|NovemberDecember 2008 / Issue No. 44
"Your books have opened my eyes.
You have explained what was otherwise incomprehensible.
Welcome to the Thorburn Addiction Report. Each month, we bring you several sections, including:
1. Top Story of the month
2. Review of the month
3. Dear Doug in which a recent letter to "Dear Annie" or other "help" column is rewritten, with responses given from the unique perspective that alcohol or other drug addiction best explains the misbehaviors described
4. Alcoholic Myth-of-the-Month
5. Alcoholic Antic-of-the-Month, usually where someone deserves the Darwin Award, but lived.
There is something for everyone!
We attempt to post each report to the blog within a day of its arrival in your mailbox. We hope to re-open the blog to your comments by Thanksgiving. Although we have posted little else, depending on time constraints and other factors, I may begin posting a weekly “Dear Doug” column. We’ll be interested in any thoughts you, our loyal readers, may have.
We’ll begin this issue with an idea for which evidence exists, even if absolute proof does not. Regardless, you may be inspired to become far more aware of nearby addicts, which could save your skin.
By the way, call us (800-482-9424) for Xmas deals on books you won’t be able to refuse. (They are also available, of course, at www.amazon.com or www.galtpublishing.com.) They make a terrific gift to teens and anyone thinking about becoming professionally or romantically involved with someone else! (…including other drivers, landlords, tenants, employers, employees, neighbors…)
Order Books Here.
Recession, Unemployment and Alcoholism
The last time we discussed the merely hypothetical, the real estate bubble was unraveling. The August 2007 Top Story, “The Mortgage Mess, the Real Estate Bubble and Alcoholism,” suggested that alcoholism helps to fuel manias, including this latest and greatest one. The ability to lead herds is enhanced by alcoholism because alcoholics are, by their own testimony when in recovery, the world’s greatest salesmen. They have a far greater knack than others for being able to disconnect price and economic reality, particularly when they want you to buy what they sell. Impaired judgment and a sense of invincibility increase risk-taking, upping the odds of criminal behaviors, which include the perpetration of fraudulent get-quick-rich schemes. It amplifies stupid ones such as overspending and falling for those same get-quick-rich schemes. Perversely, it can reinforce creative geniuswhich can be used to devise and sell unstable financial instrumentsand, with the increased leverage encouraged by such concoctions, set the stage for massive instability, which is what a boom and bust are all about.
In his Secret History of Alcoholism, James Graham observed that retired alcoholics can no longer inflate their egos by wielding power over others through their employment. Retirement is often the point at which the addict begins to stave off late-stage alcoholism, before eventually succumbing to it. While not all law enforcers are alcoholics, those that are don’t become so after retirement (as is commonly believed). As early-stage addicts, they inflate their egos by wielding power legallywhich doesn’t appear to be alcoholism. The loss of that status, especially as heroes, eventually leads to the decline in control over the use of the drug resulting in consequential behaviors characteristic of late-stage alcoholism, which almost everyone readily identifies as “alcoholism.”
The key question that needs to be addressed while alcoholics attempt to fend off the late-stages of the disease is what does addiction look like while crossing the threshold between the highly functional early stage and non-functional late stage?
The newly retiredor involuntarily unemployedalcoholic redirects his exertion of power. No longer able to control employees, employers, co-workers, constituents, clients, citizens and customers, he attempts to substitute control in other areas of his life. One such non-work manifestation can be seen in aggressive driving, especially among the newly unemployed.
In Get Out of the Way! How to Identify and Avoid a Driver Under the Influence, I observed that the most aggressive, reckless and inconsiderate driving behaviors seem to occur on Saturday afternoons. I hypothesized that weekend warriors likely begin drinking Friday with the most public misbehaviors occurring the next day (by the time evening rolls around, they tend to stay at whatever bar or party they drive to). By Sunday, they are largely spent and must ready themselves for work the next day. Hangovers are not conducive to driving, so they largely stay home, which could account for the more sedate driving behaviors on Sundays.
What do alcoholics do when they no longer have a job? There’s no reason to sober up, so they are more likely to stay drunk for extended periods. This hypothesis suggests we may find an increasing number of reckless and inconsiderate drivers on Sundays as the economic situation worsens. I’ve begun to see this and am curious if others are witnessing the same phenomenon.
We might also expect greater volatility at home. Yelling and screaming may increase due to “money problems” or “boredom” or he “has nothing else to do,” when in fact such verbal violence against spouse, children and friends are simply power symptoms of alcoholism. While there will likely be countervailing forces at work in regards to divorce (cheaper to live together, particularly if one is unemployed), greater marital strife, including violence, is a predictable result of an increase in unemployment-induced re-channeling of alcoholic power-seeking misbehaviors. Naturally, “financial problems” will be blamed, but we will know the truth.
Attempts to wield power may take form in greater violence outside of the home as well. My friend and publisher of The Elliott Wave Theorist Robert Prechter, Jr. and a subscriber of his, John Whitney, discovered a link between bear markets and an increase in serial and mass murder. Charles Manson and his followers committed their heinous crimes in 1969, which encompassed a bear market in stocks. There were an especially large number of such murders during the 1970s, a decade during which stocks essentially went nowhere. Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy and David Berkowitz went on killing sprees over the course of several years in the middle of that decade. As Whitney wrote on the www.elliottwave.com message board, “Jeffrey Dahmer killed his first victim in 1978 and then lay dormant until 1987 when he began again, only being caught at the tail end of the recession in 1991 as the [1990s] bull market was beginning.” Jim Jones convinced 900 men, women and children to commit Kool-Aid suicide in Jonestown, Guyana, near the end of the stagflation of the 1970s. Every one of these murderers was an alcoholic.
There are no studies to test the idea that violence, absent other factors, increases during difficult financial periods. However, this hypothesis suggests we should be more careful of our security and safety during such timesand an understanding of alcoholism and its signs and symptoms may help to protect us.
|Runners-up for top story of the month:
Brian Nichols, found guilty of murder, armed robbery and kidnapping after launching a courtroom rampage in 2005 that left a judge, a court reporter and two law enforcement officers dead. Nichols was on trial for rape when he broke out of a courthouse holding cell by overpowering a guard and seizing her gun. After committing mayhem in the court he hijacked a car and fled to the apartment of a young woman, Ashley Smith Robinson, forcing himself in at gunpoint. She calmed him down by giving him drugsthe first and only mention of which was in the 14th paragraph of the article reporting the jury’s findingand reading to him from pastor Rick Warren’s A Purpose-Driven Life. She somehow escaped (hey, addicts are good at conning other addicts too) and called 911. Nichols’ insanity defense, based on the delusion that he was leading a “slave rebellion” even though two of his victims were African Americans, failed. By the way, the unnamed drug was crystal methamphetamine, which Robinson, whose story is recounted in the November 2005 TAR under “antic-of-the-month,” swore off. That day, so far, was her bottom.
Music producer Phil Spector, on trialagainfor murdering B-movie actress Lana Clarkson. Prosecutors alleged that certain factors, including “too much alcohol” and “a woman who doesn’t want him” made him reach for his gun. The June 2007 TAR recounted numerous occasions, reported during the first trial, in which the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee brandished a weapon. His defense inexplicably countered with another such instance: being mistaken for the late actor Dudley Moore. Under the “you can’t make this up” category of things alcoholics do, a witness, Dorothy Melvin, told jurors that being confused by several men for the diminutive star of “Arthur” made Spector irate, which caused him to chase them down the street “screaming and yelling” with gun in hand. Melvin, formerly Joan Rivers’ manager, also testified that she kicked Spector out of Rivers’ Christmas party twice and that on both occasions he waved his gun at guests. Oh, but he never shot any of themand, therefore, couldn’t possibly have shot and killed Clarkson….Yeah, right.
Jersey City Councilman Steven Lipski, who “swore off booze” two days after being busted for simple assault for urinating on a crowd at a Washington, D.C. nightclub. Despite the bust, Lipski claimed he had spilled a drink and refused to admit he had relived himself while on the second-floor balcony of the 9:30 Club. Any takers on a bet he’ll be unable to keep his promise for more than a week?
Casey Anthony, 22, whose daughter Caylee was last seen June 16 and reported missing July 15, charged with first-degree murder. I usually ignore stories highlighted on the “Nancy Grace” show night after night, but this finally caught my attention when tests revealed that a decomposing body had been in the trunk of Casey’s car, with high levels of chloroform found on the trunk’s carpet. Investigators found evidence on Casey’s computer that she had visited sites explaining how to make chloroform. Numerous reports of Casey “partying” since Caylee’s disappearance have surfaced, along with a string of lies and arrests for forgery and theft. The story of Casey Anthony’s hard partying after her child’s disappearance is likely a tragic example of the truism that there is no way to predict how seemingly bizarre the behaviors of a practicing addict will become, or when.
Skylar Deleon, 29, convicted in the gruesome murders of Tom and Jackie Hawks, who thought they were dealing with a prospective buyer of their yacht when they took Deleon and his pregnant wife Jennifer on a cruise to show the vessel in 2004. After being forced to sign over ownership of the boat, the Hawks were tied to an anchor and tossed overboard somewhere between Long Beach Harbor and Catalina Island off the coast of Southern California. While Deleon’s ex-friends and family testified that Skylar did not “abuse” alcohol or other drugs, there’s little question that his behaviors were addiction-related. His father abused him, left his mother when he was five and was sentenced to three years in federal prison for selling cocaine when Skylar was nine or ten. His mother and step-mother testified that they “abused” alcohol and other drugs. As I wrote to the Hawks’ son Ryan, rare though it may be, if Skylar really wasn’t an addict he wouldn’t be the only son of one whose behavioral response to the alcoholic abuser in his life was murder. According to James Graham in The Secret History of Alcoholism, Albert De Salvo, better known as the Boston Strangler, and James Earl Ray, confessed assassin of Martin Luther King, were not alcoholics. However, their fathers were extremely abusive ones. As I said to Ryan, I often prove addiction to a psychotropic drug when journalists or historians don’t even consider the possibility. It took five days and a dozen articles after the anthrax killer Bruce Ivins’ suicide before I had any proof of alcoholism (the story of which is recounted in the August 2008 TAR. I told Ryan that while psychotropic drug addiction explains only 80-90% of such tragedies, he should keep looking. After all, Adolf Hitler’s addiction to amphetamines wasn’t even suspected until some three decades after his suicide.
Former United Capital Markets hedge-fund manager John Devaney, whose $600 million fund went belly-up earlier this year after he made a big wrong-way bet, began to rant on why the markets were wrong and he was right at an annual conference for the asset-backed securities industry. The audience booed and the microphone was taken from him. That night he hosted an invitation-only party on board his mother’s 125-foot yacht, featuring plenty of free drinks. While he is no longer seen on his own 124-foot yacht and Sikorsky helicopter, his taste for the high life is still evidentas are indications that alcoholism might explain his “I am God” attitude.
Alcoholic victims of the month:
“American Idol” star Jennifer Hudson’s mother Darnell Donerson, brother Jason Hudson and nephew Julian King, who are believed to have been murdered by William Balfour, the estranged husband of Jennifer’s sister, Julia Hudson. Balfour, who was on parole since May 2006 after serving seven years on charges of attempted murder and carjacking, was kicked out of Julia’s home in May because of alleged drug dealing. Furious, he vowed to Julia that he’d kill her and the rest of the family if she “didn’t stop messin’ in his life.” He threatened to kidnap Julia’s son Julian and kill him. While it’s true that we generally shouldn’t believe addicts, there is one exception: if they threaten you, believe them. The Hudson family erred in failing to take Balfour’s threats seriously and several have tragically paid for it with their lives.
The constituents of Florida’s 16th congressional district suffered under former Congressman Mark Foley, whose travails, discussed in the November 2006 TAR, were a prime example of the fact that addicts have an impact way out of proportion to their numbers. The constituents’ suffering has continued under Congressman Tim Mahoney, who fired a staffer, Patricia Allen, after allegedly paying her $121,000 in hush money. He is heard on an audiotape telling Allen, “You’re fired,” and then threatening her with, “If I find out you say anything else, you won’t get your last paycheck.” He tells her, “The only person that matters is: guess who? Me.” Yup, tell that to your wife and kids, Mr. Mahoney. Oh, and current and former aides say that he was having yet another extramarital affair with a county official during the Allen affair while trying to secure the other woman a $3.4 million federal grant. Now we know what “pork” is.
Disenablers of the month:
Casey Anthony’s father, George Anthony, who has reportedly admitted to police having grave doubts about Casey’s innocence over the disappearance of his granddaughter Caylee. He seems shaken over the fact that he has caught his daughter in lies that border on the delusional, including her telling a friend her father had suffered a stroke, was divorcing his wife Cindy and was turning over their home to Casey. Armed with fabricated work sheets, phony emails and dummied-up date books, Casey convinced her parents she was an event planner at Universal Studios, when in fact she hadn’t worked in two years.
LaVelda Conrad’s daughters, Kaja, 25, Camille, 23 and Chelsea, 21, who reported LaVelda for cocaine possession to authorities, which resulted in a photo-op for the 48-year-old. “All my life,” the 30-year wife of “Wild Wild West” star Robert Conrad, 79, told reporters, “I’d prided myself on an idealized self-image as a loving wife and devoted mother. But looking at that police photo made me realize that I’m something more…I’m also an addict.” She credits the mug shot in the September 29 issue of The National Enquirer for having broken the “denial” to her addiction. As an aside, note the age difference. The Conrad's married when he was 49 and she was 18. “Look at the handsome, wealthy, older hunk I got” may have been running through the young alcoholic mind of LaVelda Conrad for decades. “Check out the hot young babe I got my hands on” may have been in Robert Conrad’s subconscious alcoholic thoughts for much of that time as well. He was sentenced to six months of house arrest and five years probation after a conviction for crossing the center median and slamming head-on into another vehicle while under the influence in 2003, resulting in serious injuries to both him and the driver of the other car. His blood alcohol level (BAL) was .22 per centthe equivalent of 14 shots of 80-proof liquor in four hours for a 200-pounder. A BAL of over .15 per cent while functional enough to do much more than sit upright is considered by most addiction experts to be excellent evidence of alcoholism.
Sometimes, it takes an addict:
DeWayne McKinney, 47, killed when he crashed his moped into a bus stop sign and utility pole in Hawaii with a BAL of .22 per cent. McKinney had been released from incarceration in 2000 after being wrongly convicted of a 1980 robbery-murder at a Burger King in Orange, California and, amazingly, expressed no anger or bitterness. Instead, he spoke at churches about the faith that carried him through his years in prison and even met the judge who sentenced him and the prosecutor in the case, accepting an apology and a hug from the judge and endorsing the reelection campaign of the prosecutor. He won a $1 million settlement in 2002 and parlayed it into a multimillion dollar ATM business on the Hawaiian Islands. Unfortunately, McKinney, even if he didn’t commit the crime, was an addict. He apparently relapsed somewhere along the wayhe had divorced his wife and was seen drinking heavily at a recent public event in Los Angeles. A plausible reason for the relapse can be found below under “Myth of the Month.”
Note to family, friends and fans of the above: the benefit of the doubt is given by assuming alcoholism (they are either idiots and fundamentally rotten, or they are alcoholic/other drug addictswhich would explain the misbehaviors). If alcoholic, there is zero chance that behaviors, in the long run, will improve without sobriety. An essential prerequisite to sobriety is the cessation of enabling, allowing pain and crises to build. Thus far, many have done everything they can to protect the addict from the requisite pain, making these news events possible. The cure for alcoholism, consequential bad behaviors and, ultimately, tragedy, is simple: stop protecting the addict from the logical consequences of misbehaviors and, where possible, proactively intervene.
Rolling Stone Magazine, with a focus on a piece by David Lipsky on writer David Foster Wallace
Rolling Stone, which is mostly a pseudo-liberal mouthpiece (spoken by a practically life-long libertarian with no affinity for either so-called liberals or conservatives or their political parties), occasionally has an article that makes a subscription worthwhile for the addiction-aware. Its recent expose of Senator John McCain’s troubled past shed light on behavioral indications of alcoholism that couldn’t be found elsewhere in concise format (even if we still can’t be sure whether the behaviors are best explained by his own alcoholism or psychological, emotional and intellectual abandonment by his alcoholic father). Along similar lines, I’d read a number of obituaries on writer David Foster Wallace mentioning his struggle with depression, but never alluding to what turns out to have been long-standing addictive use of psychotropic drugs.
Wallace, author of Infinite Jest, other books and numerous magazine articles, committed suicide September 12. I didn’t write a timely obituary because I found nothing suggesting that drugs played a role and everything pointing to his well-publicized depression. However, the October 30 issue of Rolling Stone all but removes any doubt that Wallace was a psychotropic drug addict and, therefore, that his suicide might have been drug related.
He was, in my mind, “under watch,” where we place those with behavioral indications to which 80% odds of addiction can be ascribed, but in whom we lack definitive proof of addictive use. Misbehaviors relating to a cover story he wrote for The Atlantic about his two months of “shadowing” radio talk show host John Ziegler suggested alcoholism. First, the piece ran almost a year after his last contact with Ziegler, which made much of what was referenced quite dated. Addicts often are notoriously late in much of what they do. Second, according to Ziegler, numerous details in the story were either misleading or flat-out wrong, including several about the subject of the article in the first paragraph. Third, the article reads like a jigsaw, woefully disorganized. While in many cases this is deemed “stylistic,” bear in mind that writersespecially those who are adulated and rewarded with prizes, including five of eight American writers from the 20th century who won the Nobel Prize in writingoften are alcoholics. Such disorganization is frequently a clue to a mind that has been messed up by long-standing addiction. In addition, his refusal to come on the air with Ziegler after the article ran, considering Ziegler gave him access to two months of his time, is highly suggestive of a form of alcoholic betrayal.
Wallace’s behaviors changed markedly about the time he "started to smoke a lot of pot," at age 15 or 16. David Lipsky in his Rolling Stone article mentions several bizarre episodes, including a desire to paint his bedroom black and a refusal to attend his sister's birthday party after asking his parents, "Why would I want to celebrate her birthday?" Bizarre behaviors such as these, even in adolescence, are often explained by alcohol and other-drug addiction.
Wallace may have been misdiagnosed early on as clinically depressed. Alternatively, an accurate secondary diagnosis of depression was made while a primary diagnosis of alcoholism could have been missed. Alcoholics are frequently misdiagnosed with personality disorders. As evidence in Drunks, Drugs & Debits: How to Recognize Addicts and Avoid Financial Abuse shows, about 80% of those identified as having such disorders cannot so diagnosed after a few years of sobriety. Other times, alcoholism triggers a disorder, as it seems to have done in the case of Patti Duke, who was fed Bloody Marys by her obviously alcoholic business managers at age 13 or 14. She experienced her first bipolar episode at age 19. She admits later in her autobiography that she was stinking drunk for weeks at a time in her 20s.
Recovering alcoholics tell us they stopped growing emotionally the day they triggered alcoholism, usually about age 14. One of the great behavioral clues to addiction is, therefore, stunted emotional growth. Wallace's editor, Gerry Howard, witnessed "David's emotional life [lagging] far behind his mental life." You just don't say that about someone unless it's a serious problem, and it’s usually not such a problem absent psychotropic drug addiction.
Wallace’s studies at Harvard were described as a "substance marathon: drinking, parties, drugs." His friend, Mark Costello, watched him "hanging out with women who were pretty heavily into drugs" while he drank himself "blotto." Such descriptions provide practically irrefutable evidence of addiction.
Lipsky claims that Wallace "wouldn't drink for the rest of his life" after being prescribed Nardil for his depression, apparently sometime around 1989. However, even if true, he didn’t stop his other drug use. In the summer of 1993 he was on the "precipice of rehab" due to what Lipsky implies were numerous "stoner afternoons."
The article continues to describe erratic behaviors typical of alcohol and other-drug addicts, including engagements, disengagements and announcements of impending marriagewhich never occurredin the late 1990s. His marriage to Karen Green seems to have put him on good behavior for most of the last six years of his life. B.D. Hyman describes such a period in the life of her mother, actress Bette Davis, in her biography My Mother's Keeper, during which time life was so boring there was nothing to report except for the fact she was very involved in a romance. When courting, addicts can be incredibly well-controlled in their use and even, for a time, behaviors. Until they're in recovery, they find other outlets for alcoholism-induced egomania, even if it's only occasional. If Wallace never went through a 12-step or similar programwhich appears to be the casehe may have become abstinent without deflating his inordinately large sense of self-importance. In that case, he might have continued to take opportunities to inflate his bruised ego whenever he felt it safe to do so, as he appears to have done with John Ziegler at his expense.
Towards the end, Wallace dropped 70 pounds, grew his hair long again and was described as having a "terrified, terribly sad" look in his eyes. He may have been messed up by tapering off the anti-depressants, but he may also have been hiding a re-ignited drug use. Rolling Stone is to be commended for publishing the truth about David Foster Wallace, even if the author seems to have failed to recognize the significance of Wallace’s continuing drug use after 1989.
We live in a nice neighborhood and are immediately adjacent to a community park. Once a year, on “community day” at the park featuring rides for children, ethnic food and fireworks, we open our home to family, friends and neighbors. We provide food and refreshments, including some adult beverages.
Each year, one of the neighbors, John, tries to set a new personal drinking record. He begins drinking early in the day (starting with his own bottle) and by afternoon he is slurring and staggering. He openly pops prescription pills with the booze. He eventually embarrasses everyone by becoming rude, obnoxious and obscene. We’ve asked John to behave, but to no avail. We think we’ll never hear the end of it from all the other attendees if we un-invite him to the next party.
This one drunk out of 50 has caused us to rethink our hospitality. We don’t want to punish the other 49 people and go away for the weekend in future years, but we’re pondering the idea. What do you think?
Party animal’s victim
. . . .
Other columnists might correctly suggest that you stop inviting John. But they’d add that if you don’t want to do that, assign someone to baby-sit and take John home when he becomes obnoxious. They might also suggest that you talk to John about the problem when he is sober.
Other columnists do not understand, as pointed out on countless occasions (including my discussion of comedian Phil Hartmann’s murder by his wife Brynn in Drunks, Drugs & Debits), that we cannot predict how destructive the behaviors of a practicing alcoholic may become, or when. You risk a heavy scene at the party by attempting to remove him. You may even risk legal liability resulting from his actions while on your property. He should, instead, be un-invited.
Moreover, such columnists fail to grasp that the defenses of the practicing alcoholic, even when the blood alcohol level is temporarily at zero, will generally overwhelm any one person’s attempt to discuss the problem rationally. Do not attempt this on your own. Instead, suggest to his family that they stage a formal professionally-led interventionand give each of them a copy of Drunks, Drugs & Debits, so they can begin the process of uncompromising disenabling with a clear conscience.
(Source for story idea: Annie’s Mailbox, October 4, 2008.)
“Considering the horrors McKinney endured in prison…
it’s not surprising that he turned to alcohol.”
So said Nancy Clark, an Orange County woman who runs treatment programs for recovering addicts. She had been touched by the story of DeWayne McKinney’s wrongful conviction, reported under “sometimes it takes an addict” in the Top Story section, and let him live in an apartment rent-free after his release from prison.
No, Ms. Clarkand you should know better. While stress, including the stress of horrors, can trigger relapses, they do not cause alcoholic biochemistry. Excusing an addict for drinking due to the stresses of life invites a relapse. If we are to reduce its likelihood, the disease must be described as one that causes a loss of control over behaviors as a result of use. The journalist, Stuart Pfeifer, who repeated this drivel, should also be chastised for propagating such fictions. The myth is easily dispelled by asking a simple question: why didn’t most Jews, who endured far greater horrors in Hitler’s Germany, turn into alcoholics? Because they’re not. As evidenced by the fact that his BAL was almost three times the legal limit and he wasn’t on his face but instead riding a moped, McKinney almost certainly had the disease of alcoholism. Because he likely never understood its causebiochemistry, not stressthe odds of relapse were greatly increased. The world will be forever poorer for losing DeWayne McKinney long before his time. While rapidly building an incredibly successful ATM business, he slipped.
Todd Mellon, 34, suffered second-degree burns to his hands, face, legs and neck after attempting, according to Officer Steven Burroughs, to “light a cigarette.” He wrote in his report, “The chemicals in the air exploded, causing all the door windows to blow out.” His friend Brian Kelly, 19, with whom he had been huffing five aerosol cans of computer cleaner, suffered second-degree burns to his chest, neck and face. One of the police officers was taken to a nearby medical center after breathing some of the fumes at the incident scene. Imagine, the fumes, after the windows were blown out, after waiting for police to arrive, were still potent enough to adversely affect the officer.
The huffers win the Antic-of-the-Month award because they could have won the Darwin Award, but lived. Rarely is honorable mention earned, but Serena Sutton-Smith, 54, who burnt to death after refusing to exit her Nova as she sat with her foot flat on the accelerator, deserves this honor. She rammed another car and sat, with a reportedly “furious” expression, revving her engine and spinning her tires, which disintegrated, causing the metal rims to send a shower of sparks into the engine, igniting the brake fluid and setting the car on fire. Nicholas Willmore, who was in his workshop across the street when his mother alerted him to what sounded like an accident, easily opened the driver’s door and told Sutton-Smith, “you’ve got to get out of the car. It’s going to burst into flames.” She replied, “F*** off, just f*** off,” raised her fist at him and slammed the door shut. Willmore moved back a few yards (can you imagine his expression?) as Sutton-Smith continued to gesture in a threatening manner. It turns out she previously worked behind the bar at a British “working men’s club” and had a history of erratic behavior. While the idea that she suffered from bipolar disorder could explain this truly bizarre incident, the possibility that alcoholism triggered her desire for self-immolation should not be discounted. Unfortunately, however, she died and, alcoholic or not, cannot qualify for the Antic-of-the-Month award.
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