From Don, AKA Mister D: I’m Still Here – My Father’s Passing And My Health (Not Required Reading, For Those Interested

Hi Betteheads:

Just wanted to let you know that I haven’t abandoned you or my site or Bette Midler.  It’s just been an awful couple of months that have put me down hard.  As I think I told you my body stopped producing testosterone, but I can’t take testosterone injections because my red blood cell count is too high making my blood very thick. The regular ways of reducing red blood cells haven’t worked on me so I’m starting to see a blood disease doctor to see if they can figure it out,

In the meantime, not having any testosterone in my system has led to certain symptoms that are literally dragging my ass. No testosterone causes, in me at least, extreme fatigue, depression (I already am diagnosed as a major depressive, so this has been bad news. I haven’t had a true episode in years, but now it’s resurfacing. I’ve lost my appetite, so I’m losing weight (which is good) but it’s leaving me extremely weak. I haven’t been able to drive in a couple of months because when I did, I kept nodding off.  So it’s been bad. You know it’s bad when you can’t sit at the computer just to keep up a website that I’ve enjoyed doing almost daily for 15 years. But I felt some energy today to write.

Me Looking Rough

But the most important thing I have to tell you is that my Dad died over Easter Weekend and I wasn’t able to go down and see him before he did. The service is next week, I’ve figured out a way to make it, but my doctors would not like it. I don’t think it’s dangerous because I experimented with it, well, just today. It’s doubling up on my ADD medicine which I can do for at least a couple of days. My partner will be driving. Well, I’ve always been very open.

I had a very strained relationship with my father, up until he got sick a few years back with Lewey Body Dementia. It’s the disease that Robin Williams had that made him want to commit suicide.  The transformation of my Dad from a 6’4″ titan to a wasted away elderly man was brutal to watch. And that’s not the worst…to see his mind go was unbelievable and extremely sad. Luckily, we had made peace when he was first diagnosed, so I’m grateful for that, And as he got sicker, any bad feelings just seemed to dissipate into thin air. I can only say it just seemed to be a waste that there was ever that much bitterness. Now that’s all gone, but I think what a waste of valuable time. So it’s been very sad this week. I’m still processing the grief, but he is much better off now.

Dad, I know you never understood my obsession for Bette Midler. Well, I’m not sure I could put in words myself, But thank you for even looking at my site,  And for all you Betteheads, I did turn him. He finally went to a Bette Midler concert with me years back and I watched him transfixed the whole time. It was the Kiss My Brass tour. He finally told me he really did enjoy her and just pretended he didn’t. His favorite movie of hers was For The Boys. It really touched him emotionally. He never told me, but I heard him talking to my mom about what a waste some of the wars were. He was particularly angry at the Vietnam War scene. He was a Sergeant at one time in the army.

Here is a post my brother wrote about my Dad that I think captured him very well. I will add that he and my mom had me at a very young age. My mom, 16, my dad, 17. They made it through college and both became very successful in their respectful careers. A highlight of my Dad’s career was receiving the Malcolm Baldrige Award, given to the businessman with the highest standard for excellency in America. He was President Of Armstrong Floors and Ceilings at the time. There was a banquet in DC and he was given the award by President Bill Clinton:


The world just lost a brilliant, tough and life achieving man! My father, Henry Bradshaw passed away this Saturday, early in the morning. As a friend of mine put it, “It seems fitting, between Good Friday and Easter, they make room for only special people”. Love that!

In the last several years my dad has suffered from dementia…it’s a sad and cruel disease, that seems to go after the intelligent ones. If there was an upside to it…in the last couple of years, I’ve gotten to show my love and love on the man who was too tough for showing emotions…being the 6′ 4″, badass that he was! He fashioned himself a modern day, John Wayne…and was an intimidating sort. I had to developed a 6’5″ ego just to be in the same room.

What my father may have lacked in family, who he loved deeply but couldn’t always show it…he accelerated in achievement. He became the President of Armstrong World Industries and was honored to win the Malcolm Baldrige Award, an award that’s given for the highest standard of excellency…like winning the Grammy or Oscar in the business world! He loved, loved his work…and was instrumental in making Armstrong, global! Unlike most people, work was his happy place.

He went comfortably into the night…but not after a good fight. God’s presence was evident …and I know He has a grand assignment for my dad to work on in Heaven.

There’s a line from the movie, Cool Hand Luke, that reminded me of my father. “Hell, he was a natural-born world-shaker”!!!

I love you, dad and you’ll never be forgotten!!! Rest in Peace…Woody

My brother and my dad.

I know I was a hard child for a younger father, a man’s man, to raise. I was just naturally different and didn’t know. I believe, and I’ve heard them say, to different degrees, they didn’t care that I was gay. It didn’t make them love me less, but they were scared of the consequences and how much my life could be affected from it. My mother embraced it, but my dad felt I had to be toughened up to fight the world’s challenges. In retrospect, I see that he was right. I didn’t listen to him and I was as stubborn as him. I was proudly open in every job I started in the late 70’s, but it proved to be a detriment in the long run. Maybe the 70’s was too early to have a chip on my shoulder and I should have played the game, but I had an instinctual need to be honest and that just doesn’t play to0 well in business or the corporate world. It eats you up alive, It was in those times, I hated to admit my dad was right. I was finally able to tell him that, but at that time he said he was proud of me for standing my ground. That meant the world to me, to finally hear those words.

Looking back, I do remember my dad in his early 20’s giving in to take me to see Sleeping Beauty at every theater that I recognized the lettering on the marquee. I would cry and cry for someone to take me to see it everytime. My mom was sick of taking me. Sick of reading the bedtime story. I still have no idea why I was obsessed with it. I had paper dolls and lunchboxes of it…those chlorophorm things…lol And I remember my dad taking me to see some of the later screenings of it just to get me to go to sleep. Of course, I had to endure him taking me to John Wayne movies until eventually I wouldn’t go to any movies that had horses in them, but he still tried. I had to go to the early Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns where he had no dialogue at all, however I was intrigued with him but was too young to know why. As I grew up I knew why. Same went for others he liked at the time like Burt Reynolds. That Cosmo Centerfold! He took me to “Hawaii”, the movie before I knew about Bette Midler and I was horrified at it.  Too violent for my age and much too long. Eventually, we stopped going to the movies all together and as I grew and he got older the divide kept widening. We just didn’t understand each other. And we grew apart and had horrible fights. I blame myself now as much as I blame him. All that was probably needed was a good mediator. But we just don’t think of things like that.

In later years he became a little softer. He really liked my partner, Barry of 34 years. Barry was easier for him to talk to, He was raised more like other boys and had a tendency towards science and computers, was able to climb the corporate ladder, knew how to fix things, etc. so that helped. Eventually my dad and I went from a tumultuous relationship to that of acceptance and love, so I’m very lucky in that regard.

He did like to hear me play and sing the piano. He always asked me to play “Hello In There” but he would never face my way. He always had his back to me. My mom eventually told me that he cried listening to me play and sing it. I never said anything. But he was the type from a generation where men didn’t show their emotions. I sure did…lol But his most favorite song was the only song I ever wrote called ‘Do You Wanna Hear A Joke” It was a crowd pleaser at some of the elaborate parties they held. So that made him happy.

He always told me I was too oversensitive for this world, something that I heard repeatedly throughout my life from counselors to psychiatrists. He told me and they told me I needed to toughen up but I was too prideful to listen and frankly I didn’t know how. Nobody showed me how to change. One of the last things I told my dad when he was sick that he was right and I should have listened more. He was just trying to protect me, but the execution of his motive was done wrong. I still don’t know what would have been the right way. I’ve finally accepted I’m not going to change, Like Bette’s one beat character says, Why Bother? In the end we were both able to tell each other I love you and a beautiful peace seemed to settle and wrap itself around us.

I just want to end by telling my dad that I love him and that I will miss him. I wish we had had more opportunities to talk like we did at the end. If you have anything that remotely sounds familiar within your family, it’s never too late to reach out. I think you’ll be glad you did. The peace that comes over you is warm, freeing, and satisfying, You feel like you can move forward.

I know this was rambly, but I write how I speak. No re-edits or anything, Maybe I should, but I like to get the rawness on paper or post. I’m writing exactly how I feel and what memories are coming to life at the time. I don’t even know If this is appropriate, but I don’t care. It feels appropriate to me so nobody was going to stop me.

For those of you, who read it to the end, thank you, For those who didn’t, I quite understand. What does this have to do with Bette Midler? Nothing. But I bet she’d understand.

Love, Don’


PS: In the end, I didn’t have a successful life in the way our culture defines it, but I always seemed to live it the way I wanted. My three main dreams came to fruition; one in my 20’s, one in my 20[‘s and 30’s and one in my 50’s and carrying over into my 60’s. Not many people get to achieve even one of their dreams. So I don’t compare myself to others anymore. I just guage myself by am I living the way I want. And the answer is yes. D0 I want more? Sometimes, but our culture always tries to make like we’re lacking something. A big cure for that is turning off the TV and reading. Bette was right. We are inundated by propaganda that promotes fear, division, and lacking. Once you figure out what to do, a lot of your stress will go away, Then do what you want to do. You’ll have more time.


PSS: There’s always a PS my darlings. I went to the hematologist yesterday for them to draw blood and by the time the doctor came to see me they had my results and I’m ok as far as red blood cell count being back to normal so I can start taking my testosterone injections. They’re not quite sure how I did it, but I do. My blood wasn’t getting enough oxygen. When that happens your RBC count increases so they reduce your injection dosage. If that doesn’t work, they send you to a phlebotomist who knows how to drain excess blood cells out of your system. Usually that works and you can go back to regular injections. Well, when they did that to me, my blood cells shot up more. What they didn’t tell me that that is a usual sign that you have some kind of blood cancer that I don’t remember how to pronounce it. I already knew that because my nurse practioner sounded panicked when she told me I had to see a hematologist. So I looked it up, saw that, and became very anxious. They had been telling me for a couple of years to drink 8 glasses of water but I had ignored them. SO I kept myself hydrated. I also read about sleep apnea being a problem so I adjusted Sthe way I slept. Plus I lost 25 pounds. So all those reasons could have been the cause. Anyway, my bloodwork is fine and I can start taking injections when I get back from a memorial for my dad next week. I believe he’s getting 3 in different parts of the country, One from Armstrong in Pennsylvania. They said as soons as I start to take the injections it will be about a week before I start feeling better. So thankfully I can end this post on a happy note. Thank you for reading. You don’t have to comment. I just wanted to put this out in the universe and to let you know that everything is okay. I will be posting regularly soon. I will even post stuff I missed even though the news might be outdated.

I love you Dad. You made it in Bootleg Betty finally!!!


Thank you to Nicola for keeping up Facebook for me. You’re an angel and I don’t tell you enough how much I appreciate you. I see sometimes where I have not done right by you and I get so mad at myself for not thinking, I value you. I hope you know that. I promise to try and do better in the future somehow. – Love, Don

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14 thoughts on “From Don, AKA Mister D: I’m Still Here – My Father’s Passing And My Health (Not Required Reading, For Those Interested

  1. Please accept my sincere sympathy, Don.
    I wish you strength and love and good health.

    You were instrumental in pulling me away from a life of isolation circa 2004,
    from a long distance, but very importantly so. I will be forever grateful for that.

    And for all the wonderful posts here, where would we be without you.

    So much love, Jan.

  2. Don, I’m so sorry about your Dad’s passing. Glad to hear of your improving health. Please take care of yourself!

  3. Hello Don,

    So glad you’ve taken the time to write about your personal life, ups and downs, struggles and successes, and your life path and commitments.

    My deepest sympathies on the passing of your father. Very kind of you to share his story! Having followed your column since almost the beginning (Richie B. led me to your page), and also having the good fortune to meet you and Barry in Las Vegas in person, you are like a brother to me.

    I wish you all my best wishes in overcoming your personal health issues. You have a very strong determination, which is your key to success in winning the battle!

    I check bootlegbetty daily, and am very grateful for all of your posts. As we are both huge Bette fans, I’d also like you to know I am among your biggest fans!

    All the best, always,


    1. Thank you Ron! It’s always comforting that I know I will definitely hear from you. It warms my heart. Don xx

  4. Thanks for filling in the blanks. It’s never easy losing a parent but with the extra burdens you’re dealing with, well that makes it even worse.
    Take care of yourself, know that you are loved, and we’ll know that all good things are coming your way.
    I hate it when you’re all nice and stuff btw.

  5. Hi Don,
    Please accept my sincere sympathies on your father passing. You are a wonderful person and deserve much happiness in your life .


  6. Mr. D.,
    What a beautiful tribute to your father; he would be proud. I lost my mother to Alzheimer’s 21 years ago next week. The last years of her life weren’t good, but I did my best to take care of her. Even though you know the end is coming, it hits you hard when it does. Much love and sympathy to you and your family.
    So glad to hear your health is turning around! My 60s have been a bit of a bitch, but I’m truckin’ along with the help of a good man. Hubby and I have been together since 1975; one of our first dates was seeing Bette in person in “Clams.”
    Be well, take care, and bless you!
    Martin in L.A.

    1. Thank you Martin. I know you’ve been around these parts for a long time. Wow 1975. Congrats. I’ve been with mine since 1980!

  7. Don…My heart is heavy for you as you go through this enormous life change. I have lost both my parents and my father, too, suffered from Lewy Body Dementia (underlying his Parkinson’s) so I have some understanding of that. I hope it has helped you to share this with your online Bette Midler family. Your site has been a constant for me, as you know, all these years, and I only wish you much light and laughter in the years ahead. Best, Richard Knight, Jr.

    1. Thank you so much Richard. I know you’ve been with me a long time and I thank you so much for your support and friendship over the years.

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