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If it were up to Laurie Straub, breast- and penis-enlargement surgeries would go the way of bloodletting. That's not because she sees America's obsession with physical inadequacies as folly, however. Straub, a 36-year-old former bra model, thinks people should be able to mold problem parts to their liking. But rather than putting an offending organ under the knife, where "you might end up with a lumpy sideways penis that you're more embarrassed of than the one you had originally," Straub would have the bodily unsatisfied undergo her special variety of hypnotherapy, in which she essentially persuades breasts or penises to grow.
"I know, I was just as skeptical as everybody else," says Straub, a daintily made-up woman in a business suit and pumps. Straub's skeptical period was back in the early '80s, when she first came to New York from Louisiana to be a model and actress. Since then, she's become a true believer in hypnosis, which helped her break her own addiction to cookies. ("I was really into cookies," she recalls gravely.) So taken was she with the technique, Straub took two years of hypnosis classes and went into private practice. But her alternative enlargement career didn't take off until she started nosing around in a big, green medical textbook and discovered the hypothalamus.
"That part of the brain has such control over the body, I don't know why we didn't learn about it in 10th grade in school," gushes Straub. As she saw it from her independent anatomical research, the right words directed at command central could convince the hypothalamus to convince the pituitary to convince the puny parts to grow.
At first she focused on breasts. She began to "practice" on friends, putting them into states of deep relaxation, cajoling their chests to blossom and psychically revisiting breast- stunting childhood experiences. Since going public a little more than three years ago, she has treated 150 women, swelling the bosoms of each and every one, she claims.
At least one of her clients, let's call her Phyllis, attests to Straub's success. Phyllis says she grew a bra size from an A to a B after taking a 12-week group session with Straub (cost: $695) and does a regular hypnosis refresher to maintain her bulk. But Phyllis describes herself as "a spiritual person" who was more than ready to believe; skeptics, she concedes, might be less likely to benefit.
Straub estimates there are only about a dozen people in the country plying such psychic boob jobs, and no one else working on penises. Even so, she bristles at the suggestion that her approach might make her something of a quack. "It's not as if they just sit here and then poof!" she says, rolling her eyes. Instead, over the course of several $200 sessions, she describes her clients as gradually filling out. Straub insists she herself went from a B to a C. "I lifted them up tremendously and made them round," she says of her own breasts.
Penis enlargement just seemed like the logical extension. The idea struck sometime after Straub learned from the Discovery Channel that "the tribesmen way out in the bush tie rocks to their penis." When her neighbor, a flight attendant, showed her his own photographs of said bushmen with elongated penises, that clinched it. A man's penis is just soft tissue, she reasoned. Surely it, too, could be made to blossom with a little psychological prodding.
In the nine months of the "all-natural penis enlargement" practice, more than 200 men some so ashamed they avoid sex and public bathrooms have come to see Straub. And that was before the Howard Stern show. Since Laurie, who now practices with her new husband and business partner, Gregory, treated the winner of Stern's "small-penis contest" in March, the phone at the Straubs' company has been ringing off the hook. They've even started peddling cassette tapes of Laurie's soothing voice: "You feel the blood moving to your groin," she says over spooky synthesizer music. "The pulsating sensation stimulates the cells, stimulates the nerves, the tissue of your penis. You can see that it's getting longer and longer, wider and wider . . . "
The result? According to Straub, most penises grow one to two inches in length and 3/4 inch in circumference over the 12-week course of her treatment. There's no way to independently verify this sprouting, of course, since "we can't very well ask a man to drop his pants and pose for pictures."
Straub isn't particularly concerned with niggling details like proving the effectiveness of her method anyway. The important thing, as she sees it, is that her patients believe it works. "Why else would they pay me $200 an hour just to talk to them?"