“I think we can all agree that Dr. B would have loved to be headlining at Alice Tully Hall,” said Kelly Ripa, star of “Live! with Kelly and Michael.” The packed audience at Lincoln Center erupted in laughter because it was probably true; before Ripa, the 10 previous speakers had recalled Dr. Fredric Brandt’s penchant for show tunes, musicals and the occasional rap.
Ripa was standing in the middle of the theater’s broad stage that was filled with 3,000 white orchid blooms, arranged to resemble a huge wave. The orchids were in reference to the late Brandt, who always kept fresh arrangements in his dermatology office. Thursday night, the flowers were also a reminder of the passing of Brandt to his 400 friends and colleagues who filled Alice Tully to celebrate his life and say goodbye.
“This is the saddest thing that I never thought I would have to do. When I look out into this room I see so many beautiful faces and I realized that Fred is all around us,” Ripa said, apparently referring to the doctor’s artistry in aesthetic dermatology. “He is with all of us now.”
Ripa was the last of 11 speakers to take turns at the microphone during the hour-and-a-half memorial service, marking the death of the 65-year-old Brandt, who was found dead on April 5 of what later was described as a suicide in his Coconut Grove, Fla., home.
The event was arranged by Lisa Marie Falcone, a New York socialite and Brandt’s close friend.
Brandt was praised throughout the evening both by testimonials of his great medical accomplishments and equally great humor, generosity and manic goodwill.
Ripa recalled an incident a few years ago when she was shooting a commercial and broke out with a massive pimple. In a panic, she summoned Brandt, who arrived only to tell her that he was on a very tight schedule and a solution had to be found quickly so he could return to the office.
“Then a group of male models disrobed and oiled up and suddenly Fred and I are ordering lunch,” Ripa remembered with a smile. “We sat there with the door cracked open giggling like children. We laughed so much that day. That is what I will remember the most about him: his laughter, his unabashed joy, his sense of humor, his kindness, his selflessness. He gave us everything he had and there will never be another Fred Brandt.
Brandt, who was often identified by his roster of celebrity clients including Madonna, Stephanie Seymour, Joy Behar and Ripa, also had a reputation as a clotheshorse. He had a habit of buying his outrageously chic outfits straight off the runway, kilt and all.
“Fred considered me a boring dresser,” said star hair stylist Garren. “I thought I was pretty cool,” he protested, referring to his own affinity for white, black and navy.
He got a crash course in the Brandt school of shopping one day when he made the mistake of telling the fashionista doctor that he needed a coat for work. Brandt quickly whisked him off to Moncler.
“Fred comes out with two guys holding a ton of coats: orange, silver, white, plaid,” the hair stylist said.
Garren wanted something less outrageous, so Brandt selected a green coat with ruching, straps, buckles and fur.
“I said, ‘I’ll take it,’” Garren recalled. “I just wanted to go home. I told [my husband] Tom: ‘I’ll put it back in the bag and return it eventually.’”
It wasn’t just Brandt’s knack for dressing that garnered him attention — his skills as a cosmetic dermatologist were equally as lauded by colleagues.
“He was someone that consistently remained ahead of the curve in the world of aesthetics, never surrendering his number-one position for several decades,” said Howard D. Sobel, a cosmetic dermatologist and friend of Brandt’s for more than 30 years, during a reception after the service. “It’s almost an impossible accomplishment to reproduce no matter what your field of expertise is.”
Joy Behar, past cohost of “The View,” admitted that she will certainly miss his skillful hands.
“At one point I said to him, ‘I need to lose weight but I don’t want to lose a lot because I’ll look old.’ He said, ‘Don’t worry, you have me,’” Behar recalled. “What are we going to do without him now? We’re all going to have to stay fat.”
Brandt had shared an office in New York with Dr. Roy Geronemus, and the two of them were lifelong friends.
“He cared a great deal about his appearance,” Geronemus said of Brandt. “He would interrupt conversations with patients and others and say, ‘What I really want to know from you is, how do I look?’ One day we were in the elevator together and we were joined by one of my patients who wanted to know if Fred was my son. I didn’t know whether to sulk or make an appointment with him. He laughed but refused to gloat — that wasn’t his style.”
Geronemus, like several others, also pointed out that Brandt’s generosity knew no bounds. “It didn’t matter if you were an Academy Award winner, lived on Fifth Avenue or you were a blue-collar worker — you were treated well by Fred. He felt an enormous responsibility for his patients and wanted nothing but perfection for everyone.”