Bonnie Gilgallon—often known as “Bonnie G.”—has made her presence known in the Coachella Valley for more than 22 years, as a newscaster, singer, actress and writer.
A resident of Cathedral City, Gilgallon was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Maryland. She was a vocal-music major in college, while also taking classes in theater and broadcast journalism. However, she has not yet earned a degree.
“One of these days, I’d like to have the piece of paper,” she says, “but I’ve never not gotten a job because of that.”
She was born into a family that was typical for its time.
“My mom was a really talented person,” she recalls, “but, like many women of her generation, she gave up a singing career when she got married and had three kids. My dad worked with the Navy—that’s why we were in D.C.—and he was very old-fashioned. Mom did things on the side, including starting theater groups, and then she started a tutoring service. She did the English while my dad did the math and science.
“My dad instilled in all of us the importance of a work ethic and being responsible. My younger brother is a lawyer, and my older sister is a Unitarian minister with a Ph.D. In fact, she performed my first two weddings.”
Gilgallon has a wonderful throaty laugh at that.
“I was actually very shy as a kid. I didn’t even start to talk until I was about 2 years old,” she says. “I started piano lessons at 7, and I remember always singing along very quietly, so nobody could hear me. I was always in choir throughout high school, and when my mom was directing shows, we used to go with her. I’d have to say that, from observing my mom, I didn’t want to ever give up my dreams in order to have kids, even though I love kids.
“In high school, I entered talent shows. I knew I liked performing, even though I never thought I’d be like Linda Ronstadt or Barbra Streisand—that’s too much pressure. I always wanted to have a normal life, too.”
Gilgallon began singing professionally at 18, and her jazz/pop singing career continued here in the desert. She has done cabaret shows at many local venues, including Melvyn’s, Backstreet Bistro, AJ’s on the Green, the Indian Wells Resort Hotel and the Palm Desert Country Club. Her first jazz-pop CD, If I Love Again, was released in 2018.
“Right before I walk up to the mic, it feels fabulous and wonderful and exciting—all at the same time,” she says. “I have a variety of nerves, depending on the situation and how familiar I am with the song and with the musicians. It’s like a nervous energy. And then it just comes out. My role model, purely from a vocal point of view, is Linda Eder,” who set records on Star Search and went on to star on Broadway. “She has an amazing voice and presence.”
Gilgallon did traffic reporting in D.C. on a local radio station. Once she relocated to the desert, her then-husband got a job at a local radio station doing sports reporting.
“He suggested they talk to me,” she says. “I read some news stories, and they hired me to do the news. A couple of weeks later, a magazine-type show was in the works, and within a week, I had a weekend show called Desert Scene, interviewing local performers and visiting artists, including locals like Pat Rizzo, Kaye Ballard and Peter Marshall, as well as visiting stars like Debbie Reynolds, Frank Sinatra and Linda Ronstadt. I was at the station for 13 years. Fast-forward to now, and I’m co-hosting a similar two-hour show called Culture Corner on iHub Radio Network.”
Gilgallon also has an acting career. “I was in my mother’s theater group while I was in school,” she says, “and I love being onstage. I get cast in the ‘dumb blonde’ roles, the gal who’s been around the block, a wise-cracking broad.”
In 2017, she received a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars. She has three Broadway World Awards and five Desert Theatre League Awards, and she has hosted the league’s awards gala several times. Gilgallon also writes theater reviews for the Coachella Valley Independent.
Gilgallon coaches actors who want to do voice-over work, or who want to hone their skills at singing and acting.
“Other than when I am performing, I feel most alive when I’m teaching and coaching,” she says. “I’m emulating my parents, who were both teachers, in my own way.”
Gilgallon said performing has helped her conquer her long-standing fear that she wasn’t good enough.
“I’m much less that way than I used to be, and if I were giving a message to my younger self, I’d tell her, ‘You are enough—good enough, smart enough,’” she says. “As Maya Angelou said, you teach people how to treat you, and when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. It bugs me when I see people being condescending to others, or being unfair. I know life isn’t fair, but it still pisses me off. Cruelty of any kind makes me cry, especially toward animals, or anyone without power. And I can’t stand being lied to!
“On the other hand, I laugh easily at silly stuff. Eric (with whom I’ve lived for the past 10 years), he and I laugh a lot; that’s how we’ve gotten through the pandemic. He’s a terrific musician—piano and violin. We work OK together, but we both have our own things going on, and that’s good.
“As for the pandemic, I’m lucky, because my main source of income is my online coaching. I’ve done a few livestreams from our living room, and from Frankie’s Old World Italian Bakery and Supper Club in Cathedral City; they have a back room with a stage. I’ve also been writing a book. I just try to stay creative.”
Gilgallon’s community involvement includes Project Bread for Musicians, an effort through Frankie’s to help out-of-work musicians during the pandemic.
When I ask Gilgallon how she would describe herself, she doesn’t hesitate. “I’m a survivor. And I’d say I have a big heart. I’m always sympathetic toward other people’s troubles, especially those who can come out the other side without bitterness.
“I care less now about what other people think. I’m more comfortable in my own skin. I describe myself as an over-55 goddess!”
And then there’s that throaty laugh.