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Disfigured critic Ebert shrugs at paparazzi

Borrowing a line from “Gone With the Wind,” film critic Roger Ebert is telling the paparazzi to take all the pictures they want when he appears in public after surgery that has left him temporarily disfigured.
/ Source: Reuters

Borrowing a line from “Gone With the Wind,” film critic Roger Ebert is telling the paparazzi to take all the pictures they want when he appears in public after surgery that has left him temporarily disfigured.

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” Ebert said in a column published Tuesday in the Chicago Sun-Times.

The Pulitzer Prize winner and co-host of the syndicated television show “Ebert & Roeper” had surgery last year for salivary gland cancer that spread to his lower jaw.

Part of his jawbone was removed, and two replacement operations have failed, he said. He is awaiting a third operation.

Ebert, 64, also had a tracheotomy that left him unable to speak. While he has written some movie reviews during recovery, his TV show has used guest critics.

This week Ebert kicks off his annual Overlooked Film Festival in Urbana, Ill., south of Chicago. As he has for the past eight years, he will host the event.

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He said people had urged him not to attend because the paparazzi would take unflattering photos and gossip columns would dish up mean-spirited comments about him.

“When I turn up in Urbana, I will be wearing a gauze bandage around my neck, and my mouth will be seen to droop. So it goes,” Ebert wrote.

“We spend too much time hiding illness. There is an assumption that I must always look the same. I hope to look better than I look now. But I’m not going to miss my festival,” he added.

Ebert said he now communicates “with written notes and a lot of hand-waving and eye-rolling.” If a planned surgery is successful, “my speech will be restored.”