People: Nip-and-tuck with the terrible twins growing appeal

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"A chin implant," says Maurizio Viel when I ask him what he and his twin brother Roberto could do for me. Rather worryingly, he says this without even having to pause for a moment's thought. "And a nose job," he adds. "We could reduce your nose a bit, but not too much." So, not only is my chin too small, but my nose is too big as well. "And what about your ears?" There's no stopping Maurizio now. "Maybe we could just take them back a little bit," he says, grinning. Now I wish I'd never even asked.

Maurizio and Roberto are cosmetic surgeons who share a smart practice in Harley Street (the only kind of practice there is in Harley Street, as it happens). Although they don't specialise, the bulk of their work involves breast enlargement, liposuction and penis enlargement, in that order. The first and last cost around pounds 3,500, while the price for having the fat sucked out of your body varies between pounds 1,200 and pounds 4,300. They do between 10 and 12 operations a week and, providing you're not squeamish, you can watch them at work on Tuesday evening in Plastic Fantastic, Channel 5's series on plastic surgery.

There's a story that when they're doing a boob job, one works on the left breast, and the other on the right. True? "Sometimes," says Roberto, who's the more serious of the two, Maurizio being the playful one. "If it happens that we're there at the same time, then we'll do the same patient together.

Originally from Milan, they trained in France and America and opened their Harley Street practice in 1990. Since then the twins, now 37, have seen and profited from a growing acceptance of cosmetic surgery. "People are more open about it," says Roberto. "And they know that cosmetic surgery is no longer just for very rich people and it's no longer risky like it was in the past." They say their business is to "improve the quality of life" of their patients and they've no regrets about putting their medical knowledge to the service of vanity. It certainly pays - they live next door to each other in a swish area of Bayswater.

Maurizio's own quality of life was no doubt vastly improved when he had a nose job, courtesy of Roberto. "I didn't like the tip of my nose," he says. "It was too broad," says Roberto. "It was large, it was pointing downwards and it was like an older nose on a younger man." So Roberto went to work with a rasp to file it down a little. Maurizio decided he could manage with just a local anaesthetic. "It wasn't a very pleasant experience," he says.

I was particularly interested in penis enlargements (from a purely professional point of view). There are two procedures: an injection of fat from the thigh to widen the girth, and the severing of a ligament between the pubic bone and the penis to increase length. When the penis is in what's known as "the flaccid position", the increase can be up to two inches, but the increase during erection is negligible.

"Ninety per cent of patients who come here asking for this operation want something bigger when it's not erected," says Roberto. "When it's erected, most of the men are happy. But when it's not erected and they have to undress in front of their partner or in front of other men in the gym or whatever, they feel embarrassed to show something that is too small."

At the end of our meeting, we're joined by a friend of the twins, Brian Novack, a Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon who is over here on holiday. He counts "three or four" of the world's top supermodels among his clients and he holds the US patent for male pectoral implants. It strikes me as a good opportunity to get a second opinion on my face.

"Well, you don't have anything obvious which jumps out at me," says Brian as he studies my profile. "You have a very nice forehead, you have nice eyes and you have a great nose..." So at least my nose is reprieved. He ponders for a moment and there's an ominous silence, chin-wise. Then finally he speaks. "Okay. Your chin in relationship to your maxilla and your forehead is a little retrognathic." In other words, I need a chin implant. "And your left ear's a little more prominent than your right ear," adds Brian.

So it's official. I'm a chinless wonder with Dumbo ears. I think my quality of life just took a turn for the worse.

v

Silky touch of a fat cat barrister

On Monday, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, attacked "fat cat" barristers who earn over a pounds 1m a year. We're talking serious money, the kind of sum that could buy a top silk nearly 300 penis enlargement operations before tax.

I raised this (the big money issue) with Michael Mansfield QC, best known for his defence of the Guildford Four. So is he a fat cat? "I can't say I'm a thin cat, but I reckon I'm a modest cat," he said, pointing out that he's a criminal barrister and you have to work in the commercial field to earn mega-money. "I'm obviously in the top bracket of criminal silks, but I don't know of anyone at the criminal bar who's earning a million. No one. I think the Lord Chancellor least of all should be throwing brickbats in this field when he himself, as he virtually concedes, was in the fat cat bracket - the real fat cat bracket - only weeks before, and presumably if he hadn't become Lord Chancellor he would have gone on quite happily earning these sums of money."

Ninety per cent of Mansfield's work is made up of legal aid cases, and he does some work for nothing, which is his way of putting something back into the system. "People say all barristers are at it," he said. "But basically I try to be reasonable."

v

Royal watching in Whitaker's world

"I''ve been in the boat every single day and it's bloody rough at the moment." The Churchillian tones of the Mirror's redoubtable royal correspondent, James Whitaker, were sounding loud and clear from his mobile phone last Friday as he bobbed up and down on the Mediterranean, just off St Tropez. He'd been there all week reporting on Diana's very un-private holiday at Mohamed Al-Fayed's villa and I wanted to know if it ever got boring sitting there all day hoping for a glimpse of cleavage or whatever.

"No, not at all," he said. "You're looking at a very beautiful villa, you're in a very clear Mediterranean sea, you can top up your tan, lunch is excellent - I don't find this boring at all. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, if you're bored with St Tropez, you've got to be bored with life. No, it's lovely here, there are beautiful women around and they're all showing their tits, it's great."

Whitaker was one of the three tabloid journalists who got the week's big scoop when Diana approached their boat to speak to them. So was it exciting when it happened? "Well, I've spoken to her a number of times before," said Whitaker rather grandly. "But of course there's a great frisson because you know you're involved in a very good story. I mean a good story in my context. Is it of international importance? No, not at all. But the sort of story I got from speaking to her will be read by a hell of a lot more people than read about Tony Blair's wife having a haircut."

Diana - later she denied it - told them they were going to get a "big surprise" with the next thing she did, but Whitaker told me he has no idea what she meant. So was she just playing a game with them? "I don't know," he said, suddenly sounding rather wistful. "Who can judge her mind? Of course, I have enormous sympathy for her as a very nice, charming, beautiful human being, but on the other hand, you know, she's not the greatest thinker in the world."

And with that he returned to his vigil. "The villa is all locked up at the moment because the Mistral is zooming in on it and I can't see any sign of the princess as we speak," he reported.

v

Humble pie for Jonathan's mum?

You may remember that I wrote about Jonathan Aitken's libel action against the Guardian and Granada Television's World in Action a few weeks ago. Watching his riotous reappearance last week I remembered that one thing I didn't mention at the time was a meeting I had with Aitken's mother, Lady Penelope, in the corridor outside the courtroom. She's a small, rather frail old lady who came to court every day; I had a brief chat with her. Looking through my notebook, I find I jotted down the following words: "The press has been appalling. Vendetta. Shocking. Destruction of his character. All absolutely untrue." I wonder what she thinks now.

I'll do anything for a meal

I've decided that from now on I'm going to subscribe to the Mohamed Al-Fayed "I'll-Scratch-Your-Back" school of journalism. So I feel I should draw your attention to Diamond Geezers, the debut novel by my friend and former colleague, Greg Williams. Many's the time I've dined at the Williams home and feasted on the to-die-for delicacies prepared by his lovely wife Lisa Duncan, the fashion editor of Harpers & Queen. Indeed, such are Greg's new-man credentials that I remember he once put on the oven gloves himself to cook a cassoulet that was almost as nice as one of those tins of Heinz baked beans and pork sausages. Therefore, in return, I think it's only fair to point out to you that his novel is a work of genius and I urge you to rush out and buy a copy.

In future, as part of this new policy, if any readers would like to invite me to dinner, I'll naturally be very happy to offer them a helping hand in whatever way I can by means of a mention in this column. However, I feel I should point out that I don't like pasta, butter beans, broad beans, beetroot, polenta, oven chips and a considerable number of other staple food items. A list of these is available on request.

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