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Kansas’ infamous goat gland doctor may be subject of Hollywood movie

Robert Downey Jr. at the 4th Annual Wishing Well Winter Gala in Los Angeles last December. AdWeek reported that Downey may soon star in a movie about Kansas goat gland doctor John Romulus Brinkley.
Robert Downey Jr. at the 4th Annual Wishing Well Winter Gala in Los Angeles last December. AdWeek reported that Downey may soon star in a movie about Kansas goat gland doctor John Romulus Brinkley. Associated Press

Some of the quirkiest Kansas history may soon be made into a Hollywood movie.

AdWeek recently announced that Robert Downey Jr. may soon star in a movie about Kansas goat gland doctor John Romulus Brinkley, the 1920s-30s huckster and radio station owner who had no medical training but transplanted goat testicles into men as a cure for impotence.

Last year, documentary filmmaker Penny Land and author Pope Brock debuted an animated film called “Nuts!” at the Sundance Film Festival. The film was based on the 2008 book Brock wrote about Brinkley called “Charlatan.”

Downey, one of Hollywood’s highest paid actors, has starred in movies such as “Chaplin,” “Iron Man,” “The Avengers” and “Sherlock Holmes.”

Downey will join writer-director Richard Linklater in making the movie on Brinkley. Linklater’s works have included “Dazed and Confused,” “School of Rock,” “Bad News Bears,” “Boyhood” and “Everybody Wants Some!”

Brinkley was a made-for-the-movies character. In the days before Viagra and infomercials, Brinkley promised “youthful vigor” to American men who faithfully tuned in to his radio station for over-the-air prescriptions and word of his famed surgeries.

In 1918, Brinkley opened a hospital in Milford, in Geary County, and began transplanting goat glands – testicles – into men, despite the fact that he didn’t have a medical license from an accredited university.

One of his first patients was a farmer. When the farmer’s wife gave birth to a son, they named him “Billy.”

In 1923, Brinkley began broadcasting on one of the state’s first radio stations, KFKB, “Kansas First, Kansas Best.”

A goat gland transplant cost $750 – in advance. That would be roughly more than $10,500 in 2017 dollars.

The surgeries, Brinkley claimed, could cure maladies such as impotence, flatulence and dementia.

As his fame began to spread, Brinkley grew a goatee. His baseball team became the Brinkley Goats.

He was as well-known on the radio as an orator as he was as a doctor. He was among the first to use radio for commercial purposes.

He also introduced country-music acts on his station, including the Carter Family.

He ran for Kansas governor – in 1930, 1932 and 1934 – but was never elected.

At that same time, the Kansas Board of Medical Registration and Examination began proceedings to revoke his license.

The Federal Radio Commission also refused to renew his broadcasting license.

Strange Kansas stories in the news

Today's story isn't the first time an unusual Wichita or Kansas story has made the rounds.

Here are some other stories you may remember:

In Port St. Lucie, Fla., burglars were caught on video surveillance trying to break into a gas station What the suspects weren't expecting was impact-resistant glass standing between them and the inside of the store. Check out what happens after t

The Fort Worth police are seeking the thief who stole a a full-size, $1,700 guitar from the Guitar Center in North Fort Worth, Texas by stuffing it in his pants. (Courtesy of Fort Worth Police Department)

Beccy Tanner: 316-268-6336, @beccytanner

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