Landy (right) with Brian Wilson in 1976
|Born||Eugene Ellsworth Landy
November 26, 1934
|Died||March 22, 2006
|Cause of death||Pneumonia and lung cancer|
|Occupation||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 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. Landy 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.
Before, at the command of Landy, Wilson appeared on Saturday Night Live, choosing to perform a solo piano rendition of "Good Vibrations" which received mixed feedback. Landy, who stood off-camera holding signs for Wilson that read "smile", said that critics misapprehended his motives, elaborating that Wilson's performance "was a terrible thing" as a one-shot, but if he continued making appearances, then he would have gradually overcome his stage fright. In 1977, when asked if Landy had too much control, Brian said "I thought so, but there was nothing I could do about it and I eventually gave into it. ... [He had] control of my life legally through the commitment of my wife. ... He definitely helped me. It cost over a hundred thousand dollars – he charged a hell of a lot per month." Wilson then reported that Landy was replaced with a new doctor, Steve Schwartz. After several sessions with Wilson, Schwartz died in a camping accident, falling off a mountain to his death.
Five years later 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 the mid 1980s, Landy stated: "I influence all of [Brian]'s thinking. I'm practically a member of the band ... [We're] partners in life." while Brian later responded to allegations with: "People say that Dr. Landy runs my life, but the truth is, I'm in charge."
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.
While browsing a car dealership in 1986, Wilson met his future wife and manager Melinda Ledbetter, a Cadillac saleswoman and former model. Three months after meeting Wilson, she had reported Landy to the state's attorney general, who informed her that nothing could be done without the cooperation of Wilson's family. Ledbetter felt that the family had been at their "rope's end" with Wilson, and that they did not know what to do to help him. Three years into their relationship, Landy ordered Wilson to sever ties with Ledbetter.
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.
Peter Reum, a therapist who met Wilson while attending a Beach Boys fan convention in 1990, was alarmed by Wilson's demeanor, speculating that he may be suffering from tardive dyskinesia, a neurological condition brought on by prolonged usage of psychotropic medication. Reum phoned biographer David Leaf, who then reported Reum's observations to Brian's brother Carl Wilson. It was then discovered that Landy had been named as a chief beneficiary in a 1989 revision of Brian's will, collecting 70%, with the remainder split between his girlfriend and Brian's two daughters. The Wilsons' cousin Stan Love filed for unsuccessful conservatorship on May 17, 1990, and soon after, the rest of the family contested Landy's control of Brian, pursuing ultimately successful legal action in late 1991. The ruling was finalized on February 3, 1992 when Landy was barred by court order from contacting Brian, leaving his affairs to the hands of a conservator, Jerome S. Billet. In December 1992, Landy was fined $1,000 for violating the court order when he visited Brian 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."
- Carlin, Peter Ames (April 1, 2006). "Obituaries: Eugene Landy". The Independent.
- Spiller, Nancy (July 26, 1988). "Bad Vibrations". The Los Angeles Times.
- "Obituary: Eugene Landy". The Telegraph. March 31, 2006. Archived from the original on February 25, 2008.
- Felton, David (November 4, 1976). "The Healing of Brother Brian". Rolling Stone.
- Klosterman, Chuck (December 31, 2006). "Off-Key: Syd Barrett | b. 1946; Eugene Landy | b. 1934". The New York Times.
- Goldberg, Michael (August 11, 1988). Mirror. "God Only Knows". Rolling Stone.
- "Wilson Phillips Makes Peace With the Past". ABC News. June 24, 2004.
- Marmaduke, Lauren (October 21, 2011). "Music’s Top 5 Dubious 'Dr. Feelgoods'". Houston Press.
- 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.
- Carlin 2006, pp. 198–199.
- Carlin 2006, pp. 243–244.
- Badman 2004, p. 358.
- Goldberg, Michael (June 7, 1984). "Dennis Wilson: The Beach Boy Who Went Overboard". Rolling Stone.
- White, Timothy (May 1977). "Beach Men: We Can Go Our Own Way". Crawdaddy!: 64.
- Gaines 1986, p. 291.
- Carlin 2006, pp. 244, 256.
- Carlin 2006, p. 257.
- Hilburn, Robert (October 13, 1991). "Landy's Account of the Wilson Partnership". The Los Angeles Times.
- Fine, Jason (July 8, 1999). "Brian Wilson's Summer Plans". Rolling Stone.
- Mason, Anthony (July 19, 2015). "Brian Wilson's summer of milestones". CBS News.
- Carlin 2006, p. 271.
- Carlin 2006, p. 272.
- Carlin 2006, p. 273.
- Fox, Margalit (March 30, 2006). "Eugene Landy, Therapist to Beach Boys' Leader, Dies at 71". The New York Times.
- Whitall, Susan (June 29, 2015). "Brian Wilson talks about ‘Love & Mercy,’ concert tour". The Detroit News.
- Gaines 1986, p. 342.
- Doyle, Patrick (September 9, 2009). "Celebrity Death Doctors: Michael Jackson's Personal Physician Dr. Conrad Murray and Seven Other Notorious Real-Life Procurers". VillageVoice.com.
- Powell, Alison (June 15, 2008). "Brian Wilson: a Beach Boy's own story". United Kingdom: The Telegraph.
- Fine, Jason (July 2, 2015). "Brian Wilson's Better Days". Rolling Stone (1238).
- Phull, Hardeep (June 4, 2015). "How one quack doctor almost destroyed Brian Wilson’s career". New York Post.
- Badman, Keith (2004). The Beach Boys: The Definitive Diary of America's Greatest Band, on Stage and in the Studio. Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-0-87930-818-6.
- Carlin, Peter Ames (2006). Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson. Rodale. ISBN 978-1-59486-320-2.
- Gaines, Steven (1986). Heroes and Villains: The True Story of The Beach Boys. New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 0306806479.