|Eugene Ellsworth Landy|
Landy (right) with Brian Wilson in 1976
November 26, 1934|
|Died||March 22, 2006
|Cause of death||Lung cancer|
|Occupation||Clinical psychologist, psychotherapist, writer, record producer, businessman|
|Organization||Brains & Genius (1989–1991)|
|Known for||24-hour treatment program and exploitation of Brian Wilson|
|Spouse(s)||Alexandra Morgan (1975–2006)|
Eugene Ellsworth Landy (November 26, 1934 – March 22, 2006) was an American psychologist and psychotherapist best known for his unconventional 24-hour treatment program as well as his exploitation of Beach Boys musician and songwriter Brian Wilson in the 1980s.
As a teenager, Landy aspired to show business, briefly serving as an early manager for George Benson. During the 1960s, he began studying psychology, earning his doctorate at the University of Oklahoma. After moving to Los Angeles, he treated many celebrity clients, including musician Alice Cooper and actors/actresses Richard Harris, Rod Steiger, Maureen McCormick, and Gig Young. He also developed an unorthodox 24-hour therapy intended to stabilize his patients by micromanaging their lives with a team of counselors and doctors.
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 executive producer, business manager, co-songwriter, and business adviser. 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 Landy agreed to let the state of California revoke his professional license amidst accusations of ethical violations and patient misconduct, a 1992 restraining order barred him from contacting Wilson ever again.
Early life and education
Eugene Ellsworth Landy was born on November 26, 1934 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the only child of Jules C. Landy, a doctor and psychology professor, and Frieda Mae Gordon Landy, also a psychology professor. Eugene dropped out of school in the sixth grade, later claiming to be dyslexic. 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. Landy briefly served as Benson's manager and worked odd jobs as a radio producer, promoting records of African American artists to disc jockeys around the United States, and producing a single for Frankie Avalon.
Honoring his parents's wishes, Landy resumed his psychiatric studies at Los Angeles City College, where he earned an A.A. in chemistry, and entered medical school at the National University of Mexico. After falling ill with dysentery, he switched to psychology. At California State University, Los Angeles and the University of Oklahoma, he earned a master's degree in psychology from the latter in 1967, completing his training with a PhD in 1968.
Career and development of methods
After completing his studies, Landy worked for the Peace Corps, eventually moving to Los Angeles, California 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. Landy began developing ideas for his 24-hour treatment program while engaging in postdoctoral work at Rancho Santa Fe. It was there that he practiced "marathon therapy", in which a therapist takes control of a group of people for a day or more. In 1968, he worked briefly as an intern at Gateways Hospital in Echo Park, Los Angeles, where he developed his methods further, experimenting with treatment on teenage drug abusers with varying degrees of success. He attributed his failures to having too little control over their nighttime activities; he tried evening rap groups and made himself available at all hours for talking therapies for their nocturnal anxiety attacks. Landy would go on to call his new system "milieu therapy".
While serving the hospital, he became cultured in the lingo used by its teenagers. In 1971, Landy authored a book on hippie jargon called The Underground Dictionary, published by Simon & Schuster.
Following this, he started penetrating Hollywood social circles, becoming a consultant on various television shows including The Bob Newhart Show. He soon began treating many celebrity clients, earning $200 an hour. Some of Landy's patients included Alice Cooper; Richard Harris; Rod Steiger; and Gig Young, who died in an apparent murder-suicide along with his wife in 1978. 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." Unusually, he had his own press kit, while a doctor and former colleague, Solon D. Samuels, described him as "a maverick in the field of psychology. He's done things that no other psychologist has done in treating the psychotic and the drug addict. ... What he was doing really was translating the hospital environment to the home environment. I think he got some remarkable results–with people who can afford it."
Relationship with Brian Wilson
Using his unorthodox 24-hour therapy, 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[not in citation given] and earned him the brand of a "Doctor Feelgood" in the press.
Landy was initially hired to treat Brian Wilson by Wilson's wife, Marilyn, in 1975. Wilson publicly rebelled against the program, saying the only reason he went along with it was so that he would not be committed to a psychiatric facility. He was fired by Stan Love, Wilson's cousin and Beach Boys band manager, in December 1976 when Landy doubled his fee. The band's road manager Rick Nelson later claimed that Landy had also attempted to exert unwelcome artistic control over the group. During the recording of 15 Big Ones (1976), group meetings were supervised by Landy, and discussions over each song for the record were reported to last for up to eight hours. Another report suggested that Landy had asked for a percentage of the band's income.
In 1982, Wilson was brought back to Landy's care after overdosing on a combination of alcohol, cocaine, and other psychoactive drugs. Landy monitored Brian's drug intake and used Sol Samuels to prescribe him medication. Kevin Leslie stood with Brian at every moment, earning Leslie the nickname "Surf Nazi". Leslie also gave Brian medication at Landy's direction. Initially, Leslie was paid salary by Landy, but was eventually paid directly by Brian. 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." Landy's depiction in glowing terms in the second half of Wilson's disowned 1991 autobiography Wouldn't It Be Nice: My Own Story 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.
Between 1983 and 1986, Landy charged about $430,000 annually, forcing Wilson's family members to devote some publishing rights to his fee. Landy received 25% of the copyright to all of Wilson's songs, regardless of whether he contributed to them or not, which band manager Tom Hulett explained was an incentive for Landy to reignite Wilson's drive: "It was sort of like, 'Gee, there's nothing coming in now, if you can go make this person well to go create some income...'" Landy expressed similarly: "Saying that [I would share in future songwriting royalties] in '84 was like me telling you, 'I'll pay you a million dollars if you can get up and fly around the room.'" This arrangement was revoked in 1985, with Landy only receiving rights with a percentage equal to his writing contributions. Landy reported that he never received any money since Wilson had not published any material before the pact was voided. In 1988, Landy was credited as co-writer and executive producer for Wilson's eponymous solo album. Co-producer Russ Titelman disparaged his role in the album's creation, calling him disruptive and "anti-creative". In 1991, Landy maintained that his songwriting collaborations on the album earned him less than $50,000.
As a result of the Beach Boys' and Wilson family's struggles for control, action was taken against Landy's professional practice. A former nurse and girlfriend of Wilson's brought Landy to the state's attention in 1984, and they were then aided by journals written by songwriter Gary Usher during a ten-month collaboration with Wilson. These journals depicted Wilson as a virtual captive dominated by Landy, who was determined to fulfill his show business ambitions through Wilson. By this year, Wilson had become Landy's only patient.
In late 1987, Landy and Wilson became creative partners in a company called "Brains and Genius", a business venture where each member would contribute equally and share any profits from recordings, films, soundtracks, or books. In February 1988, 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 unethical personal and professional relationships with patients, citing one case of sexual misconduct with a female patient, along with Wilson's psychological dependency on Landy. Landy denied the allegations, but voluntarily agreed to surrender his license to practice psychology in California. While Landy and his colleagues claimed that his treatment of Wilson ended in February 1988 at the request of the state attorney's general office, the deputy attorney who drafted the complaint reported that he was not aware of any such request, nor was the office advised that they sever Landy's relationship with Wilson. Others witnessed no changes, and Landy's assistants remained with Wilson, as Samuels believed, "[Brian] still has an oral drive. He would still overeat and overdose if you let him. He has total freedom in every other way." Wilson continued to pay Landy a salary of about $300,000 a year for advice on creative decisions.
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. After Wilson's cousin Stan Love filed for conservatorship on May 17, 1990, the family soon contested Landy's control of Wilson, pursuing ultimately successful legal action in late 1991. The exploitation finally ended in 1992 when Landy was barred by court order from contacting Wilson. In December 1992, Landy was fined $1,000 for violating the court order when he visited Wilson in June for his birthday.
Personal life and death
After the 1990s, 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, of pneumonia while suffering from lung cancer. When asked what his reaction to Landy's death had been, Wilson responded: "I was devastated." In 2015, Wilson reflected, "I thought he was my friend, but he was a very fucked-up man," and also, "I still feel that there was benefit. I try to overlook the bad stuff, and be thankful for what he taught me."
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