Ballardian: "Michael Jackson's Facelift"


To commemorate the alleged death of the reclusive Hoosier sex wizard Michael Jackson, the dude at Ballardian has updated one of J.G. Ballard’s 1970 “surgical fictions,” a cut-and-pasted thing called “Princess Margaret’s Facelift,” originally published in New Worlds but most readily found in the appendix of modern editions of The Atrocity Exhibition. As Ballard told Penthouse back in ’70 (when porn mags were quite literally worth reading, from time to time):

“I feel a tremendous rapport with pop artists and in a lot of my fiction I’ve tried to produce something akin to pop art. For instance, I’ve just published a piece in New Worlds called ‘Princess Margaret’s Facelift’, in which I’ve taken the text of a classic description of a plastic surgery operation, a facelift, and where the original says “the patient”, I’ve inserted “Princess Margaret”. So I’ve done precisely what the pop painters did, using images from everyday life — Coca-Cola bottles, Marilyn Monroe — and manipulated them. The great thing about pop painters is their honesty. They’ve turned their backs on the traditional subject matter of the fine arts — which had hardly changed since the Renaissance — and looked at their own environment and decided: yes, the shine on domestic hardware, like the refrigerator or the washing machine, the particular gleam on the mouldings of a cabinet, the moulding of doorhandles, are of importance to people, because these are the visual landscapes of people’s lives, and if we’re going to be honest we’re going to use reality material instead of fiction. I want to do the same.”

So you can see how this might work with the legendary plastic surgery hobbyist and “dancing king,” yes? What with his multi-decade transmogrification from “ebony” to “ivory” to some sort of troubled anime being. Click here to read “Michael Jackson’s Facelift” over at Ballardian — complete with more creepy plastic surgery photos and annotations from other Ballard interviews — or take a gander after the jump.

Michael Jackson’s Facelift
Author: Ballardian • Jul 2nd, 2009 •

From the files of Dr Ricardo Battista’s assistant, School of Specialization in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Melbourne, Australia.

“As Michael Jackson reached middle age, the skin of both his cheeks and neck tended to sag from failure of the supporting structures. His naso-labial folds deepened, and the soft tissues along his jaw fell forward. His jowls tended to increase. In profile the creases of his neck lengthened and the chin-neck contour lost its youthful outline and became convex.

The eminent plastic surgeon Ricardo Battista has remarked that one of the great misfortunes of the cosmetic surgeon is that he only has the technical skill, ability and understanding to correct this situation by surgical means. However, as long as people are prepared to pay fees for this treatment the necessary operation will be performed. Incisions made across the neck with the object of removing redundant tissue should be avoided. These scars tend to be unduly prominent and may prove to be the subject of litigation. In the case of Michael Jackson the incision was designed to be almost completely obscured by his hair and ears.

Surgical Procedure: an incision was made in Michael Jackson’s temple running downward and backward to the apex of his ear. From here a crease ran toward his lobule in front of the ear, and the incision followed this crease around the lower margin of the lobule to a point slightly above the level of the tragus. From there, at an obtuse angle, it was carried backward and downward within the hairy margin of the scalp.

The edges of the incision were then undermined. First with a knife and then with a pair of scissors, Jackson’s skin was lifted forward to the line of his jaw. The subcutaneous fatty tissue was scraped away with the knife. Large portions of connective tissue cling to the creases formed by frown lines, and some elements of these were retained in order to preserve the facial personality of the King of the Pop. At two places the skin was pegged down firmly. The first was to the scalp at the top of his ear, the second was behind the ear to the scalp over the mastoid process. The first step was to put a strong suture in the correct position between the cheek flap anterior to the first point, and a second strong suture to the neck flap behind the ear. The redundant tissue was then cut away and the skin overlap removed with a pair of scissors.

At this point the ear was moved forward toward the chin, and the wound was then closed with interrupted sutures. It did not matter how strong the stitches were behind the ears because that part of the King of Pop’s scarline was invisible in normal conditions.

Complications: haematoma formation is a dangerous sequela of this operation, and careful drainage with polythene tubing was carried out. In spite of these precautions blood still collected, but this blood was evacuated within 48 hours of the operation. It was not allowed to organize. In the early stages the skin around the area that had been undermined was insensitive, and it was not difficult to milk any collection of fluid backward to the point of drainage.

Scarring was hypertrophic at the points where tension was greatest: that is, in the temple and the region behind the ear, but fortunately these were covered by the King of Pop’s hair. The small fine sutures which were not responsible for tension were removed at 4 days, and the strong sutures removed at the tenth day. The patient was then allowed to have a shampoo to remove the blood from his hair. All scarlines are expected to fade, and by the end of three weeks the patient was back in social circulation.

At a subsequent operation after this successful face lift, Michael Jackson’s forehead wrinkles were removed. An incision was placed in the hairline and the skin lifted forward and upward from the temporal bone. The skin was then undermined and the excess tissue removed. The immediate result was good, but as a result of normal forehead movements relapse may occur unduly early after the operation. To remove the central frown line, the superciliary muscle was paralysed by cutting the branches of the seventh nerve passing centrally to it. A small knife-blade was inserted from the upper eyelid upward for 3 cm and then pressed down to the bone. External scars on the forehead often persist, and even in the best hands results are not always reliable. It was explained to Michael Jackson where the scars would lie, and the object of the intervention.”

Based on ‘Princess Margaret’s Facelift’, by J.G. Ballard.

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About Jay Babcock

I am the co-founder and editor of Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curator of the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was one of five Angelenos listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. Today, I live a peaceful life in Tucson, Arizona with Stephanie Smith.

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