CURES OF CON ARTISTS

          BE A HOME-STATE booster if you like. Choose lakes, or expatriate novelists, or rockers old and new. But save a place in your personal Minnesota trophy cabinet for the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices, the riverfront resting place of the MacGregor Rejuvenator, the Spectro-Chrome, the Solarama Bed Board, assorted phrenology paraphernalia, and the ever-popular Prostate Gland Warmer.

          There's no telling if other states have larger M.Q.M.D.s, but surely this one's archives are fuller than most. The idiotic abuses of quasi-medical engineering that Bob McCoy has been collecting since 1989 have reached national acclaim, including a spotlight appearance on November 7 on Late Night With David Letterman. Even if McCoy doesn't bring along the Vital Power Vacuum Massager, a penis-building pump, let's hope he gives at least a glimpse of the Prostate Gland Warmer, which is basically a devilish hybrid of a cattle prod and a curling iron, designed to heat up the nether regions.

          Yowch. If you can't catch Letterman, McCoy and his toys are now available on a new video, Quackery Gallery. At just 30 minutes (and only ten bucks, plus shipping), it's packed to the reels with examples of con artists' creativity, and humankind's willingness to take a glib short cut instead of a real cure.

          Resembling Henry the angel in It's a Wonderful Life, McCoy makes an affable host. But the tape is no simple walk through a warehouse; at every turn, odd lights, wacky sound effects, and garish angles treat McCoy like something of a museum piece himself. This makes his triumph over the silliness he's showing all the more pleasant: cranking up the Electro-Metabograph, showing off his Xervac (a vacuum-powered hair-sucking device for baldies), he seems like he would really like to believe in this stuff, but has, luckily, found the light.

          McCoy has a soft spot for "Dr." Albert Abrams, a major quack from earlier this century who offered such items as the Oscilloclast. This was a diagnostic setup that somehow linked a spot of blood, which you'd sent by mail, to an electrical current attached to both a healthy young man and some kind of meter, which would define your ailment. Handily for Abrams, most "patients" suffered from syphillis, for which he had the perfect remedy, priced at one hundred bucks. The scary thing is not just that Abrams made a living with his Oscilloclast, but that others of his ilk even got patents for their contraptions. McCoy's odd blend of medical could-be-true and can't-exist makes a perfect match for the fake books, kitschy news photos, and outright lies that are the Letterman trademark. (Phil Anderson) CP

          Quackery Gallery can be ordered from Great Tapes in Minneapolis (800-879-8273). The Museum of Questionable Medical Devices is at 219 S.E. Main Street in Minneapolis.

 
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