Steve Muldue is sitting in the waiting room of Dr. Cynthia Mason’s plastic surgery clinic in Denver, Colorado, tapping his foot in eager anticipation. Clad in a tight cowboy shirt and even tighter jeans, the 25 year-old doesn’t appear to be the type of person that you’d expect to see in a plastic surgeon's waiting room. With a sleek and slightly mussed haircut and an air of vintage vogue, Steven may be a better fit at a high-fashion photo shoot or dingy nightclub. His anticipatory foot tapping seems to be to the tune of a straight 4/4 riff, his eyes glossed with a gleam of waiting for a day he thought would never come.
That’s because most thought it never would.
The waiting room has been filling with types like Muldue for the past six months, after a recent surgery by Dr. Mason gave local Radiohead enthusiast Michael Garafalo a treatment that made him look more like Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke. The treatment, which Dr. Mason perfected by slicing a small section of the eyelid, has been dubbed by local fanatics as the "Yorke cut." In the simplest terms, the $600 surgery gives fans a chance to re-create on their own person the trademark Thom Yorke amblyopic left eye.
“It’s sort of out of the ordinary for a surgery, but I picture it to be like tattoos or piercings and perhaps one day be accepted by mass culture,” Muldue said of the surgery, while waiting for his 2 p.m. appointment. By 5 p.m. this afternoon, Muldue will be walking out of Dr. Mason’s clinic with an eye patch, and in two to three days will be showing off his new face at rock concerts and dance clubs across Colorado.
Muldue is one of many in a long line to receive this surgery. “I’ve been getting calls and setting appointments with people from around the world,” said Dr. Mason, who originally designed the surgery as a method to battle amblyopia by matching both eyes in an effort to slow the degrading eyesight of a local elementary student. “The original idea was to create a symmetric balance between the two eyes,” Dr. Mason said. “Eventually they’d correct themselves, while allowing for young kids to look as normal as possible.”
Garafalo, the first to receive the elective surgery for purely cosmetic reasons, is still happy with his decision. “I’ve become some, like, trendsetter,” said Garafalo. “I’ve set the stage for what we, as fans and devoted listeners, can really do to show our appreciation for the greatest rock band the world has ever seen.”
Not everyone is so excited. Many people who suffer from amblyopia view the surgery as an insult that cheapens their suffering. Going so far as to protest outside of the clinic, local resident Adam Crawley said of the surgery, “I’ve been battling with this my whole life, from wearing an eye patch and being mocked as a child to having to wear corrective lenses as an adult.”
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Local cosmetic surgeon Dr. Claude Young, well known for performing many enhancements to celebrities, is timid about the whole thing as well. “I’ve been doing corrective surgery for fifteen years and can’t fathom the idea of Dr. Mason’s newest routine. It seems almost like science fiction to me.”
Due to the surgery’s young life, it is still unknown what repercussions it may have. Dr. Mason insists that is is both safe and reversible, and that if anything were to go wrong, it wouldn’t be a difficult thing to fix. Many, however, view the whole thing as shallow and ridiculou, but as Muldue is more than willing to point out, “My grandparents viewed tattoos the same way, and look at how popular they’ve become now.”
Radiohead fans have always been known to be devoted and loyal to their favorite band, but this newest step shows that perhaps the “greatest rock band the world has ever seen” has more impact on its listeners than previously imagined. With the tremors of society and science still waiting to be felt, Dr. Mason and her patients continue on what many in the cosmetic-surgery industry view to be a slippery, downward slope.
-- Thorin Klosowski