LOS ANGELES, CA — “Watching Todd [Bridges] experience an emotional breakdown on national television truly pierced my heart,” said veteran actor Grand L. Bush, who portrayed the former child star’s abusive father in the 2000 short film titled “Building Bridges.”
Bush was one of millions who, on April 28, watched talk show host Oprah Winfrey help Bridges confront the phantoms of his past when she asked the troubled actor-turned-book author read aloud painful passages from his newly released book, entitled Killing Willis. It was an emotional twist during daytime television that was raw, unexpected and potentially therapeutic.
Bridges read, in his own words, his haunting experience with a trusted mentor and publicist whom, he revealed, sexually abused him at the formative age of 11. As he began speaking, Bridges’ hands shook. He fought back tears. A knot developed in his throat.
Said Bridges: “He pulled my pants down. He put his mouth on me and I got hard. I didn’t know where to look or how to feel. I squirmed against the back of the seat. I hoped it would be over fast. That’s what happened. I came.”
He added, “As I confessed and I was upset about it, I liked the way that it felt. I didn’t think about whether or not it was wrong.”
Bridges held his head in his hand and started crying as he put the book down and told Winfrey, “I’m past it but it still hurts because it ruined my life. I spent the rest of my time trying to cover up how I felt about it, that pain.”
He then lost his composure.
After a commercial break, Bridges identified his alleged molester as Ronald [Rayton] — a musician-turned-publicist who, Bridges said, tried to take the place of his father. It was Bridges’ mother who saw her son’s behavior toward the publicist turn violent while in the privacy of the Bridges’ home.
Said Bridges: “My mother took me off of him. I think she knew right away what had happened.”
Wielding a knife, Bridges’ mother said she chased the man from their Baldwin Hills home, then phoned her son’s father — who refused to believe their son had been sexually molested.
“That really destroyed me because my father was supposed to be my protector,” said a sobbing Bridges. “He didn’t protect me.”
Before portraying Bridges’ father, Jim, in the film “Building Bridges,” Bush said he had never met Bridges’ sire. “Todd told me that his dad was a mean person and as an actor, I had to place myself in that mindset,” said Bush. “At one point, Todd told me that my acting gave him chills because so many deep-seated fears for him re-surfaced. I became his father.
“I think this was Todd’s first attempt at facing one of his more disturbing demons.”
Bush, who first met Bridges on the set of Diff’rent Strokes, added, “I am so proud of the man Todd has become and for successfully making the long journey back from the dark side. Hopefully his revealing book will help many others like him face their demons head on and turn their lives around for the better.”