Exclusive Interview with Dr. Jack Wheeler
on The Story Behind

Jack Wheeler, PhD (philosophy, USC), has become a public figure for his Indiana Jones-type adventures which began at a very early age. Jack has swam the Hellspont, climbed the Matterhorn, and lived with headhunters in the Peruvian Amazon. He went on to become a legend in the intelligence community, especially recognized for organizing the anti-Soviet guerrilla forces around the world that closed in on the "evil empire," forcing them to choose between guns and butter. In Afghanistan, his work turned the tide helping to transform the Soviet invasion into their own version of a Vietnam hell which sped the end of the cold war.

In redefining his goals, Jack's focus has turned to another type of intelligence gatherer; i.e., those who hunt for more intelligence within themselves and those who seek to expand themselves rather than shrink the heads of others. It is appropriate that the man who helped break down the energy-confining Berlin Wall is now manufacturing and marketing a soft drink, SmartzTM. For others, whether enslaved by external or self-imposed limitations, this revolutionary product has the ability to do the same; to liberate intellectual energy.

The fall of the Berlin Wall and Smartz have something else in common, each in its way representing the coming of the Information Millennium. Paraphrasing the final lines of the movie King Kong, "It was information that killed the beast." By helping people to maximize their potential, Smartz may help slay any remnants of the beast standing in the way of even greater accomplishment and fulfillment. Smartz has been a 20-year dream for Dr. Wheeler. And now, here it is.

Will: Tell us about your involvement with Durk & Sandy and the creation of Smartz.

Jack: After the publication of my book, The Adventurer's Guide, in the late 70s, I became a regular guest on the Merv Griffin Show, a nationally syndicated TV program. And every time I'd do a show, I'd be in California and I would visit Durk & Sandy. One day, I had this crazy idea while dining with Merv and Eva Gabor at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas.

 Jack Wheeler and Smartz atop the Matterhorn.

So I told Merv, "I've got this friend, Durk Pearson, and something tells me it would be incredible to have him on your show." I told him how MIT couldn't measure Durk's IQ and that he also had the capacity to explain absolutely anything to anybody. Using visual metaphors that anybody could understand, he could explain how we get old and what we can do about it.

So Merv said, "Well, I'll have my guy give him a call." I said, "No, you can't do that. I've got to talk to him first. I can't give out his telephone number." So Merv thought that was pretty strange, but he thought, okay. So next time I went over to visit Durk & Sandy, we sat around talking and finally I said, "What would you think about going on the Merv Griffin Show?" And Durk said, "Why would I want to do that?" And I said, "I don't know. But I've got a feeling that something good would happen if you just got on the show and talked to his audience about life extension and why we get old and what we can do about it . . . and about free radicals, and antioxidants." This was in 1978, twenty years ago.

And Durk said, "Gee, Jack, I don't know. I don't know. Why would I want to do this?" So finally I said, "Well, Durk, they'll pay you four hundred dollars." And he said, "They will? Four hundred dollars? Just to talk?" And I said, "Yeah. You get paid. Four hundred dollars." And, at the time, Durk was working in the TRW laser lab, and Sandy was working in a bar. And Durk said, "Well, okay, I'll talk to them."

Merv decided to put him on the show. Durk appeared and was a hit. And that led to another appearance. Well, during Durk's second appearance Merv made the mistake of asking Durk, "How do we find out more information about what you're talking about?" And Durk said, "I do have a reading list, a source list. Now these are journal articles from scientific publications and if I gave them to you, maybe you could send the list to anybody in your audience who inquired." And Merv said, "Yes, we can do that." He looked in the audience, and looked in the camera and said, "If you ask for Durk Pearson's source list on life extension, we'll send you a copy. Write in." Well, they stopped counting at something like a 100,000 letters. Merv had never had a response like that. It was unprecedented.

Will: Fantastic.

Jack: They had bags and bags and bags of mail - all filling up Merv's offices. Merv's bills didn't get paid for months. He got completely screwed up. I mean, they'd never seen anything like it in their lives. It was unbelievable.

Will: Merv, in his autobiography, said that Durk Pearson was the most popular talk show guest in the history of television.

Jack: Right. By orders of magnitude. Merv had never seen anything like it. So of course, Merv thanked me. Durk eventually brought Sandy on and made her a personality in her own right. And so now it became Durk & Sandy. So out of that came Durk & Sandy's book, Life Extension - A Practical Scientific Approach which went on to become a 2 million copy, number one bestseller. Then after the book, entrepreneurs started suggesting, "Maybe we should make some products."

Will: I was involved from early on, but there was at least one attempt before then.

Jack: Then Durk & Sandy began to develop the powdered drink mixes with phenylalanine and cofactors and others with tryptophan and cofactors. We'd talk about how cool it would be to make a soft drink and how carbon dioxide (CO2) would really help. But experimentation showed it to be difficult to use CO2 with the powdered mixes. About that time I met somebody who had a family Coca-Cola distributorship and the idea that we might be able to manufacture it occurred to me. I took one of the products you were making at the time, Will. I took it to a hotel meeting with the distributors and tried to mix it but it was a fiasco. It just foamed over. It was embarrassing. And they didn't know what to make of it. They didn't know what I was talking about, neurotransmitters and all that stuff. They didn't have a clue.

Durk once explained that the best way to do it would be to take it with some soda water, or soda water as a chaser because the carbon dioxide was so much more effective at getting it into your brain. And I said, "You mean like getting high on champagne rather than still wine?" And he said, "Yes, exactly." Most of us have had the experience, at a wedding reception or at some party; it's a lot easier to get intoxicated on champagne than on regular wine.

Producing this soda, however, was always something in the back of my mind; but it just never really gelled. Lots of people have lots of ideas, and they think, "Someday I'm gonna do that." And you know, Will, the two of us have talked about it many times.

Will: We started talking about it in '91 or '92.

Jack: We started talking about it. And I thought . . . you know, damn it . . . wouldn't it be cool to do? And besides, the soft drink business is a cool business. It's an international business.

One thing that I recall talking to Durk about, when we were trying to figure out how to rid the world of the Soviet Union, was, "What in the world is going on with these people, the Russians?" And he said, "They're in a state of learned helplessness." You know the story about Solzhenitsyn's Ant. [See Freedom and the Zek's Ant.]

And I told Durk that story about the ant that gave up. After being pushed down into a coffee cup several hundred times, the ant ultimately gives up and never tries to get out again. And Durk said Solzhenitsyn is right. Nature is very conservative. Sea slugs need serotonin. And ants use phenylalanine. And taurine is used by every electrically excitable tissue in the animal kingdom. Nature coded for these aminos a long time ago. And so, Durk talked about how an ant, and other animals, can develop a sense of learned helplessness. And he explained that with human beings, there's a process of being shut down (emotionally, intellectually, psychologically), but that they can help reverse this process, at least on a biochemical level, which can influence the other levels. We are not machines. It's a lot more difficult to get out of learned helplessness if we lack the proper biochemical substrates.

Will: Just like it's more difficult to get out of bed if you haven't eaten . . . for weeks or months or years.


Jack: So I started to think that the ideal business is something that can be very, very profitable in a very personally rewarding way, where you really feel you're doing something good. And, Will, that's the kind of business that you have. You're in that kind of business and you're constantly coming up with new ideas, new concepts, and new products that benefit people's lives in very, very basic and fundamental ways.

Will: Yes, I thoroughly agree. In many ways, it's the ideal business for me to be in.

Jack: Right. I mean, how rewarding can it get? I lecture to groups of company presidents all over the country. I was talking with a businessman in Santa Barbara last week. I was talking about SmartzTM and he was telling me about his business. And he makes very advanced prostheses - artificial hands, legs - enabling people to walk again. He's obviously a very successful guy and has made a lot of money. But wow! How rewarding that can be! He's making such a tremendous difference in people's lives. And that is the best kind of business. I've always wanted a business like that. So I take people on extraordinary expeditions. I show them an extraordinary experience, one they can tell their grandchildren about, one that they'll remember for the rest of their lives. An 83-year-old woman, who I took to the North Pole, put her arms around me at the top of the world, right on the sea ice, right at 90 degrees north at the top of the world. And she said, "Jack, this is one of the most thrilling moments of my life." When an 83-year-old woman tells you that, that's really special.

Will: This is so interesting. I see where you're leading.

Jack: What I do is on a one-on-one basis, for just a handful of people. But with SmartzTM, there is the capacity to benefit millions of people's lives all over the world and benefit them personally. Smartz can give people more optimism, more mental clarity, and can make a real difference in their lives. Durk might have told you this story about that guy who was homeless. He started selling teaspoons of a version of a phenylalanine formulation. He would sell a teaspoon of drink mix for a quarter to other homeless people. It made them feel better. And it made him feel better. He was then able to buy more drink mix. And pretty soon he got himself out of homelessness and he started a business. His whole life changed. And he became a very successful guy.

Will: Amazing.

Jack: Millions of people will be drinking Smartz someday, not only in the United States, but throughout the world. And when this happens, society-wide changes will happen.

Will: Fascinating. That will be a good day!

Jack: Smartz can help people engage in independent thinking and behavior rather than, for example, taking orders blindly from some bureaucrat or others who order them around. Smartz could actually make a political contribution to freedom in the world. And that is my ultimate goal with Smartz, to not only benefit a lot of people individually and make an individual difference in the quality of their lives but hopefully to make a society-wide difference - not just in the United States, but in countries around the world where people value independence, self-reliance and liberty.

Will: Tell us about the taste of Smartz.

Jack: The stuff is great. Have you had one yet?

Will: Yes. It's fantastic!

Jack: Smartz is very refreshing, a full-citrus experience. It's not too sweet, but it's sweet enough. It's exceptionally refreshing. Everybody says "winner . . . bingo." We know people who make all kinds of famous soft drinks. And when they've poured down a can of Smartz, they've said "It's not too often I can guzzle a drink. This is great."

Will: Right. I can guzzle three to four cans a day, and I feel great.

Jack: Smartz can make you smarter. It's not some herbal concoction. Smartz is real neuroscience. The real thing. At any rate, it's a 20-year dream-come-true for me. Here I am doing it with some of my dearest friends on Earth, you and Durk & Sandy. We can make a contribution to the world with the world's first Pearson & Shaw soft drink. It never happened before. Now here it is, available for people, and they can actually experience it. Finally, here it is!

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