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Roger Ebert’s “Phantom” Face

“I cannot speak, eat or drink, and have lost a lot more pounds, and, believe me, it would have been a more fun doing it the Pritikin way… Compared to other people, I’m lucky. For example, see how much I’m enjoying myself right now.”

That’s thumbs-up movie reviewer Roger Ebert, bravely making the best of a bad situation in a recent blog post. He looks strikingly different these days — check the photo at right.

We didn’t know that Roger Ebert’s situation was quite so rugged. He’s had a bunch of maladies in the last decade, and cancer in his thyroid and salivary glands led to the removal of part of his right jaw in 2006. A few weeks later a blood vessel burst near the spot of the surgery, nearly killing him.

He’s cancer-free now, but he also has a tracheostomy, and surgery earlier this year couldn’t restore his speech.

That hasn’t stopped Ebert from churning out blog posts with jokes about his resemblance to the Phantom of the Opera, notes on his days as “the fat one,” remembrances of Gene Siskel, and the rare bit of health confessional. His writing has plenty of life.

And he’s back reviewing movies in the Chicago Sun-Times, which is a great thing. Good for him.

Ebert is now a shoo-in to join another jaw-removal survivor, President Grover Cleveland, in our loop on the Facially Challenged.

[ Update 2011: Roger Ebert got a new silicone chin ]

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