Change of Face
In fact, even Ken Starr might have trouble recognizing Tripp, 49, these days. Two years after taping phone conversations with her onetime friend Monica Lewinsky, and after merciless lampoonings by Jay Leno and Saturday Night Live (where John Goodman played her beefy doppelgänger), America's most taunted tattletale becomes the latest woman linked to Bill Clinton (including Paula Jones and the newly svelte Monica) known to have gone through a makeover. Tripp's beauty secrets? A $15,000 face-and eye-lift, an $8,000 nose job, a $2,500 chin implant and $2,500 worth of neck fat removal performed by L.A. surgeon Dr. Geoffrey Keyes and funded by an anonymous benefactor. She also got herself a Rene Russoesque dye job and do at the Beverly Hills salon where the actress got hers for The Thomas Crown Affair and trimmed off 40 lbs. by dieting and making occasional trips to the gym.
If anyone had reason to greet the millennium with a fresh face, it had to be Tripp. "People would come up to her on the street and say unkind things," says an acquaintance. "It's been very hard for her to go anywhere." Surprisingly, Tripp blames herself. "A lot of it was my fault," she says. "I was responsible for the portrayal in the media by the way I looked. The pictures were so horribly haggish."
Still, surgery wasn't an option chosen lightly. She scoured the Internet and sought recommendations from other doctors before settling on Keyes. Board certified in both plastic and head and neck surgery, Keyes, 53, is known for his pioneering work in creating internal organs, including an esophagus, from patients' skin. He wouldn't have to go quite that far for Tripp. But when she called last September, Keyes admits he was "somewhat surprised." During their phone consultation, he told her to cut back on smoking and to lose weight. "Liposuction was discussed only briefly," Keyes says. "I didn't think it would be of benefit to her."
Instead, on Oct. 14, he began seven hours of surgery by removing the bags under Tripp's eyes with a laser, then cutting away the fat from her neck through a 2.5-in. incision under her chin. Next he sliced two 6-in. incisions on either side of her face and tightened the skin before sewing them up again with 40 stitches. Turning to the nose, Keyes says, he "softened and shortened" it in addition to carving away a bump on the bridge. Finally, he provided a half-inch-thick silicone chin implant, inserted through an incision in her mouth. Although the surgery went off without a hitch, it wasn't without challenges, says Keyes. "She is not a petite woman, and as with when you are operating on a man, you are dealing with a large surface area that makes it complicated." When he removed the bandages the following day in Tripp's room at the Beverly Hills Hotel, she wasn't immediately impressed. "She was bruised and swollen," says Keyes. "That's a shock." As for pain, Keyes says there wasn't much. "Facial operations are really not painful," he vows. "[Linda] was more concerned about how she looked when the bandages came off."
Tripp remained at the hotel for a week soothing her swollen eyes with ice chips and watching TV, then moved to the home of friends in Palm Springs. On Oct. 29 she was ready for phase two. That morning she was spirited into the VIP room at L.A.'s tony Yuki Sharoni salon, where Sharoni himself, who charges $150 per styling, sculpted Tripp's shaggy tresses into a softly layered bob. Cutting her hair "was definitely a challenge," says Sharoni, adding delicately that he takes special pleasure in making "someone not so attractive look good." While Tripp marveled aloud at the opulence of Beverly Hills, colorist Marcus Daniels, who has tended the tresses of Faith Hill and NYPD Blue's Kim Delaney, toned down Tripp's platinum streaks to a more natural dark golden-blonde using highlights, a glaze for shine and a Kérestase conditioning treatment, waiving his $400 fee in the hope of scoring good publicity. "If you can make her look good, rock and roll," says Daniels. "In the public eye, she wasn't one of your supermodels." (In private, Tripp isn't a big spender. "We worked on her for four hours," says assistant colorist Christina Cessna, "and she didn't leave a tip.")
When the do was done, says Sharoni's publicist Linda Silver, who was at the salon, Tripp seemed like a new woman. "She stood up straight. She was excited," says Silver (who obliged when Tripp called upon her to get her son Ryan, 24, who came to visit during his mother's recuperation, into the trendy Sky Bar). "It was the beginning of a transformation."
And not a moment too soon. With jury selection scheduled for this summer in Tripp's Howard County Circuit Court trial on charges of illegally taping a phone conversation with Lewinsky, presenting a new face can't hurt. "I have been, for better or worse, labeled the ugliest woman in America," says Tripp, who has returned to work as a public-affairs specialist at the Defense Manpower Center in Arlington, Va. "It was hard. [But] there are many women my age who are bombarded with what's considered attractive. We all come up short. I believe women will identify, whether they like me or not."
John Hannah in Los Angeles, Alexandra Hardy in Portland, Ore., Joanna Blonska in Washington, D.C., and Elizabeth McNeil in New York City