A Conversation with Kinky Friedman
Mike Ragogna: Your new album The Loneliest Man I Ever Met is literally the first album of new material in thirty-two years. What the hell, Kinky!
Kinky Friedman: That's part of the curse of being multi-talented...life gets in the way! How much time I've spent on politics and how much time I've spent on rescuing animals and how much time I've spent on writing books, and of course this is a very romantic record, a ridiculously romantic record and I've always said that true love usually results in a hostage situation. It's true that love more often than not becomes tragic. If Romeo and Juliet had lived happily ever after, we probably wouldn't know their names.
MR: The depth of the material on here is wild. You've really adopted some of this material, or maybe it's adopted you. I love the Tom Waits version of "Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis," but I could almost swear you wrote it after hearing your interpretation.
KF: Well I think the reason that one works so well is I didn't listen to Tom's version. I had it there and I knew it was a cool song, but I never listened to it until after we recorded it. In that version, Tom kind of sounds like Toulouse-Lautrec, he's a fellow freak just like the hooker is and he's drunk and so forth. The question is whether the song has more appeal if it's going out to Kinky pretending to be a straight, jewish dork. Kinky's the straight man and she's the hooker but we see we're really all looking in the mirror on that one. If I ask you how you're doing, Michael, you wouldn't tell me the tailspin of black despair you might be in.
MR: Oh, really. I can do it in three or four hours, what do you say?
KF: [laughs] Then you're a rare bird that doesn't put up a front, doesn't have a facade of how things are going. A lot of this really is owed to Brian Molnar from New Jersey, who's a kid that I met at a show out there about ten years ago and has pestered me about doing a record. He did bring down this microphone that looks like one of those 1940's radio microphones. And he made me very comfortable. We did it here on the ranch, there was Joe Cirotti on guitar, he did some beautiful guitar work, and then, of course, Mickey Raphael just nailed it to the cross. Mickey is Willie's harmonica player, and most of the songs are just Joe and Mickey. Little Jewford, who's a Jew and he drives a Ford, played keys on "Christmas Card..." and on "Nightingale." Jewford didn't know what to play on "Christmas Card" because he did listen to the other version where Waits plays some pretty cool stuff. Brian told Jewford, "Play Kerouackian piano. Coffeehouse," and Jewford got it, and furthermore, he got it in one take. I mean we did the Frank Sinatra method: Two takes at most, and if you can't get it by then, tear it up and throw it in the fire.
MR: It's pretty honest. People always say about other albums, "Oh, it's so honest," but this is like somebody took out a Polaroid and created an album.
KF: As Dwight Yoakam would say, it's an homage to Willie on Red Headed Stranger. I remember all the s**t that Willie got for how sparse that record was, and I remember all of the record companies and producers were calling it a bad demo, a collector's record, a waste of time. The big producers in Nashville couldn't even save it. They could put horns and strings and backup vocals on it, but even that wouldn't save it. All this time, they're talking about a song in there, "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain," they weren't talking about the song but it was right under their nose and at the time, only Waylon Jennings knew that that would not only be the Country Song of the Year, but I believe it also crossed over and became the pop song of the year.
MR: It definitely set up his sound and who we think of as "Willie Nelson" these days. It left an indelible mark.
KF: Stardust, arguably Willie's best record, he didn't write anything on. He just delivered it, which is maybe harder sometimes. I wish there was more material, there will be next time out, but like I've said, my dad's favorite song was "Pickin' Time" and so far, I haven't run into one Johnny Cash fan who even knows the song.
MR: To be honest, it's a little obscure for me, although I did know was "Mama's Hungry Eyes."
KF: Well there's some real poetry in there. There's a kind of political, sociological, cultural take that none of the other guys really tackle. All of Chris' stuff and Willie's stuff, you don't hear, "Another class of people put us somewhere just below, one more reason for my mama's hungry eyes. Just a little loss of courage as their age began to show..." It's a beautiful song, and frankly people don't think of it when they think of Merle, they think of "Okie From Muskogee" and "Mama Tried" but this is right up there with "Silver Wings," no question.
MR: You also cover Willie's "Bloody Mary Morning," How did you guys record it? Did he come in and sing with you?
KF: Well, as you know, I don't smoke pot, but I do with Willie. I've said it's a matter of Texas etiquette, but really, I just want to try to be on the same wavelength with him, if humanly possible. So I did, and as I've also previously stated I got so high I needed a stepladder to scratch my ass, and the song appeared to be going way too long to me, because the first thing that goes out the window is timing. I thought, "This damn song is an hour, hour and a half long. We've got to cut it," but I hated to cut into Trigger riding again, it's really a jazz-cowboy version. So Willie is rocking away on it and the whole thing turns out to be exactly three minutes long, I think. I was totally off on that. I told him I really love that Glen Campbell documentary on Alzheimer's, which I think was directed by James Keach, who I used to know in Hollywood. Have you seen that, Michael?
MR: Yeah, it's beautiful, it's so touching. Glen Campbell was one my heroes when I was little.
KF: And there's some great stuff in there. One of them was Paul McCartney coming out and singing "Rhinestone Cowboy" backstage and Glen not knowing who he was. And when he goes on stage and they just kind of point at him on stage and square his shoulders and push him out there and he doesn't know the names of the people in the band who are mostly his children. So I asked Willie why you see pictures of Glen with everybody but Willie and was there any bad blood there? And he says, "Oh no, not at all," but a long time ago Glen gave him twenty five thousand dollars, and the deal was that all of Willie's songs that he wrote that coming year would be published by Glen. He said unfortunately that year he only wrote one song and that song was "Bloody Mary Morning," which didn't knock Glen's dick to his watch pocket. So that's the history on that one, but the song really goes right up there with "On The Road Again" or "Hello Walls." And the way we did it it just worked out. It's a little out of sync, a little out of rhythm. A musician will criticize it and a normal person will like it, but the fact is it sounds like it was done in a West Texas bar room, which is great for the song.
MR: To be honest, this whole album has a feel like that.
KF: Yeah, it does. So what chance does a record like that have in a Miley Cyrus world?
MR: Well, listen, the other point is it takes something unique to stick out in a culture, right?
KF: I think we've gotten down to such a point where you have to have click tracks and the song has to be written by a committee of five or six people these days and it all winds up sounding like background music for a frat party. This one does not sound like that. This is really performed for a silent witness, maybe a dead sweetheart or a lost cat. Currently, one of my dogs is having trouble dumping and that's caused me great personal anguish.
MR: Constipation consternation?
KF: It's not funny anymore, this has gone on for days, they kept him overnight and now he's run off so I can't monitor his dumping. It's a potentially tragic situation here and I'm hoping that Louie--he was named that because "Louie, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship"--I'm hoping he's okay.
MR: Didn't we talk about Louie last time?
KF: He might have been dumped on us last time. And now he can't dump!
MR: Kinky, how's the ranch doing?
KF: The Rescue Ranch is doing fine. The bigger dogs and the older dogs are harder to adopt; everybody wants puppies, which we don't deal in much, but that's going well, we're moving on into I think the nineteenth year now. Lots of dogs are being adopted. Of course as Will Rogers said, "If there are no dogs in Heaven, I want to go where they went."
MR: Beautiful, although It looks like the only "animal" represented on your album is a nightingale. What's the story behind your covering "A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square"? It's such a classic.
KF: You'd be surprised. What percentage of people in this country do you think know that song well enough to speak about it like you do?
MR: Well, it depends on the age. The Manhattan Transfer got a Grammy for their version of it. I think a lot of its original fans probably aren't alive anymore, but if you're of a certain age and were ever a little into jazz, you probably know it.
KF: Just like you and me talking about "Christmas Card..." or "S**t's F**ked Up," I don't think even five percent of people know those songs. "Christmas Card..." isn't even one that most Tom Waits fans are familiar with, it seems to me. "Nightingale..." was our song. I was in London with my girlfriend and this was our song. She was Miss Texas 1987 and, of course, I was Miss Texas 1967, so we had a lot in common.
MR: Oh, the photos from '67! Speaking of having a lot in common, have you decided how you're going to construct that wall?
KF: [laughs] All I said about the wall is we should not build it because we might want to get out of here. I am seriously considering now...Jamey Johnson, the singer, has come to me with a political idea. He wants me to run for president and he will run for vice president and it will be the Kinky/Johnson ticket.
MR: [laughs] Nice.
KF: But I'll tell you, there has not been a time where political leadership and political candidates have inspired me less than right now. Right now what inspires me is remembering seeing Willie Nelson twenty years ago signing autographs in the rain outside his bus with all the people waiting in the rain and Willie standing in the rain, too. Then I think back to how Will Hoover my friend and I wrote "The Loneliest Man I Ever Met" about Tompall Glaser. That was in Nashville and we were struggling songwriters. I think that was the purest calling of my life. If I could be a struggling songwriter I would do it. It didn't seem that much fun then, maybe, but it is a very high calling. If you can recreate that ambience and get back to how you were as a struggling songwriter, that's probably chief of many reasons we're not getting any good songs written today in spite of the fact that so many people can play guitar like Stevie Ray Vaughan. They appreciate Townes Van Zandt and you would think that a good song or two would come out of it, but ever since Willie got out of Dodge in 1971 and since the loss of Shel Silverstein and Kristofferson got out and Roger Miller, of course, it's kind of surprising. They don't seem to be able to write a song or inspire. If you want to be inspired, you have to see a handful of old geezers.
MR: On the other hand, it's a different communication that's needed for the different generations. My fourteen year old doesn't connect to singer-songwriters at all. He listens to electronic and pop music where occasionally, there will be a profound line thrown in.
KF: Well that's the whole culture with cultural ADD and political correctness. We used to call Italians and Mexicans greasers and now we call them Lubricanos. That goes over really well on stage, even in Sag Harbor.
MR: Oh my, here come the comments... Kinky, getting back to the album, it's not über-produced and though you didn't write everything, it's as personal as a hand-written letter. So who is the artist "Kinky Friedman"?
KF: I really thought about that, because I've never gotten around to asking Willie what he's thinking about when he's singing "Blue Eyes..." and some of those songs, the love songs in particular. I know what I do, I think of a succession of women. I don't want to get too far off, because I do kind of go on autopilot and I don't want to forget the lyrics or where I am but on the other hand I don't want to belt it out. You go back to Sinatra or Judy Garland and you probably have the same thing; they can't possibly be thinking of a star-crossed love affair as they're singing this, they must be thinking of what they're going to have to eat for dinner or when they're going to do the laundry, all those mundane things.
MR: What about a couple of the other songs on the album? I don't think that we talked about your song "Lady Yesterday" yet. Is that an homage...
KF: Let's not keep using the word "homage" here. [laughs] No, that one goes out to Karen, who died some time back, but that was her favorite. Other than "Wandering Star" which both Mickey Raphael and I have always loved--I don't think these are really legitimate covers. I think something like "Girl From The North Country" is halfway between Bob and me. I asked Mickey Raphael, "Give us a palpably early Dylan harmonica sound," and Mickey said, "Well you know this isn't karaoke." I said, "You're right, do what you feel. He just really nailed more than a few of these. That's one of them. It's not Bob Dylan, but I think Bob would be proud of that. And I really think Waits is going to like "Christmas Card...."
MR: Absolutely. It's such a character-focused rendition; it makes the song "you."
KF: You can't have ADD and listen to this song, there's some stunning lines in there. "I'd buy me a used car lot, wouldn't sell any of them. Just drive a different car every day depending on how I feel." Jesus Christ. That is just a stunning song. I think if we didn't have this cultural ADD, if we were back even twenty years ago I think it would have a chance like that long story song about the Tallahatchie bridge. It's kind of a captivating story if you'll only listen to it.
MR: And speaking of "you," Billy Bob Thornton is going to be playing you in a movie. I can't think of somebody who could explore your personality better.
KF: I've said that if he makes a go at that this will be bigger than The Hobbit. If you think about it, everything he touches becomes a classic of some sort. The guy may be the best actor we've got going. There ain't any question about it. He told me something very funny last week. I called him to wish him a chipper Yom Kippur and he said, "Yes, Yom Kippur, known to the Jewish people as a day of atonement, and known to the rest of the world as Wednesday."
MR: He's great. And you know about his music, of course.
KF: And nobody knows more about music than him! He's like an encyclopedia. Now he's interested in Van Dyke Parks. The last guy I brought over to meet Billy at his house was Danny Hutton of Three Dog Night, who's a prince of a guy. I mean Billy Bob is a fan, too. He knows more about Danny's history than Danny does. He knows which bass player they fired in 1942; he knows what you throw a drowning bass player--his amp.
MR: [laughs] I don't think I've ever heard that one. I also want to ask you about your new novel, The Hard-Boiled Computer.
KF: It's a big book, it's a long book. It's a mystery in the series and it should be out some time this Fall. We'll see what happens with that. And then there's a secret literary project I can't reveal.
MR: Come on, tell us everything about the secret literary project you can't reveal yet.
KF: No, but it deals with somebody who's already been mentioned in this discussion here. But I can't go into it because it hasn't been sold yet. But it's got some really good, heavy people behind it and it's a great idea.
MR: One of the songs on The Loneliest Man I Ever Met is a popular song by Warren Zevon, "My S**t's F**ked Up."
KF: Or "My Bleep's Bleeped-Up." It's very difficult and frustrating to promote a song you can't even say the title of to most people you're talking to in the media. You can't even promote it on radio or television mostly, but it may very well wind up the one that is most downloaded. I've fallen in love the song. I've always loved Warren. I think he was born in Chicago, and that's my foursome. I'm a big fan of Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Jesus, but the other foursome would be Steve Goodman, Shel Silverstein, Warren Zevon and Kinky Friedman, all born in Chicago. I think we did a version Warren would be proud of. I really believe this is not a song about a man dying of cancer, it's just such an apt description of our country and our world today. Our s**t may be f**ked up and it may not be fixable.
MR: What's the touring going to be like for the album?
KF: I don't know, it really is daunting. These guys, even Willie, all take a week or two off from road trips, but this one is a long, extended deal. I think the shows will get better and better and I'll get better and better as it goes. That's usually what I think occurs if you do it this way, but boy, you really start to feel like Hank Williams opening for Mozart.
MR: Did you ever run this hard in the past?
KF: I've never done this. I did sixteen in a row in Germany, where I am regarded as the thinking man's David Hasselhoff. I am proud to say the German audiences are all young people. Everyone in the room is younger than me and younger than the songs and they know every lyric. They may be the only group of people in the world who have learned something from their own experience.
MR: Kinky, I saw the amount of dates you're playing. Yikes!
KF: They're going to be wheeling me in on a gurney with a gooseneck microphone.
MR: Let's just be sure this isn't your last interview.
KF: Well, it's a good one, it's going smoothly.
MR: Thanks, Mr. Friedman. So you hinted at a "next album" earlier. Are you committing to making records on a regular basis again?
KF: I have a lot of half-finished material. I like these Thirty Tigers guys, they're pretty good. They have an interesting concept, they're kind of halfway between a record company and a friend.
MR: I love them, they do a lot with a dime. They also signed what I think is the best new act of the year, Darlingside.
KF: I think they're really on to something. You know how this was put together? Another reason Willie got in trouble with Red Headed Stranger is he did it so cheaply and so quickly, and nobody in the industry understands that. The whole thing cost twenty grand. They just did not believe that anybody could make a good record for that.
MR: And now it's the paradigm for many artists that followed. Kinky, what advice do you have for new artists?
KF: Stop before it's too late. Of course, my definition of an artist is anybody who's ahead of his time and behind on his rent. That is an artist. Here's one piece of advice: Stay miserable. If you're not miserable nothing great will come of it. You can see why Chris or Willie or Bob don't have great songs pouring out of them now, part of the reason is they've already written such great s**t, another part of it is the culture has changed, and still another part I think is that success distances you from your heart. There's just no denying it. They're also so great at performing stuff that you can't if what they write today is any good or not because they're so good at delivering it that it sounds like it's great. But you know, you would really think with this pool of musicians, middle-aged and young people, that somebody would be coming up with some unique and great songs, but I'm not really hearing it. They're not without talent. I'm certainly not saying that, but when you've got so many people now like Toby Keith and Garth Brooks who I dub the Anti-Hank, that group of people have already made more money than Hank Williams and Bob and Willie and Kris and Merle all put together. Barry Manilow might be the exception there; he's made more money than God.
MR: What advice do you have for people who just can't find a way to be miserable?
KF: Well, you've got to fight happiness at every turn. If there's somebody that you truly love, deliberately, achingly, let them slip through your fingers, as I have done a number of times, inexplicably. I believe those are the only people that you truly keep, are the ones that you let get away. I asked Willie about that about a month ago. I was calling him Hawaii. I was watching Matlock religiously, every night, by myself, with my dogs. Willie said, "That is really not healthy, it is really negative." I said, "Also I'm beginning to watch Walker, Texas Ranger." Willie said, "That's very bad, very dangerous, don't watch those anymore." So I stopped watching them and things just turned around. I've been miserable for sixty eight years, but things are starting to look up now. Then I told Willie, "I wish I'd been married two or three times, just to see what it was like." Willie said, "Don't ever say that again. Even when you get divorced, you still feel married. Anything bad that happens to your kids or your wives you feel a part of and responsible for." He says I'm on the right track, this is perfect for me, exactly as it should be. And he appears to take this seriously, like a shrink talking to me, which he pretty much is.
So for that, the only reward Willie got after giving his time, his studio, his musicians and his talent to us on "Bloody Mary Morning," which has served as a beautiful leg opener--I had a girlfriend who once referred to Jägermeister as a great leg opener--for the record, it sucks people in very nicely. NPR is playing it already, so there's got to be something going on there. Whatever I was rambling on about, something about Willie. The only reward he got, other than friendship, which is the cheapest form of payment, was a Zippo Air Force One lighter that Bill Clinton gave me, which Willie seemed to like like a small child, holding it and looking at me. Maybe he was just being humorous. But that was the payment, and the more I listen to "Bloody Mary Morning" I think that some of these musicians pointing out that the thing is out of rhythm, Willie's been doing that for sixty five years, very successfully. It may be that one of the secrets of his success is not to use click tracks, not to stay in the groove there.
MR: Because it sounds like real people.
KF: It does. It has a certain spirit to it that you just can't put in a bottle.
MR: That could also explain why people are preferring to see music live now.
KF: If I had to pick one song, I think "S**t's F**ked Up" says it best. I guess we'll do a video of that one because it's the one you can't hear on radio or TV. I started telling you something about Warren; I was not close with Warren, but he was kind of a Hank Williams guy. He was drunk a lot of the time and reportedly abusive to women and employees. Always a sweetheart to Kinky. I think his road manager told me that he stopped drinking cold turkey but he said, "You know the amazing thing is, he's still an *sshole." So that's what I'm suffering from. EOA: Early-Onset *sshole.
MR: Eh, when you get right down to it, everybody's s**t's f**ked up.
KF: Except you and me.
MR: Except you and me.
KF: And I'm not so sure about you sometimes.
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
AMANDA LAMB'S "BAREFOOT" EXCLUSIVE
According to Amanda Lamb...
"I wrote this song in Nashville with Dave Tough, and we were talking about the beautiful forests in the South, and how they made me just want to run barefoot through them. I wanted the song to express a feeling of being carefree, like a child. I think as we get older, we start to judge ourselves more, and the fear of failure can creep into our decisions. I wanted the song to sort of transport you back to a time when you were more in the moment. We liked the line 'listen to the drum' because it made us think of the phrase 'marching to the beat of your own drum' which is a harder thing to do as you put childhood behind you, but it's so beautiful if you can still hear it."
A Conversation with Alberta Cross' Petter Ericson Stakee
Mike Ragogna: Your latest self-titled album is also your third full album in a string of admired projects including EPs, etc.. Since this one is self-titled, did you feel it best represents Alberta Cross?
Petter Ericson Stakee: This record felt like full circle to me. Since Terry left the band and I got out of a bunch of deals I took it all back to me. I wrote all the songs by myself at home in Brooklyn with no input from anyone. It was like how I wrote the first mini album, The Thief and the Heartbreaker. I co-produced the record with Claudius Mittendorfer who is a very good friend. Working with him gave me creative control in a very relaxed environment.
MR: Petter, what did this album accomplish creatively for you?
PES: Loads of things, because no one tried to give input all the time and that freedom was very inspiring. It was the mix of writing the record at home and then trying the new songs out at our secret jams in the east and west village with my close dear friends. I'm very lucky to have close friends that are also amazing musicians. The looseness and diversity of those late night jams in New York and my new tunes really seemed to have worked out.
MR: From your perspective, which songs are the album's highlights and why?
PES: The songs are all pretty different from each other. "Water Mountain," "It's You That's Changing" and "Easy Street" are my favorites but probably because they're mellow and nice to listen to when you're at home. But the songs like "Western State," "Ghost of Santa Fe" and "Get Up High" are really fun to play live because they're more high energy. "Beneath My Love" isn't my first pick but quite a few very close friends say it's their favorite.
MR: Were there any songs on the project whose arrangements, rewrites, etc. evolved way beyond your original vision of them?
PES: Yes, that was the great thing with the jams we had in NYC. I would bring in very structured songs and make them looser in a good way. Also all the horns, pedal steel, mandolin and upright piano etc. really came from those nights. The awesome musicians that I used and the colors the instruments added to the songs, really inspired the record.
MR: What are you most passionate about creatively, meaning the songwriting, the recording, the life experience, the live performance...?
PES: You need them all really. When I'm in the studio the thing I'm really missing is the road, but when I'm on the road the only thing I can think of is creating and writing new songs at home or in the studio.
A Conversation with Astrella
Mike Ragogna: Astrella, how did the Las Vegas launch for your new line of Musical T's go?
Astrella: It exceeded my expectations in so many ways. It is a wonderful feeling to see my vision brought to life. I highly recommend it : )
MR: You had many celebrities attend and do the catwalk for the line. What were some of your favorite moments from the event?
A: We are blessed to have such support from old friends and new for our brand. Growing up in this industry of music has opened me up to truly gifted creative souls that have deeply enriched my life on many levels. I am ever so grateful for the love and support shown at our event. Favorite moment was watching my models walk the runway in front of our Rock Stars on stage.
MR: What inspired the new line and can you contrast it with the existing products? And how successful has the line in general been since its 2013 debut?
A: I had been working with my father's catalog after campaigning to get him inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and realized the importance of his visual assets so I contacted John Varvatos and we began work on two of my father's album covers for his icon T shirts. This was my inspiration for my Musical Ts. It was my husband and partner Jason that had the idea to add the album to the shirt to give us the edge we needed over our completion.
We could see the transition that the music business is going through with the loss of record stores and streaming. We wanted to find a way to keep music sales alive. To be honest, we thought the tech already existed and we would simply license what we needed but we actually had to create our own IP to protect the digital content. The company has had steady growth since its debut I am happy to say. We are now Bloomingdales vendors and will expand rapidly into retailers across the country between now and christmas.
MR: Since you're reworking some of the more classic album artwork, etc., from over the decades, obviously you and artist/designer feel a connection with the artists or music. What are some of your favorite albums and artists of all time?
A: I do feel a strong connection and take great care when adding my own creative elements to all my shirts. I work directly with the artist when possible always considering where their inspiration came from. I hope to honor their genius and want them to love it. I am a lover of music and admire so many artists it is hard to pic just a few but I can't live without...Bob Marly, The Clash, Ramones, Parliament, Blondie, Squeeze, Portishead, Run DMC, Pharrell, Talking Heads, Chet Baker and so many more. Favorite song, "Sunshine Superman" for sentimental reasons. My Father's love song to my Mum.
MR: Canvas' by Miguel Paredes also were highly featured in association with the Musical T's event. How did your association with Miguel begin?
A: My Husband met Miguel when he was producing an animated feature based on a graphic novel The Beach Chronicles. We were looking for an artist to add there own creative input to bring another dimension to our shirts. Miguel was a perfect fit. I love his style and our connection ran deep. Felt like old friends. My Husband met Miguel when he was producing an animated feature based on a graphic novel The Beach Chronicles.
MR: Ultimately, how do you see the line evolving?
A: The brand will expand into a Women's line immediately and then I will tackle the children department. Musical Ts for all...
MR: What advice do you have for both new musical creative artists and those wanting to start a career in fashion that incorporates music and technology like you did?
A: It is the wild wild west out there right now for music with all the social media based opportunities and new technologies available to artists of all kinds so I would encourage taking the time to learn all you can about how to best take advantage of them.
We felt a need to help the music industry find a new way to sell music and found a solution not only for music but our technology platform will also benefit the struggling DVD and book sales being felt globally. Necessity really is the mother of invention. To start a career in fashion that incorporates music and technology is not for the faint of heart as you will need to build relationships in all three worlds. I had no previous experience in fashion and had to learn the hard way how this business works and I was no tech-head either.
My strength comes from a lifetime of experience in the music world and I used all I had leaned and every relationship I had to navigate my way through this rocky road. Take advice from successful souls willing to give it and keep an open mind as life will push you in directions you may not think your can handle. You just might surprise yourself if you can keep moving forward. The trick is not giving up. So bite off a little more than you can chew , think outside the box and keep solving the problems as they present themselves and they will. A mentor of mine once told me "If your dreams don't scare you, they're not big enough."
A Conversation with Dr. Stephen Greenberg
Mike Ragogna: Dr. Greenberg, you've been enjoying much success based on your expertise in cosmetic surgery. Why did you choose this field over others? Did you consider another track of medicine?
Stephen Greenberg: I think cosmetic surgery offers me the ability to work on all different types of patients, both male and female, young and old, and on all parts of the body. There are so many new technological advances in cosmetic surgery which allow me to perform procedures more accurately and better than ever before. Cosmetic surgery is a field where we can combine artistry along with technology in order to make patients happy.
MR: What were some of the first procedures of your career post medical school?
SG: I started out doing all reconstructive surgery on all aspects of the body. Approximately 16 years ago, I switched over to doing just pure cosmetic procedures... most commonly breast augmentations, liposuction, tummy tucks and face lifts.
MR: What are the most common procedures performed today? How is the field evolving and what's on the horizon as far as new technologies or techniques?
SG: The most common procedure in the United States is breast augmentation, followed closely by liposuction. The field is evolving greatly, combining new technology with better surgical techniques that allow for minimally invasive procedures as well as rapid recovery procedures. The forefront of cosmetic surgery now is to have patients recover within 24 hours, which can easily be done in such procedures like liposuction, breast augmentation, and others.
MR: What kind of price ranges are there for what services? What makes up your patient and client base? What is their demo, like age range, etc.?
SG: Breast augmentation ranges from $7000-$9000, tummy tucks range from $6000-$10,000, liposuction is $5000-$9000, and rhinoplasty is approximately $7000. I see a wide variety of demographics in my office from 18 to 80 year olds, and they are approximately 80% female.
MR: There is a perception that cosmetic surgery is mainly for the wealthy. Objectively, do you feel that's the case considering what your contemporaries are charging? Would you say that cosmetic surgery is affordable for middle income families?
SG: Cosmetic surgery has changed a lot in the past couple decades whereas now it is much more affordable for middle income families, it's definitely not just for the wealthy any more. There are also a lot of financing options that currently exist where patients can pay off their cosmetic surgery over a long amount of time with relatively low interest rates. This has made cosmetic surgery much more available and affordable to all patients.
MR: Do you ever get frustrated by the perception that cosmetic surgery is for only a certain demo, let's say, the rich and celebrities?
SG: Patients used to think cosmetic surgery was just for the wealthy, but now I think the understanding is that most patients can afford it with the current financing options.
MR: Do you have any stories of drastic transformations of patients, either externally or internally, that followed your procedures? Maybe a favorite story or two?
SG: I have many patients that I have transformed how they feel about themselves, and obviously how they look. Recently, this includes such patients as a sixteen year old who had very large breasts and who would not want to go out in public. After a breast reduction, she felt so much better about herself that it completely transformed her life. Similar stories that I hear all the time are the 45 year old patient who is done having children and is so unhappy with her abdomen and breasts that she wishes to do a "mommy makeover" which transforms her life. Also patients who have went through a divorce, this helps them to be more comfortable in the dating scene and confident about their appearance.
MR: For their best interests, do you ever turn away potential clients due to procedures they want that you disagree with?
SG: I am very selective about the patients that I choose to operate on. I turn patients away all the time based upon their unrealistic expectations and their physical appearance that they may or may not be able to improve upon.
MR: After your television and magazine reign as one of the great plastic surgeons, what do you make of your own celebrity in the field?
SG: I think my celebrity in the field is based upon my good work and happy patients, and that's all I strive to do on a daily basis.
MR: What advice do you have for anyone considering a procedure?
SG: I think patients have to be realistic when considering a cosmetic surgery procedure in what can be accomplished and what their overall goals are. We can't completely change somebody's appearance, but we can only improve on what they have while making them as happy as possible.
MR: Do you have any advice for those choosing a career in your industry?
SG: It is a long hall in plastic surgery and it requires many years of training and dedication to the field. If you're dedicated to it, I would definitely say to pursue your love.
MR: What does the future bring for Dr. Stephen Greenberg?
SG: My future hopefully continues to bring a prosperous and busy cosmetic surgery practice while helping as many patients as I possibly can, and to continue training younger surgeons how to do exceptional work in the cosmetic surgery industry.
For more info: www.greenbergcosmeticsurgery.com