Achieving four score and ten on terra firma is a great individual accomplishment. Such was the case recently when entertainer Burt Bonaldi celebrated his 90th birthday at the spacious home of his son Dr. Louis Bonaldi.
Some 60 plus of Burt’s closest friends and family attended the event which featured music, delicious food and adult libations. Many of the attendees were other entertainers who Burt had worked with and officials from venues where he had appeared.
Four of Burt’s closest chums, in the persons of U of Nevada AD Emeritus Dick Trachok, former Harrah’s Executive Holmes Hendrickson, radio and TV personality Bob Carrol and the writer were privileged to sit at Burt’s table during the festivities.
My association with Burt goes back many decades. In the Reno of yesteryear, there was a “golden triangle” of entertainment that existed between the Mapes Hotel, Riverside Hotel and the Holiday Hotel.
The Mapes and Riverside boasted large show rooms, intimate lounges and piano bars. The Holiday, which was bereft of a showroom, had the largest lounge setting. It was routine for us PR types to circulate through all the entertainment venues in town to scope out “hot acts” that might be of interest to our bosses.
On one such occasion, I received word that there was an outstanding musical/comedy act that was appearing at the Holiday. Subsequently, I wandered across the river to the Holiday to catch “The Gaylords”. They were comprised of Burt, his partner Ronnie Gaylord, and a backup musician.
The reports that I had heard were understatements as the act featured not only the diverse singing styles of Burt and Ronnie, but lots of original comic jokes and routines. Most songs and skits had been created by the duo, who were masters of delivery. Burt’s deep voice was abetted by Ronnie’s mellifluous crooning. Because of his extra-large peepers, Burt earned the nickname of “banjo eyes”.
Two of their biggest recordings as I recall were “The Little Shoemaker” and “Alitalia Airlines”. In addition to being an A-list performer, Ronnie would compose songs for other entertainers, such as a theme song for comedian Don Rickles.
When Ronnie passed away in 2004, The Gaylords continued with Burt as the featured star who was backed up by his long-time associate Don Rea.
In many of their songs, Burt and Ronnie would sing the lyrics in both Italian and English such as they did in their huge hit “Tell Me Your Mine” which rose to #3 in the charts.
Burt is widely known as a gifted emcee locally and can be heard as the official singer of the national anthem at monthly meetings of G.O.D. (Good Old Days) Club.
I have introduced numerous celebrities over the years, but I have never enjoyed it more than when I worked with Burt on stage at the The Events Network luncheon honoring the Carano family at the Eldorado.
Burt has another local connection in the fact that he played football for the U of Detroit at the same time as Dick Trachok was playing for Nevada. The two teams met on one occasion when both were on the field. Burt still relishes in reminding Dick of the lopsided score by which Detroit won.