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(Speaking of which: Rose's old girlfriend, Penthouse Pet Lynn Johnson, was last seen as the 1998-99 spokesmodel for CarQuest, an auto distribution company.)
The Roses settled into a Mediterranean mansion in Memorial and began to seek a more prominent place in Houston society. They chose the Houston Grand Opera as their pet cause. They served as "platinum underwriters" of April's production of Mefistofele, which means they ponied up at least $25,000, a level of giving more often associated with corporations than individuals. And in late August the Roses hosted an HGO benefit at the brand-new Masraff's on Post Oak. A storm knocked out the restaurant's power, including the all-important a/c, leaving sweaty society types to fan themselves; a My Table columnist headlined his report "The Titanic only hit an iceberg." But financially the party was a huge success. Where HGO had expected to score only a few thousand dollars, the Roses' social arm-twisting yielded ten times that much. Both Franklin and Cindi now serve on the opera's board.
Houston society has always been somewhat open to anyone with cash on hand, and the Roses appear fairly often in the city's gossip columns and party pix. Cindi's evening gowns seem chosen to display her well-maintained bod; at 50, she appears significantly younger. But even in Houston, good looks and money can't buy respect. On the party scene, she's dogged by a joke: As Franklin's wife she has had every sort of cosmetic surgery possible. Next, let's hope she marries a brain surgeon.
It's probably not the image Cindi had hoped to cultivate; she prefers to describe herself as a sculptor or silhouette artist (that is, the kind who cuts figures out of paper). "Body Baron," November's Texas Woman/Texas Man profile of Franklin, offers a few more clues about how the Roses would like to be perceived. The anonymous author describes Franklin's new domesticity in such tiresome detail -- quiet family life! encouraging the kids to go into medicine! spending time with Puff, the family Maltese! -- that you can't help but wonder about the story's connection to the surgeon's full-page ad later in the magazine.
The friendly interviewer asked Rose a softball question: whether it was true that he served as the model for the David Schwimmer character in HBO's Breast Men. The movie, set in Houston, billed itself as "a true story, slightly augmented." Schwimmer's character is a breast implant doctor who loses his wife and moral bearings amid the temptations of sex and money. At one point, he snorts coke off a topless dancer's obviously augmented breast.
Rose might have maintained that he was nothing like the character, or that the movie was a gross exaggeration. But instead, his reply indicated mostly annoyance that the likeness wasn't flattering. "Well," he said, "the writer-producer called me and did some lengthy interviews and watched me operate but when we talked, I could see where it was going."
In that profile, you can see Bad Old Franklin at war with New Reformed Model, the swinging surgeon who consorted with porn-mag models versus the opera patron who spends quality time with his Maltese. Obviously Rose wants us to forget his past, or at least chalk it up to the youthful indiscretion of a man in his (ahem) thirties. The strategy seems iffy, but if even breast implants can worm their way back into public favor, can their most ardent supporter be far behind?
E-mail Lisa Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.