Jennifer Grey walked out onto the patio of the Red Herring. Her costar, Matthew Modine, had taken her out for drinks to celebrate the last day of shooting on the movie Wind. Grey wrapped her expertly-manicured fingers around the metal balustrade and looked out over the Swan River. She breathed deeply. Even with the North Fremantle Peninsula between her and the Indian Ocean she could still smell the stink of briny seawater.
A white and brown seagull slowly crept towards Jennifer, its eyes shifting between her and a piece of fried shrimp sitting a few inches from Grey’s shoe. When the seagull was within a foot of its meal, Jennifer kicked the morselinto the Swan River. The bird hopped backward. It beat its wings as if to express its resentment and then flew away.
Wind was no Dirty Dancing, thought Grey. (What else could be?) Hell it wasn’t even Gandahar, and that was a damn cartoon. Wind was a contingency plan, a fallback. Grey shook her head.
Robert Redford had promised her the role of Doctor Lowenstein in the film adaption of Pat Conroy’s novel Prince of Tides, but, for reasons that were never fully explained, Redford had forfeited the project to another production team, and she lost the part. It wasn’t fair.
Footsteps approached from behind—Modine, she assumed. But before Jennifer could turn around she felt a heavy thwack on the back of her head. Then everything went dark.
Sterile light strobed through Jennifer’s fluttering eyelids. She tried to sit up, but her body felt weighted and numb. Jennifer groaned.
“Don’t try to move,” said a woman with a voice that had the timbre of a clarinet. “You’ve been heavily sedated.”
Although Jennifer’s nerves were dampened, she could feel a dull, throbbing pain in her face. She slowly lifted her hand to her head. There was pain to the touch. Her hand recoiled. When the pain dissipated she tried again, softer this time. Her probing fingers discovered bandages covering all but her mouth and eyes.
“Wha—what have you done to me?” she whimpered.
A silhouette stepped toward the bed, eclipsing the blinding ceiling lamp. Jennifer strained to see the woman’s face, but the aftereffects of the anesthesia made it hard for her eyes to focus.
“I’ve made some,” the woman paused, “alterations.”
Although Jennifer couldn’t see the woman’s face she sensed her cruel smile. “Why?” croaked Grey.
“Shhh. You’ll need your strength to heal.” The woman turned to leave. “Restrain her!” she said as she exited the room.
Two orderlies dressed in white uniforms strapped Grey’s arms and legs to the bed. When she was firmly secured they left, closing the door behind them. Jennifer heard the deadbolt engage from the other side.
As days turned into weeks Grey lay strapped to a bed in a windowless hospital room. The orderlies visited every few hours to inject her with painkillers and change her bandages. Twice daily they loosened her restraints and walked her around the room to exercise her legs, but she was never allowed to unwrap the bandages. Even if she could remove the wrappings, there was no mirror to see her reflection.
Finally, after what felt like a year but was really only a month, an orderly came to Grey’s room and announced, “It’s time.” He unfastened Grey’s restraints and helped her sit upright. The second orderly produced a pair of scissors and proceeded to remove Jennifer’s bandages.
Grey’s mind raced as she imagined all the possible mutilations these psychopaths might have visited on her innocent face.
When the bandages lay in a heap on the floor, the orderly called into the hallway. “We’re ready!”
Jennifer stared at the door, her stomach knotted in anticipation of who might pass through. After a moment the door opened and in walked a familiar figure.
Jennifer’s jaw dropped. “What are you doing here?” she said.
Barbra Streisand stood at the foot of her bed, her hands clasped behind her back. Streisand’s mouth twisted into a wry grin.
“Did you,” Jennifer hesitated. Her brow wrinkled. “Did you do this to me?”
“Yes,” said Streisand. She wore a black velvet gown that made it seem as if she were coming from, or going to an awards ceremony.
Barbra produced a rounded mirror from behind her back. “For this.” She thrust the mirror in front of Grey’s face.
Jennifer looked at her reflection and gasped. “Dear god! What have you done to me!”
“I took some of the fuel out of that rocketship.”
“No,” said Jennifer pushing the mirror away. “No!” She began sobbing. Tears beaded in the corners of her eyes. They streamed down her cheeks, running along the sidewalls of her nose—her perfectly sculpted nose. It was a nose that could have been on the face of a model in Vogue magazine. A nose that any plastic surgeon would have been proud to display in their portfolio.
Streisand carried on as Grey cried. “You see a cosmetic flaw is a reminder that sometimes even god has his off days. It’s a defect—something no one wants to have and no one else wants to look at. But sometimes a flaw becomes endeared in the public's mind. It slowly transforms from defect to defining characteristic. Do you see this?” She gestured proudly to her bulbous nose, like a jeweler might present an elegant diamond necklace to a prospective client. “This is my identity, and I'll be damned if I'm going to let some little brat come along and steal it from me.” Streisand cocked her head. “The Prince of Tides?”
Grey stopped sobbing and looked at Streisand with wounded eyes.
“I was born to play the part of Doctor Lowenstein, but Redford said that the role called for a fresh face. Someone with character. If I hadn’t used my connections to take the project from him, I would have missed out on the movie of a lifetime.” She smiled. “I couldn’t have that.”
“You’re a monster!” shouted Grey.
Streisand cackled. “Maybe I am. But with your nose out of the picture, Hollywood is mine.” She said as she smashed the mirror over the bedpost emphatically.
Jennifer ducked with a shriek as shards of glass flew past her head.
“Dump her near the airport,” said Streisand, caressing her nose.
One of the orderlies nodded. He pulled a black velvet hood from his back pocket and looped it over Grey’s head. Jennifer writhed and kicked.
“You can’t get away with this!” Her words were muffled by the bag. “I’ll tell the police!”
Streisand laughed defiantly. “Go ahead. Do you think anyone will believe you?”
Jennifer felt a sting as the second orderly injected her with a sedative. Her thrashing grew weaker and weaker until she lost consciousness.
Jennifer awoke on a bench outside the Perth International Airport. Her hospital gown had been replaced with the clothes she had worn on her date with Matt Modine a month earlier.
When she returned to the United States Grey attempted to press charges against Streisand, but not a single person, not even her family, believed her story. Her psychiatrist attempted to explain it as a delusion created by her subconscious in order to cope with the regret of having altered her trademark nose. “It’s only natural that you would project the blame onto someone whom you identify with both physically and professionally,” he had told her.
Eventually Jennifer returned to acting, but she was no longer able to command the starring roles she had before the rhinoplasty. At many auditions she even had to remind the casting director who she was—her face no longer so easily recognizable.
In 1995, Jennifer auditioned for a bit part in the movie To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. It was only a bit-part, but Jennifer had grown desperate.
Several weeks had passed without a word, and Grey grew nervous. She called her agent to see how casting was proceeding.
“I’m sorry, Jennifer, but they decided to go with someone else,” said her agent gently.
Jennifer sat in a recliner with the phone pressed to her ear, a tumbler of whiskey and a lit cigarette in the other hand. Even though it was two in the afternoon, she was still in her bathrobe.
“They did?” Grey’s voice trembled.
“Yes. Kidron thought the role needed someone with more,” he paused, "more character.”
“More character?” A lump formed in Jennifer’s throat. There was a moment of dead air on the phone. “Who did they give the part to?”
He was quiet.
“Who was it, Charles!”
He let out a deep exhale. “Barbra Streisand.”
“I see,” said Grey. She pulled the phone away from her ear and stared into the distance. Her agent continued talking, but Grey could no longer hear him. The receiver fell from her hand and clattered against the floor.
Grey slowly rose from her chair. Her breathing grew loud and unsteady. "No." Jennifer grimaced. She hurled the glass of whiskey against the wall. “No!” she screamed. Grey collapsed in her chair and began sobbing hysterically. Rivulets of tears streamed down the channels that outlined her nose—her expertly-carved, anatomically perfect nose.