Hollywood and Vine - From Death to Life at Hollywood and Vine
What does a developmentally retarded foster child have to do with Hollywood and Vine, Axl Rose, Elvis Presley, Marlon Brando, and James Cameron’s “Titanic”?
My life started as an accident (in the world’s eyes), but thankfully, how we start does not always determine where we end up. I started life as an unwanted pregnancy. My life was spared by God because only 7 years later in 1973, abortion was legalized in the USA. I was born to an unwed mother and entered this world several months premature weighing only 2.5 pounds. In 1966, most babies this small did not survive. I was the exception.
Prior to my birth, my mother had signed paperwork for an anonymous adoption. Her plan to have me adopted was cut short when I was born with such serious health problems. I remained in the hospital for a total of 13 months and went from an incubator to a rehab institution.
During this time, God had placed the desire for foster children into the hearts of Terry and Pauline Clark. The day the social worker came to visit the Clarks, they just “happened” to be babysitting little John from next door. “Oh, you work with handicapped children,” she said, pointing to little John. The social worker looked into the backyard and saw a kid with braces on his legs (from the birth defect Spina Bifida) and thought of me for the Clark family. I was placed with the Clarks due to this special moment.
I went from a developmentally-retarded baby who was unable to make a sound or sit up, to healthy kid in around 7 years. I started with a tumor in my windpipe that required a tracheotomy tube in my throat. I somehow taught myself to speak in gasps by forcing air past the tube. The Clarks walked through 14 surgeries with me and were planning to adopt me.
The Clarks attended church regularly and I was baptized around 8-years-old. Around this time, the Clarks allowed me to spend the weekend with a “nice lady.” I came back and said, “Did you know that lady is my mom?”
Hollywood and Vine – A New Life
Right then, the Clarks knew that my biological mom was going to take me away. At 9-years-old, I lost the only family I knew. As sad as this was for the Clarks and me, God had set into motion a series of events. During this time, I discovered my love of art and would meet several best friends who would change my life.
My new life was very different from the stable environment provided in Clark’s house. I ended up living in 14 different places, had 3 step dads, started doing drugs at 12-years-old, arrested at 13, joined a stealing/drug-dealing group of kids at 14, and then moved to Hollywood at age 15. My new best friend in Hollywood was Chris Weber, founding guitarist of Guns N’ Roses.
Chris and I hung out in tenth grade at Fairfax High School, home to famous rock bands like Guns N’ Roses, LA Guns, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. I moved to a different city for the next two years of school, but we remained friends. After graduation, we spoke on the phone and Chris said: “Dude, I scored a house, do you want to move in?” I moved “sight unseen” into the Guns N’ Roses party house in the Hollywood Hills. The house was the second home to Axl Rose (singer), Izzy Stradlin (guitarist), Steve Adler (drummer), and an assorted cast of druggies, groupies, and freaks of all kinds. You can imagine that I did not make good decisions during this time. . .but was miraculously spared from serious drug addiction. I was there when all my friends became hooked on heroin. . .it was devastating.
Hollywood and Vine – A New Life
I attempted to go to Cal State University Northridge (CSUN), but dropped out. During this time, I worked at Bernard Luggage at the corner of Hollywood and Vine. One Saturday, a 27-year-old named Rob Langer came into my store to look at briefcases. We started talking and he mentioned the CSUN Career Center. Rob said “I just placed an ad for a “Runner.” I then boldly asked if he wanted to use the phone “to cancel your ad. . .you just found your Runner!” Rob then said. . . “You’re hired” and I still had no idea what a “Runner” was.
I now worked in Commercial Real Estate. Miraculously, I had been hired to help lease the office space at the two high-rise office buildings at Hollywood and Vine. I literally walked across the street to a new life. My first day on the job was spent with Rob Langer buying me my first and only suit and tie. I went from spiked hair Hollywood kid to corporate exec in two weeks -- complete with a secretary and office. Did God have a plan for me?