When Docter Leon Strauss was given his official name-change documentation, he was also given a new lease on life. Born Leo Strauss to hard-working parents in rural Germany, he found transitioning into American life difficult.
“They were always asking me, why do you think you can do this job?” He tells me with the hysterical, relieved air of a man who used to be very angry: “They were prejudiced because I did not go to the Ivy Leagues.”
The competitive job market in the U.S. was a minefield for Docter Strauss, who didn’t have a degree from his adopted country. They insisted he wasn’t qualified to practice medicine, and drove him into a destructive spiral of self-doubt.
“Oh, yes,” he remembers, “I was very down in the blues. Leo, I said to myself, you are not a doctor like these Harvard guys with their pastel ties and hand soap.” One morning, still high from the meths he doused his face with the night before (a cutting-edge German skin treatment for rosacea), he had the idea of changing his name: “I wanted to become a new person, like the butterspies.”
So he became Docter Leon Strauss. “Now people do not ask for my certification!” He smiles; “it is because I am so confident, I think.” But why add the “n”? “It makes me sound like a lion,” he confides, miming a roar, “lions are well known to be excellent healers”.