David: You have reached the top of your profession and are respected by your peers, but if you had to wish in this Year 2001 for something you thus far have not achieved in your private life, what would that be?
Dr. Foster: I can't think of anything that I would rather be doing or anything that I wish to achieve. I flew an airplane from Tahoe to Paris and back approximately 12 years ago. I always wished for the bigger and faster and more expensive airplane, and it's the same way with boats; no matter how big or expensive a boat or airplane you have, you always wish you had the next one up the ladder, but there's no end to that, so you must be satisfied with what you've done and I'm happy with what I've accomplished.
* Cuban/American entertainer David de Alba (also known as "Heri, Hairstylist of the Stars") is known for his live singing impressions as a concert artist since 1965. He has worked at the world famous Finocchio Club of San Francisco (USA) for many years. Visit the award winning Web Site "David de Alba’s Theatrical Arts & Tributes" athttp://david-de-alba.com and you can e-mail him c/o firstname.lastname@example.org