My experience with dermatology was limited to Bioré strips, Frownies, and a Buf-Puf until I was offered a job as a patient concierge for one of the top cosmetic dermatologists in the country.
People used to ask me about my work with the “plastic surgeon.” Dr. Robert Anolik is not a surgeon. He’s needles and lasers, no knives. Unlike cosmetic treatments at a spa or a salon where you might get injected by an unsupervised nurse, an aesthetician, or a dubiously trained “injector,” Dr. Anolik, a board-certified dermatologist, holds the needle.
He approaches his work with the mission of making his patients look better, not “done.” I used to joke that his tagline should be “fresh, never frozen.”
Clad in my made-to-measure suits and custom-tailored charm, my job as concierge was to make sure the patient experience felt like a short flight in Pan Am’s first-class cabin. After bringing them to a treatment room, I’d encourage them to feel free to move about the cabin and to have a drink and a snack from my tray, which held waters, Terra chips, Cracker Jacks, mints, and candy cigarettes. I almost wished I wore epaulets and a winged name tag.
My specialty was the V.I.P.’s, and much of my day was spent on my separate iPhone with a private number just for these clients and their assistants.
You might imagine stories of high drama, with patients running out screaming or threatening to sue because Dr. Anolik wouldn’t turn them into Kylie Jenner. But it was as if word had gotten around that if you wanted those bulbous baby-doll cheekbones or sex-doll lips popular among third wives, mistresses, and other coin-operated playmates, Dr. Anolik was not your guy. He attracted his kind of patients.
I was Dr. Anolik’s first V.I.P. concierge, the O.G. A few encounters with his patients made outsize impressions.
In my experience, those who had earned their fame and success were usually easier, more pleasant, humble, grateful … fun, even. People who had come into money a minute ago tended to dress in the latest shades of entitlement. Guess who was more enjoyable?
There was the newly minted star of social media on the 12th of her 15 minutes, who revealed herself upon entry. Never bothering with the receptionist, she would just march straight to a treatment room unannounced with a lot of expectation grinding between her porcelain veneers.
There was the sourpuss young woman—a daughter of a “someone”—who, if she showed up at all, was invariably late and terminally unpleasant; eye contact, apparently, was beneath her.
There was also the opposite. A longtime patient with several homes, a private jet, and Bezos-level spending power came in a few times each year for an Ivy League tuition’s worth of treatments over a two-hour appointment. She told self-deprecating jokes and brought a fabulous energy to the party. Taking none of this too seriously, she could teach a master class in how to be wealthy without being a dick, and it was a genuine pleasure to have her in the office.
People who came into money a minute ago tended to dress in the latest shades of entitlement.
One patient was referred by a plastic surgeon for help with bruising after a face-lift (little-known fact: Dr. Anolik can break up a bruise with a quick hit of a laser). She enjoyed the treatments so much that she became a regular just because she could. She’d pop in for a little zap with a laser here, a little injection there—nothing too crazy. She’s an irreverent, bawdy blast with a Carrie Bradshaw–level zest for shoes.
An elderly woman I’ll call Beverly, with a flawless wash-and-set straight out of 1967, rolled in from the Northeast Corridor on the Acela every few months. Weather permitting, Beverly would walk from Penn Station (one mile) and bring chocolates for the whole staff.
While most well-known names prefer to keep their treatments on the down-low, Kelly Ripa is not one of them. She publicly and effusively expresses her love of Botox with Dr. Anolik. (I actually worked with her years ago when I had a recurring role as a waiter in the restaurant owned by her character on All My Children.) Every time Christie Brinkley showed up, it was as if someone opened the shades and let in the sun. And Stephanie Seymour? A gorgeous survivor whose son, Harry, died while I was working with Dr. Anolik. Stephanie and I always started each appointment with a good hug.
I met Beverly, the patient who came in on the train, during my first week on the job. When I asked her if she wanted numbing cream before her treatment, she said she never used it and then knocked me over with her reason.
“It’s very expensive to come here,” she said, “and it’s a privilege for me to be able to do this. I want to feel every needle.... Every pinch is a gift.”
George Hahn is a humorist, entertainer, and writer living in New York