Ron Friedman isn’t a typical doctor.
He spends his day working as a plastic surgeon and his nights writing a musical about breast implants, performing in one of his classic rock bands or doing woodworking projects.
“Of course, everybody thinks I’m crazy, but they’re used to me sort of saying outrageous things and having aspirations that are unrealistic. That’s nothing new for them,” Friedman says.
When Friedman was 8 years old, he took his first piano lesson. By the time he was 10, he started writing music and recording demo songs.
Lyrics to “The Quest”I’m on a quest to make the perfect breast I cannot rest until I’ve made the perfect breast If I should fail, my quest will be a bust If I succeed, my quest will be a bigger bust
“At some point, I realized I was probably going to have to do something actually real for a living because living as a songwriter seemed tenuous at best,” Friedman says.
“I got sidetracked in college with medical school and plastic surgery, so I guess I’ve been sidetracked now for a good 40 years or so. Now I’m getting back to music again.”
This self-described hiatus from music briefly ended in 2006, when Friedman released Illusions, his first album. Proceeds from the album were donated to Smile Train, a nonprofit that provides surgery to children with cleft palates.
A little over a decade ago, Friedman attended a musical in Fair Park in Dallas with friends. At the end of the musical, one friend suggested that Friedman, as a plastic surgeon who writes music, should write a musical about plastic surgery.
Friedman went on to write two songs as a joke, he says, but didn’t know what to do with them. After seeing Hamilton (twice), the idea for cleaVage came to him, and Friedman decided to write a musical about breast implants and their history.
“Even though our musical is about breasts, it doesn’t offend anyone as far as I can tell, and a part of that is because I have a co-writer who is a woman,” Friedman says.
In addition to bringing in a female co-writer, Laura Goodenow, Friedman cast a trans woman as the narrator, bringing together the topics covered with the territory: breast augmentation, breast implants, breast reconstruction and transgender surgery.
“Beyond that, there’s a message behind it,” Friedman says. “A message of celebrating people’s uniqueness and celebrating the ability to make your own decisions and decide what you want to do with your body or not do with your body.”
The musical is still in the table-reading stage, so for those looking to delve into comedy, history and all things breast tissue, there’s plenty of time to see it. The musical will have another table reading March 19 at 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (Want to attend? See sign-up information at the end of this article.) Also, a portion of the musical will be presented at a festival in July, followed by four to eight showings of the full musical in October.
Beyond the musical, as if Friedman couldn’t get more eclectic, those looking on his website might stumble upon his woodworking. Though woodworking is on the back burner as he focuses on the musical, Friedman has taken the art past a hobby.
“When I was in the seventh grade, I took a wood shop class that seemed like a random stupid thing, but I fell in love with doing it,” Friedman says. “I convinced my parents, and I don’t think they realized how dangerous it was, to get a band saw. I got a table saw, I got a chain saw, and I made all sorts of stuff and started selling things.”
Lyrics to “It’s My Choice”I tried to look on the bright side When they took off my right side Cause my splenda is splendid And it blended right in Now my left breast is through I pray my cancer is too
Friedman has sold to friends, neighbors, galleries and completed several commissioned pieces throughout his plastic surgery practice.
“Woodworking is what brought me to plastic surgery,” Friedman says. “I want to do something creative. I want to bring something into the world that hasn’t been there before. Whether that’s a wood sculpture or a marble sculpture or a new song or surgery on a person, all of them involve creations, so to speak. And that’s what fascinates me.”
While watching NOVA as a child, a PBS documentary-style science show, Friedman was introduced to Bert Brent, a plastic surgeon who pioneered ear reconstruction.
“When I watched the program, [I saw that] he was using the same woodworking tools that I used for woodworking because his background was as a woodworker,” Friedman says. “I asked my parents if I could go visit him — which they allowed me to do because my parents once again allowed me to buy chain saws — and I watched him operate for a couple of days, and I kind of went ‘You know what: I think this is what I want to do.’”
Now, Friedman is an accomplished plastic surgeon operating out of Plano since 1996. He has been named a Texas SuperDoctor by Texas Monthly several times and has won awards from the Texas Society of Plastic Surgeons, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Friedman is the director of the West Plano Plastic Surgery Center, where he performs a variety of procedures.
In his free time, if he finds any, you can find Friedman playing keyboard in one of the two bands: Sidegig (formerly known as Fourplay) and The Mazik Experience. The bands will be playing March 19 sometime between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the Dallas Kosher Chili Cookoff, right before the staged reading of cleaVage.
Those wishing to attend the table reading of cleaVage can get more information on how to attend by filling out the contact form.