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Music's Top 5 Dubious "Dr. Feelgoods"

To say that Dr. Conrad Murray had a bad day in court yesterday is probably something of an understatement. In addition to veiwing graphic pictures of Michael Jackson's autopsy, jurors in the involuntary manslaughter trial of the King of Pop's former physician heard damaging testimony from L.A. County Medical Examiner Christopher Rogers, who told the court he found Jackson to be healthier than most 50-year-old men, and not directly responsible for the overdose that killed him.

The pathologist went on to call the basis of the doctor's defense -- that the patient had self-administered the fatal dose of Propofol while Murray was in the bathroom -- highly implausible due to the fact that Jackson was already too heavily sedated to perform the act unassisted, and even had he been able to self-administer, the drug would have taken longer to circulate through his system than the two minute period the physician admits to being out of the room.

Rocks Off learned enough from the Casey Anthony trial to know that juries can be unpredictable, but between the EMT testimony, the audio tapes, the character-assaulting parade of mistresses, and the Murray's questionable behavior immediately following Jackson's death, well, suffice to say things do not look promising for the Houston-based cardiologist.

Sadly, Conrad Murray and the outlandish quantity of drugs he dispensed are nothing new, prominent musicians having a long sordid partnership with "Dr. Feelgoods" -- personal physicians and other drug-pushers (both licensed and not) more interested in money and personal gain than the health of their clients. And if the jury finds Murray guilty in the coming weeks, he will no doubt take a place among the five shadiest professional pushers listed below.

Richards and "Spanish" Tony Sanchez in the early 1970s.
Richards and "Spanish" Tony Sanchez in the early 1970s.

5. "Spanish" Tony Sanchez Nicknamed "Spanish" by "Keef," the late Tony Sanchez was the go-to guy fueling Richards' (massive) addictions in the early days of the Stones and a constant fixture during the '71 Exile on Main Street period at Nellcote. Marianne Faithful, who had an alleged sex-for-heroin exchange with Sanchez from time to time, described him as "a lowlife, a small-time spiv, but a weakling at the same time. He was as enchained as anyone else, completely hung up on his own particular illness."

In 1996 Sanchez published Up and Down with The Rolling Stones, a tell-all account of his days with the band. While Richards admits there are elements of truth to the book, the facts are grossly exaggerated ("I couldn't plow through it all because my eyes were watering with laughter.") Sanchez is also credited with starting the rumor about Keef's infamous blood transfusion, which Richards and other biographers would later discredit.

4. Dr. Larry Badgely Once the tour physician for Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones Truman Capote described as "[passing] through the plane with a big plate of pills, every kind you could imagine, everything from vitamin C to coke", Dr. Laurence Badgely is now a rural physician and holistic healer based out of California, and according to his website, "provides medical examinations and counseling services to patients with chronic pain and other conditions alleviated by cannabis." Go figure.

Who is Dr. Robert? Apparently he's Bono, or, at least, that's who played the doctor in Across the Universe.
Who is Dr. Robert? Apparently he's Bono, or, at least, that's who played the doctor in Across the Universe.

3. "Dr. Robert" In The Beatles song, he's the man "who'll pick you up" with "a drink from his special cup", but there has been much speculation over the identity of the mysterious "Dr. Robert". According to Barry Miles' biography Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now, the song refers to Robert Freymann, a tall, white-haired physician in New York City known as "The Great White Father" who was known to dispense B-12 shots and amphetamines to the rich and famous from his 78th Street Clinic.

At one point Lennon even came out and declared that he was the real "Dr. Robert" referred to in the track, but many theorize this was done to steer focus away from Freymann, who lost his medical license in 1968.

 

Brian Wilson with psychologist Eugene Landy, described as both savior and captor for the bargain rate of $35,000 a month.
Brian Wilson with psychologist Eugene Landy, described as both savior and captor for the bargain rate of $35,000 a month.

2. Dr. Eugene Landy Just as the Barenaked Ladies song indicates, the legendary Beach Boy and father to Carnie and Wendy of Wilson Phillips spent much of the late 70s lying in bed, a prisoner to substance abuse, alcoholism, and deep depression. At her wits end, Wilson's wife Marilyn contacted clinical psychologist Eugene Landy, whose unorthodox 24-hour-a-day treatments -- which included padlocking the refrigerator and dousing his patient with cold water if he refused to get out of bed -- are widely attributed to Wilson's slimmed down, sobered up comeback in the early 80s.

But by the later part of the decade those close to Wilson were beginning to grow concerned about the nature of the relationship between doctor and patient, as Landy began asserting control over Wilson's career, the pair collaborating on a record and book company called Brains and Genius and Landy working as executive producer on his patient's 1988 solo album Brian Wilson. But when the psychologist was named a beneficiary in Wilson's will, the family took the matter to court, and in 1989 Landy was charged with "grossly negligent conduct" by the California Board of Medical Quality, and willingly surrendered his license for two years.

A swollen, sweaty Elvis with his enabler, Dr. Nick.
A swollen, sweaty Elvis with his enabler, Dr. Nick.

1. Dr. George Nichopoulos George "Dr. Nick" Nichopoulos was Elvis' personal doctor for the last decade of his life, and prescribed the cocktail of uppers, downers, laxatives, and hormones that many attribute to his death in 1977. According to UK's Guardian, the doctor wrote prescriptions for more than 10,000 doses of assorted narcotics in '77 alone, allegedly because he "cared", but according to a therapist that would treat him later in life, Dr. Nick didn't know how to say no.

Although the official cause of death was listed as a heart attack, an autopsy found traces of 14 different drugs in Presley's system, resulting in a 1979 20/20 investigation and the Tennessee Medical Board filing charges of gross malpractice. In 1980 Nichopoulos was tried on 14 counts of overprescribing controlled substances and acquitted of them all, but in '92 the case was reopened, and concluded three years later with Dr. Nick stripped of his medical license.

SIDE NOTE: In his book The King and Dr. Nick (2010) Nichopoulos makes a case for chronic constipation as a more likely cause of death, the autopsy listing Elvis's colon as five to six inches in diameter (two to three is normal) and eight to nine *feet* in length. Still can't quite imagine how constipation can kill you? Click here. And then go and buy a crapload of Activia (no pun intended).


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