by Mister D
You know it’s strange, but I can’t ever remember anything. And I’ve tried every trick in the book to help my memory along…notepads, tape recorders, post it notes, even photos, but nothing seems to do the full trick…so I rely on what little short-term memory I have, friend’s recollections, and if I can find any of the other doo-dads I’ve listed, well I enlist their help, too. It takes a city, people. Therefore please bare with me as I sort my own story out for your pleasure…and, well, mine, too! A Lot can be blamed on my health and drugs…okay, not drugs, for that would make me cool, but old people’s medications for depression, anxiety, thyroid, and other assortments of ailments, but I digress…as Miss M would say. I’m a smorgasbord of human illnesses, but I’m known as a big fighter and survivor. I refuse to let all that conquer me. So on with the story….who made me bring this up? I think it was George Washington and that damn cherry tree’s influence. I cannot tell a lie and I cannot shut up.
Now I have met Bette 4-5 times over the years (not counting Hulaweens), so I thought I would ask if I could meet her the last night of “The Showgirl Must Go On.” Of course, I thought the answer would be “no” since it was the last night, but I was told there would be no problem. Then the week of the show, I got an email from Bette’s people saying it was a problem and we’d have to figure something else out. I said it was okay if it couldn’t happen, but it turned out that Bette wanted to see me…it had been some years since we last talked and we did hit it off quite well. I was ecstatic. The only way to do it was if I came to the show Saturday night as well as Sunday night. Saturday was the last night for guests whether they be Smugs or VIP’s. So I said I would be willing to come Saturday night (twist my arm why don’t you?) by myself and Barry and my friend Becky could do something else. So I threw Barry and my best friend, Becky, under the bus for a Saturday night with Bette Midler. Well, wouldn’t you?
(Becky and Barry before being thrown under the bus)
When we arrived in Vegas, the main trouble I had was keeping my pants up. Many on Facebook already know this story. I’m between waist sizes. Not only did I lose my pants in security at the airport, I also lost them one night at Caesar’s walking to our room while I was carrying two bags. My pants literally fell to the floor and Barry caught the notorious moment on camera for posterity. I have no shame. Here it is:
Most of my trip revolved around Bette, I have to say. I was not a good walker, so Vegas was not for me unless I was drinking a yard of pina coladas or some other fruity drink. I was just so out of shape. But I’m working on that diligently now. One of the first things I did was hit the Bette store. I bought over a hundred dollars worth of stuff even though everything was on clearance. It was just so tempting – Programs, tote bags, hoodies, T[shirts, coffee mugs, etc…and yes I will use every bit of them. Then I picked my ticket up at Will Call and the guy kept going on about how lucky I was. I noticed I was not with the Smugs, but found out I was in the VIP section….whatever that meant. At the time I didn’t know.
Later that Saturday night I felt so alone going to the show, I guess because I was alone. I was escorted to my seat which was about 16 rows back. They call it the director’s row or something because it gives you the best view in the house stagewise….dead center…I mean I could see and hear everything perfectly without straining left or right…it was just awesome. Later Glenn Close and Mitzi Gaynor sat in my row. I said my hello’s quite demurely since I didn’t want to intrude on their privacy too much. But it was neat being in their presence. For once I felt glamorous and yearned for rabbit stew….did I say that? By the way, the programs I bought in the Bette store were free in the concert hall. Why me?
The audience was not at their best that night….no standing ovations, but hearty applause. Bette gave it her all. The only change I had noticed was that she sang “friends” 3 numbers in and had dropped “in the mood” or “stuff like that there.” Anyway, it was a welcomed change. I had always thought “Friends” should have been in the show anyway. At the end of the show, someone was to come get me but nobody came. The usher came and told me I had to leave, but I told him my dilemma and he showed me where the elevators were. Just as I was walking to the elevators the lady who was to get me came and said sorry, but I was last on the list and to please put my VIP tag on. I hate being ostentatious so I had not taped it on me. I was too nervous to unpeel it so 2 Betteheads helped me out….Randy and David, I believe. I also met another Bettehead backstage, John who was very nice, however they got pulled in before I did, so we didn’t get to talk long.
Bette Sussman made her entrance into the Green Room and started talking to Julie Golde who wrote “from a Distance” and was telling her about the surprise guests appearing the next night. Susswoman said to keep it a secret, so then I felt it was my turn to chime in. I said “Thanks for that little tidbit, Bette!” She turned around and saw me and screamed out “Goddammit, Don Bradshaw, you little MF’er, I better not read that in Bootleg Betty tomorrow! How ya doin? Give me a hug! So we hugged one another and told each other how good one another looked and she did look stunning. She always looks good…just a naturally beautiful woman. We talked a little and then Shayna Steele walked in whom I’ve never met…she recognized me and we exchanged pleasantries. She said she’d be seeing a bunch of us the next night at a Bettehead function…so all that was cool. Now she was stunningly beautiful up close. We chatted a little about her CD and then she had to run.
Then it was wait, wait, wait….I watched people have their photos taken with Bette one by one…there must have been 30-40 people back there….including Laker’s and TV star Rick Fox, Eliza Dushku, and Mitzi Gaynor. I don’t know how Bette did it for that long, but she kept her graciousness intact. I figured by the time she got to me, she’d have a temper tantrum. I would!
As my time approached, Bette’s assistant came over and greeted me with a hug and a kiss and Marty Hom the tour manager shook my hand and asked how I’d been doing. He said he expected to hear no bad things on BLB about anything in the Green Room (and yes he was kidding!). Like there was anything bad to report. This is the most professional team in show business. I talked with Jill for a minute about spending too much at the Bette Store, but she was pleased. I was pleased that all the Betteheads T-shirts were almost gone cause those came about because of BLB. Not to mention a few other ideas.
Now it was my time. Marty goes something like here’s your last guest Don Bradshaw and Bette looks at me for a minute and goes to herself….”I know you….Don, Don, Don Bradshaw….DON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Bootleg Betty DON…..it’s been years!” I said “Probably 5 years.” She said, “No, it’s been longer, I remember, more like 6!” I said, “if you say so, it sounds about right to me.” She then asked how I was doing after I told her how much I enjoyed the show and told her how ravishing she looked. Of course, I told her I was fine, but my lips were about to fall off because the desert air was so dry. Then she said, “that’s not what I heard.” Then I said, “Oh, I’m fine” and she then said, “No, your health has been bad, what’s going on?” WELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!! What was I supposed to do???? I told her I had been clinically diagnosed as a major depressive, had high anxiety problems, and fibromyalgia, and was fat. She then told me what a young, good-looking man I was and that I didn’t have to be living so badly….she quoted a little from The “Saga of Baby Divine” (Make your life a rare entertainment) and started in on the virtues of exercise and eating right. Of course, I was hanging on every word she said; she’s my mentor. But I must have started acting like a child and doing that heavy sighing thing and going “I know, I know, I know” like a kid, because she started mimicking me by sighing real loud and jumping back and forth on her tippy toes and shaking her head with her hands limp at the wrist. I just started laughing. She just said I’m giving you good advice and you should listen. I said I would and that she would notice a difference the next time. She said once again that she couldn’t get over how good I looked though…I just needed to lose a little weight. Then it was photo time. Afterwards she asked me about Bootleg Betty and if the kids still loved me? I wasn’t sure what she was talking about, but I said “of course they do, but they love you more” and she smiled! She then asked about my hair and said what a lovely color it was and wanted to know if I bleached it or if it was real? I said, “it’s real…it’s just old man’s white.” She said she just loved it. I told her about our BLB birthday fundraiser and that a memory box was waiting for her when she got back to New York. She was very appreciative of the money the fans mustered up during these hard economic times. It was time to go by then, so we hugged goodbye until the next time. I promised it wouldn’t be such a long interlude.
As I was leaving, it dawned on me that I was Bette’s last official guest. Oh, the pressure! She was Johnny Carson’s, Neil Young was Conan’s, and then there’s ME, and then there’s Me, and then there’s Me (sung like the old Maude theme song). Anyway, I turned around once more to get a glimpse of The Showgirl, but all the lights were off and The Showgirl had been whisked away. The usher beckoned me to follow him back to the elevators so I could leave.
Then I hopped and skipped all the way back to my room. Tomorrow was the last night….a meeting with the Betteheads and The Showgirl finale. Stay tuned for Part II!
*Must credit Eric Kornfeld for that idea!!!!