When first time filmmaker Joan Kron was looking for backing, she came up against an unusual roadblock. People wondered if the octogenarian turned documentarian would live to see it through. Fast forward seven years and Joan had filled Michael’s restaurant for a champagne brunch celebrating the digital and on demand release of her award-winning documentary Take my Nose Please — and her 90th birthday.
A who’s who of New York’s media elite toasted Joan’s take on women comediennes and plastic surgery, featuring facelift fresh Julie Halston, who did standup for the room, and Jackie Hoffman, Broadway’s self-proclaimed Queen of self-loathing. It can be found on ITunes, Amazon and Fandango as well as most cable and satellite TV platforms.
Linda Wells, Nancy Newhouse, Suzanne Slesin, Nancy Novogrod, Cathy Hardwick, Fern Mallis, Mario Buatta, Jerry della Femina and Judy Licht, Sheila Nevins, Glenn Horowitz and Tracy Jackson, PR Maven Jonathan Marder (Joan’s step son), Paola Antonelli, Sheila Nevins, former Letterman producer Barbara Gaines and writer Bill Scheft (Joan’s cousin, emceeing the festivities), Judy Bachrach, Bina and Walter Bernard , Louise and George Beylerian, Gina Chiu, Jamie De Roy, Dr. Roy Geronemus and Janet Kardon joined Joan’s other children, grandchildren, and great grandchild to toast her.
“Does anyone else in this room consider Joan to be their mother?” asked Linda Wells, Kron’s Allure editor for 25 years. Kron created the plastic surgery beat, filtering that preoccupation through sociological and psychological perspectives.
A trend spotter all her life, Joan was a costume design student at Yale who gave up that career to marry a doctor and move to Philadelphia. She brought Andy Warhol to that town and helped launch his perfume. She went into business with Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Indiana, doing limited editions of Indiana’s Love Ring. When she was 41, an underground magazine convinced her to write for them, but it went under before they could print her first story — on a marijuana harvesting party. That harbinger of the times ended up in Philadelphia Magazine.
“I started writing almost on a fluke,” she told us. “And I believed I had found my calling.” Kron went from Philadelphia Magazine to New York Magazine to the New York Times (where she launched the Home section). She did front page fashion stories for the Wall Street Journal, then became Editor and Chief of Avenue Magazine and Editor at Large of Allure.
In 1974, she convinced Clay Felker to devote an issue to the new hot neighborhood, Soho, and later, in a coffee table tome, coined the phrase High Tech Industrial Style.
“By the time I went Allure,” she continued, “I had written three books. One was on the psychology of decorating. I told Linda Wells, the editor of Allure that was a lot of overlapping research in the sociology of the home and the sociology of appearance.” That’s how, in 1991, Kron created the plastic surgery beat and was dubbed “The Queen or First Lady of Plastic Surgery.” She brags she’s had three facelifts “and paid for them all.”
Watching a documentary on plastic surgery in which she appeared as an expert, she turned to her friend and said, “I can do that.” She pitched her idea to the producer, who invited her to audit a lecture for a master’s degree at the School of Visual Arts. They invited her to audit the course. “When I finished, I decided, I’m making a movie.” She was 83 years old.
Learning the new skill and abandoning an idea or two along the way, slowed the process. The next film, she says should only take two years.
Her secret to never aging? “My husband is dead,” she told us. “What am I doing? Sitting home doing the crossword puzzle? I go to bed late and get up early. I’m energetic, curious. I read. I just like being involved. I don’t want to be sidelined. If you’re not doing something, no one wants to meet you.”
“I don’t want to be an old person,” she concluded. “That’s all.”