We Wanna Be Friends With Actor and Autism Advocate Mark Gilfix

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Who is Mark Gilfix, you ask? Why, not only is the former actor a voice for Red Bull, the Noe Valley attorney is also an advocate for families of children with special needs. 


Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
I grew up in Palo Alto, went to Stanford, and, after college, I moved to Los Angeles where I got my ideal job at a top tier management consulting firm, the Monitor Group. Eventually, I got tired of the long hours and obsessive business focus. I didn't feel like I was making an impact or growing outside of work, so I took an acting class, and started working pretty regularly as an actor.

I had a lot of fun as an actor. Worked with some amazing people and had amazing experiences. I worked on some iconic shows and for some iconic brands. (This, for example, is me running on the Embarcadero, helping introduce Siri to the world.) Now I make a difference practicing law.

What inspired you to get involved with autistic children?
It's a family legacy. My parents have been involved with the special needs community for over 35 years. One in 68 children are born with autism. There aren't enough resources available for families to deal with this long term issue. This is where I come in. My firm's specialtizes in special needs planning. Best of all, I get to help families directly. It is extremely rewarding. It is the type of thing that I felt was missing in my career before I became an attorney.

My firm is holding a free seminar on special needs trusts—something every family with special needs or autistic kids really must do—in Palo Alto on April 9. If you have an autistic or special needs child, you really should attend.

Tell us more about about being the voice of Red Bull.
Ha! This is the only "acting" I still do while I practice law. I fly down to Los Angeles every couple of months to do this. I'm only the voice and face of Red Bull's internal videos; alas, I don't get to do their cool surfing or extreme sports stuff. 

You worked on The Young and the Restless! Did you get to work with Eileen Davidson (who now stars on Bravo's Real Housewives of Beverly Hills)?

MG: Like much of my television work, I only was on The Young and the Restless for one episode. Didn't get to work with her, but did get to work with some regulars that, much to my surprise, impressed my very small group of friends who actually watch Y&R

What’s your perfect lazy Sunday?
Wake up late. I live in Noe Valley, so I love to head to 24th Street for coffee, a bite to eat, and some people watching. If it's football season, I like to watch some games. If not, I head out for a hike or to the beach to surf or walk around. 

What’s your hands-down favorite thing to eat in the Bay Area?
Something specific to the Bay Area: Crab sandwiches at Fisherman's Wharf.

Where would you go for a night out on the town?
One thing that's so fantastic about the city is that there are so many distinct nightlife areas. I like to change it up. The Mission is full of great bars and cafes and hipsters. North Beach is more old school SF—simultaneously touristy but authentic San Francisco. And the Marina is great if I want to relive my college partying days. 

Favorite Bay Area day trip?
I love to surf (long board or stand up paddle surf) whenever I can. I take a lot of day trips down to Santa Cruz to get out on the water. 

Quick-fire round:

Dolores Park or Golden Gate Park?

Golden gate. 

Bike or Muni?

Muni. (I'm terrified of biking in crazy SF traffic.) 

280 or 101?

280!
Burrito or burger?

Burrito. 
Oakland or Berkeley?

Oakland. (I'm a Stanford guy; I could never choose Berkeley.)

Happy hour or brunch?

Brunch. 

Three words that describe the Bay Area to you?
Unique. Beautiful. Tumultuous.

Families in need of special needs planning can meet Gilfix in person and get his expert legal advice at his free seminar in Palo Alto on April 9, at 2pm and 6pm. Visit gilfix.com for more information.

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