Tuesday, April 04, 2006

PSYCHOBIT: Eugene Landy

News reaches us of the death of Eugene Landy, known as "shrink to the stars", most notably thanks to his "care" of Brian Wilson.

Born in 1934 in Pittsburgh, Landy started out in showbiz himself - he produced a national radio show while still in his teens, discovering George Benson in the process.

His earlier celebrity links helped after a spell back in college during his thirties, as he set up as a clincal psychologist in Los Angeles. Clients at the time included Rod Steiger, Alice Cooper, Richard Harris and Gig Young. Young would eventually die in an apparent suicide pact.

Despite also lecturing at the University of Southern California, he still had time to work up the Undergroud Dictionary, a "how to speak young person" primer.

Landy's biggest opportunity came in 1975 when Marilyn Wilson asked him to help the chronically addicted and depressed Brian Wilson. The pairing seemed to work, but Landy was canned the next year when he tried to double his fee to twenty thousand dollars.

In 1983, Wilson returned to Landy's care, which saw pyschologist moving in with patient and - in his own words - taking care of "every aspect of their physical, personal, social and sexual environments."

The fee - now $43,000 - was a stretch, even for the Beach Boys, and a demand for more from Landy was, this time, met: in kind, with a quarter of the band's publishing rights.

Brian Wilson's bookBy 1988, Landy had taken on the extra role of manager, executive producer and co-writer, helping himself to credits and cash from Brian's comeback album and autobiography. His actual contribution to the songwriting process seems to have gone no further than telling Wilson he was directly planting music into his head; for the book, we can safely assume the large chunks of praise for Landy and his methods originated with Landy.

In 1989, worried at the growing influence the psychologist was having over Brian, the Wilson family attempted to separate the pair; they failed when Brian chose to stay with Landy. The next year, a legal suit was brought which suggested Landy had influenced Wilson to change his will, largely in Wilson's favour. The case was settled out of court, but the State of California had by now become aware of Landy's behaviour, issuing a separation order and accepting his offer to resign his licence to practice. Questions were also asked about how a therapist could also be a patient's business manager without throwing up some sort of conflict of interest.

Although he was unable to practice in California, Landy was able to relocate to Hawaii, practising until his death on March 22nd.

Wilson, meanwhile, started to recieve more conventional treatment; on Larry King Live in 2004, Wilson admitted that during what he now calls "the Landy years" he was subjected to questionable control. Meanwhile, Landy's credits on the Brian Wilson album were quietly deleted.

[Thanks to Simon at Sweeping The Nation for the tip]

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