On an upcoming episode of MEL: On Air, we’ll be focusing on the theme of Lost Loves Found. We’ll be chatting with a professor widely considered to be the world’s foremost authority on reconnecting with high school sweethearts; a TSA spokesperson who desperately wants to reconnect passengers with their lost belongings (unless they’re loaded firearms); and a man who became so obese that he lost his own penis.
The latter man is none other than Jeff Beacher, the vaudeville revivalist behind Beacher’s Madhouse, a mutant mash-up of carnival, cabaret show and nightclub that took Hollywood by storm. As its larger-than-life ringmaster, Beacher saw incredible success, but discovered too late that the experience had left him little time to confront the personal issues that plagued him. His resultant overeating saw him reach a weight of 410 lbs.
Recently, Beacher has lost an impressive 225 of those pounds, and is reinventing himself as a man with a new, more positive outlook on life, a healthy mental attitude, and, of course, a fully functioning penis.
According to an interview you gave the New York Post, when you were at your heaviest, you were so big that you essentially “lost your penis.” How does that work?
Well, it doesn’t really work. When you’re 410 pounds, not much works — from your brain to your body. I agreed to that story and to this story to help people realize that they can get out of it, that they can fix themselves. I was the epitome of chaos; I literally created a business around being insane. So if I could change, anyone could change.
In terms of the mechanics, were you not able to see your penis, or did it actually retract?
I got so heavy that it literally shrunk. You can Google it, it’s a real thing! I don’t know the medical lingo; I just know it happened, and that it grew back when I lost the weight.
That must have had a considerable impact on your sex life. Did you struggle to perform?
There was no struggling, but it wasn’t the stature of when I was skinny.
Overall, what’s it like to go through such a drastic transformation?
It’s crazy: When I lost the first 120 pounds, I thought I was skinny, but I was still huge. I remember buying a pair of pants for the Cannes Film Festival, and I was like, “Yeah, those are skinny, you look good in those.” Now I put them on and I fit in one leg! I used to sleep all day. I would take sleeping pills or eat or drink myself to sleep. Then I’d wake up, go to two or three dinners and do a show. That’s all changed.
You seem to have an addictive personality, and for some people, weight loss itself can become a pretty addictive feeling. Are you hooked on this now?
That’s true, and yes. Sleeping pills, even though they’re not cocaine, they’re still a drug, and I was addicted to sleeping pills for about seven or eight years. I’m still getting on and off of those currently. But working out and getting in shape and getting healthy — I’d rather have that addiction than eating two pizzas, you know?
How far through your weight loss journey are you?
I’m like 70 percent to 80 percent of the way there, but a billion percent better, if that makes sense. I wear a normal 34 waist jeans, and medium and large shirts. But I want to get ripped! I want to have abs and defined biceps and chest muscles.
Was losing your penis the final straw when it came to losing weight, or was it just part of the bigger problem?
My partner, who was a really brilliant producer, director and businessman, would always say, “Just for the reason of growing your penis back alone, you should lose weight.” And I was just like, “Ah, I’m fine, I’m fine.” I was so delusional. When you’re 400 pounds, there’s so much going through your head. Plus, there’s so much going on when you’re running a successful business. I literally buried myself in creations. I’d create 10 new acts a night, and it would clog and confuse my brain from ever dealing with issues like my weight.
You used to play up the “funny fat guy” persona. How do you present yourself to people now? Do you think you still have a facade, or is this finally the real you?
I guess you’re dealing with the real me, if that’s the way you want to say it. But yeah, I became a caricature of myself previously. It’s hard to explain, but it was very subliminal — I was torturing myself because I hated myself. I didn’t even realize until I got to 410 pounds that it was all based on insecurities and deep-rooted abandonment issues about being adopted and my parents dying.
How did you lose the weight?
The first thing I did was go to Vegan Camp. I lost about 100 to 120 pounds there, but then I gained back 10 or 15. So I got a stomach surgery called “the sleeve,” [which is where they] cut your stomach smaller. I don’t know how big the stomach actually is — I’m not a doctor — but let’s say it’s the size of a basketball, they make it the size of a grapefruit, or something like that. I did that in addition to all of my training and exercise that I spent many months doing. Now, it’s just about being healthy and continuing to work out to maintain a slow, steady weight loss. I still have about 20 to 30 pounds to go.
Did the surgery radically decrease your appetite?
Your appetite is definitely decreased, but I’ve met a lot of people who get this surgery and then they get fat again — they’re just temporarily skinny. You can easily stay fat if you drink liquor or eat candy, so you’ve got to eat well — the stomach surgery is just a tool. One of the big things I did was cut out drinking.
As someone who runs a raucous nightclub-type show, was that a huge hurdle for you? Being surrounded by drugs and alcohol?
The drugs never bothered me: I knew not to get into them because, like you said, I have an addictive personality. I knew that if I started doing drugs, I’d never stop, so I left it to alcohol, gambling and other horrible vices. I would drink 10–20 Vodka Red Bulls a night and think it was normal and fine. I would tell myself, “It’s Vodka Red Bull, you’re not doing cocaine, it’s fine! It’s all natural; you’re being healthy.” I changed all of that obviously, and now, I’m night and day as a person.
Now that you’ve been through all of this, how do you feel about the human capacity to change so completely?
It’s opened my eyes to the world. Every day I’m so excited to wake up, work on new projects, work with new people and figure out how I can help people. I feel like I was given this gift of being morbidly obese and then losing it all. I get dozens of inquiries and calls a day from friends and strangers without even promoting the fact that I lost this weight. So I think if I go on a mass promotion, which I’m planning to do, it’s going to be very beneficial to the world.
After everything you’ve been through, can you summarize how it feels to realize you’ve succeeded in getting your life back?
It’s the greatest feeling in the world. If you knew me a couple years ago, you’d say, “He throws the sickest party I’ve ever been to. But what an asshole!” That’s all changed. I still throw the sickest party or event in the world, but I’m content with myself and learning how to be a better person every day. Everything is really good. I appreciate people like you reaching out to me and helping me spread the word about how to get happy, healthy and fit. And, of course, how to get your penis back.