When Bill Cosby needed Quaaludes to give to women he hoped to have sex with, he knew a doctor to turn to: Leroy Amar, a Hollywood prescriber of the pills that became a popular recreational drug among celebrities and other glitzy party people in the 1970s.
Cosby’s access to Quaaludes — called “disco biscuits” in those days and known to induce disorientation and euphoria — has drawn new attention after the surfacing of a 10-year-old deposition from a closed sexual-assault civil case against Cosby in Pennsylvania. In the transcript, Cosby says he received seven prescriptions for Quaaludes, all of which were obtained from Amar, a gynecologist, ostensibly for a sore back.
“Did he know when he gave you those prescriptions that you had no intention of taking them?” a lawyer asked Cosby in the 2005 deposition.
“Yes,” the entertainer replied.
“Did you believe at that time that it was illegal for you to dispense those drugs?”
“Yes,” Cosby answered.
But for Amar, who earned his medical degree from Howard University in 1963, providing pills under questionable circumstances and skirting the law were not unusual. Whether he practiced in California, New York or at a string of clinics in Maryland, he was constantly in trouble with medical authorities and periodically lost his license. Disciplinary records from those states reveal the wrongdoing of a dangerous doctor who kept moving to stay in business.
“I would not doubt in a minute that Amar would sign a prescription to give anybody anything they wanted. That’s just the way he was,” said Meldon S. Hollis Jr., a former Washington-area lawyer who once represented the physician and later blamed him for the loss of his law license. “He was unscrupulous.”
Amar, who also practiced plastic surgery — badly — died in 2002 at age 71.
In the 1970s, Cosby and Amar moved in the same Hollywood social circles. In his deposition, Cosby said the doctor had an ownership stake in “Club Bayou,” a private social club in Los Angeles that Cosby visited.
In California, the medical board revoked Amar’s license in 1979 after finding that he acted with gross incompetence and negligence and had “engaged in the most serious misconduct.” In 1985, his license was reinstated under a host of conditions, including that he would never again perform surgery. But he failed to pay his licensing fees and never practiced in California again, records show.
The disciplinary documents reveal harrowing details of numerous plastic surgeries gone awry, including one woman whose implant ripped through her stitches and protruded from her breast as she developed a 102-degree fever and an infection. In another case, no one was available to administer general anesthesia, so Amar performed breast surgery with only a local numbing agent.
But Cosby’s deposition also reveals a chivalrous side of Amar: a man who confronted the comedian about his alleged inappropriate behavior with Tamara Green, a young woman whom the doctor introduced to Cosby.
An attorney for plaintiff Andrea Constand poses several questions to Cosby about Green, an aspiring singer and model who later publicly accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting her.
In the deposition, Cosby repeatedly says he did not know Green and had no recollection of meeting her during a singing audition that she said had been arranged by Amar. The attorney goes on to say that Amar was furious to later hear from Green that Cosby had given her wine and made her feel “very uncomfortable” by asking her to speak song lyrics directly into his face.
“In her presence, Amar confronted Cosby, almost coming to blows,” the attorney recounts. “He warned Cosby never to do anything like that again to Green.”
Cosby denied that any of these events happened.
Cosby’s attorneys asserted this week that the media had mischaracterized the actor’s deposition as an admission of drugging and “rape.” In actuality, they said, he simply admitted to using the now-banned drug for the same reason many others did during the era.
“There are countless tales of celebrities, music stars, and wealthy socialites in the 1970’s willingly using Quaaludes for recreational purposes and during consensual sex,” their motion said.
As for how Cosby initially met Amar, those details remain largely unknown to the public. Attempts to reach several of Amar’s family members for comment were unsuccessful.
The California disciplinary records also show that Amar regularly signed off on prescriptions for “dangerous” drugs without examining patients and aided and abetted an unlicensed individual in the practice of medicine. That unlicensed business partner left the state because of a federal criminal investigation, according to the filings.
News of the doctor’s connection to Cosby was no surprise to Hollis, the former attorney who represented Amar in the 1990s when the doctor worked in Maryland.
“He indicated that he knew a lot of stars in Hollywood,” Hollis said. Their business relationship ended after Amar accused Hollis of misappropriating funds — a charge that later led to Hollis’s disbarment. (Hollis says the charge was false and challenged the disbarment in Maryland and the District, to no avail.)
Much of Amar’s history is revealed in disciplinary documents that chronicle his path into medical practice. Born in Louisiana, he earned his medical degree from Howard, later completed his residency in obstetrics and gynecology and obtained medical licenses in three states: New York, Maryland and California.
In 1966, Amar moved to California and began practicing at a hospital in Los Angeles. The next year, he failed his board certification exam for obstetrics and gynecology.
Several years later, Amar met the operator of an ambulance service, who recruited him to work for Women Who Help Women, an organization that provided abortions. Soon after, the clinic expanded its work and began to perform cosmetic surgery. In 1974, Amar appeared shirtless in Ebony magazine hawking a weight-loss product called the “‘5 Minute Body Shaper.”
He attended seminars to learn more about the field of plastic surgery, including during a two-week trip to Brazil. Amar, who was black, would later tell investigators that he knew he wasn’t fully qualified as a plastic surgeon but felt that “because of his race he did not have an opportunity to obtain a residency in plastic surgery.”
In several cases, Amar’s procedures left women with deformed, hardened or uneven breasts, investigators said.
Amar disputed many of the claims and said he would never subject patients to pain. Also, in an application for reinstatement in California, Amar’s position was that “many of his difficulties were caused because he was unfortunate in the selection of his associates.”
Amar later ran into trouble in Maryland, where he had held a medical license since 1965. In 1988, after becoming aware of his past discipline in California, the Maryland medical board placed him on probation.
The doctor’s problems continued in 1991, when he pleaded guilty to one count of income tax evasion and was placed on supervised probation for 18 months, along with 60 days served in a community treatment center.
Amar surrendered his license to Maryland officials in 1994. Several months later, his application for reinstatement was granted, and he was again placed on probation. (A spokeswoman for the Maryland Board of Physicians said she was unable to provide further information.)
Several years later, he filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Baltimore. He owed more than $4 million, with $2.4 million due to the Internal Revenue Service, according to news reports at the time.
The physician died in Los Angeles. No cause of death was recorded by the Los Angeles County coroner’s office, and his body was released to a fellow doctor, a spokesman said.
He is buried at Westwood Village Memorial Park. The cemetery is a famed final resting place for many of Hollywood’s biggest stars, including Farrah Fawcett, Dean Martin and Marilyn Monroe.
Mary Pat Flaherty and Julie Tate contributed to this report.