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Dr. Kantor heals the rock stars

When it comes to ears (Kiss), nose (Cher) and throat (Nicks), Dr. Ed Kantor is No. 1 in rock

Dr. Edward Kantor is in his Beverly Hills office tending to Danny Kaye. A phone rings, and it is another patient — Barbra Streisand. “I thought I’d have some fun with her,” recalls the 49-year-old ear, nose and throat specialist. “I hand the phone to Danny, who does his Prussian doctor shtick: ‘This is Dr. Von so-and-so. I just got your tests back, and I’m afraid you’re suffering from Von Recklinghausen’s disease.’ Meantime I can hear Barbra screaming, ‘I don’t know who this is!’ Finally Danny confesses. Barbra comes in 15 minutes later. They embrace and the waiting room goes wild!”

That’s throat biz for Ed Kantor, who’s devoted the last 18 years to preserving the priceless pipes of Garland, Sinatra, Liz, the Duke, the Stewarts (Jimmy and Rod), Sly, Mary Tyler Moore and so on. One of his latest saves was Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks, for whom he prescribed two weeks of silence because her vocal cords had become “horribly swollen” from overuse. “When I went to his office, so sick,” says Stevie, “and saw him standing there with his silver hair, I said, ‘Oh thank the Lord.’ After treatment I felt a million times better.”

“It’s a parade all the time,” beams the ebullient Kantor, who still operates four mornings a week at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the L.A. New Hospital, where he is head of ETN. This frenetic schedule (17,000 patients since 1960) makes it difficult even for a celeb to get in. “Mario Lanza must have died,” bellowed Don Rickles one day in mock anger. “That’s how I got an appointment!”

So much for levity in the office. Kantor neither drinks nor smokes and is stern with his patients on their habits. Mac Davis notes that he’ll prescribe only one sleeping pill. Alcohol, Kantor tells singers, swells the delicate mucous membrane over the vocal cords. Marijuana dries and irritates them, and cocaine can perforate the septum. “Just the other day,” chirps Cher, “he looked up my nose and said, `You’re such a good girl. You don’t do any drugs.’ ” Kantor ministered to Elvis Presley for 15 years and reports, “Despite popular opinion, Elvis’s cords were not shot to hell. They were in good shape, no nodes whatsoever.” Another concern of Kantor’s with rock artists is hearing. He wore (and recommends) earplugs at a Kiss concert where he treated singer Paul Stanley.

Kantor developed his awe over the human voice as the only son of a Cleveland cantor (“God forbid if my father became hoarse on the High Holy Days”). Ed took his M.D. at the University of Nebraska and served as chief surgeon for NATO forces in Iceland. A researcher too, he is currently using high-speed cinematography “to break down frame by frame the movement of the vocal cords to see why singers get into trouble.”

When he unwinds, it is not with any of his famous patients but rather with his lady since their divorces were finalized last year, Kathy Stuart, 40ish, a former Miss New Hampshire and commercials actress. They met when he removed her tonsils. Currently Ed and the older of his two daughters, Debbie, 18, spend most of their time at Kathy’s 17-room house in Holmby Hills.

Is Kantor a frustrated performer himself? Yes and no. He hasn’t sung in public, he says, since his bar mitzvah. But he feels like he’s onstage every day. “Should I err in taking a node off a Linda Ronstadt,” he observes, “the notoriety could destroy me.” Not that he’s losing his confidence. “Anybody who performs well knows the feeling, onstage or in surgery. When you can cut circles around the next fellow, when you know you were good, you don’t have to hear any applause when you walk out of that operating room.”

Rich Wiseman / People (Vol. 10 Issue 8, p83. 1p.) / August 21, 1978 

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