If you have spent any time in the New York City subway in the last 20 years you have seen the kitschy rainbow ads for Doctor Jonathan Zizmor, New York’s most famous dermatologist. Fondly known as Dr. Z to native New Yorkers, over the years, Zizmor has become part of the very fabric of New York City’s daily life, the butt of many a joke and the smiling face that greets you on your commute on the steamiest or the most frigid of days.
But every era must have its end and according to the Daily News that day has come for Dr. Z as well. Zizmor, 70, has closed his Upper East Side practice and has retired.
Zizmor’s realtor said, “The Zizmors love to travel and have many social interests, hobbies, and friends. At the end of the day, they are just like the rest of us.” Zizmor now spends much of his free time studying the Talmud.
In a 2009 interview with the Gothamist, Zizmor talked about his revolutionary idea to put an ad in the subway, a ludicrous idea back in the early 1980s.
“There were none, there were no doctors ads,” he said. “Why did I do it? In those days, dermatology was very exclusive, chic, chic. Most people, different ethnicity groups didn’t even know there were dermatologists. I felt I wanted to open it up, treat people of all demographics and so on. And I really started doing that, from the very rich to the poor, black, white, whatever. So I was the only one on the subway for about 25 years.”
A 2013 Forward article reported on Zizmor’s $250,000 donation to Yeshiva University High School for Boys in 2002 to endow the Rabbi Macy Gordon Scholarship. According to a lawsuit, Gordon was one of two rabbis accused of molesting students at the Y.U.-run high school. When reached for comment by the Forward, Zizmor said he did not know anything about the story of abuse at his alma mater and that Gordon “was, to me, the best teacher I have had. I thought he was a great teacher, a great man.”
Over the years, Zizmor has become part of pop culture, with a Snickers subway campaign of one Doctor Feedzmore:
And a Nick Kroll parody ad almost identical to Zizmor’s for Dr. Armond, canine plastic surgeon.
Zizmor was even part of a Saturday Night Live sketch where Taran Killam as Brad Pitt lists tattoos all removed by Dr. Zizmor, “the subway doctor.”
It was the best of ads, it was the worst of ads. And for that we say, “Thank you Doctor Zizmor!”