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I hurt like hell as I watched my dad drink himself to death...; New Wheel Of Fortune star Bradley tells of family tragedy.

Elly comic Bradley Walsh has revealed the childhood heartache that soured his rise to stardom. The new host of Wheel Of Fortune watched his dad Danny drink and smoke himself to an early grave.

Danny's boozing and gambling also wrecked his marriage and left teenage son Bradley heartbroken.

Now the brash Cockney funnyman, who took over the ITV game show two weeks ago, admits: "The whole affair has left me feeling that I don't want to get married.

"I wouldn't want to go through the kind of pain and suffering that my mother and father went through."

Mum Margaret was a nurse and Danny was a football-mad Arsenal fan whose job was stripping killer blue asbestos from old buildings.

He died three years ago aged only 59 - but amazingly his lungs were clear of asbestos damage.

Bradley, 35, said: "What really killed him was drink and fags.

"He was 5ft 7in tall but weighed 18 stone.

"I remember saying to him many times, `Dad, stop it or you'll be dead in five years' and of course he was. He just told me to shut up."

Bradley, who has had a love affair with a dancer called Donna for the last four years, was 13 when his parents split.

They divorced when he was 16.

The former host of ITV's game show The Midas Touch said: "The break-up was very hard and I lost a lot of confidence.

"I would have liked them to have stayed together but I didn't realise why they were splitting up.

"It wasn't until I was a lot older that I knew why it happened.

"By that time you've seen a similar situation with your friends or relatives."

Margaret brought up Bradley and his younger sister Kerry on her own.

Bradley, who went on to play professional soccer for Brentford until injury cut short a promising career, said: "My mum did a great job.

"I've never been in trouble with the police, never taken any drugs, never smoked - and my sister's the same.

"I don't really think I blamed anyone at the time for the break-up of my parents' marriage.

"But now I do because I understand that drinking and gambling did it."

Danny went to live with HIS parents after the break-up, although he remained friends with Margaret until the day he died.

Bradley said: "My grandmother was taken into hospital after years of suffering from Parkinson's Disease.

"And then, after years of looking after her, my grandfather deteriorated and died within six weeks.

"My father said it was as though his life had been taken away.

"With Nan in hospital and grandad gone, my dad just went downhill.

"Within seven weeks he was dead."

But Bradley grins: "My gran is still alive. She had been ill for years and years and yet she's the only one still alive.

"I lost my other grandmother from a heart attack last November at the age of 85."

Nearly 300 people turned out for his dad's funeral. Bradley said: "He was a marvellous man, no question about it.

"He was very popular, a real clown, a real Jack the Lad."

Bradley, a former Pontin's Bluecoat, usually mentions his parents in his comedy routine.

He said: "There are about ten minutes in my act that are just devoted to my mum - things that she has said to me and the way she acts.

"She's a very aggressive woman - that's where I get my aggression from.

"I attack rather than defend which isn't always the right thing to do.

"It's rubbed off on me, it makes you very cold and hard and cynical. But having been through what she's been through you end up like that anyway.

"I remember the split-up was very painful for my mum and there's no doubt about it. There is a lot of difference between the male and the female treatment in divorce cases.

"A man can just wing it through life but it's a lot different for a woman.

"But despite everything that went on, I had a marvellous childhood - absolutely fantastic."

Bradley, who lives in a modest two-bedroom house in Watford, Herts, is reluctant to talk about his private life.

But despite his fears of marriage, he says that he and Donna, 30, are deeply in love.

He said: "I've been with Donna for about four years and we're very happy. Everything's going very smoothly indeed.

"At the moment we've got too much to do to worry about marriage.

"After four years you're still learning about each other.

"I think it's important that you work on a relationship and Donna works a lot harder than I do.

"I sometimes get too selfish and wrapped up in my own world.

"But you shouldn't have a great thing for yourself. You mustn't think you're the bee's knees because that's when you'll fall off. You mustn't take yourself too seriously and get a big hit for yourself.

"You mustn't hold yourself or your job in too high an esteem and self- importance.

"If you put yourself on too high a pedestal you fall off.

"Hopefully if you do that there'll be someone like Donna to catch you. But one day she may not be there to catch you."

The couple met in a summer show in Torquay. Bradley said: "The great thing about Donna is that she knows the worst thing she could to me would be to put me in a cage.

"I would hate that more than anything. That's why I'm self-employed. I can't take being told what to do."

He acknowledges that showbusiness can put a terrible strain on relationships.

But he adds: "A nightmare would be to have a partner who isn't in showbusiness.

"They would not understand that at the drop of a hat you've got to go and cover for someone - on your birthday or Christmas Day.

"A lot of people may well be star-struck for the first year and then after a year they realise what hard work it is."
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Hill, Patrick
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Jan 19, 1997
Previous Article:THEY DID WHAT!

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