|Subject: Comedian/Singer Burt Holiday (The Gaylords, Gaylord & Holiday)
Dies at 90
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Date Posted: Friday, May 12, 03:38:42pm
Bonaldo (Burt) Americo Bonaldi
July 6, 1926
May 10, 2017
Bonaldo Bonaldi (Burt Holiday, B.A., Bunzo, Papa, Gramps) was considered to be one of the most talented and innovative entertainers of his generation. Born in Detroit Michigan, he started out as an ambitious young athlete at the very strict all boys, St. Joseph's Collegiate High School in Detroit; Bonaldo was noted as being one of the most popular boys in the school because of his ever-present humor and wit. Bonaldo's family who were Italian immigrants, Louis and Geltrude Bonaldi, owned an Italian book and music store (which had the store on the bottom floor and the family living space upstairs). After school and practice for the school teams, Bonaldo would come home and work in the store. It was at the store ( his long-time partner with the Gaylords, Don Rea, said) he learned his love for music because classical Italian music was constantly playing. Louis, Bonaldo's father, realized Bonaldo's acting skills so he had him enroll in an acting school. Bonaldo confessed that he tried to keep those classes a secret from his high school friends so as not to be embarrassed! Soon after, Bonaldo's eventual wife, Maria Urli, suggested that Bonaldo team up with this other guy she knew who had a great voice and did wonderful impersonations. This teaming with Ron Fredianelli (later Ron Gaylord) inspired the birth of the Gaylords.
Performing mostly pantomimes and then adding songs, Burt and Ronnie began to make a name for themselves. They then added Don Rea to the group as a pianist and arranger and their reputation grew throughout Detroit.
Bonaldo had the great idea of finding Italian songs and putting English lyrics to them. In 1952 they recorded "Tell Me Your Mine" and it became an instant hit. This hit was quickly followed by other hits including: "From the Vine Came the Grape" and "The Little Shoemaker." All of those songs became gold records. The Gaylords was the first group in Detroit's history to record a gold record.
Bonaldo served as a Supply Sargent in the United States Army stationed in Puerto Rico toward the end of WWII. He was very proud to serve his Country and was only 19 years old at the time.
Following the war he returned to Detroit, attended the University of Detroit and briefly played on the football team where he again (because of his humor more than his athleticism) became a team favorite. The University of Detroit played the University of Nevada when Dick Trachock was on the team in the same year Bonaldo played.
The Gaylords continued to grow in popularity and eventually became one of the most highly paid and popular groups to play in the Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, and Reno Casino lounges including Harrah's, Caesar's Palace, Sahara, the Nugget in Sparks, Sands, Desert Inn, The Dunes, The Riviera, Tropicana, the Riverside, Mapes and so many others. In fact, they played in Harrah's casinos for 22 years! Burt, along with
Ronnie and Don, recorded well over 250 songs and were equally loved for their unique and original comedy.
In 1963, Bonaldo changed his stage name to Burt Holiday to compliment his partner's stage name Ron Gaylord; together, they became Gaylord and Holiday and continued to perform along with Don Rea as their pianist all over the United State and London. Throughout the 60's and 70's Burt used his humor, wit, and entertaining skill to be invited to perform on such television variety shows as American Bandstand, the Tonight Show, Flip Wilson, Andy Williams Show, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, The Glenn Campbell Show and numerous others. Burt did shows with Don Rickles, Sammy Davis Jr., Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Duke Ellington, Fats Domino, Buddy Hackett, Arthur Godfrey, Maurice Chevalier, Danny Thomas, Dinah Shore, Bill Cosby and so many more. Burt, Ronnie and Don even sang at Frank Sinatra's Palm Springs home for Sinatra's birthday!
Burt, Ronnie and Don created and recorded a number of very successful commercials including:
Detroit's longest running commercial jingle: Roy O'Brien's Ford, as well as Detroit's Dick Scott's Dodge, and the long-running commercial jingle for Boomtown Casino in Verdi, NV for Bob Cashell.
One of Burt's many prized accomplishments is the musical Famigila, about three generations of Italian men in America (the father, his son, and the grandson). Ronnie said he wrote this musical for Burt in which Burt magnificently played the role of the grandfather. Famiglia was successfully performed in many places across the United States.
His partner's son, Ron Gaylord, Jr., often performed with the Gaylords and then always performed with Burt after Ronnie Sr. passed away almost 15 years ago. Ron Gaylord passed away shortly after they got to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City, a life long dream.
Burt's first manager, Jerry Perenchio, remained his life-long friend to the very end. Burt would send him letters and emails and Jerry would send Burt books to read. They would email, talk, and reminisce.
Burt was a friend to many and loved performing the National Anthem at Detroit Lion's Games as well as at the University of Nevada. He was a great emcee for charitable events for the Wolf Pack dinners, the Italian Golf association as well as the Sons of Italy. The Gaylords were one of the top acts at many Italian Festivals all over the country and especially at the Great Italian Festival at The Eldorado Hotel in Reno. In the past few years he has enjoyed singing God Bless America and always telling a joke to open the meeting of the G.O.D Club with his many friends there.
Above and beyond Burt's many accomplishments through-out his life as an entertainer, Don Rea said, that one of the many talents and gifts Burt had was his ability to make everyone he performed for, or came in contact with, feel very comfortable and happy.
With all of his accomplishments in the world of entertainment, his most prized and cherished moments were when he married the love of his life, Maria, who gave him his 5 children, Pamela, Louis, Maria, Lydia & Paul, who he always bragged about because he was so proud of them. His face would light up when he saw or talked about his 12 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren, they were the light of his life. Bonaldo was also dedicated to his Catholic faith and was always active in his parish. Fr. Chuck Durante was his mentor and confidant especially after Maria passed away. Until the day he died, he talked about getting strong enough to go back to Detroit to see his brother and family, whom he loved dearly, and perform just one more time at Andiamo's, Joe Vicari's Supper Club. Now he can perform with many of his friends who have left this world to be in a better place with his wife Mary and his Lord.
Bonaldo was preceded in death by his parents, Louis & Geltrude Bonaldi, his sister Vida Benvenuti and his wife Maria (Mary) Bonaldi. He is survived by his brother Ezio Bonaldi(Diva) Children: Pamela Ricci, (Hugh), Louis Bonaldi, (Tierra), Maria Nelson (Bill), Lydia Aberasturi (Paul), Paul Bonaldi (Jeanette), grandchildren: Antonio Ricci, Angela Sharenbrock (Mike), Nick Bonaldi (Roanna), Andrew Bonaldi (Courtney), Anthony Bonaldi, Madison Bonaldi, Michaela Bonaldi, Bill Nelson (Sam Olson),Edward Nelson(Jen), Louis Aberasturi, Mitchell Bonaldi, Sheena Bonaldi., great-grandchildren: Ella & Amico Ricci, Nathan Nelson, Giovanni Bonaldi, also many loved nieces, nephews and cousins, some still in Italy.
We wish to thank the wonderful staff at the Carson Plaza Retirement Home, Cynthia Reilly, care giver and the care givers at Kindred Home care for all their kindness and caring.
Please join us in the celebration of Bonaldo's life with the Rosary on Tuesday, May 16 at 6pm at Walton's Funeral Home on 875 W. Second St. Funeral Mass at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church on Thursday May 18 at 2pm with a reception immediately following the Mass.
In lieu of Flowers, a donation for scholarships for children of Italian descent may be sent to:
Community Foundation of Western Nevada
Reno Sons of Italy Fund
50 Washington Street
Reno, Nevada 89503
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