Eugene Landy

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Eugene Ellsworth Landy
Eugene Landy and Brian Wilson.jpg
Landy (right) with Brian Wilson in 1976
Born (1934-11-26)November 26, 1934
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Died March 22, 2006(2006-03-22) (aged 71)
Honolulu, Hawaii
Cause of death
Lung cancer
Other names "Dr. Feelgood"
Occupation Clinical psychologist, psychotherapist, author, record producer, businessman
Organization Brains & Genius (1989–1991)
Known for 24-hour therapy; exploitation of Brian Wilson
Spouse(s) Alexandra Morgan (1975–2006)

Eugene Ellsworth Landy (November 26, 1934 – March 22, 2006) was an American psychologist, psychotherapist, and author best known for his unconventional 24-hour treatment program as well as his exploitation of musician and songwriter Brian Wilson in the 1980s.

Wilson initially became a patient under Landy's program in 1975, but was soon discharged due to Landy's encumbering fees. In 1983, Landy was reemployed as Wilson's therapist, subsequently becoming his primary musical collaborator, business partner, and manager. Landy went on to co-produce Wilson's debut solo album and allegedly ghostwrote portions of Wilson's disowned memoir Wouldn't It Be Nice: My Own Story. Three years after the state of California revoked Landy's professional license for ethical violations, a 1992 restraining order barred him from contacting Wilson ever again.

In 2014, Landy's relationship with Wilson was dramatized in the biographical film Love & Mercy, directed by Bill Pohlad in which he is played by Paul Giamatti.

Early life and career[edit]

Eugene Ellsworth Landy was born on November 26, 1934 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the only child of Jules Landy, a doctor and psychology professor. Eugene dropped out of school in the sixth grade, later claiming to be dyslexic.[1] At age 16, he pursued a career in show business, producing a nationally syndicated radio show, and discovering a then 10-year-old George Benson.[2][1] Landy briefly served as Benson's manager[2] and worked as a record distributor, promoting records of African American artists to disc jockeys around the United States.[citation needed]

Landy eventually resumed his studies at California State University, Los Angeles and the University of Oklahoma, earning a master's degree in psychology from the latter in 1967, and completing his training with a PhD in 1968.[1] He then began working for the Peace Corps, eventually moving to Los Angeles, California[3] to work as a successful drug counselor at Harbor Hospital and as a popular part-time instructor at California State University, Northridge. He frequently employed Gestalt therapy in his treatment technique.[citation needed]

In 1971, Landy authored a book on hippie jargon called The Underground Dictionary,[1][3] published by Simon & Schuster.[4]

Following this, he began treating many celebrity clients, earning $200 an hour. In addition, he was a consultant on The Bob Newhart Show.[4] Some of Landy's patients included musician Alice Cooper; actor Richard Harris; actor Rod Steiger; actress Maureen McCormick; and actor Gig Young, who died in an apparent murder-suicide along with his wife in 1978.[2] In an interview with Rolling Stone, Landy claimed that he had treated others, but that he was in no position to explain his background. He added: "I've treated a tremendous number of people in show business; for some reason I seem to be able to relate to them. I think I have a nice reputation that says I'm unorthodox by orthodox standards but basically unique by unorthodox standards."[3]

Relationship with Brian Wilson[edit]

Using unorthodox 24-hour therapy, involving control of "every aspect of [his] physical, personal, social and sexual environments", Landy was successful in limiting Wilson's drug abuse and improving his physical appearance and overall health. In the process, however, he was accused of brainwashing, drugging and isolating his patient, then benefiting from an improper business relationship with him. These charges ultimately cost Landy his professional license and reputation[5][not in citation given] and earned him the brand of a "Doctor Feelgood" in the press.[6][7]

Landy was initially hired to treat Brian Wilson by Wilson's wife, Marilyn, in 1975.[8] He was fired by Wilson's band, the Beach Boys, the following year after doubling his fee.[9][2] Wilson was brought back to Landy's care after overdosing on a combination of alcohol, cocaine, and other psychoactive drugs.[2] Landy monitored Brian's drug intake and used "Samuels", a longtime associate, to prescribe him medication. Kevin Leslie stood with Brian at every moment, earning him the nickname "Surf Nazi". Leslie also gave Brian his medication at Landy's direction. Initially, Leslie was paid salary by Landy, but was eventually paid directly by Brian.[4] In Rolling Stone, Michael Goldberg published: "During the course of eight days spent with Landy and Wilson, it became clear just how much control Landy exerts over Brian's life. With the exception of taking a brief drive by himself to the market to pick up groceries, Brian appeared to be incapable of making a move without Landy's okay. During one interview session, the Landy line seemed to ring every thirty minutes. Yet Brian appears to be a willing participant in the program."[4]

Between 1983 and 1986, Landy charged about $430,000 annually, forcing Wilson's family members to devote some publishing rights to his fee.[2] In 1988, Landy was credited as co-writer and executive producer for Wilson's eponymous solo album.[2] As a result of the Beach Boys' and Wilson family's struggles for control, action was taken against Landy's professional practice.[2] In the late 1980s, the State of California Board of Medical Quality charged Landy with ethical and license code violations stemming from the improper prescription of drugs and various improper personal and professional relationships with patients.[citation needed] Landy voluntarily agreed to surrender his license to practice psychology in California. He then created a highly lucrative position for himself as Wilson's business partner in a company called "Brains and Genius" (stemming from their names Brian and Gene). Landy became Wilson's writing partner, co-producer, financial partner and beneficiary in all of Wilson's professional activities.[citation needed]

Wilson's family discovered that Landy had been named as a chief beneficiary in Wilson's will, collecting 70%, with the remainder split between his girlfriend and Wilson's two daughters.[2] They soon contested Landy's control of Wilson, pursuing ultimately successful legal action in late 1991.[2] Landy's depiction in glowing terms in the second half of Wilson's autobiography Wouldn't It Be Nice: My Own Story, published that year, would, were it a legitimate autobiography, indicate Wilson's approval of his methods; in an unrelated court case, however, Wilson testified that he had never even read the final draft of the manuscript, much less written any of it.[citation needed] The exploitation finally ended in 1992 when Landy was barred by court order from contacting Wilson.[10]


Eugene Landy continued a successful psychotherapeutic practice with licensure in New Mexico and Hawaii up until his death. He died, aged 71, on March 22, 2006 in Honolulu, Hawaii,[11][2] of respiratory system complications from lung cancer.

When asked what his reaction to Landy's death had been, Wilson responded: "I was devastated."[12]


  1. ^ a b c d Carlin, Peter Ames (April 1, 2006). "Obituaries: Eugene Landy". The Independent. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Obituary: Eugene Landy". The Telegraph. March 31, 2006. Archived from the original on February 25, 2008. 
  3. ^ a b c Felton, David (November 4, 1976). "The Healing of Brother Brian". Rolling Stone. 
  4. ^ a b c d Goldberg, Michael (August 11, 1988). Mirror. "God Only Knows". Rolling Stone. 
  5. ^ "Wilson Phillips Makes Peace With the Past". ABC News. June 24, 2004. 
  6. ^ Marmaduke, Lauren (October 21, 2011). "Music’s Top 5 Dubious 'Dr. Feelgoods'". Houston Press. 
  7. ^ Steven Mikulan (November 6, 2009). "Dr. Feelgoods and Their Celeb Patients: Who Needs Who? (PART 2: Hollywood's history of addicted stars and the doctors who supply them)". The Wrap. 
  8. ^ Carlin 2006, pp. 198–199.
  9. ^ Carlin 2006, pp. 243–244.
  10. ^ Fox, Margalit (March 30, 2006). "Eugene Landy, Therapist to Beach Boys' Leader, Dies at 71". The New York Times. 
  11. ^ Doyle, Patrick (September 9, 2009). "Celebrity Death Doctors: Michael Jackson's Personal Physician Dr. Conrad Murray and Seven Other Notorious Real-Life Procurers". 
  12. ^ Powell, Alison (June 15, 2008). "Brian Wilson: a Beach Boy's own story". United Kingdom: The Telegraph.