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Dr. Beauty Buys a Beast
William Johnson
February 19, 1968
A lifetime of improving profiles has brought a flamboyant Hollywood doctor fame, riches, a saintly portrait and now—quite suddenly—a racing stable that includes a horse known round the world
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February 19, 1968

Dr. Beauty Buys A Beast

A lifetime of improving profiles has brought a flamboyant Hollywood doctor fame, riches, a saintly portrait and now—quite suddenly—a racing stable that includes a horse known round the world

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I know more about beauty than anyone in the world. I have that kind of ego; I believe that about myself. I am the man who showed women that they could compete with Jane Russell. I enlarged the breast line of America when everyone said that it couldn't be done.
DR. ROBERT A. FRANKLYN, PLASTIC SURGEON AND HORSE-RACING ENTREPRENEUR

The �lan of Los Angeles is such that what may seem unusual elsewhere—or perhaps even absurd—somehow takes on an aura of the commonplace. For example, people do not think it terribly odd that L.A.'s Mayor Sam Yorty has hired his own cartoonist to take raps at the anti-Yorty Los Angeles Times on his television show. Nor do they view it as particularly extraordinary that Rudy Vallee, of reedy saxophone and Maine Stein Song fame, may run for Sam Yorty's job. And so it is understandable that around southern California racetracks people have become so accustomed to the vagaries of the L.A. crowd—movie stars, faith healers, professional mourners from Forest Lawn, various weirdos of undiagnosed dementia—that they have been only slightly curious about the sudden advent on their scene of Robert Alan Franklyn, 49, a plastic surgeon from Sunset Boulevard. He is a specialist in what he calls "beauty parlor" surgery, a fellow who has been labeled the Pygmalion of Hollywood, a kind of operating-room Rodin who works with scalpel and silicone instead of chisel and stone.

In the past six months Dr. Franklyn has acquired ownership or an interest in around $1.5 million worth of racehorses. Before that he owned no horses at all. Not one. His string includes the magnificent, British-bred 3-year-old, Vaguely Noble, which cost the doctor $342,720—paid with a common, everyday household check drawn on his personal account. Never before has so much money been paid at auction for a single horse in training, and Vaguely Noble probably would not even have been up for auction in December at Tattersall's Newmarket Sales if the family of the late owner had not needed cash for death duties on the estate. The London Daily Mirror called the purchase "a fantastic record," and the Daily Express came up with a near-perfect headline: HOLLYWOOD MAN GETS WORLD'S COSTLIEST RACEHORSE...IT'S DR. BEAUTY'S BEAST.

Around California tracks, some people call Dr. Franklyn "The Mystery Physician," a few wonder if he exists at all and many of the best-informed racing officials say that about all they know of him is what they read in the papers. Of course, since most people around racetracks (excluding the stars) don't go in much for breast-expansion or nose-barbering or even dimple-building, a specialist with Dr. Franklyn's talents would not come up during the course of an ordinary conversation in the daily-double window queue. Dr. Franklyn is a man who marches to quite a different trumpet than daily-double bettors. He is ambitious, self-confident and imaginative beyond the capacity of most run-of-the-mill mortals. He has an ingratiating zest and a genuinely refreshing and almost existential what-the-hell-do-I-have-to-lose insouciance about his entry into the expensive and complex world of racing horses.

"I wouldn't say I'm the Great White Hope for racing," says the doctor. "I'm not that egocentric. But I think we'll give everyone something to remember, and we'll have some fun doing it." Right. The color he wants for his Gemini Farms is gold. That's all, just gold. His horses will race on gold horseshoes ."Not solid gold," says Franklyn. "They would turn to nuggets and dust in half a furlong. We'll just put on a coating of gold. Why not? No one ever asked people if they really preferred aluminum-colored shoes, right? Well, we prefer gold."

The doctor also has this thing about round buildings. "They appeal to me, I suppose, because a circle is such a clean thing," he says. Right now Franklyn has his surgery practice in a spectacularly attractive round building on Sunset Boulevard. He is the sole occupant and has named it The Beauty Pavilion. It was designed by the brilliant Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer, who also designed part of the United Nations complex and the major buildings in Bras�lia. Unfortunately, The Beauty Pavilion is located in a landscape of shamefully ugly urban rubble that is quite typical of Los Angeles—on one side, a hamburger joint named Alfie's and, on the other, a mammoth black sign with a huge red neon message pushing Hav-A-Kar rentals for $4 a day and 4� a mile. Franklyn has planted a large evergreen tree in front of the sign, but it doesn't help much. Nor is the doctor content with having just one round building in his life. Gemini Farms will be located on a 300-acre tract about 50 miles from L.A. Naturally, Franklyn is going to have himself a round home there. He is also going to put up a round barn with round stalls. It has never been done before, he says. Franklyn himself designed the new barn, Oscar Niemeyer not having expressed much enthusiasm for the project.

"Well, why not have round stalls?" asks the doctor. "They won't do the horses any harm, and they may even be good for them. A lot of horses hurt themselves because they lie down, then get trapped in the corner of a stall and get panicky when they can't get up."

Obviously, Robert Franklyn is an impressively creative man, as a cosmetic plastic surgeon should be. But what—beyond creativity and very delicate hands—makes a man a successful beauty surgeon? "Well, if I have one thing in the world going for me, it is my excellent good taste," says Franklyn. And, he might have added, my monumentally thick skin. "Most plastic surgeons sneer at cosmetic specialists," says the doctor. "The great majority are in strictly reparative surgery, and they reluctantly do a nose job or set back a pair of big ears. We need 10 times more cosmetic surgeons than we have. This is a beauty culture in America; all the magazines and television and billboards in the country constantly remind people that they should be beautiful, that success and beauty, health and beauty, sex and beauty are inseparable. This sort of thing can make plain people uncomfortable; it demolishes their vanity. And don't forget, vanity is probably the one major driving force in almost every human being. I have a great sympathy for most of the people who come to me. I may not be changing the course of the world, but my work is of inestimable value to the individuals I treat. Some of them are referred to me by psychiatrists, and sometimes they become totally different—and infinitely happier—people after an operation. I remember one mousy little kindergarten teacher who came to me, had her bust enlarged and became a very successful striptease dancer."

A beauty surgeon should also be utterly In as far as fashion changes go. Franklyn subscribes to everything from Harper's Bazaar to Geriatrics to a plastic-surgery journal published in Czechoslovakia. But, with all that emphasis on Good Looks and New Looks, on straight noses and pouchless eyes and streamlined ears and seamless brows, what should the well-received cosmetic surgeon himself look like?

Admittedly, prior to actually laying eyes on one, there is plenty of room for imagination in visualizing the appearance of a beauty surgeon—especially a beauty surgeon whose major domain of expertise lies along the frontal contours of female America. Somehow a combination of George Romney's leonine looks and Zachary Scott's devilish cosmopolitanism seems right, although it presumably would take quite a plastic surgeon to produce the cross. Or maybe something between John Wayne and Ernest Hemingway? Kyle Rote and Barry Goldwater? No matter. Dr. Franklyn does not look like that. Somehow he does not even look like a man who recently published a book called Developing Bosom Beauty, in which he printed several before-and-after photographs of his patients along with a batch of postoperative case studies with such provocative titles as, "The Nun's Sister," "The Nervous Congresswoman" and "The Lady Motorcyclist," whose opening line to the doctor was, "Hi, Mac, you fix flats?"

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