Book: Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam
Author: Pope Brock
Published: 2008 (Crown Publishers)
Guys, letting a dude cut open your nut sack and stuff it full of goat, uh, “glands” will not restore your vitality.
That seems pretty obvious, but apparently the early 20th century had some really good con artists and some really stupid, desperate patients, so many that John Brinkley was able to start a nation-wide(ish) empire and several dozen copycats from one Kansas clinic on the claims that goat bits were the key to restoring sex drive.
Let me re-iterate for those of you with ideas: IT DIDN’T WORK.
What did work, of course, was Dr. Brinkley’s endless oily charm, creative writing ability applied to full-page ads and testimonials, and – the most interesting part to your former college dee jay and general soundboard nerd – his skirting of the earliest FCC airwaves laws.
See, Brinkley grabbed up a Mexican radio station that was just south of the US boarder and had none of our sissy signal strength limitation laws, so dude could broadcast his goat-flavored snake oil, wild-ass sermons, and all the good country music he could coax down there up to like Iowa. It worked so well he inadvertently turned into a tastemaker who launched the careers of people like the Carter family, in which June Carter was a tiny little star, and other folks I can’t remember because country is a genre I haven’t studied up on. But they were big, Jerry, big!
That was the most interesting part. The rest of the story was variations on new ways to convince people the goat thing worked, battling people who said it didn’t and could prove it, and moving around and making money before he could be shut down. The sections were short and don’t ask me to name his competitors/mentors/copycats because they seriously all ran together and paled against the fact of what they were all doing.
One aspect that didn’t get nearly enough explanation was that ladies were getting this operation too, with the matching goat bits. As in getting their uteruses replaced with goat ones. That’s mentioned in passing a couple times, but not in nearly enough detail to answer my horrified how in the fucking fuck did that even WHAT? I don’t know, although I know exactly how they replaced testicles. This seems a bit unfair.
There wasn’t any chase from the law unless you count the trial at the end, which was sort of anti-climatic or anything else truly, plot-drivingly exciting, but the sheer (pun ahoy) balls of what Dr. Brinkley got away with was really fun to read. Bookshelf!