Buzz Aldrin’s Magnificent Recovery

By Michael Kaufman

As we mark the 40th anniversary of mankind’s first trip to the moon, I recall exactly where I was July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin invented the moonwalk (later adapted and updated by Michael Jackson). I was strolling on Broadway on the upper West Side of Manhattan near a tiny enclave then known none-too affectionately as “Needle Park.” My thoughts were on the Mets, then involved in a pennant race for the first time in the young life of the team. A fellow I recognized as one of the local winos sat alone on one of the park benches, holding a transistor radio to his ear.

“What’s the score?” I called out, slowing my pace. He looked up at me, frowning. Then he said, “I ain’t listening to no ballgame, I’m listening ‘bout that moon crap!”

Years later I was tempted to share that vignette with Buzz Aldrin when I met him at a medical meeting I was covering. He was there on behalf of a pharmaceutical company marketing a new wound dressing, linking it to “space-age technology.”

Kaufman as Viagra MVP

His presence increased traffic at the company’s booth in the exhibit area. Mercifully, they did not have him pose for souvenir pictures that made it look like the doctor smiling next to him was one of his fellow astronauts. Maybe the technology wasn’t available yet. I covered a meeting a few years ago where urologists lined up to appear in a baseball-card photo depicting them in Viagra team uniforms. It was an MVP card (with MVP standing for “most valuable prescriber”). I even posed for one (see photo). At another recent meeting, Dick Vermeil, a famous football coach, provided hundreds of toothy smiles.   

Besides appearing at the booth, Aldrin spent time in the evenings at the company’s hospitality suite, hoisting a few with a handful of invited guests, company personnel, and this writer, who managed to wangle an invitation. This must have taken place during the period he describes in his memoir, “Magnificent Desolation,” in which he documents his battles against depression and alcoholism. That night he certainly looked depressed, chain smoking and drinking the night away as boozed up guests asked him annoying questions like, “What was it like going to the bathroom?” 

Today, his desolation behind him, Aldrin is a motivational speaker represented by the Executive Speakers Bureau of Memphis and is reported to receive between $30,000-$50,000 per appearance. He also has a snazzy Web site,, where he hawks t-shirts that say “Rocket Hero” with a logo suggestive of an astronaut placing a flag on the moon, and autographed pictures for $350. Or you can buy his Buzz Aldrin G6 Aviator Radio and even download his latest rap song on iTunes.

Yes, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first lunar landing, Aldrin has teamed up with Snoop Dogg and other luminaries of the hip-hop genre to create the rap single and video, “Rocket Experience.”

Buzz Aldrin

Buzz Aldrin

Proceeds will benefit ShareSpace, a non-profit foundation he launched in 1998. “Our mission is to share the wonders of space with children of all ages, and to foster affordable space travel opportunities for all,” he says.

Thanks to ShareSpace, perhaps even a wino from Needle Park may one day be able to afford to travel in space and see “that moon crap” in person.

Michael can be reached at


2 Responses to “Buzz Aldrin’s Magnificent Recovery”

  1. JeffreyPage Says:

    Well, what WAS it like to go to the bathroom in zero gravity?

  2. MichaelKaufman Says:

    All I remember is that after a long pause, during which Aldrin sucked on his cigarette and stared at the questioner, he explained that some kind of vacuum device was activated to suck up the waste. He did not have fond memories of the experience.

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