Who can resist a promise of "Live gastric bypass surgery!" Especially when it's a celebrity's stomach? Tuesday, Carnie Wilson went under the knife -- live! On the Internet!
Wilson has been the target of uncountable jokes as the prominently overweight member of the group Wilson Phillips. (Howard Stern's Stuttering John once asked a passing celebrity, "If Wilson Phillips wins a Grammy, do you think the fat one will eat it?") Though their 1990 debut album sold ten million copies and racked up three #1 songs, the group disbanded a few years later -- and Wilson is not currently a big star. (Well, depending on how you define "big".) Wilson was last seen in the NBC miniseries The Sixties in 1999 -- playing "Mama Earth"-- and in April she did a cameo on Dweezil Zappa's TV show Happy Hour.
But despite her cloyingly positive attitude, she's apparently hard-up for work.
She just loaned her body to a promotional stunt to sell videotapes of her own weight-reducing surgery. "WARNING: This is a live video of a surgical procedure," the site teases. "Some content may not be suitable for all viewers."
Well, they offered footage of a surgical procedure -- just not Carnie Wilson's. After a few token shots of the singer arriving at the hospital, the broadcast switched to pre-filmed stock footage of the procedure, illustrating "exactly where we are in Carnie Wilson's operation." The only additional live shots from the operating room were of various surgeons and medical attendants milling around Wilson's body. The site's correspondent justified this practice by saying it was necessary to preserve the surgeon's concentration, to respect Carnie Wilson's privacy, and "to give you a decent view of what you're seeing."
The shameless ongoing hucksterism came from Dr. Clark, the fruity British medical commentator on-hand to gush endlessly about the quality of the footage being delivered.
"To just watch a bunch of pink squiggly stuff inside the abdomen, I don't think it would be terribly interesting," he argued gamely. Nattering interminably on camera about medical trivia, Clark provided a kind of surgery pre-game and color commentary, with pre-recorded clips and elaborate animations. Clark's nonstop patter included the fact that his broadcast was unable to offer footage with audio. ("If we did, what you would probably hear is some very softly spoken voices, some beeping ... there's a lot of machines that make beeping noises, but it's a very calm, quiet environment...")
An hour later, Clark was still shoveling out chipper remarks, barking John Madden-style remembrances of the times he himself had performed similar surgery and comments on the instruments being used. "I remember when I was using it, it would make this dramatic 'kathunkity junk' noise."
To fill their two hours of Web fame, the commentators switched incessantly to pre-recorded interviews with people involved in the Carnie Wilson surgery -- her nutritionist, her anesthesiologist, family members, and various doctors -- sometimes, with music playing in the background, as when a female doctor discoursed on "the obesity process." There was even video footage of Carnie Wilson herself, reminiscing about her Wilson Phillips days. ("I kept getting fatter and fatter.") And then there were the inevitable clips of her father, Beach Boy Brian Wilson, her tearful mother Marilyn, and former band mate Wendy, who says of Carnie's surgery, "I want her to stay around."
Overweight Celebrity Broadcasts
Reached for comment Tuesday, Carnie Wilson's manager confirmed that the site's plan is to sell videotapes of the Webcast -- as soon as is humanly possible. But, ultimately, this inside view is offering way more information about Carnie Wilson than anyone could ever want. Wilson even told an audience in a pre-surgery chat that "Honestly speaking, I know I will feel less inhibited when I am at a smaller size, to just generally feel easier about taking my clothes off." As if that weren't enough, she went on to tell the audience she was looking forward to "making love with the lights on... not that I don't do that now, but I probably will feel a little more at ease.
"But then again when you are with someone you know loves you, and loves every inch of you ... maybe that doesn't matter." And on and on.
Who's idea was it to broadcast surgery on overweight celebrities? It was all the brainchild of Beverly Hills-based Web site called "A Doctor In Your House," a firm that also registered the domains www.HollywoodMD.com, www.StarClinic.com, and www.DoctorTruth.com.
Their business plan appears to consist of hyping medical information with a celebrity twist, and they're already selling mawkish videotapes about prostate cancer -- "A Hero's Journey with Pat Boone" and one in which Mackenzie Phillips talks to a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon. ("Coming Soon!" one page promises, "Roger Moore Skin Cancer Support Group.")
Their site describes it as "Celebrity driven healthcare information, delivered in multiple formats," and even pages about Tuesday's Carnie Wilson surgery contained constant reminders of products being sold. ("For background we encourage you to review Carnie's video 'Weighing the Alternatives,' currently available at our site...") But maybe the real message lies in the site's slick logo -- of an EKG moving over a silhouette of the Red Cross emblem, above a keyboard and below a roof. This spur of the information superhighway leads to the operating theatre -- where the commercialization of surgery as a mass entertainment has begun.
David Cassel is Interactive Media Editor at GettingIt.