As all of those folks who joined us last year for our screening of Penny Lane's excellent animated documentary NUTS! know, the story of John R. Brinkley is, well, nuts. Last week it was announced that Richard Linklater and Robert Downey have optioned an episode of the Reply All podcast about Brinkley to make what will certainly be a jaw-dropping narrative feature about the strange "doctor."
An ambitious quack with a degree from an institution called "Eclectic Medical University," Brinkley made quite a name for himself in the '20s and '30s as the "goat gland doctor." The idea was, that make impotence could be easily cured by placing goat testicles inside a man's scrotum. It sounds ridiculous, and is without medical basis, but it became a very popular treatment and made Brinkley a rich man. Additionally, as an early believer in radio advertising, he built his own massively powered radio station to advertise his treatments, alongside a very unusual slate of other programs.
The medical review boards brought it all crashing down around him, and Brinkley went into politics to lash out at his political enemies, running as a populist candidate for Governor of Kansas and espousing any number of "alternative facts." He did not quite succeed, though he got closer than anyone expected.
The next chapter of his life took him to the Mexican border, where he was given a license by the Mexican government to operate a massive radio transmitter. He lived in Del Rio, Texas and conveyed his messages across the border by several means, all of which were eventually outlawed, and he was forced to cede the station, but not before popularizing the "border radio" station, which would have a major cultural impact through the middle years of the century.
I'll let the Reply All podcast tell you the rest of the story here. NUTS! filmmaker Penny Lane and Brinkley biographer Pope Brock are interviewed on that podcast as well.