“To understand beauty, first you must know how to properly drink a glass of champagne,” said plastic surgeon Pierre Fournier, M.D., as his lovely wife Michelle placed an exquisite silver ice bucket carrying a bottle of vintage Moët on the table in front of us. By Angela O’Mara.
My first memory of meeting Dr. Pierre Fournier was in the 1980’s when he was a guest faculty member at the Foundation For Facial Plastic Surgery meeting, an annual event hosted by H. George Brennan, M.D., in Newport Beach, CA. The FFPS as it was known started the first multi-specialty aesthetic meeting that joined the various medical disciplines together into one event. It was held every summer and that particular year was momentous as Dr. Fournier was among many famous international surgeons to discuss the development of liposuction, a relatively new technique to US surgeons at that time. Today liposuction is among the most popular aesthetic procedures in the USA and has become a multi-million dollar device manufacturing industry. Liposuction has literally changed the shape of America.
On that beautiful morning I had the good fortune to be invited to meet with Dr. Fournier at his superb home in the 17th arrondissement in Paris. We discussed his many years as a plastic surgeon, his time in the French Army, the early days of plastic surgery, the fabulous life he created, and his continued advocacy and teaching of plastic surgery worldwide. We, of course, also discussed my recent trip to the Musée du Louvre, home of the Mona Lisa, as Dr. Fournier believes that to become a top rated plastic surgeon, one must first look to the paintings of the ancient masters to fully understand the human body and its beauty.
But, back to the champagne. “Champagne is a great celebratory drink. It sends bubbles up your nose and makes you giggle. It is a drink that makes people happy. Just like plastic surgery is the surgery of happiness,” explained Dr. Fournier.
In international circles Dr. Fournier is attributed to be the founder of modern aesthetics and at the age of eighty-eight and a half he continues his teachings, traveling extensively throughout Europe, Asia and the USA. The day after my lesson in champagne etiquette, Dr. Fournier was leaving for Singapore to deliver his lecture “What Is Human Beauty” to a large group of aesthetic medical surgeons. According to Dr. Fournier, an aesthetic surgeon by definition must create or conserve beauty. Surgical techniques abound in the textbooks but, in his opinion, artistic teaching on beauty or human beauty is not enough. Beauty lies within the eyes of the beholder and the sooner plastic surgeons understand the psychology of beauty, the better they will become at aesthetic surgery.
“Beauty is an ensemble of shapes and proportions, which bring pleasure and which we admire, but the concept varies according to different cultures,” said Dr. Fournier. “Beauty stimulates an aesthetic feeling within us, pleasing to the eye, a sense of admiration. Some say beauty is a visual pheromone. I say it is a work of art. Go to the Louvre, you will see what I mean.”
Much has been written on the psychology of plastic surgery when it comes to patients. Very little has been written on “surgical psychiatrists” a term Dr. Fournier feels is more appropriate for a plastic surgeon given that when a plastic surgeon changes the outside of the human body, they also change the inside because they almost always make the patient a happier person. Dr. Fournier continued to explain that in his mind, human beings do not merely want to live, they want to live in the best physical and mental condition. He is obviously taking a dose of his own medicine, and so is his wife. The two are fit, able, active and very sharp minded. The constant lecturing and traveling is keeping them young at heart, in body and mind.
Traveling the world is obviously nothing new to Dr. Fournier whose clients have ranged from queens and dignitaries the world over to local farmers and factory workers. He has acquired both fame and fortune over the years. Although he had humble beginnings, he has been able to reach the heights of success both personally and professionally. After World War II and graduating from medical school he had no more money than a pickpocket he says. However, a friend of his suggested he try aesthetic surgery as it was a growing trend in Paris. He did and he found it came quite naturally to him and eventually he opened a small clinic in the suburbs. By offering lower prices than the “city” docs, his clientele soon grew and patients began to line up at his door. His big break came when he visited his friend and fellow physician Giorgio Fischer in Rome, Italy. Dr. Fischer was a gynecologist who had invented a machine to “suck the fat of Italian ladies” and wanted to build a factory to produce his invention. Another friend, Dr. Yves Gerard Illouz approached them with the idea of using a suction machine (that had been developed to perform abortions which were legal) that he thought would work better. Thus began the popularity of the traveling trio that led to an invitation to lecture at the American Congress of Plastic Surgery, and then….. the world.
His principal tool for liposuction was always the syringe which he believed was as powerful as any suction machine, although I am sure there are many laser and light companies that would beg to differ. Today, liposuction has become an option for weight loss over diet and exercise, especially in the US where instant gratification is the norm. Whatever way you want to put it, or suck it, pun intended, liposuction is here to stay and has made a lot of people very wealthy.
Dr. Fournier stopped practicing surgery two years ago. His days are now spent studying art and beauty, lecturing and teaching other physicians on his plastic surgery principles and showing admirers like me how to properly enjoy a glass of sparkling champagne!
How To Pour Champagne – The French Way
Champagne is a celebration in itself and here are tips from French Plastic Surgeon Dr. Pierre Fournier:
- Chill the Champagne. The ideal temperature is approximately 45 F (7C). At this temperature the aroma and taste of the drink can be fully appreciated.
- Hold the bottle steady at a 45 degree angle away from people. Remove only enough foil to loosen the twisted wire top. It is a good idea to hold a cloth (or a finger or thumb) over the cork when removing the foil so that it does not pop spontaneously. Hold the cork and gently turn the bottle to quietly pop the cork.
- Use a long stemmed flute or tulip shaped glass as they enhance the flow of bubbles to the crown and concentrates the aroma of the champagne. Place them close by so you can pour directly once the champagne bottle has been opened.
- Wipe the neck of the bottle with a cloth to make sure it’s clean.
- To pour, hold the bottle at the base with a thumb in the dimple in the base and fingers on the bottle itself pour about one inch of champagne into each glass. Let the froth settle and then continue pouring, topping the glasses up to two thirds full.
- Champagne flutes have long stems which you should use so as not to warm the contents of the glass.
- Although champagne is an elegant drink and should be sipped slowly, it should be sipped in a way that the champagne hits the back of your throat first. This way you feel and taste the full vitality of the drink. If it hits your tongue first it will instantly become warm and lose its sparkle.
“Remember, gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s champagne!” Sir. Winston Churchill during WWII.