One of the most long-lasting and talented performers to appear in the Northern Nevada area is celebrating his 90th trip around the sun this July 9.
His name is Burt Bonaldi and he is the comedian/singer of “The Gaylords”. Originally a duo of Bonaldi and Ronnie Gaylord, the latter having passed away far too young, they were a familiar posting on local and regional marquis in the second half of the last century.
Eventually the act changed its name to “Gaylord and Holiday” (Burt’s nom de stage) and continued unabated for many years. Today, Burt is most well-known to locals as the featured singer at the monthly G.O.D. Club meeting.
Additionally, he travels the country with his group performing in many different venues.
While both Burt and Ronnie possessed excellent singing voices that could handle any “straight song” or ballad, they enjoyed their greatest successes when clowning around on such original hits as “Alitalia Airlines”, which was a comedic, slapstick type of tune that gave them the chance to practice many of their famous dialects.
Burt still considers his late partner one of the most talented all-around performers he has ever encountered. “Ronnie could sing beautifully, write lyrics and music with equal ease, play a number of instruments and serve as the ‘straight man’ for me in the comedy numbers,” Burt recently reminisced.
During their long partnership, the two appeared all over the country and were close friends with the other top lounge acts of the time in addition to forming fast friendships with the performers who were appearing in the “Big Rooms”.
Burt’s nickname on the circuit was “Banjo Eyes”, a well-deserved moniker when you see him in person with his large orbs staring at you.
His first personal “connection” with Reno came during his college days when he was a halfback on the University of Detroit team that clobbered the Wolf Pack in a football game in the “Motor City”.
He relishes in reminding retired A.D. Dick Trachok, who played for Nevada in that game, of the score of the encounter.
Happy Birthday, Burt! …
BARRACUDA GOLF TOURNAMENT. The recently completed BGT reminds me of the time when Reno was a hotbed of golf activity. The first event that put Reno on the map was Newt Crumley’s “Mug Hunt”. The celebrity draw of that tournament was a host of Baseball Hall of Famers. They were paired with amateur golfers who were also high-rollers in the casino. This formula was quickly adopted by Harrah’s, who used entertainers as their celebrity draw. Next in line to follow this format was the Mapes Hotel, which featured NFL players as their top attraction. Soon, John Ascuaga’s Nugget joined the trio. Currently all these tourneys have disappeared and have been replaced with the ACC celebrity event…
With the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament in its second week, I recall the day that big time tennis came to Northern Nevada. It was in 1965 at the Tahoe Racquet Club when founder, Peter Paxton, was able to lure the top professionals of that era to compete for the paltry prize money of $1500. In addition to the cash, the players enjoyed a full week of complimentary room, food and booze at Paxton’s Tahoe venue.
One of the most memorable events of that tournament was when Governor Grant Sawyer threw out the first tennis ball. Since Wimbledon was only open to amateurs and was being played at the same time, all of the pros would huddle around a small black-and-white TV to watch the matches. A few years later, the “Open Era” began and the pros were able to compete for far greater prize money. Incidentally, Rod Laver defeated Pancho Gonzales in the finals at Tahoe.