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Putting Their Money Where His Mouth Is

July 14, 1993|JIM WASHBURN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A while back we ran a story on David, a mono-monikered homeless fellow who could be seen on county street corners in a sunburned vigil with his cryptically Christian signs. The story noted that he didn't have many teeth, scarcely enough to even make a model of Stonehenge.

David, a highly likable, witty, complicated and long-suffering person, was quoted as saying he would nearly be willing to sell his soul for some teeth--this from a man who earnestly believes there is an entity who would buy his soul. It broke his heart that he would be trying to talk to kids about serious matters and they would only be looking at his ruined mouth.

It's usually rewarding to write an article and find that people have read and responded to it. It isn't always the response you'd like, though. David reported that after the story on him ran, the high school kids driving by started shouting "Hey, toothless!" at him.

Fortunately other readers were moved to do something about David's teeth, and today he's sporting a new set of temporary dentures, in the midst of a lengthy procedure to provide him with lasting teeth.

Readers Susan Menning of Costa Mesa and Harlene Goodrich of Long Beach contributed money, and Menning coordinated the effort and has been driving David to the appointments. Asked why, Menning said, "There is so much going on all around us where we can make small gestures that make a difference, instead of waiting for somebody else to do it."

Initial work on David's mouth was done by Dr. David Chung of Irvine, but the bulk of it has been performed by Orange dentist John Stewart, with this motive: "I love doing dentistry, I do it day in and day out, and I feel for these guys who are having a hard time."

Stewart's help was enlisted by Shaun Keating, the crown and bridge manager of Newport Beach's Glidewell Industries, the nation's largest dental lab. He's been providing all the lab work for what otherwise might be a $5,000 project.

Keating said: "A lot of what we do is cosmetic work. We've done a lot of stars and others who are just concerned with their appearance. My wife showed me the article on David, and this guy really needed something just to chew with and to get through life. Everyone should have something as basic as teeth."

On the Tustin corner where he's been hanging his hat until recently, David was experiencing the pleasures and pitfalls of having teeth in his mouth. "I've had to learn to talk all over again," he noted.

While he's enjoying being able to chew food, his main delight in the new choppers is in the effect it may have on his missionary work. "Now they have no excuse not to listen to me," he said.

He wasn't delighted to find me staring at his mouth, and half-jokingly commented, "Before, people were distracted by my lack of teeth. If they're going to be distracted by my having teeth now, I may have to yellow them up or something."

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