Thursday, September 23, 2010


A History of Viagra by Michael Dennis Mooney

Today, on the broadcast, we're with Bobby Levin. We call him the "nutty professor," because his specialty is human gonads, the functioning thereof, also the malfunctioning.

Good evening! Great day to be alive! Specifically, I'm a reseracher in Geriatric Hypogonadism, which is sexual dysfunction, basically a lack of normal erections, in older males, and the relief of the problem with medicine.

Bobby, honestly, you seem younger than Springtime, yet we understand you're retiring next year from the College of Pharmacy. How is this possible?

You're as young as you feel, Charlie, and I'm in Viagra research!--

Do you treat yourself with that stuff?

--Yes! And I'm feeling like a very frisky 30-something, one that goes for hikes up hills, one that stays up late, ahem, stays up, and fools around. Life is good!

Retirement? For a young fellow like you?

I'm 66, a few months away from 67, and eligible for full benefits, so I'm leaving the Pharm! I'm done with the College of Pharmacy and teaching at the end of the school year. But I'll still have my research grant at the hospital.

We'd like to hear about Viagra. What has been learned about it so far?

When we first discovered this formulation, we were researching its potential as a medicine for lowering blood pressure. It didn't do so great in that area, except in mild hypertension cases.

It was a bust?

Yeah, we were prepared to write it off as unworthy of development. We were wrapping things up, finishing our notes, we were asking all the research subjects to bring back their unused supplies of Sidenafil. That's what it was called then.

I see where you're going with this. They wouldn't return the samples?

We found they'd grown quite attached to their little blue pills. Wouldn't give them up willingly.

And the reason? As if I didn't know!

The men, we noted, were, "having sex a lot more," , and it was, they reported, "THE BEST THEY EVER HAD !!!! " We realized we might be onto something. Lightning in a bottle.

These were not necessarily old men, am I right?

Correct. They were middle-aged, thirty-somethings, also 40's and older.

Most of us have thought this treatment was more for the elderly married man.

You see, blood pressure problems and erectile dysfunction both tend to hit the human male, and require treatment, at about the same time in life, in the post-35 age range, in middle age. So we were treating the right age group, but, in a sense, the wrong set of symptoms, with this medication. So we simply changed course. We had a new med to treat a problem no one had ever treated medically, not like this! So Viagra was born.

So, Bobby, you can treat younger people with the Vitamin V!

Yup! Charlie, it won't do anything for a 20 year-old, obviously. He'd just be wasting his money. But anyone in their later 30's, or 40's, 50's, etc., anyone who's been woefully noticing some inability to become erect while in a good stimulating lovemaking situation, will find this med makes quite a difference. You know, it will work better for a 40 year-old with a relatively small degree of impotence, than for, say, a 90 year-old, as there is, in the younger fella, way more potential to work with. Yes, it's for younger people, and it makes them feel even younger.

How does it do this?

Simple. It causes an increase in circulation to the erectile tissues! All it takes is just a small amount of increased blood flow, and VOILA! This drug is a vasodilator, it creates greater amplitude of flow.

Bobby, indulge me, here's a favorite joke of mine: Doctor says to the pharmaceuticals sales rep, "I have a complaint about those Viagra pens. They only work about half the time!" Ba-Da-Bim! But you're saying, this medication, though, always works, and quite reliably.

I take it (believe me, I knew I needed the help) and it has never not worked.

Well, now we know why you have such toothsome grin. And how long have you been taking it?

All through the late 90's and the 2000's, up til now, 2010. Two to three times a week. It's good for about 48 hours or more. You figure, you take one mid-evening on a Friday, the dose is less than 24 hours old on Saturday. On Sunday, you're still good.

They call it the weekend pill?

That's right. 'Fact, I'm going to take one right now, as it's Friday, and it's cocktail hour.

Bobby, what are you doing? We're on the air!

So report me, uh, to the F.C.C. or something. Here, I'm taking one right now. Plus, I've brought along this big cocktail shaker with O.J. and ice, I'll pour in a few shots of vodka, there!, and I'll have my ritual Friday evening DOUBLE SKA-REW DRIVER!! That'll get the "Vitamin V" going. Later, I'll go home and screw around some. First, though, I'll prepare a little barbecue for my wife, the lovely and sensuous Sheila Levin. She likes a grilled tuna steak with teriyaki sauce, I like a nutty and garlicky pesto on mine. And then I'll let her take advantage of me. We NEVER have anyone over on a Friday. 'Less I've taken the day off and we've been fooling around already.

Bob, sheesh!, you can't do stuff like this on the air, drink and combine it with a drug.

Just did. Can't undo it exactly, either. Hey, count this as one of your Public Service Announcements. You could make a video cassette, and show it once a day.

Bobby, you're the devil. Put that drink down, and get that canary-eatin grin off your face.

You should get yourself an O.J. sponsor, I'm drinking the true juice of youth. It's good for ya.

Bob! Get rid of that plastic cup!

Okay, I'll pour it back in the shaker. But I'll be sipping it through a straw all the way home. In the streets. Since I'm an outcast here.

You walked here?

I walk everywhere, to the store, to work. To a restautant in the evening, with my Sheila. To the movies. Heck, we like to walk half way across town for any reason at all, just to walk. It's all the same idea. Get the blood circulating. Only place I drive to is Connecticut. Why do you think Walt Whitman, for example, was such a notoriously horny guy, always writing about free love, about freely loving women, one woman and then another?-- and men! He walked everywhere, he walked all the way into Manhattan from Brooklyn. Like it was nothing. He was a vigorous old sage, and a horndog. Get yourself a good pair of hiking boots, young man.

Bobby, I'm sixty! I get my insurance from AARP!

You're a young man to me, Charlie. "Sixteen and Sixty are the same." That's from Karl Shapiro, the poet, he's saying both ages are ones of a great, exuberant idealism, and a disposition to rebellion and independence.

Okay, tell us some more about the early days of investigations into Viagra.

I remember our first international conference! At the time, Viagra was only legal here in the U.S. The F.D.A. had just approved it. We had all these foreign doctors attending, practically every hotel in the city was booked-up. These foreign docs were getting the American docs to write them Viagra scripts.

I can see where this goes.

These international doctors wiped out the city's Viagra supply. Every pharmacy, way out into the 'burbs, as far as Pennsylvania and Delaware, had run out of it by the second day of the convention. Friday was still three days away, and there was no Viagra to be had. Pfizer became aware of this, but there was little they could do to make more, not on the spot like that, not enough. It was the one Viagra-less weekend in the city, and Viagra became a smash hit around the world. Global buzz! Quite a thing! A true story.

Tell me about Pfizer. They making money? I bet they are.

They've sold more Viagra tablets than all their other medicines combined, ever! They're doing okay. They did a billion in sales the first year. They fill a new script every few minutes.

Do people abuse this stuff?

Sure. A very funny-- also a not funny-- story! A true story! The first Viagra death...

Keep it clean.

...This fella, you'd have to say he was morbidly obese, he'd contracted the services of a little lady of the evening.

And who knows what else he may've been contracting?!

So, as he is very heavy, several hundred pounds, he is used to taking extra-large doses of some medicines, like Ibuprofen, say, because he has to compensate for all that body tissue to get the effects of the med. Well, he took, I think, too many Viagra tabs. He was having sex with her-- and he died right on top of her. Hey, at least it enabled him to have a fling at making whoopie. 'Course, she had her arms around a great big problem.

My god!

Now, if she were one of those girls who ALWAYS has a cell phone in her hand, she might've gotten rescued a lot quicker. No one discovered her 'til the next day. The bed wasn't very firm, and she was just pressed right down into this squishy soft old mattress like a bug smushed into a wadded-up newspaper. She couldn't budge him. When the maid came in to clean the hotel room the next day, it was eventually discovered there was a live lil call girl, uh, sex worker, under the huge corpse.

Phew! We're going to take a pledge break for a few minutes. We'll be back in five with our guest, Bobby Levin. Are we off the air? Bobby, pass me that shaker. Bring us some mugs, please.


We're back with Bobby Levin!

Charlie, this is some great coffee your producer makes. 'Course, I like to sip mine with a swizzle straw. A lil plastic umbrella would be festive in my cup.

Ahem, we were talking about abuse. Will there ever end-up being, say, a 12-step program for Viagra abuse?

It isn't an addictive substance, so no. But anything can be abused, so there are cases in which this medicine has fed into an already screwed-up life, one with lots of unhealthy behaviors and anxiety-driven compulsions. Also, there are new studies showing that Viagra has really changed the pattern of adult development in old age, which we define as life after 60.

That's a powerful thing, it can alter how people typically grow older?

A man used to retire to the life of a typical old-school grandfather, he'd stay close to where his kids live, visit with the grandchildren a lot, do house-repair projects, work on the golf swing, volunteer at the fire department, do the crossword puzzle, ho hum, take naps, listen to Benny Goodman records in the garage, etc. But now there's a new older man that is taking his Viagra Rx on the road.

What do you mean?

He might acquire a girlfriend of about age 40, or even younger, someone who's really peaking, a ripe middle-aged woman, and then move away from the family to be closer to the hottie, the babe!

Now, in old-school days, the kids and grandkids would expect to be his heirs.

Yes, but not now, the sole heir can, perhaps, be his new babe toy. She has a powerful say over what happens. I had a friend, Mackey, his name was, he went way out into the Midwest-- well, to Buffalo, far enough-- he left his family here, and transferred to a job out there, at an age when he should've been, by old-school lights, settling into a retiring mode, one of just being in the background of his son's life.

He shuffled off to Buffalo. He met someone.

Yes, he did! On the internet, as they exchanged blog posts. Pretty soon they're on the phone every day. In no time, he's traveling to meet her on his August vacation. In a few hours, they're shacked-up, in some god-forsaken, rundown, ghetto-y Buffalo neighborhood. He's 59, she's 40. They are an instant item. They spend weeks together, never apart, a sort of wild joy ride of a first date, she's a divorced woman, a grad student-- a divinity student!-- with the summer off. A couple weeks out there together, then they spend a couple more weeks back here. They set the copulation record for a first date, as they remain together every day for a month or more! Alert the Guinness World Book! He then resumes working evenings in the hospital back here after vacation, he's in nursing, and they fool around all day,'til he goes to work at 3 p.m. She then stays home and plays with the computer, watches her soap, reads her grad school books, talks on the phone, orders-in Chinese. He comes home from work at midnight, and he doesn't sit down to a lonely beer and late night TV, 'cause she's calling out to him, "Get that ass in this bedroom!," real playful, and they do some more minky pinky. And again in the morning, right after coffee, some more. And this girl babe of his-- Mairlie, he called her, she is a Mary Lynn-- Mairlie herself is pure human Viagra, as she likes having sex, and she likes having it a lot, I mean, frequently, she's always wanting to mount his lap while he's just sitting there playing with his, um, laptop. You'd have to know Mackey to know how this transformed his life, he's one of those big hefty working class Irish, 250 lbs, six foot two, a body made of beer, beef, and buttermilk, but now, with Mary Lynn, he's exercising every day, walking to work two miles like it's nothing. He's a changed man with a smile on his face.

Your friend is a new kind of senior citizen!

Yes, he is!

So he leaves his family and the hometown area.

Yes, he transfers to a hospital out in shabby hairy old icicle-hanging Buffalo. Same job, same pay, a better-run facility. He rents a house there, a good one, and at a great price. The first thing they do is fool around, right there on the carpeting of the new place, with the still-loaded UHaul in the driveway. They christen the new house with their sweat, their bodily fluids, and their ecstatic cries echoing mightily off the bare walls. Things are going gangbusters. Well, for the moment.

This is the new horizon available to grampy!

Believe me, there can be some dazzling sunrises on this horizon! So, then, many months later, (Mackey told me this story in tears) they had some squabbles about their new domestic arrangements, then a big angry blow-up. She left him! She would NOT speak to him. Now, what is he left with? He's in this strange town on the foggy, polluted shores of Erie, he's hundreds of miles from his son, from family members, his sister, his mom, he even misses the ex-wife, who, at least, was a friendly woman who would talk to him. And winter is a-comin' in, it's late November. Then comes the first December arctic blasts, single-digit temps, and lake-effects snows. He's depressed, anxious. Can't sleep. Starts drinking too much. It's the holidays, it's his 60th birthday in December, and he's living in desolation. He gets in some minor scrapes. He hassles someone he thinks is dating the babe. He is extremely remorseful and self-blaming, the way depressed people are. He has no life there in hoary depressing Buffalo, yet this is how far away he got from his life, via Viagra. Eventually, he finds his way back here and gets rehired at the old job, but he comes back here in pretty rough shape. He goes into therapy, hoping to find answers. So these setbacks can happen, by way of overly compulsive, well, "womanizing," I'd guess you'd say. This particular fella was not a sex addict, you know, not a maniacal conqueror of one woman after another, but he certainly took a big head-first plunge with a woman he didn't know. He had a good time, but paid for it with a lot of heartache, and he hated himself aferwards for being a fool. This could've been much worse, if he had been dealing with multiple substance addictions, like, say, cocaine and tranqs. As it is, he spent a lot of his savings, which might've gone into better things. But you know, if she phoned him, he might do it all again. That's what he says. He still refers to her as "my baby." (And, in fact, she's exactly the right age to be his offspring!) If he could see her again, he'd, of course, approach the matter with some caution, he would not so swiftly merge his life with hers. This was a case of "Sixteen and Sixty." Our Mackey was a teenager again, at 60, pulled into a vortex of desire for Marvelous Mary Lynn.

This medicine helped wreck his life for a while.

Yeah, but at least he didn't use Viagra, as some older men will, to be with nineteen different girls in a summer season, only to end up with syphilis, perhaps. He had intended to marry the hottie. They both intended to be happy together, and happily erotic at that.

Bob, we're just about out of time.

I always end my talks with a little proselytizing moment. I take out my prescription bottle, there!, and open it up, there!, take one tablet out, here it is, and put it on the table. Then I turn to my interlocutor, and I say, "So, any questions?"

Look at that silly grin! Get out of here!

Any questions, Charlie?

Yeah! Can I have one?

Take it with your coffee, and have yourself a weekend, my boy. Just don't end-up in hairy-assed Buffalo.

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