What a great pick this would have been...
Eugene Landy, the psychotherapist who was variously called a savior and a snake oil salesman for his unorthodox, round-the-clock treatment of Brian Wilson, the famously dissolute leader of the Beach Boys, in the 1970's and 80's, died on March 22 in Honolulu. He was 71.
The cause was pneumonia, said his wife, Alexandra Morgan, who added that Mr. Landy was also suffering from lung cancer.
A clinical psychologist, Mr. Landy was widely credited with helping Mr. Wilson stage a comeback in the early 1980's after he had spent years mired in depression and substance abuse. But by the end of the decade, Mr. Landy had insinuated himself into Mr. Wilson's life so thoroughly that he was acting as his business partner, record producer and occasional songwriting partner.
At the start of 1992, as a result of the settlement of a suit by Mr. Wilson's family, Mr. Landy was barred by court order from contacting Mr. Wilson.
"Landy definitely transformed Brian's life and knocked him off of what was a suicidal death spiral in the early 1980's," Peter Ames Carlin, the author of a forthcoming book about the Beach Boys, said in a telephone interview yesterday. "But his new lease on life came with a deed restriction, which was that Landy wanted to be part of Brian's creative and financial lives."
Mr. Carlin's book, "Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall and Redemption of the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson," is to be published by Rodale Books in May.
Through a spokeswoman, Mr. Wilson declined to comment yesterday.
Formed in 1961, the Beach Boys quickly dazzled listeners with a string of hits, many with words and music by Mr. Wilson. But by the mid-1970's, Mr. Wilson had stopped working with the band and had withdrawn into a life of drugs and alcohol.
Enter Mr. Landy in late 1975, hired by Mr. Wilson's first wife, Marilyn. Mr. Landy promoted what he called "24-hour therapy," marshaling a team to oversee each patient every moment of every day for as long as needed. At first, Mr. Wilson appeared to respond to Mr. Landy's treatment protocol, which included pushing him to exercise, padlocking the refrigerator and, on mornings when Mr. Wilson wanted to stay in bed, dousing him with cold water.
By the end of 1976, concerned about Mr. Landy's influence, Mr. Wilson's associates dismissed him. But in late 1983, with Mr. Wilson again sliding into dissolution, Mr. Landy was rehired.
Again, the treatment seemed to work: within two years, Mr. Wilson was looking trim and healthy. But as his associates increasingly charged, it was becoming difficult to tell whether the patient was in thrall to the therapist or the other way around.
Mr. Landy's team of professional minders lived with Mr. Wilson 24 hours a day, and before long, Mr. Wilson was Mr. Landy's only patient. As Mr. Landy told The Los Angeles Times in 1991, he charged $35,000 a month for his services.
Though Mr. Landy said publicly that he had stopped working as Mr. Wilson's therapist by 1987 or thereabouts, their relationship continued for several more years. In the late 1980's, the two formed a company, Brains and Genius, to collaborate on records, books and other ventures.
Mr. Landy is credited as the executive producer on "Brian Wilson," Mr. Wilson's 1988 solo album. Mr. Wilson also named Mr. Landy as a beneficiary in his will, though Mr. Landy publicly said he was unaware of that fact.
In 1989, after the California Board of Medical Quality Assurance accused Mr. Landy of "grossly negligent conduct" in the Wilson case and others, he voluntarily surrendered his license for at least two years.
Eugene Ellsworth Landy was born in Pittsburgh on Nov. 26, 1934. He apparently suffered from dyslexia; he told reporters that he dropped out of school in sixth grade without having learned to read. As a young man, he knocked around the fringes of show business, working in radio and pop music — he managed the jazz guitarist George Benson — before returning to school.
Mr. Landy earned a bachelor's in psychology from California State College, Los Angeles, in 1964; a master's in psychology from the University of Oklahoma in 1967; and a Ph.D. in the field from Oklahoma the next year.
His first three marriages ended in divorce. Besides his wife, Ms. Morgan, whom he married in 1975, he is survived by a son from his second marriage, Evan, of Santa Monica, Calif.; and one grandchild.
He was the author of "The Underground Dictionary" (Simon & Schuster, 1971), a lexicon of counterculture slang for the uninitiated.
In December 1992, a California court fined Mr. Landy $1,000 for violating the court order. On Mr. Wilson's birthday the previous June, Mr. Landy had gone to visit him.