david j. sperling BIO
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1.)   Q:  How old is Mark?
       A:  Mark is 50 years old, but due to his indestructibility, there have been theories that he is similar to the Bruce Willis character in "Unbreakable", or the immortal in "The Highlander".  His resilience is remarkable, defies logic and simply cannot be explained.

2.)   Q:  Where does Mark live?
       A:  Mark is homeless, a transient.  He has been on the streets for at least 25 years.  Mark appears to have an innate ability to return to the the beach.  No matter where Mark is, he finds his way back to the coast.  Within hours of his release from County Jail, Mark is either at or near the pier, or in jail.

3.)   Q:  How many times has Mark been arrested and why is Mark always being arrested for drunk in public?
        A:   As of February 1st, 2012 Mark has been arrested 518 times.  This is a somewhat conservative number based on the cities I have contacted (I'm sure I've missed a few).  Mark is a severe chronic alcoholic with brain damage (due to both a serious head injury that put him in a coma and a lifetime of alcoholism).  Mark is most often arrested due to numerous citizen, business owner, and police contacts regarding situations in which Mark is extremely intoxicated, disorderly, often aggressive, and even more often in medical danger.  Many times police contact with Mark is a medical aid.  He is found after faceplanting into the pavement, in the street, in front of people's doors, many times unconscious.  Additionally, Mark has been to the emergency room over 400 times.

4.)   Q:  It's become pretty obvious that Mark cannot care for himself, why isn't he 5150'd as being gravely disabled?

         A:  Mark falls into a category that most doctors have a hard time dealing with for a variety of reasons...    
     First, the combination of chronic alcoholism and brain damage is confusing, labor intensive, and yields virtually no positive changes for the individual in question.  Treatment and rehabilitation are extremely unsuccessful.  Who will pay for this?
     Second, Mark's long term memory consists of a memorized selection of phrases that disarms most medical professionals (especially those interested in just moving Mark through the system--And away from them).  When he's sober and under professional evaluation, he simply recites all the proper responses he has been spewing for over 10 years.  It's as if he's got Alzheimer's Disease.  There are some rock solid memories--It just so happens that these memories are the "perfect responses", those that professionals love to hear...  Mark is such a severe alcoholic that most people believe that if he simply stops drinking the problem will be solved.  "All Mark has to do is stop drinking and he'll be fine" is an all too common response.
     Third, Mark smells so incredibly awful, he's is hard to be around.
     Fourth, Mark is pretty young and has yet to exhibit behaviors that REALLY present a big problem to others.  If he was 60 and naked and directing traffic on the freeway--I'm sure they would do something...Then again, a man dead set on drinking himself into oblivion isn't a danger to himself?
     Finally, aside from a handful of people, who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in terms of protecting and saving Mark's life, it simply appears that nobody cares...
     A number of people have commented on the above issues, but one person in particular, Mr. John McCready from the A.O.D.D., has summed up this dilemma in a very astute and real world experience-oriented letter that he sent to me:

Mr. Sperling,

The DUI clients who watch "DRUNK IN PUBLIC" continue to be "stunned" and "gnawed at", as the film sticks with them-as it does me.  I wonder what a showing of it to an "open" AA meeting would do?... 

As someone who worked in a long-term psychiatric hospital with MULTIPLE chronically mentally ill adults (many were Orange County Conservatee's) for 3 years--I can attest that the reason "the mental health system" will NOT take Mark David Allen is simply because his mental deterioration is NOT organic to begin with (as a true schizophrenic, or major depressant's illness is). 

You have made it clear that the psychiatrist's that "screen" 5150's, and 5250's do not "upgrade" Mark David Allen for longer-term treatment because he "tells them what they want to hear".  This is true, along with the fact that, since his "threat to self and others" (THE criteria for "upgrading" above a 5250) is NEVER APPARENTLY IMMINENT, Mark David Allen will always get "washed out" and yes-the same sad loop starts all over. 

I actually have current DUI clients that have served time with Mark David Allen, and many of them swear that the man "knows what he is doing" when he WANTS to go to jail (for some food, but not a change of clothes).   At least the guy is on some kind of formal probation now.  I wonder what his medical status is.  I hope you can keep a "running tally" on Mark David Allen’s arrests, etc.  The fact that MDA continues to live is a testament to the fact that he may never get his wish to destroy himself permanently anytime soon.
                Furthermore, ANYONE in California can check themselves in to ANY "IMD" (Institution for the Mentally Disordered as it is known by the California Department of Mental Health), or even check into a state hospital like Patton or Metropolitan on a VOLUNTARY basis (as long as the hospital gets paid-they will take you-Med-I-Cal, Health Insurance, cash, etc.).  The "involuntary" commitments (based on a person's conservatorship status) do not come until AFTER the person has been at a 5150/5250 & 5260 ward for the maximum length of time.  Then there is the court establishment of conservatorship, placement by the conservator, etc.                

Clearly what is needed in Mark's case is a court-ordered referral to
Mental Health Court (I do not know if Orange County has one the way Los Angeles County does).  If ANY Public Defender can simply show that Mark has ZERO comprehension, or retention of ANY probation condition, then it would be BEYOND UNFAIR to sentence him to a probation since he would NOT "knowingly, or willingly" (both legal requirements for a plea bargain!) understand what he is sentenced to (or being restrained from-as you have pointed out).                

Does he keep seeing the SAME judge and Public Defender every time?  Another oddity is that if a conservatorship DID somehow get established, and if Mark ever wanted to dispute it, he would be represented by. . .the OC Public Defender's Office (yes, they have a branch for conservatized clients).  Once again-unless a PRE-EXISTING mental illness (not acquired via substance abuse) can be established that makes Mark a "danger to self, others, or gravely disabled" (based on a mental illness), then he is highly unlikely to get that mental health safety net he needs.  The dividing line in public funding of mental health clients appears to be:  if you were born with it, and did not ask for it (childhood onset, or adult onset of schizophrenia, depression, bi-polar disorder, etc.) you are eligible for Med-I-Cal, SSI funding, etc., but if you substance abused your way INTO a mental health disorder (as Mark David Allen clearly has), you are ON YOUR OWN (as Mark David Allen is and will apparently remain). 

Conservatorships are indeed "one-year terms" as allowed under something called the "LPS" law (LPS stands for Lanterman-Petris-Short, the three state legislators that got this law passed).  It has been state law since 1968 (when REAGAN was governor, and to the best of my knowledge has NOT been updated).  A person on LPS conservatorship has a right to have a JURY TRIAL on a 10 day notice to determine their
"grave disability", to determine if the person should continue to stay on conservatorship (its a civil proceeding, and like in a civil lawsuit, only requires 9 of 12 votes for the conservatorship to be involuntarily continued-I had one client that took his Orange County LPS Conservatorship to a jury trial 5 times and WON EACH TIME-though the guy was off the chart bi-polar, and was re-conservastized within a few months after getting off of each conservatorship!).                

To get conservatized by the OC Public Guardian's office, a proposed conservatee, would have to make it THROUGH a "5150", a "5250", AND a "5260", and THEN the 1 year conservatorship would begin!  As you know with Mark David Allen, he knows what to say to short circuit even the 5250 process (as your film showed, so the fact that he CANNOT provide for his "food, clothing, or shelter" due to a pre-existing MENTAL ILLNESS, continues to keep him in "no man's land".  The fact that he has "wet-brained" (Korsakoff's Syndrome) himself to the point of being "gravely disabled" will not get him into the mental health system.  He would honestly have to be suicidal, and/or homicidal, and fail ALL three levels of involuntary mental health commitment (5150, 5250, AND
5260) to get "in the system".  Of course the taxpayers of Orange County will pay for it, as they do ALL Public Guardian based conservatee's.  Med-I-Cal covers their medical costs, while Orange County covers their long-term treatment (psychiatric hospital stay, and public conservator and public defender) costs.  I saw it all first hand with many Orange County conservaterized clients in the three years I was a psychiatric hospital counselor.                

Mark David Allen would be lucky if he ever made it that far.

In conclusion, I have now shown the DVD of "DRUNK IN PUBLIC" so many times, my copy is wearing out!  I hope the DVD is continuing its rapid circulation.  I have shown this film to at least 4 of my groups--each one is completely amazed to numbness by what they've seen...  It is meeting with stunned acceptance by our clients here at the program...  Overall, your film is perfect in its accuracy.  It is horrifyingly candid...I'd recommend it for an Oscar, but am not sure what the process is for that.  I hope it continues to have every success.  Excellent work.  Thank you very much.

--John McCready, Counselor - A.O.D.D. - Alcohol Education Curriculum

San Juan Capistrano, CA

     Thanks, John.

5.)   Q:  Over 500 arrests?!  Are the police picking on Mark?

         A:  No.  No way.  I know, this probably shocks those of you who think the police are picking on Mark--it is simply not true.  If anything, it may be the opposite.  In fact, I know he could clock in over 1000 arrests if they picked him up for every time he's been slumped on a bench intoxicated.  Rest assured, resources are devoted and he is policed appropriately, but not over-exuberantly.  I haven't been to Kentucky and I don't know Henry Earl (the man who has been arrested over 1000 times), but I imagine their policies and tolerances are different (some places give out more citations and some places arrest more, it depends on the situation).  I have seen many of Henry Earl's mugshots and there are some where he appears "less intoxicated" than Mark David Allen (who completely decompensates).  Nevertheless, I can not fairly make a judgment on this because I do not know the details, nor have I ever met him.   Either way, it's splitting hairs as numbers on both of these men are ridiculous.
     The situation is frustrating for everyone and there are more questions than answers.  The police have a lot of duties, so, unless Mark presents a problem, nobody is going out of there way to create an arrest...  From an arrest standpoint, Mark is the last person officers are interested in dealing with...When Mark is arrested, the officers have to spend numerous hours with him (often just sitting at the hospital) and this is before they even get him to jail.  Due to Mark's odor--It can be a horribly unpleasant experience.  Still, they do what they need to do to prevent any bigger problems.  These type of chronic problems can be very frustrating for the officers and all things considered, they handle it reasonably well, relatively patient after all these years.

6.)   Q:  How does Mark get his food?

       A:  Mark is the ultimate survivor.  He will eat anything if he needs to.  A police officer in Hawaii told me a story about Mark:  The police officer said he once spotted Mark standing in a dumpster eating submarine sandwich covered with bright blue mold.  While Mark was ingesting the sandwhich, he was also vomiting.  Mark aware he had to eat, but unaware that it was the sandwich itself that was causing him to vomit.  Primarily, Mark panhandles for money to buy food, or someone will buy or give him food.

7.)   Q:  Where is Mark's family?
         A:  Mark has a few relatives scattered about, some locally, some in other states, but as is the case with addicts, most of the bridges have been burned and the concept of "tough love" is in place...    
     Some believe that there is nothing that can be done for him now.  Some pray that his presence somehow impacts someone else in a positive, humorous, or educational way (which I have seen and witnessed first hand).  
     In conclusion, nobody really knows what God has in store for Mark David Allen.  Mark is already more purposeful than many "functional" people, even if it's existing solely as a warning to others...

8.)   Q:  What does Mark drink?
         A:  Mark chooses to drink vodka...Usually Popov, which he can obtain for under $10.  Why do the local liquor stores sell Mark alcohol?  The only answer I can come up with is greed, maybe uninformed sympathy?  But those are guesses.  Some people buy alcohol for Mark at Mark's request.  Some store owners are on auto-pilot and don't really consider it.  I can't answer for them.  To know for sure, you'd have to ask them yourself.
9.)   Q:  How does Mark get money?
         A:  Mark is not involved in any kind of social program, government funding, disability, nothing.  No SSI, no Medi-Cal, nothing.  I had him signed up for Medi-Cal but the hospital neglected to tell me that he had to return to the hospital for a follow up appointment, therefore they cancelled the application. 
     Mark obtains his money from panhandling (sometimes too aggressively) which nets him about $5. every 2 hours.  Most people that are familar with street addicts offer to give aid in the form of food instead of money (because money is most often used to buy their drug of choice). 
     For the most part, the deepest regions of Mark's brain have protected a unique and natural charisma that still enables him to beg in a very agreeable manner.  Mark doesn't usually miss meals...Then again, he's not particularly picky, either. 
     Recently, Mark's condition had become so deteriorated, that even his charm factor seemed to be slipping away. 

10.)   Q:  How come the courts don't do something like force Mark into treatment or put Mark away forever?

         A: Individuals are not forced into treatment for the type of charges Mark frequently acquires.  The "drunk in public" charge rarely brings about any legitimate consequences because it is not really a crime that the courts view as punishable, and certainly not indefinitely...Failing to appear in court will garner a punishment--but typically that is jail time.    There is no alternative sentencing for drunk in public like there is for a DUI or a drug charge.  Courts in effect force people into treatment every day with Drug Court, PC 1000, Prop 36 and alternative sentencing, and people do just fine.  Repeated studies have shown that recovery rates in residential treatment programs are the same regardless of the motivation of the patient (they don't have to "want" treatment--they just have to DO it).  So would Mark have been "saved" had he been forced into treatment before the damage became too great?  We will never know.  

     Regarding "forced treatment"; if it's one thing I've learned while working in a jail for 20 years, it's that force, in almost any circumstance is rarely effective...Yet there are moments when it is...  Or maybe those moments where it is the bridge to a successful solution.  I suppose that forcing someone repeatedly into treatment brings about a greater statistical probability that the "light will come on" and they will then "want" to get better--at least more so than just letting them continue to make shaky decisions in the midst of their derailing lives.  Does getting them "in there" regardless, have a better chances than not?  Certainly.  I'm simply saying they've got to want to make it work--for it to actually work.  In essence, once they're in, there's a better chance they'll want to.  I just think the desire is critical to bringing any recovery to any real long term fruition.  As I mention to some of the addicts that come through the jail doors, "The real problem will occur when you pass through here and don't seem to mind any of this...When you're okay with living in and out of jail...That's a deep hole."

     In conclusion, Mark was forced into jail, so I don't see why forcing him into treatment would be such a bad idea.  I know Mark has never submitted to his problem and never turned to others for help and never said, "I can't do it."   He has always maintained that he would do it his way--with his own strength.  This stubborn resilience has kept him alive, but it also has become his greatest weakness and has kept him from reaching out and submitting to something bigger than him.  At some point in the process, forced treatment is a worthy alternative that should have and should be explored, especially in cases when resources spent on incarcerating and managing "crimes of the self" rival that of resources spent on attempts to heal.
11.)   Q:  How is Mark still alive?
         A:  Mark is amazing.  Aside from his sheer force of will, he is blessed with superior genetics.  He bakes in the sun until his skin is charred--No skin cancer.  His nutritional choices make third world countries look like cutting edge olympic dietary excellence.  His blood pressure is 119 over 70.  Mark claims to have been hit by a car at least 3 times (but probably more than 5 times), was in a car accident as a passenger (the only survivor) and spent more than a month in a coma.  Mark drowned after a seizure and had to be resuscitated, has had hundreds of other seizures and impacts with the ground (I've personally cleared his airway and facillitated breathing on him 3 times).  Mark also drinks as if his life depends on it...Which, when on a binge, it does.  I believe that God is the only one that has the answers to the question as to why Mark David Allen is alive today.  Albert Einstein once said, "God doesn't play dice."  
Mark David Allen passed away on February 1st, 2012 -- to learn more CLICK HERE
CLICK HERE to visit the DRUNK IN PUBLIC Facebook page

12.)   Q:  Who pays for all of Mark's hospital visits and various municipal contacts?

         A:  The County (both you and I do).

13.)   Q:  Mark David Allen is obviously so brain damaged that he cannot be saved...So why do you continue to do any of this--Who cares?

         A:  I do...But it's true, Mark cannot be salvaged from society's traditional standpoint (Organic Brain Syndrome is irreversible--Only a Lazarus-like miracle can save him) but his impact on the world is startlingly immense and getting more so every single day.. 
     Originally, my focus was on trying to get Mark the help he needs.  Over time it has shifted toward treating him with compassion and respect as well as protecting the community and the city...And then I realized how much I had grown and learned just from dealing with Mark.  The concept of caring in an environment where society says it doesn't belong, as well as facing daily futility and self destructive tragedy--and yet still working toward a positive outcome is a "PROCESS" that defines life itself.  When you have little control over the outcome, or the solution, you must remind yourself that this seemingly helpless situation is not an invitation to stop caring.  The process of caring regardless of the outcome is where most of the fruit is discovered.    And frankly, caring is what works best.  I've learned to focus on the process and let God work things out.  Which does bring me to one of my favorite sayings, "If you want to make God laugh, just tell him your plans."  And now, it appears to be about the impact the film has on others.  The reasons for spending time on this project do keep changing.
     Early in Mark's drinking career, he pretty much damaged just himself.  No driving, just personal obliteration (or as he has put it, "obliviation").  But now, with his brain damage and short term memory issues and his lack of awareness, it's only a matter of time until he does something that dramatically affects an innocent person.  Is it going to be someone swerving to avoid him when he falls into the street and then inadvertantly running over a family on a crosswalk or sidewalk?  Or is it going to be a child traumatized by Mark wandering into the public bathroom stall with his pants around his ankles and his genitals in his hand?
     It's also not my decision to discount Mark's impact in this world.  Certainly, people have been affected by Mark's life in a positive way (there are a number of scenarios depicted on this site -- see the DRUNK IN PUBLIC - The Impact page -- which illustrates the positive changes made by those not wanting to go down the same road Mark has travelled), as well as a number of poignant reflections on this project.  It's very difficult for someone to cast judgment when they cannot see the entire picture.  In one way, being around Mark helps be become a more compassionate and tolerant person.  I now certainly see things in a more appreciative light...I seen his impact--I've seen the evidence--It cannot be denied, no matter how much anyone wants to ignore it.
     Please send me an email if you have a story of impact.

     Mark David Allen has contractually agreed to be covered by David J. Sperling of Furious Love Inc., on this website, in all recording formats, in the ongoing documentary, and in a book or any other written or photographic materials.
Created & Copyrighted by David J. Sperling