A version of this story first ran in The Miami Herald on April 28, 2012.
When Starz network’s Magic City came to town last year to shoot their 1959 Miami Beach drama, producers were obsessive.
“God is in the details,” said Magic City’s executive producer, writer and Miami Beach native Mitch Glazer. “We were rigorous about everything across the board from music to architecture down to that.”
That meaning breast augmentation.
Producers discovered many women of South Florida have been surgically enhanced beyond anything natural to the late 1950s.
“I’ve actually had better luck finding synchronized swimming groups than I did finding real boobs,” said Bill Marinella, local extras casting director. “We did a lot of research and reached out to burlesque clubs and just finding people on the beach and literally walking up to them on the street and saying, ‘Hey, you look like you’re right out of The Great Gatsby.’”
Magic City was left particularly exposed to issues of the chest. Like a lot of premium cable shows, the series does not shy away from skimpy attire or full frontal nudity.
“GIRLS HAD FULLER FIGURES BACK THEN,” said one casting notice sent, in all caps, to local models and actresses. “SO NO SKINNY MODELS. ALL-NATURAL — NO PLASTIC SURGERY/BREAST IMPLANTS.”
Breast augmentation is by far the most popular cosmetic surgical procedure in the United States. According to data from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, doctors performed 307,180 “augmentation mammaplasty” surgeries last year. (Second place was nose jobs with 243,772.)
Plastic surgery statistics are trickier to nail down on a local level. The plastic surgery association releases only broad regional statistics about specific procedures. The region including Florida — as well as seven other states and Washington, D.C. — accounted for almost 50,000, or 16 percent, of the nation’s breast augmentations.
Miami came in third — behind Beverly Hills and San Francisco — in a ranking of cities most besotted with plastic surgery, according to beauty product review site TotalBeauty.com. The report focused mostly on the number of plastic surgeons per capita but also crunched data and other studies from 2009 and earlier.
Before that, in 2008, the magazine Men’s Health ranked Miami No. 4 in a list of “Capitals of Cosmetic Surgery” by measuring the number of plastic surgeons, the number of cosmetic dentists and the percentage of residents who use Botox. San Francisco topped that list, while Los Angeles came in a disappointing 48th.
But a WLRN-Miami Herald analysis of data from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the 2010 Census shows that the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach metropolitan statistical area (MSA) has the highest number of plastic surgeons per capita of any major metropolitan area in the county — about 3.2 plastic surgeons for every 100,000 residents. By comparison, that's an 18% higher rate than the Los Angelas-Long Beach-Santa Ana MSA, a 38% higher rate than the Tampa-St. Petersburgh-Clearwater area and almost double the rate in Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta.
Tara Solomon, a Miami glamour maven and former Queen of the Night columnist for The Miami Herald whose public relations firm, TARA, Ink. has offices in Miami Beach and in Los Angeles, says Miami is different from L.A. when it comes to “surgical personal enhancement.”
“I think because of the industry and film and with so much television being produced [in L.A.], I don’t think that it would really behoove an actress to discuss her augmentation,” Solomon said. “And in Miami, I think it’s more or less a badge of honor.”
She called Miami “a land where excess is validated … a land where mucho màs is just enough.”
Glazer isn’t sure the period casting challenges are limited to Miami — though he admits he didn’t actually have to go out and find the bodies. Much of that work fell on extras casting director Marinella, who said Miami presented a unique set of issues. He worked for more than a decade in Hollywood before moving to South Florida and says he hadn’t run into the dearth of natural women out west.
“I wouldn’t say the people are more real,” Marinella said of Hollywood. “It’s just that they’re more realistic about who they are as actors and performers. So you have more branches of people to look out for.”
For Magic City, which filmed last year on a soundstage created in the old Bertram Yacht factory near Miami International Airport, Marinella had to look out for a long list of period-inaccurate body features: implants in breasts, yes, but also lips and butts; tattoos; shaved chests and waxed bikini areas, too-skinny females and too-ripped men.
“We need girls with the big hips and the curves. And down here, everybody is so fit,” he said. “It’s like tiny little waist and big boobs, pardon the French. But we have to be really careful about how we go about the casting process. It’s a huge challenge.”
He said he found burlesque clubs were a ripe spot to find classic figures, albeit with plenty of body art, which requires extra time in the makeup chair to cover up.
“There’s different places you can go in Miami,” Marinella said. “Little pockets that are very little heard of off the main street path where we find all these amazing figures and bodies, and that’s what we did for Magic City.”
The Miami of today is a far cry from the city of Glazer’s formative years. He remembers a classmate or two at Miami Beach Senior High, from which he graduated in 1971, getting a nose job, but surgery was far from commonplace.
Glazer said he never imagined he’d be thinking about breast implants professionally. But at the end of the day, he just wants the show to be accurate. “We live in a world of bloggers and people devoted to scrutinizing,” he said. “I’m sure that’s kind of thing that would bring on thousands of emails, you know, about a woman’s breasts or whatever.”