As 2007 closed, news broke that the couple David Bunevacz andJessica Rodriguez—Bunevacz had split from Beverly Hills 6750—or, as news alsohad it, it was the high-end beauty clinic that had initiated the split from thehigh-profile couple.
Inthe ensuing mess, the couple have filed a suit against some partners at theclinic for alleged physical injuries, even as Beverly Hills 6750's lawyers havesent the couple a demand letter to answer for funds allegedly misused.
As2008 begins, there is more news breaking involving the beleaguered couple andthe clinic they helped build up. This time, the spotlight is on their affiliatepartner in the U.S.—the Beverly Hills Surgical Institute.
ThePhilippine Entertainment Portal (www.pep.ph) was the first to release lastyear's story on the Bunevacz-Beverly Hills 6750 split—not as blind item, not asrumor, not as gossip—but as a full story with dates, figures, quotes, andinsider information.
Thisyear, PEP is the first to break the news that the U.S.-based Beverly HillsSurgical Institute, to which Beverly Hills 6750 claims affiliation, no longerexists and, in fact, no longer existed at the time Beverly Hills 6750 waslaunched in Manila.
InDecember 2007, information reaching PEP claimed that the Beverly Hills SurgicalInstitute has no valid address in Beverly Hills, California, and no contactnumber at all in the United States.
Theclaim is, of course, no small issue. PEP buckled down to investigate.
MUCHADO ABOUT BEVERLY HILLS. The public will recall that Beverly Hills 6750entered the aesthetic surgery business in Manila in late 2006 with muchfanfare. Aside from David and Jessica Bunevacz personally handling the mediafrontline, the clinic had no less than 1994 Miss Universe Dayanara Torres asits official celebrity endorser. Following the media hype that includedfeatures in major publications and appearances on television, the clinicsuccessfully penetrated the lucrative local beauty market, which at the timewas dominated (and still is) by the Belo Medical Group.
Butmore than the presence of the stunning Dayanara Torres and the charmingBunevacz couple, Beverly Hills 6750 had a sales pitch as unique as it wasimpressive-Beverly Hills 6750 claimed to be affiliated with a renowned U.S.clinic catering to a Hollywood clientele: the Beverly Hills Surgical Institute.
InHollywood-crazy Philippines, that is one major credential.
Inthe Manila Standard (Sept. 12, 2006), Isah Red quoted David Bunevacz,then president of Beverly Hills 6750, making this pitch about the Beverly HillsSurgical Institute: "The salon holds the secret of many beautiful women we seeon screen on TV shows and in the movies made in Hollywood. And we are unveilingthat secret on the domestic front for the first time."
Todrive home the point, in October 2006, Beverly Hills 6750 flew in DayanaraTorres to do blitz promotions for the local clinic all over television talkshows, broadsheets, magazines, and tabloids. YES! magazine, acceding tothe request of the Bunevacz couple, conducted an email interview with Dayanaraweeks before her arrival, in preparation for a December cover appearance.
Dayanara,of course, was not just another international beauty queen, she was also theformer wife of Salsa King Marc Anthony, who made news when he went on to marrythe even more famous Latina Jennifer Lopez. But still more than that, Dayanarawas a well-loved celebrity in Manila. After all, Filipinos remember her fondlyas the Puerto Rican beauty who stole the heart of their matinee idol AgaMuhlach in the ‘90s.
InMarch 2007, Beverly Hills 6750 launched the controversial search for MissUgly (No More), a reality-based contest where viewers were asked to votefor one "ugly" female to be given a one-million-peso makeover by the clinic.The search, patterned after Hollywood's Extreme Makeover, attractedFilipinas from the lower and middle classes.
Onceagain, Beverly Hills 6750's catchiest advertising phrases were "Beverly Hills"and "Hollywood." Clearly, the clinic knew that invoking links to America wasgood for business, and it wasn't shy about doing so again and again.
LOCATINGTHE INSTITUTE. When David and Jessica Bunevacz first marketed Beverly Hills6750, they never let up with the write-ups and announcements flagging theirpartnership with the Beverly Hills Surgical Institute. They fed the public withimages of the Institute's posh clinics in the wealthy enclave of Beverly Hillsand throughout Southern California, where their regular and satisfied clientswere supposed to be Hollywood's rich and famous.
PEPbecame curious: where exactly were these clinics located?
Thenext step was to check out www.weknowbeauty.com, and this wedid several times from December 2007 to January 2008.
Onthe site's "Locations" section, we came upon this announcement: "[TheInstitute] took pride in providing cosmetic and plastic surgery servicesthroughout Southern California including Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Pasadena,Newport Beach, Brea, Torrance, Encino, Irvine, Long Beach, Oxnard, Riverside,Thousand Oaks, Upland, Valencia and in Orange County, San Bernardino County,Los Angeles County, Ventura County, Riverside County and the Inland Empire."
Welland good. One major thing struck us, however. The site did not provide anyaddress for any of its "services throughout Southern California."
Thesite had also announced quite proudly: "Wherever you are in SouthernCalifornia, we are near. We have multiple affiliated locations to serve you.You can reach us by clicking here or bycalling 1-800-263-9968. We are open between 7am and 7pm on weekdays and between9am and 3pm on Saturdays."
Yetagain, the site did not provide a single address for any of its "multipleaffiliated locations."
PEPthen clicked the link as directed, and ended up on the site's "Consultations"section. This one said: "Do you have questions about breast augmentation,breast implants or plastic surgery in general? Our highly experiencedconsultants can help guide you through the decision making process and answerany questions you may have. We believe that plastic surgery is a life changingexperience and will provide you with answers you need to know. Setting up anappointment is simple, contact us today!"
Butonce again, the site did not provide a single address where "an appointment"might be made for any of these surgeries.
Insum, from December 2007 to January 2008, the Institute website never provided adefinite address for any of its clinics.
PEPasks these questions: For an Institute with clinics "throughout SouthernCalifornia," and whose website presumably existed to invite would-be clients,why did it fail/forget/neglect to direct clients to at least one clinic site?Did the Institute not want walk-in customers? Were the clinics not interestedin having clients knock on their door? In a country as affluent as the UnitedStates, were clients not expected to drive over to a clinic if and when theywished? Was there a clinic at all?
GETTINGIN TOUCH. PEP then proceeded to set an appointment with the Beverly HillsSurgical Institute. To do this, we asked a trusted friend based in the UnitedStates to call the number 1-800-A-NEW-YOU. This was the toll number prominentlydisplayed on the www.weknowbeauty.com homepage.
Onlya voice recording greeted our American contact:
"Hi,thank you for calling NRMG, usage provider for 1-800-a-new-you and1-800-my-vision. If you are a plastic surgeon, dermatologist or eye carespecialist, and want the exclusive use of one of our premier phone numberswithin your market area, please leave a message.
"1-800-a-new-youand 1-800-my-vision are effective, affordable, and can help your practicemaximize your advertising response rates while increasing orders and referrals.Thanks and we'll phone you back shortly."
Inother words, 1-800-A-NEW-YOU was nothing but an answering service. It was anoutfit for hire to all clients-whether "plastic surgeon, dermatologist or eyecare specialist"-who might want to lease a phone number for their "orders andreferrals."
Moreover,the number 1-800-A-NEW-YOU, which that the Institute's website provided, wasnot even the Institute's direct number. It was a number leased to the Instituteand shared by other clinics. In short, the Institute did not have a singlephone number of its own.
Sucha setup would not have set off alarm bells for PEP had the Beverly HillsSurgical Institute been a small, fledgling, stand-alone operation. After all, acottage-industry operation may actually find it cost-effective to pay ananswering service, instead of applying for a line of its own to be manned byits own paid staff. But the Institute is not supposed to be small. Its ownwebsite had boasted that the Institute was present "throughout SouthernCalifornia." That had to be big time.
PEPasks these questions: How could such a huge operation, on top of having noaddress whatsoever, not have a single direct line? And in a totally wiredcountry like the U.S., too! If the clinic did have both an address and a phonenumber but was simply not giving them out, why not? What business did it haveenticing clients to trust the Institute with the surgery of their faces andbodies when the Institute could not trust them with their address and number?
EMAILEXCHANGES. On December 14, 2007, PEP, through managing editor KarenPagsolingan, decided to get in touch with the Beverly Hills Surgical Institutevia email.
Sheclicked the "Click to Email Here" tab in the Institute's www.weknowbeauty.comwebsite and asked these questions:
1. Do you have a branch outside the U.S.?
2. Are you affiliated with Beverly Hills6750 here in Manila?
Fivedays later, she received email from a certain Tom Oseransky, who introducedhimself as the "VP of Operations of Beverly Hills Surgical Institute." Tom'semail read:
"Dr.Shin asked me to respond to your questions regarding David Bunevacz. At thistime we do not have an office outside the US and yes we are affiliated with theBH 6750 office in Manila."
Karenthen sent another email to the same address, requesting more information aboutthe Beverly Hills Surgical Institute: "Thank you, Mr. Tom. Is it possible torequest for a brief Company Profile? Or even just the address of your clinic inBeverly Hills or Long Beach?"
Shegot a reply, also via email, on December 27, 2007. But the reply came, not fromTom Oseransky with whom PEP was communicating, but from David Bunevacz. Hisemail read:
"Justfor your information Tom Oseransky and Dr. Shin had 3 or 4 clinics running atthe same time at the time we signed our agreement, we had even sent one of ourdermas to their clinic to train. It was only a few months after we signedour agreement had Dr. Shin separated from his partners and went on his own,then recently, as in the past few months have they shut down their other clinicbecause of financial problems that they had. Please just make sure you do avery detailed and thorough research before you write anything as would anyresponsible journalist as I know that you are. [Bold highlight ours.] Thankyou. David."
Bunevaczadmits that "only a few months after" he-with his partners?-signed theagreement with a Dr. Shin, the latter discontinued his links with the BeverlyHills Surgical Institute. Bunevacz also says that he-with his partners?-did notdrop the agreement with Dr. Shin, but that Dr. Shin's operations closed down"recently, as in the past few months."
IfDr. Shin was no longer affiliated with the Institute, and it was Dr. Shin withwhom Bunevacz continued to have an agreement, why did the Bunevacz couple andtheir partners continue to drumbeat 6750 as an affiliate of the Institute?
Tothis day, in fact, as far as the public knows, Beverly Hills 6750 is stillaffiliated with the Beverly Hills Surgical Institute.
Tothis day, the public has not been told that the Beverly Hills SurgicalInstitute no longer exists.
Click here for PARTII.