The Story of Dean Clark

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& the Gift

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.

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?

Hollywood and Vine

Did God Have a Plan?

Unfortunately, this wonderful break did not clean me up. Instead, I had more money to party! As I pondered the quality of my friends, some of us went to a movie called “Like Father, Like Son.” The movie was one of three body-switching films that year. “Like Father, Like Son” featured Dudley Moore (50-year-old surgeon) and Kirk Cameron (16-year-old rebel) switching bodies.

While I watched the movie, God spoke to me. Here was this distinguished surgeon on the outside and a punk kid on the inside. Right in the theater, God said to me: “That’s You.” It was true, as a real estate guy in a suit, I was cleaned up on the outside. But inside, I was still doing the same things I did as a rebellious teen.

Several weeks later, I announced at a party that I was going clean. Within a month, I came home from work and found a moving van out front. My roommate was moving out, taking all the furniture and my temptation to party with him. Thank God!

Several weeks later, I received a call from my old friend Brooks. He was looking for a room to rent, but had a whole house full of furniture. Amazing! Brooks then introduced me to a girl.

This girl and I ended up going to church on Mother’s Day in 1988. The funny thing is we did not take my mom; we just went to be able to say we went (bragging rights). This was my first experience in church as an adult. I was shocked to see normal (and even cool) people there.

God then did a big miracle. He spoke directly to my heart in that service. I heard for the first time that even though I was a success in the world’s eyes in real estate, I was lost and in need of a Savior. I discovered that there was a serious penalty for my sin — death. That penalty of death was the reason Christ had to die on a cross. Christ paid the penalty for my sin and I could be born again by receiving that God’s forgiveness by faith. I finally found out that the emptiness inside of me was a “God-shaped” hole that only the Lord could fill.

After 4 weeks of going to church, I went forward and prayed with a guy. I told him that I did not think God could forgive or accept me because of my horrible past. God gave me the perfect guy to pray with. He had been delivered from serious sexual addiction and was now free! I prayed a simple prayer that day and God came into my life and changed me forever. I felt like the weight of the world was lifted from my shoulders. God revealed His plan to me!

Hollywood and Vine

Could God Forgive Me?

Over the next few years, my mind kept reverting back to Hollywood and Vine. I seemed to have it all together on the outside but on the inside I was continually haunted by the choices I had made and my old temptations. My good friend Roy shared a life changing verse with me:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1). This verse states that once you have accepted Christ’s free gift of salvation, you don’t have to live in guilt and shame from your past choices. This verse literally set me free.

Around this time, God gave me my greatest gift — my wife Laura. I was trying to set up my friend with her roommate, but God had other plans. Laura and I ended up at a restaurant alone. God revealed to us both that night that this was the person we were to marry. We have now been married for 16 years and have two awesome boys — Joshua and Jared.

After real estate, I began selling color printers. God would also use this job in my life. During my lunch breaks, I taught myself graphic design on the Macintosh. I learned Photoshop, Illustrator, and Quark. One of my more “colorful” clients was Marlon Brando. I spent 12 bizarre hours in his mansion on the hill. Several years later, I would get my big break and design artwork for James Cameron’s movie Titanic and the Elvis Presley Cookbook for Graceland.

Whats God's Plan for You?

God has taken me, a party kid at Hollywood and Vine, and revealed some of his plan for me. What is God’s plan for you?

God can change any life no matter how far it has strayed from His plan. Many people are trying to be good enough for God’s free gift. If we have to work for something, it is not free or a gift! Many people will put off a decision for Christ so that they can “clean up their lives first.” Do we need to sponge off before we step into the shower? No!

It takes a humble heart and broken spirit that will take off the pride and false pretenses we have set up, accepting our part in the sin that has brought us here. Then we need to step into the shower of Jesus Christ’s forgiveness and grace. This simple act of saving faith will have the greatest return.

Accepting Christ’s free gift of salvation is the first step. Developing friendships with other believers in a local church and digging into God’s word the Bible is essential.

God is like a master weaver creating an amazing tapestry (or rug). You and I are like the strings God is using in His masterpiece. Perhaps you can see God’s hand at work in your life. Most people call this a coincidence, dumb luck, or a lining up of the stars. I believe in giving God the credit where credit is due.