Sunday, June 8, 2008

Ask Vance: Goat Testicles and Erectile Disfunction!

Posted on Sun, Jun 8, 2008 at 4:00 AM

I wonder what it is about Memphis that makes our city such a magnet for colorful characters. One of the most intriguing gentlemen in American history wasn't born here, but he dwelled here for several years and today lies buried in Forest Hill Cemetery.

His name was Dr. John R. Brinkley, and he gained fame around the world as the "Goat Gland Doctor." He's also the subject of an amazing book by Pope Brock called Charlatan, subtitled "America's Most Dangerous Huckster, The Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam."

Born in Kansas in 1888, Brinkley earned various medical degrees from quack establishments and set up practice in the little town of Milford, Kansas. One day a farmer visited him to complain about a condition that today we might call erectile disfunction. The good doctor wanted to sell him some worthless potions, but the farmer was skeptical. Looking out the window towards a nearby farmyard, he said, "Too bad I don't have billy-goat nuts."

That was the "Eureka" moment for Dr. Brinkley. A few days later, he put the farmer under the knife and inserted a pair of freshly "harvested" goat testicles into the man's scrotum. Nine months later, the farmer's wife gave birth to their first child. The boy's name: Billy. Like the goat.

Accounts of this miracle -- a 15-minute operation that could restore lost youth -- spread far and wide. Not just by word of mouth, either. Brinkley flooded the mails with self-promotional brochures, and then, in those pre-television days, constructed the most powerful radio station in America.

Read more at Vance Lauderdale's "Ask Vance" Blog.

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