The red-brick medical building isn't much to look at; architecturally speaking, it could use a face lift. Inside is the most glamorous plastic surgery practice in the world.

Through its doors pass the biggest names in show business. They enter warily, sometimes watching for tabloid photographers on stakeout. Inside, famous faces are pulled and stitched, flabby thighs and waistlines are resculpted, B-cups are upgraded to C's.

Very few people have been privy to the secrets of this place, but that may be about to change. Unseemly things happened behind these walls, according to some people who worked inside. There are allegations of doctors taking drugs. Of threats and guns. Of celebrities being exposed and fondled on the operating table, for a doctor's amusement, while they lay helpless under anesthesia.

It's pure Hollywood, but it's not some hack screenwriter's fantasy. The accusations have made their way into court filings; California's medical licensing board is investigating; the state attorney general is attempting to subpoena potential witnesses.

It is a sordid tale that grew from a bare-knuckle fight among three rich doctors. The beautiful people of Hollywood have no idea how ugly it is. Meet the central characters:

In an office tower overlooking Los Angeles, a doctor studies a gauzy photograph of a half-naked woman, admiring the perfect fullness he imparted to her bosom. He is a thick-faced man with a bristling mustache and strong, meaty hands -- hands that once remodeled the flesh of Hollywood's elite. They paid him princely sums. He practiced in Beverly Hills. He drove a Rolls. Today he works in a commercial strip next to a chiropractor's office and an insta-print shop.

The phone rings. It is the plastic surgeon's sole client of the day, a woman who has been delayed in traffic and wants to alert the doctor in case he has to juggle appointments. Impersonating a secretary, he assures her, "That's fine. The doctor is running about a half hour late himself."

Wallace A. Goodstein, MD, hangs up. He smiles thinly, embarrassed that it has come to this.

In the darkened hills of Malibu, high above the Pacific, a second doctor admits a visitor to his mansion. Despite the late hour, he is still dressed in surgical scrubs. He has just returned from repairing an injured child in the ER. He likes helping kids, but in plastic surgery that's not where the money is. He, too, once worked as a surgeon to the stars, in an office that glittered with clients who made blockbuster movies and mega-hit records. Now he scrambles to make ends meet -- and still the ends do not meet. His house has 22 rooms and resembles a Tudor castle, all dark wood and leaded glass. But it is a facade. The mortgage is in foreclosure. A mouse scurries across the kitchen floor.

This doctor's name is James S. Hurvitz. His pale, moonish face reflects his aggrievement. He is, he says, ruined.

A third doctor has no apparent money worries. Watch him at his recent wedding, a sumptuous affair in Beverly Hills, surrounded by some of the most famous people in America: There's Vanna White -- and Joan Rivers! There's Tony Curtis! This doctor is a celebrity in his own right, the most renowned face-lifter, nose-fixer and boob-jobber in Southern California -- which is to say in America. Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, Sylvester Stallone, Don Johnson, Donald and Ivana Trump, Nancy Sinatra, Phyllis Diller -- to name a few -- have reportedly visited his surgical suites.

His name is Steven M. Hoefflin. He is silver-haired and handsome, hugging a lithe blond bride. They pose for pictures with the plastic surgeon's celebrity clients and friends.

Hoefflin is known for touting his work on television, for receiving flattering write-ups in glossy magazines. But he is granting no interviews just now. His lawyers have advised against it.

What was once a lucrative professional alliance among these three plastic surgeons has devolved into an exceedingly nasty feud. Once they were close colleagues, sharing patients and profits, trading expertise and public praise for one another's work. Now they slash at each other with septic allegations -- some lodged with the Medical Board of California, some contained in lawsuits.

They accuse one another of dreadful things. Hoefflin asserts that Goodstein was a dope-addled incompetent who threatened his life. Hurvitz and Goodstein have urged authorities to investigate alleged drug use by Hoefflin. Hoefflin contends that Hurvitz is an inferior doctor, a disreputable poacher of clients, that he suffers from "personal problems."

Hurvitz has provided medical board investigators with a document containing allegations by former female staffers who say Hoefflin sexually harassed them. But that is the least of it. Some of these women also contend in the document that several of Hoefflin's high-profile patients -- unnamed -- were used as sexual props, objects of the doctor's ridicule, their genitals exposed while they were unconscious.

The California Attorney General's Office is seeking a hearing next month to compel four former staffers to cooperate in a medical board investigation of Hoefflin. A senior medical board investigator, Joanna Rykoff, in a declaration filed recently in Los Angeles Superior Court, indicates that her inquiry focuses on allegations that Hoefflin fondled patients, "many of whom were in the entertainment industry."

Who is telling the truth? Right now, it is impossible to know for sure. The denials are heated.

Through his attorney, Hoefflin says all these charges are "slanderous and inaccurate, to the point of being disgusting." He says this article is "an irresponsible and malicious attempt {by The Post} to engage in tabloid journalism."

The doctor contends these allegations have been concocted by embittered former associates whom he dismissed. Indeed, both Hurvitz and Goodstein have a financial ax to grind: They blame Hoefflin for driving them into bankruptcy. Both claim he has deliberately tried to destroy them -- not because they're bad doctors or bad people, they say, but because they dared to get too close to some of his richest patients. The Hollywood Mystique

More so-called "cosmetic" or "aesthetic" surgeons wield scalpels in Southern California than any place else in the country. These doctors don't treat sickness; cynics would contend they spread a kind of disease, an epidemic of self-worship. A plastic society requires plastic surgeons: They are vital to Hollywood's culture of narcissism and, increasingly, to the rest of youth-obsessed America.

Plastic surgeons are the sorcerers of medicine, delivering the illusion of immortality to a clientele that is rich and vain and sometimes desperate. Patients will pay tens of thousands of dollars for their procedures -- fees typically not covered by insurance or subject to scrutiny by penny-pinching medical plans.

Not surprisingly, competition among the doctors is cutthroat. They will not identify their clients publicly, but it is in a doctor's interests to have his patients known; they serve as living canvases of the surgeon's prowess. And so they are perhaps not disappointed that the tabloids are able to report who's been lifted, suctioned or inflated.

The Hoefflin-Hurvitz-Goodstein dispute centers on money and ego and access to celebrities. There are other, more substantive issues involved -- patient safety, medical ethics -- but the war at ground zero is really over celebrities, including the most visible plastic surgery patient in the world: Michael Jackson. The Prime Patient

Once he was the planet's top-selling singer, ordering minions in the media to refer to him as the "King of Pop." Now he's widely regarded as a freak.

His story begins in a two-bedroom tract home in grimy Gary, Ind., where father Joe Jackson and the other boys reserved a special taunt for 9-year-old Michael. They called him "Big Nose."

Two Jackson biographies contend that the singer's repeated plastic surgeries -- he's had four to six major operations on his nose alone -- are connected to his abiding hatred of his abusive father. Joseph Jackson has a wide, flat nose, and Michael has endeavored to "erase every remaining trace of his father's brutish visage," Christopher Andersen writes in "Michael Jackson: Unauthorized."

For more than 15 years, Steven Hoefflin was Jackson's surgeon of choice. He reportedly performed Jackson's first rhinoplasty in 1979, though he has a policy of never publicly commenting on his patients.

Sometimes, though, it's hard to avoid publicity -- as in January 1984, when Jackson suffered scalp burns while filming a Pepsi commercial. Trained in burn care, Hoefflin raced to his patient's side, handled the reconstructive surgery and briefed the press. Although Hoefflin was already part of the show-biz firmament, known for operating on Playboy Playmates and hanging out at Hugh Hefner's mansion, friends say his star rose after the Pepsi debacle.

According to various accounts, Hoefflin has given Jackson a series of nose jobs and repeated "touch-ups," as well as a cleft chin. The results haven't earned the doctor the universal respect of his peers. There is an adage in plastic surgery, passed along to young residents: You make your living on the patients you treat but earn your reputation on those you won't treat. Some colleagues say Hoefflin allowed Jackson to go too far, to become a creature beyond race and gender.

Jackson's dramatic facial overhaul "may have been against my recommendation," Hoefflin said in an interview published last year in the San Diego Union-Tribune. But "if a patient of mine desires a major change in his appearance . . . it's his choice."

Having Jackson as a patient certainly hasn't scarred Hoefflin's reputation. In 1985, to handle his growing clientele, the surgeon opened a half-block-long medical complex in Santa Monica. He named it the Hoefflin Building -- a red-brick testament to the ego and drive of a doctor who began his career at a Mexican medical school and later rose to the top of his class at UCLA. So many stars tiptoed into the building, patient Joan Rivers once joked in Allure magazine, that "the carpet is worn out at the back entrance the celebrities use."

In the early 1990s, Hoefflin took on help. He recruited reconstructive surgeon Jim Hurvitz to serve as his all-around backup man and Wally Goodstein to be his liposuction specialist. Hoefflin regarded both as "excellent surgeons," as he said in letters of recommendation to local hospitals. He'd known them for years.

Hurvitz, especially, seemed like a good fit. At 50, he still has the distracted demeanor and thrown-together fashion sense of a young resident who works far too many hours. But he doesn't mind being chained to his beeper. By several accounts, he was intensely loyal to Hoefflin -- happy to take "call" for his friend, covering for Hoefflin during evenings, weekends, holidays and vacations.

"I thought the gentleman was a saint who walked on water," Hurvitz says. He operated half the week in the Hoefflin Building. He hung his diplomas there.

Dubbed "Doc Hollywood" by writers, Hoefflin (pronounced HOFF-lin) is a 51-year-old triathlete who enjoys making presentations at surgical society meetings, attending parties and being seen in the company of glamorous women (including his patients). He's a jet-setter.

Hurvitz is a homebody. As one colleague put it, "Jim's a very low-profile person, not out to aggrandize himself. He's just there."

Though he has handled his share of prominent patients, Hurvitz's specialty is pediatric surgery. "He has a very kind heart," says Tad Fujiwara, a family practitioner who has known Hurvitz for more than 20 years. "But in business, he's naive."

In the spring of 1995, Hurvitz began to develop a friendship with Michael Jackson, after being summoned to the singer's Neverland ranch to handle minor medical problems. Hurvitz sees this as the beginning of the end of the two doctors' relationship.

Then, that August, Hurvitz hired one of Hoefflin's operating room assistants to work at his other office. Suddenly, he says, their friendship shattered.

Hurvitz says he was locked out of the Hoefflin Building and denied access to patient charts and financial records. Last year he filed a breach-of-contract suit against Hoefflin, seeking more than $4 million in damages. Hurvitz accuses Hoefflin of cutting his business by 50 percent, defrauding and slandering him.

In a counterclaim, Hoefflin accuses his former associate of conspiring to steal away celebrity clients and besmirching his good name. In legal papers, Hoefflin's attorneys question Hurvitz's ethics and talents. They also say that Hurvitz's wife, a nurse who assisted his practice, once abused Demerol.

So it's gotten very personal. And dirty. And now, public.

In the court papers seeking the testimony of Hoefflin's former employees, medical board investigator Rykoff disclosed that she had received a complaint from a confidential source alleging that "Dr. Hoefflin had fondled" anesthetized patients. "The complainant alleged that the patients' private parts were exposed while they were being operated on for a facelift. The complainant made other allegations regarding drug abuse . . . on the part of Dr. Hoefflin."

A phalanx of cardboard boxes lines a wall near Hurvitz's kitchen. They are filled with office files, legal pleadings, depositions. Among them is a lengthy document that Hurvitz says elaborates on the charges the medical board is investigating.

"Defendant {Hoefflin} would continually engage in vulgar and sexually offensive behavior in the operating room with male and female patients," the document reads. "This was especially so when the patient was a VIP."

No patients' names are given -- only pseudonyms. To wit:

"While patient John Roe 1 was under general anesthesia . . . defendant {Hoefflin} pulled his gown up and exposed his genitals. He then stated to plaintiff . . . I bet you wouldn't know what to do with that.' "

The document continues: "While patient John Roe 2 was under general anesthesia for a surgical procedure to his face, defendant pulled his blanket off, disrobed him below the waist and exposed his genitals," it reads. "He then stated, You know he has never used it.' "

And: "While patient Jane Roe 3 was under general anesthesia, defendant pulled off her blanket and spread and lifted her legs in a vulgar manner."

These lurid allegations are connected to a sex-harassment suit filed against Hoefflin by four of his longtime female employees. Part of a staff of about 25 nurses, technicians and secretaries in the Hoefflin Building, the women left the practice in the fall of 1995.

(John Bornstein, who is Hoefflin's usual anesthesiologist, disputes such claims. He said in an interview he never witnessed any conduct by Hoefflin that was unseemly or compromised the dignity of patients.)

The women did not immediately go to the police or any other investigating authorities with their charges of patient abuse. Instead they filed formal complaints with a state anti-discrimination agency, alleging that Hoefflin subjected them to a "sexually charged hostile work environment" that included improper advances and lewd remarks. It was a routine first step before suing Hoefflin. In one complaint, filed in October 1995, Kim Moore-Mestas, an operating room staffer, states that she witnessed Hoefflin's "touching of patients in a sexual manner."

By April 1996, she and three others -- Lidia Benjamin, Barbara Maywood and Donna Burton -- sued Hoefflin in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging sexual harassment (Burton also alleged that Hoefflin beat her). The suit was settled and withdrawn during 20 hours of out-of-court mediation, but it remained in an open court file for several weeks.

As part of the settlement, each woman reportedly accepted several thousand dollars from Hoefflin. Their attorneys persuaded a judge to seal all public records connected to the suit. Under the settlement, the parties were forbidden to talk with anyone -- especially the news media -- about their dispute.

But Hurvitz has obtained copies of various documents connected with the dispute -- including a version of the complaint that was never filed. That draft contains the "John Roe" and "Jane Roe" allegations.

Hurvitz never observed any of the alleged activity himself, but says he felt morally obliged to alert the authorities. He first phoned in a complaint about Hoefflin to the medical board in July 1996. He says he later sent a copy of this document to the Los Angeles district attorney's office and the Medical Board of California.

"My motive was to do the right thing," Hurvitz explains. "I was given this information and what could I do? I came forward, I had a conscience. There needs to be an independent, objective investigation of these charges."

Officials at the medical board -- which has the power to conduct criminal investigations and revoke physicians' licenses -- decline to comment. Court records show that the investigation of Hoefflin bogged down because the four women refused subpoenas from the medical board earlier this year. That forced the state to seek a judicial order to make them appear. (A hearing is set for Nov. 6.)

One of the lawyers who represented the women in the settlement, Gregory W. Smith, would not comment. But in a letter to the board, another lawyer, Richard L. Garrigues, says he will advise his clients to cooperate with the investigation once the court acts.

Other doctors say Hoefflin is often the focus of anger because he is a demanding perfectionist who sometimes alienates his own employees; staff purges are routine. Moreover, because of Hoefflin's prominence, they say, jealous lesser surgeons may want to destroy his reputation.

A plastic surgeon who's known Hoefflin more than 20 years but asked that his name not be revealed says he has never seen him impaired, or even take a drink at social gatherings.

What about hitting on women?

"I've worked over in his office, seen him day in and day out, and I've never seen anything that I would have called sexual harassment," this doctor says.

Anesthesiologist Bornstein, who has worked with Hoefflin for years, describes the plastic surgeon as "one of the finest physicians I've ever had the privilege of being in contact with or knowing. The finest in every aspect: morally, ethically, and in terms of his medical ability.

"He's one of the brightest, most capable, most morally upright persons I've ever known in the medical profession -- or in any profession," Bornstein says. "I have nothing but the utmost esteem and respect for him." The Hollywood Duality

Wallace A. Goodstein has been in Hollywood long enough -- more than 20 years -- to have developed an aloof, intellectual appreciation of the culture here. "I have become an expert on Jungian duality," he says in his office tower on Wilshire Boulevard. "You know, in L.A., nothing is what it appears to be. It's all an image, a facade."

Goodstein is a good example. His many diplomas, his monogrammed shirts, his professorial demeanor -- he drops allusions to Marx, Malthus, Proust, Thoreau -- make him appear to be a trustworthy, esteemed, perfectly stable physician.

In fact, he's been sued for malpractice repeatedly, was dropped by his insurance carrier, denied hospital privileges and is facing the ultimate penalty of his profession: loss of his medical license.

A few weeks ago, Goodstein had his head examined by a team of psychiatrists and psychologists working for the Medical Board of California. A petition by the board alleges that he's a chronic cocaine abuser who has had sexual relations with patients, threatened people with guns and employed a "questionable liposuction technique" that resulted in serious complications.

From Goodstein's point of view, he is a persecuted visionary, the inventor of an inexpensive, revolutionary fat-carving instrument that threatens to cut into the profits of his peers. He also considers himself the victim of a hate campaign masterminded by his former friend Steve Hoefflin, whom he has known since they trained as residents two decades ago.

He still considers Hoefflin "an extremely gifted and talented man." He just happens to dislike him intensely. "Hate" is too strong a word, Goodstein says, but upon reflection, he decides:

"You can use seething hatred,' but it's more contempt. Hoefflin represents Jung's dark shadow. He is irredeemable. Anything that would eliminate his power from the Earth should be celebrated, including his death."

Goodstein joined Hoefflin's practice in early 1991 and spent 20 months working there part time. He was hired as the "below-the-neck man," handling breast surgeries and fat-suctioning duties. He never operated on the most famous patient to visit the Hoefflin Building -- Michael Jackson -- but says he saw him there "four or five times," having nose work done.

Both he and Jim Hurvitz say they picked up on the nicknames bandied about. They say Hoefflin's moniker for Jackson was "Meat." The star's pet name for the surgeon was "Meat Hooks."

Goodstein believes Hoefflin should not have acquiesced to Jackson's requests for surgery. "You can't say no to that kind of person in Hollywood. If he turned him down, Jackson would just get somebody else to placate him."

The son of a Bronx butcher, Goodstein, 51, salts his rapid discourse with psychiatry references. "Steve's character disorder is etched on Michael Jackson's face," he says. "He's literally the prototype malignant narcissist."

No less has been said of Goodstein. "I was very concerned about his mental condition," Hoefflin testified in a 1994 deposition that has become part of the medical board's investigative file on Goodstein. "Extreme defensiveness, a paranoia, misrepresentation of facts, jitteriness, hyperactivity to the point that we canceled his surgeries. . . . I discovered that he was using drugs."

Patients, according to Hoefflin, "represented to me that Dr. Goodstein was carrying a weapon here in the office . . . that he had had five guns . . . that he wanted to kill me and one of my other employees, also."

In an interview last year with medical board investigators, Hoefflin mentioned Goodstein's arrest in 1981 for cocaine possession (the police found a vial in his pants during a traffic stop, but he ultimately wasn't charged). Hoefflin also told of patients "complaining to him about sexual relationships with Goodstein."

"I'm not an angel," Goodstein admits. But he says he hasn't taken illegal drugs in 15 years and denies everything else in the board's voluminous file, calling it a case of "transference" by Hoefflin.

Goodstein happily supplied The Post with a copy of the confidential document, declaring, "I have nothing to hide." He also supplied a copy of his formal refutation of the board's allegations.

Hoefflin and Goodstein have publicly lunged at each other's throats since an April 1993 conference of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery in Boston, where they debated the "subdermal liposculpture" (SDL) technique championed by Goodstein. Then, as now, Hoefflin characterized SDL -- which trims fat closer to the skin than normal liposuction -- as dangerously aggressive.

But earlier the doctors had co-authored a letter in a plastic surgery journal describing the method. Goodstein says Hoefflin at first enthusiastically embraced the technique. (During his tenure, they divided more than $1.5 million in surgical fees, he says.)

Four years later, Goodstein offers another explanation for their falling-out. He says he performed SDL on two globally famous women, with good results, and Hoefflin resented his success.

"He needs control," Goodstein insists. "I left him. And any time you end a relationship with Hoefflin, he will destroy you."

These days, Goodstein has so few patients that he can spend four hours straight talking to a reporter. He lives in a small apartment with his only full-time staffer, a masseuse who is also his girlfriend.

"Here's proof that facial liposculpture does work!" he chortles, introducing 45-year-old Kathi Tompkins. The well-endowed brunette smiles sheepishly as he caresses her sculpted chin.

Goodstein gestures to his office wall, toward the gauzy portrait of the bare-breasted woman, another of his surgical mementos; she is gazing into a mirror. The photo was taken in the early 1980s. Today, Goodstein says, she is a hausfrau with a brood of kids and about 50 extra pounds. It's the way of all flesh, he chuckles. Corruption. The Jackson Factor

Wally Goodstein is confident he'll eventually clear his name. He has published an article in a professional journal on his method and is working to get his hospital privileges restored. He has submitted hair, blood and urine samples for drug analysis by the medical board. The urine has come back clean; he is awaiting a verdict on the rest.

A few years ago, the board conducted an investigation of Goodstein but filed no charges. This new probe, he claims, is Hoefflin's final, frenzied effort to crush him. Jim Hurvitz, the other surgeon, believes that. "I was brainwashed by Steve into thinking that Wally was a bad guy," he says. "Now I think Wally is a victim."

Hurvitz, who practiced at the Hoefflin Building for more than five years, knows Goodstein only casually. But they have shared the same bankruptcy attorney -- and share the same view of Hoefflin's motivations: More than anything, Doc Hollywood feared losing his rich and famous patients.

"He has perceived that we have stolen something from him," Goodstein says. "He saw Hurvitz taking Michael Jackson away. He saw me taking other celebrities away."

Yes, Hurvitz says, this all goes back to Michael Jackson. He says he has never performed a major procedure on the star but has accompanied him on trips, and has been available in emergencies.

Around Christmas 1995, Jackson dispatched a limo to Hurvitz's home. A boy sleeping in Jackson's bedroom, the doctor says, had suffered a monkey bite. Hurvitz treated it.

"We never billed Michael for a nickel," he says. "We treated him as a friend." Hurvitz says he likes Jackson and doesn't want to see him harmed. But he also doesn't want to talk any more about him because he doesn't want to betray confidences.

"I want the best for Michael." A Confidential Tip

Don't listen to anything Wally Goodstein says, the man on the phone warns. He's a pathological liar. He's maimed 29 women, but not all of them sued since he's bankrupt. "He is a menace and has to be stopped."

Who's calling?

It's a prominent Los Angeles businessman -- who refuses to be named but says his wife suffered horribly at Goodstein's hands. He'll be a confidential source. "I will be helpful in any way but will be very disappointed if you give Goodstein a platform of denial," he cautions.

The same caller, a few days later:

"You should be aware of a malpractice judgment in Malibu against Goodstein -- it's the largest jury award ever in the history of Malibu, over a million dollars. It just happened."

Also:

"You should be aware that Dr. Hurvitz was suspended from the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons for unethical behavior."

Slice, slice. The scalpels are drawn. . . . And the Result

Turns out there was no million-dollar award in Malibu. A malpractice case against Goodstein was settled. The woman who sued him accepted substantially less than $1 million.

Turns out Hurvitz was suspended for two years from the plastic surgery society -- which does not affect his right to practice -- for offering an inflated fee quote in 1994. Hurvitz told the society's judicial council that the $41,000 quote, which he admitted was excessive, originated from Hoefflin's fee schedule. Praise From a Patient

So who is Steve Hoefflin? Among other things, he says he is a direct descendant of President Benjamin Harrison. And he is an amateur magician known for his sleight of hand.

"He is a wonderful human being," the woman on the phone says. "He is a great asset to this world and to mankind, not just the medical profession."

This caller goes by the name Amber Lynn. She's a stripper and hard-core porn film star. She is also a witness in the Medical Board of California's probe of Goodstein. "Dr. Hoefflin insisted that I assist the investigation," she says.

Hoefflin did her first breast augmentation when she was 18, after they met at Hugh Hefner's mansion. "Dr. Hoefflin is like a father to me," says Lynn (real name: Laura Allen). "I've known him for 14 years. He's watched me evolve from a little girl into a woman."

She's undergone multiple surgeries with both Goodstein and Hoefflin. She looks quite beautiful, if your taste runs to mannequins.

Though she once regarded Goodstein as "brilliant," today she swears Goodstein severely damaged her breasts -- "part of me wishes I just could have died on that operating table," she says in a letter submitted to the medical board. ("Lies," says Goodstein.)

She credits Hoefflin for fixing "90 percent of the damage." Even so, she is self-conscious about her appearance. She's actually considering a career where she keeps her clothes on. She is trying to become a mainstream actress.

"I'm a shy person -- very introverted," confides Lynn/Allen, who tours the country doing an all-nude show and retails her "personally worn" panties over the Internet.

Steve Hoefflin, she says, is really a lot like her. He's definitely not into drugs and he would never try to proposition a woman.

"He's a shy person," she says. "Quiet." Real Revenge

A few months ago, Hoefflin went on television in Los Angeles again, promoting a new fat-busting technique in which a wand is moved over the torso. It is an ultrasonic device that appears to magically dissolve fat cells -- no actual surgery required.

Roll film of 72-year-old Tony Curtis, Hoefflin's actor friend, expressing gratitude for this new procedure, which eliminated his neck wattle and spare tire. After the news aired on KNBC, callers reportedly lit up the switchboards at Hoefflin's office and the TV station.

Elsewhere, two bankrupt plastic surgeons, onetime friends of Steven Hoefflin, seethed. On TV, Curtis quoted a variation of an old Hollywood maxim: "Looking good is the best revenge."

Well, not always. Sometimes, revenge is the best revenge. Staff writer Bob Woodward and staff researcher Cassandra Stern contributed to this article. CAPTION: Clockwise from far left: Steven Hoefflin, James Hurvitz and Wallace Goodstein -- three cosmetic surgeons who once had a profitable alliance now are squared off in a nasty feud. They have operated on some of the most famous names in show business. Top, Michael Jackson, before and after surgery. CAPTION: Michael Jackson before, left, and after years of plastic surgery, much of which took place at the Hoefflin Building, below. CAPTION: Hoefflin "is a wonderful human being," says hard-core porn star and plastic surgery patient Amber Lynn. "He is a great asset to this world and to mankind, not just the medical profession." CAPTION: Hoefflin and his bride at their August wedding with guests (and patients) Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller.