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Bad Vibrations

June 26, 1988|NANCY SPILLER | Nancy Spiller is a Los Angeles writer.

NEXT MONTH the rock 'n' roll world looks forward to the solo debut of one of its acknowledged geniuses--Brian Wilson. The creative force behind the Beach Boys will at last release an album of his own, an event made all the more important as it may mark the end of Wilson's 20-year exile into drugs and mental illness. It is considered his first serious recording effort in two decades, and advance word is that the LP, titled simply "Brian Wilson," picks up where his landmark 1967 single, "Good Vibrations," left off. In short, Wilson's return is already being called a triumph.

By many accounts, it should be psychologist Eugene Landy's triumph as well. Landy has been at Wilson's side during two very public rehabilitation efforts, and his name will appear on the album as executive producer and co-writer. But for Landy these days, the vibrations aren't so good. In February, the Board of Medical Quality Assurance, state watchdog of the healing professions, charged him with ethical and licensing code violations that could result in the suspension or loss of his California psychologist's license. Landy stands accused of sexual misconduct with a patient, misconduct and gross negligence in the use and administration of drugs, and gross negligence through his relationship with Wilson as therapist-cum-business-associate. Landy has denied the allegations, and there will be an administrative hearing on the charges this fall.

To his supporters, Eugene Landy is a miracle worker. When the BMQA charges were announced, Brian Wilson's attorney, John Mason, acting as a spokesman for Wilson, told the press of his unflagging belief in the psychologist's work. Months later, Mason remains Landy's champion. "Brian is in better physical, financial and emotional condition than he's probably been in in his entire life," Mason says. "I just can't look at it as Eugene taking advantage of Brian and influencing him. Eugene loves Brian, and Brian loves Eugene.

"Like in the 'The Miracle Worker,' " he adds. "Helen Keller and the therapist. It's just like that."

But there are those who see Landy as a far different character from fiction, along the lines of Svengali or the power-mad Capt. Nemo of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."

The BMQA charges outline Landy's roles as executive producer, business manager, co-songwriter and business adviser to Brian Wilson. According to the state agency, Landy's "participation . . . in the various dual, triple and quadruple relationships has caused severe emotional damage, psychological dependency and financial exploitation to his patient."

The attorney general's office, which filed the BMQA complaint, won't comment on how the investigation originated. However, Steven Gaines, in his 1986 book "Heroes and Villains," writes that a former nurse and girlfriend of Wilson's brought Landy to the state's attention in 1984. One source in the state's investigation was a journal kept by songwriter Gary Usher, who worked with Landy and Wilson for 10 months on the solo album. In it, Usher describes Wilson as a virtual captive dominated by a man who frightened and intimidated him. It also paints a portrait of a man determined to fulfill his show-business ambitions through his connection to Wilson.

And there are the claims of a female patient, R.G., stated in a civil suit filed in November, 1986 (since settled out of court, according to Landy's attorney), and again in the BMQA charges. In the course of treatment, she says, Landy forced her to have sex with him, assigned her to have sex with others, escorted her to an orgy and took cocaine and amyl nitrate with her. A statement filed by her current therapist in conjunction with the civil suit says she is acutely suicidal as a result of Landy's actions and may be in need of "long-term hospitalization."

Trying to draw a bead on the truth in the tale of Landy, Wilson and R.G. is a task made difficult by the principals' reluctance to talk. Landy and Wilson declined repeated interview requests during two months of research for this article. After the story was written and about to go to press, their publicist finally offered to make them available. Each was asked to respond to the BMQA charges. In written statements, Landy denied the charges and Wilson wrote in support of Landy (see Page 12). Hinting that R.G.'s silence was imposed by her civil suit settlement, her attorney and therapist declined to allow her to be interviewed and refused to comment on the case.

Of those who were willing to talk--some on the record, many off--none denied that Landy saved Wilson's life and resuscitated his career. But there are two sharply divided camps regarding the man, his methods and his motivations. Some see him as a flamboyant Hollywood shrink whose unorthodox methods are successful with otherwise hopeless patients. Others say his personal ambition has pushed him beyond the ethical bounds of psychology.

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