Photos by Halston Bruce.
Donny calls his mustache, "the money maker."
He thinks it's especially cute to have my six year old, Charlie, tug on his mustache, to which Donny boomingly shouts "don't mess with the money maker!" This results in Charlie dissolving into shrill girly giggles (we're working on his macho laugh) and followed by several more rounds of mustache tugging and "money maker" shouting.
Donny's mustache has become such a part of his persona, it's hard to imagine him without it. But he really only grew and cultivated it (not unlike a topiary) in the past five years or so.
I always say that's when he got his swagger. His mustache has in many ways become his own memorable "mark."
As a matter of fact, Donny has always been marked. From birth. It's really kind of biblical.
See that small... okay, crater-sized... dent in Donny's noggin?
Yep. That's where he was "touched in the head."
This is not the result of some sideshow accident, like hammer-juggling or an upside-down straightjacket escape gone bad. Although that really happened, with the straightjacket that is, when a suspension beam he was anchored to in a local dive gave way and he fell at least three feet, hands bound so no breaking the fall, on his freakin' head – surprisingly inflicting no permanent damage to his thick skull.
See, Donny was one of those babies who have a strawberry birthmark, as they're called. No big deal, right? Except...
1.) Donny's was right on the top of his head, and...
2.) like the rest of us, he was seriously bald until he was well into his two's.
Pretty much all of Donny's studio portraits from back in those days involved a well-accessorized cap, jauntily but strategically tilted towards the same side of his head.
We all got used to it, but sometimes it would throw strangers for a loop. Like once a woman outright gasped in line at the grocery store, and asked my dad, who happened to be the one in line with Donny at the time, "what's wrong with him?!" My dad dryly and gravely replied that he was terminally ill and only had a few months to live.
Our dad has never really grown tired of dryly and gravely making extremely inappropriate remarks. And likewise, Donny has no problem making a living getting people to audibly gasp and then ask "what's wrong with him!?"
But really, I can't blame Donny's career path on any childhood struggle or embarrassment. The birthmark was only just a superficial thing, and not even something he had to overcome in the years when superficial things can be so painfully and permanently scarring... the teens.
By the time he was a full-fledged toddler his hair had grown in, the birthmark began to fade, and he could just be a regular boy...
... a regular boy that nobody could ever imagine would make his future "mark" in such a gaspingly and horrifically delightful way. But I like to think when I look at this picture (this series is my all-time favorite of Donny as a child) that he knew. He knew all along.