Dr. Max Jacobson, aka “Dr. Feelgood,” was a German doctor who used methamphetamines plus God knows what else to keep JFK super energized and high throughout his presidency.
His drug concoctions impacted the lives of not only JFK and Jackie but also many others.
Actors such as Anthony Quinn, Edward G. Robinson and Yul Brenner frequently visited the self-made doctor.
Movie stars like Debbie Reynolds, Eddie Fischer and Betty Davis, plus many other A-list Hollywood actors were patients of the German physician.
Movie Directors and playwrites like Alfred Hitchcock and Alan J Lerner were just two of the many celebrities who became hooked on the doctor’s magic elixir.
Max Jacobson catered to singers and musicians like Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis, and Van Cliburn.
Even sports personalities like Mickey Mantle and Howard Cosell were Dr. Feelgood patients. (One has to wonder if Mantle should be allowed stay in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Mark McGuire and Barry Bonds, among others, have been denied admission to the Hall for taking performance-enhancing drugs.)
Jacobson not only worked on sports and entertainment stars but also people who were very close to President Kennedy, such as Nelson Rockefeller, Oleg Cassini and Peter Lawford.
It is the spring of 1962. John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States of America, is out of his head and running stark naked down a corridor in the Carlyle Hotel in New York City. He is having a psychotic reaction to a massive dose of drugs injected by Dr. Feelgood, jeopardizing the presidency, the nation and possibly the entire world.
Unless the Secret Service can rein in Kennedy, his presidency will be finished, making the U.S. a complete laughing stock. The Secret Service finally coaxes JFK back into his suite and out of trouble this time. A legitimate doctor is called in and gives JFK a sedative.
For the moment, Kennedy’s drug crisis is over. But what if it happens again as the CIA and other powerful people in Washington fear? They know that Kennedy is an addict, hooked on the painkilling shots by the quack Dr. Max Jacobson who uses a dangerous amphetamine derivative mixed with weird ingredients such as animal placenta.
The White House log shows 30 visits to the Oval Office by Jacobson, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Max Jacobson accompanies President Kennedy to the Vienna Summit. He is privately flown all alone in an Air France jet not far behind Air Force One.
Jacobson is forced to give Kennedy bigger and bigger shots to combat his crippling back pain. But by doing so it increasingly leads to more psychotic reactions, hyper-sexuality and a condition known as hyper-grandiose paranoia. This is a very frightening condition for a man who controls the nuclear trigger.
So the decision is made by shadowy powers in the land to ‘remove’ the problem. Some theories have the CIA, the FBI, the Pentagon and Vice-President Lyndon Johnson plotting Kennedy’s assassination because his drug addiction is endangering the free world. But why would they bother shooting him from a tall building, when all they had to do was slip something in one of Jacobson’s injections and make it look like a natural death instead of an assassination?
Half a century on, this and numerous other questions remain unanswered.
Jacobson is a kosher butcher’s son who grew up in Berlin, working in hospitals during World War I and then qualified as a doctor. He is fascinated by the new science of biochemistry and the exciting possibility of creating life-saving medications in the laboratory
Jacobson formulates an odd mixture of vitamins, enzymes, animal placentas, blood serum and hormones to produce elixirs that he tests on himself and then prescribes to private patients.
These are the cocktails he brings to the U.S. in 1936.
Jacobson sets up his practice in New York City and offers his “happy drugs” to a growing legion of celebrity customers. By the 1950s, he is treating the likes of music stars Maria Callas, Paul Robeson, Leonard Bernstein and Rosemary Clooney (aunt of George Clooney), actors Eddie Fisher and Ingrid Bergman and Hollywood director Cecil B. DeMille. Other patients include Nelson Rockefeller, Bob Fosse, Leonard Bernstein, and Tennessee Williams. It is said the Rod Serling was high on Jacobson’s formula when he wrote The Twilight Zone series.
After a “vitamin” shot, playwright Tennessee Williams says he took flight “as a bird on a wing — I was released.”
Jacobson gets a reputation for rescuing singers who have lost their voice, actors with stage fright and authors with writer’s block. One woman patient describes the effect of a Jacobson drug as orgasmic. Marlene Dietrich, Elizabeth Taylor and Judy Garland all seek treatment.
Soon, an ambitious politician with a back badly damaged in the war comes knocking on his door. John F. Kennedy at this time is campaigning for election to the White House in 1960 and is dogged by excruciating pain and fading stamina.
JFK secretly calls on Jacobson at his messy office-cum-laboratory — a “mad scientist’ hangout stinking of tobacco and formaldehyde.”
He then slips the needle into Kennedy’s buttock. The effect is immediate. As the methamphetamine hits his blood stream, JFK is suddenly stronger and more alert. There is no pain. He’s active again.
“Ideas come at the speed of light. You don’t sleep, nor do you need to eat. If its sex you’re after, you can have all you want and go all night long,” says Capote.
The night of the Kennedy/Nixon debate, Kennedy is complaining with a voice just barely above a whisper. After a second injection directly into his larynx, Kennedy takes on his rival, the loud and bullying Richard Nixon, in a televised debate and wipes the floor with him.
It’s a swing moment in the election, the vital victory on JFK’s march to the White House.
But after the high, as Capote warned, comes the crash — “like falling down a well or parachuting without a parachute. So you go running back to the German doctor and he stings you again. This time you’re soaring even higher.”
So it goes with Kennedy. He does go back for more and more. Max Jacobson now has control of the most powerful person in the world.
Another patient said, “Max thought he could cure anything. Once, after giving me shots, he tore off my glasses and told me I could see now — my eyesight was cured. Ridiculous!”
A skin cream he claimed would cure anything from acne to cancer actually contained an ordinary hand cream, vitamins “and all the leftovers from what was injected into patients last week,” according to an aide.
“Sometimes patients would come to his waiting room at 3 a.m., and there’d be 20 people sitting around, waiting their turn. Speed people can’t sleep. They’re high all the time.”
And now, in Kennedy (and his glamorous wife, Jackie, who is also one of his patients), Jacobson scores the biggest prize of all.
“Mrs. Dunn is calling,” his office receptionist would say, using the code name for Kennedy, and Jacobson would stop whatever he was doing to take the call, sometimes leaving patients in the waiting room to rush over to see the President.
Jacobson is a special guest at the inauguration. He attends the president’s birthday party at Madison Square Garden.
Max also accompanies the president to summit meetings with de Gaulle in Paris (where he injects Kennedy in the Elysee Palace itself).
Max then flies to Vienna where JFK meets with Khrushchev, the Soviet leader, in the summer of 1961.
In Vienna, there was a hitch. A heavy shot is timed to kick in when talks with the hostile Khrushchev begin, but the wily Russian — possibly tipped off by his own KGB, who are on to Jacobson by now — shows up late.
The drug keeps wearing off, so, at JFK’s request, Jacobson gives him a second and third shot.
What is certain is that Khrushchev comes away with the impression that the U.S. president was out of his depth.
That, in turn, gives the Soviet leader the confidence to build the Berlin Wall just months later and challenge the U.S. in its own backyard in the Cuban missile crisis the following year.
That JFK was increasingly under the influence of the very drugs that had rendered him virtually helpless at the Vienna Summit left the CIA and FBI scrambling for a solution to a growing problem. Something had to be done to avert a catastrophe.
Kennedy’s dependence on Jacobson is now total.
On the way back from Vienna, the White House stops off in Britain.
On the flight back to Washington, Jacobson administers more shots to JFK and Jackie on Air Force One.
Bobby Kennedy is very worried about his brother to the point that he secretly secures vials from his brother’s stash of drugs and has them analyzed. His worries turn to outright fear when he learns what the concoction contains.
Bobby Kennedy confronts the president about the high methamphetamine content, only to be brushed off.
But when the “horse piss” sent JFK into free fall at the Carlyle Hotel, the worried Washington ranks could only worry about what might happen next.
“What if word leaked out about the president’s instability?” they asked themselves. “What kind of power would that give the Soviets?”
Kennedy was fast running out of allies anyway. He had policy battles with the CIA and FBI, and the military found him soft on Vietnam. The mafia, especially Carlos Marcello, wanted him taken out.
The questions got ever more serious. Was this a president who could complete a second term? Was this a president who should even be allowed to complete his first?
Some say it was vice-president Lyndon Johnson who gave the nod to Kennedy’s assassination and also authorizes the false cover-up story that it was the work of deranged loner Lee Harvey Oswald.
They also highlight what they say are discrepancies in the official account of Kennedy’s death to make their own version, that there was more than one gunman, more plausible.
But whether his drug dependency did or did not have a direct bearing on Kennedy’s assassination, it is hard to disagree that his presidency might have taken a very different course had he not been suffering from psychotic episodes brought on by Max Jacobson’s injections.
Dr. Max Jacobson died a broken man in 1979, his body wrecked by more than half a century of poisoning himself with his own, homemade dangerous drugs.
Ironically. Jacobson produced the drug at a lab in Point Lookout, New York, he co-owned with President Kennedy’s brother in law, Prince Stash Radziwill.