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Dr. Max Jacobson, aka “Dr. Feelgood”

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.

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Dr. Max Jacobson’s client list is a who’s-who of the rich and famous in the U.S. during the early to mid part of the 20th century.

Actors such as Anthony Quinn, Edward G. Robinson and Yul Brenner frequently visited the self-made doctor.

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Antony Quinn is seeing Max Jacobson during the filming of The Guns of Navarone, Zorba the Greek and Lawrence of Arabia.

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Both Edward G. Robinson and Cecil B. DeMille get injections from Max Jacobson during the filming of The Ten Commandments.

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Yul Brenner’s workload makes him a constant patient of the German doctor. The movies Brenner is making at this time are The King and I, The Ten Commandments, and The Buccaneer.

Movie stars like Debbie Reynolds, Eddie Fischer and Betty Davis, plus many other A-list Hollywood actors were patients of the German physician.

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Eddie Fisher, who was working on the movie Bundle of Joy, brought Debbie Reynolds, who was working on Singing in the Rain, to see Dr. Max Jacobson.

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It was the New York theatrical work on Night of the Iguana that brought Ms. Davis in to see the good doctor.

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.

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Alan J. Lerner was a patient of Max Jacobson during his Broadway productions of My Fair Lady and Camelot.

Max Jacobson catered to singers and musicians like Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis, and Van Cliburn.

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At the height of his career Andy Williams sings Moon River the theme from Breakfast at Tiffany’s and wins the academy award that year.

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Johnny Mathis is seeing Dr. Feelgood while working on Johnny’s Greatest Hits. The album spends an unprecedented 490 consecutive weeks through 1967 (nine and a half years) on the Billboard top 200-album chart including three weeks at number one.

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Van Cliburn wins the 1st International Tchaikovsky Competition in the middle of the Cold War. His performance of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1 earned him an eight-minute standing ovation. When Nikita Khrushchev was asked if it was okay to give the prize to an American, he says “If he’s the best give it to him.” Khrushchev might have felt differently had he known Van Cliburn was using Jacobson’s performance-enhancing drug.

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.)

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During the 1961 home run battle between Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, supposedly it’s a Dr. Max Jacobson shot that hits Mickey Mantle’s hipbone. The injury costs him the battle with Maris who hits 61 to home runs to Mantle’s 54.

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Howard Cosell rises to prominence announcing the Muhammad Ali fights during the 1960s. He announces almost all of Ali’s fights from then on.

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.

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Nelson Rockefeller served as Governor of New York for three terms during the 1960s and was considered one of Dr. Jacobson’s most loyal patients.

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Oleg Cassini made his name in New York by providing fashion wear for leading show business celebrities like Steve Allen, Dinah Shore, and Johnny Carson. Cassini later became Jacqueline Kennedy’s exclusive designer, and she called him her “Secretary of Style.”

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Peter Lawford was JFK’s brother-in-law, and in the early 1960s he was part of Frank Sinatra’s “Rat Pack.” He starred in Sinatra’s movie Oceans 11.  Lawford and Kennedy would party together at the Carlyle Hotel in New York while seeing Max Jacobson.

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.

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Chicago mobster Sam Giancana and JFK use the Carlyle hotel as a rendezvous for their trysts with Judith Campbell, the call-girl the two men share. JFK also keeps an apartment there for sex encounters with 19-year-old White House page Mimi Alford.

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.

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The elixir contains 28 mg of methamphetamine, monkey gonads, sheep sperm, human placenta, steroids and some vitamin E. It is legal to be injected by physicians in 1968.

The White House log shows 30 visits to the Oval Office by Jacobson, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

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Jacobson has a free pass to visit to the president. He’s in the inner circle of advisors to JFK.
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The poorly dressed doctor, with his medical bag of tricks, had many unofficial meetings at his clinic with movie stars and the rich and famous.
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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

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After studying under Freud and Jung, Max Jacobson begins to experiment with a methamphetamine known as speed, a drug that enhances moods and stimulates the emotions.

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.

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Max leaves Europe, fearful of what the Nazis have in store for Jews such as himself. It is also believed that by now Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun are addicted to his concoction.

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.

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Cecil B. DeMille was pouring out the hits during the late 50’s with The Ten Commandments and Exodus. Living in New York made it easy for a quick visit to Max Jacobson’s office.

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Tennessee Williams’ theatrical fame produces movies like Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Night of the Iguana. His alcohol and amphetamine use (partially provided by Dr. Max Jacobson) probably leads to his death in 1983.

After a “vitamin” shot, playwright Tennessee Williams says he took flight “as a bird on a wing — I was released.”

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It is believed that Rod Serling heavily used Max Jacobson’s drugs to write The Twilight Zone.

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.

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Judy Garland’s concert appearance at Carnegie Hall on April 23, 1961, was called by many “the greatest night in show business history.” The two-record album Judy at Carnegie Hall was certified gold, charting for 95 weeks on Billboard, including 13 weeks at number one. It won four Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year and Best Female Vocal of the Year…all with the help of Dr. Feelgood.

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.

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JFK is introduced to Jacobson by his favorite photographer, Mark Shaw, and then makes an appointment to see the good doctor. Ironically, Shaw dies in 1968 from acute and chronic intravenous amphetamine poisoning believed to be from Dr. Feelgood.

JFK secretly calls on Jacobson at his messy office-cum-laboratory — a “mad scientist’ hangout stinking of tobacco and formaldehyde.”

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After a brief consultation, the untidy doctor with the thick glasses and strong German accent fills a vial with a substance he did not even bother to name.

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.

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Without the bothersome backaches, Kennedy enjoys a walk along the beach with Jackie and Caroline. JFK is sold on Dr. Feelgood’s elixir.
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Writer Truman Capote gets the same feeling from Jacobson’s magic potion: “Instant euphoria, flying, like Superman.”

“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.

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JFK clearly wins the 1st televised presidential debate in U.S. history.

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.

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Jacobson loves the power he has over people. One person wrote, “I felt I was in the presence of God. He certainly acted that way. He was never seen to examine a patient and make a diagnosis but simply reached for the hypodermic.”

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.

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Jacobson becomes a regular member of the president’s entourage, though his role is kept secret from the voting public.

“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.

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Max Jacobson not only travels on overseas trips but goes jogging with them while in Florida.

Jacobson is a special guest at the inauguration. He attends the president’s birthday party at Madison Square Garden.

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Marilyn Monroe, another of his patients and high on a drug injection at the time, famously sings the sexiest Happy Birthday greeting ever.

Max also accompanies the president to summit meetings with de Gaulle in Paris (where he injects Kennedy in the Elysee Palace itself).

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(L-R) JFK, Charles de Gaulle of France and Jackie Kennedy in Paris.

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.

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Khrushchev outwits Kennedy in the talks and humiliates him.

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Kennedy later admits, “Khrushchev savaged me.”

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.

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Kennedy stands his ground over Cuba, but that the world had come so close to nuclear war because the Soviet leader in Vienna had bested the president did not go unnoticed among certain echelons in Washington.

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.

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Dr. Feelgood slips into Buckingham Palace to shoot up not only the president but Jackie, too.

On the flight back to Washington, Jacobson administers more shots to JFK and Jackie on Air Force One.

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Many found the doctor’s constant presence around the president alarming. The Press also begins to notice him and ask questions about the president’s health.

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.

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The FBI laboratory discovers the magic elixir contains methamphetamine, monkey gonads, sheep sperm, human placenta, steroids and some vitamin E.

Bobby Kennedy confronts the president about the high methamphetamine content, only to be brushed off.


JFK tells Bobby, “I don’t care if it’s horse piss. It makes me feel good.”

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.

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All were worried about his undisciplined sex life and tendency to blab state secrets (including plans to assassinate Fidel Castro) to bedmates such as Marilyn Monroe and Judith Campbell.

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.

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Until now, Dr. Feelgood has been a footnote in history. We may now have to afford him a more important part in the story of the 20th century.

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.

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(R) Max Jacobson and his partner (L) Prince Stash Radziwill, who was President Kennedy’s brother-in-law (he was married to Jackie’s sister, Lee Bouvier Radziwill).