One of the brightest stars in the entertainment firmament of Reno went dark on May 9 when Burt Bonaldi expired.
Burt’s biggest claim to fame came during the latter half of the twentieth century when he and his partner, Ronnie Gaylord, performed as a top lounge act entitled “The Gaylords”. They had a number of top hits such as “The Little Shoemaker”, “Alitalia Airlines” and a number of serious ballads featuring the mellifluous voice of Ronnie.
I first saw The Gaylords performing in the tiny lounge of the Holiday Hotel. They were a gregarious, musical and extremely entertaining lounge act. Over the years, they performed in all sorts of venues. After Ronnie’s untimely death, Burt continued appearing well into his eighties.
I got to know him best at the monthly meetings of the G.O.D. (Good Old Days) Club where he sang the National Anthem and told a number of ribald jokes.
The performance ends and the curtain descends.
Although I had only a nodding acquaintance with Burt for some forty years, I got to know him better when I prevailed upon him to be emcee of a Bill Raggio roast in 2002. The event was staged as a fund-raiser for the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University. A mutual friend, Lee DeLauer, set up the initial meeting at the old Sullivan’s Bar. Burt agreed to perform the chore for a couple of dinner tickets for his family.
From that time on, I saw Burt mostly at the G.O.D. Club and frequent luncheons in the Prospector’s Club rooms along with his long-time pianist, Don Rea, his son Louis and former Harrah’s Entertainment Director Holmes Hendrickson.
Frequently, I would receive missives from Burt about humorous incidents that occurred, chief of which was about when he was discharged from the US Army. On that occasion, Burt had ordered a spiffy tailor-made uniform for his return home. Unfortunately, when the time came, someone pilfered his outfit and he had to resort to a pair of GI fatigues for his homecoming.
Last year, scores of friends and family attended Burt’s 90th birthday party, which was held at the home of his son, Louis.
The last letter I received from Burt was dated April 13 of this year when he was undergoing treatment for various ailments at an assisted living community. It was on that occasion that he forwarded the lyrics posted below.
Perhaps no greater paean to Burt can be delivered as well as the lyrics of the theme song for Don Rickles that Burt’s partner Ronnie wrote:
Laughter for Love, I will trade you one for the other
Laughter for Love, What can you lose?
Some madness of course, And for whatever it’s worth
Whether you like it or not, I’ll give you all that I got.
I’ll trade you sunlight for gold.
One shines as bright as the other.
Love is pure gold
And laughter the sunlight.
This is my life
For all of my life
And you are part of this life I live.
I swear that it’s true.
I love to do what I do.
To share this laughter I give
For just a little love from you.