Bonnie Lynn Fields  (1944-2012)
A third season replacement Mouseketeer, Bonnie had strong dancing and singing skills, but no real experience before joining the show. She became a professional dancer, appearing in Broadway musicals, on television, and in films during the sixties. Later she opened her own dance studio and inspired students with her love of the performing arts.
Born Bonita Lynn Fields in Walterboro, South Carolina, on July 18, 1944 to Beverly and Woodrow Fields, her family moved to Richmond, Indiana when she was barely three months old. It was in Richmond that she took her first dancing lessons at age two. (Her instructor, Marcella Newland, was a former burlesque queen). At age nine her family relocated to Granada Hills, California, where Bonnie took dancing lessons at the DeRea School of Dance, and private singing lessons to develop her coloratura soprano voice.
Bonnie was most proficient at ballet, but was also versed in ballroom, folk, oriental and latin dancing. Surprisingly, she didn't take her first lessons in tap until just six months before auditioning for the Mickey Mouse Club. Bonnie had performed with small groups on local television, and live for charities and the USO, but otherwise had no professional credits.
For the third season, Disney publicity releases announced that Mouseketeer auditions would be held outside of Burbank for the first time, as the show's casting directors felt that they had exhausted the local talent pool. Bonnie, however, auditioned in Burbank to be a Talent Round-Up winner, but so impressed the judges they cast her as a Mouseketeer.
According to a recent interview, Bonnie, who always went by her middle name Lynn, was asked by Walt Disney himself to use her first name on the show. The reason was because there was another new Mouseketeer, a boy, whose first name was Lynn. However, "Bonita" has three syllables, so the diminutive form "Bonnie" was chosen to harmonize better with the show's other two-syllable names.
Bonnie had a quiet on-camera personality that belied her dancing and singing talent. Like the other replacement Mouseketeers she was assigned to the Blue Team and shut out of Roll Call and Alma Mater, those segments having been filmed before they were hired. Because of the third season format change, there was little in the way of new Mouseketeer material to be filmed, and what there was generally featured the Red Team mice as the leads. Bonnie also lost a week's worth of performing time out of her six-month tenure when she was hospitalized for tonsilitis. Not a happy experience for an aspiring young soprano.
Though a couple of the third-season replacements had starring roles in production numbers, Bonnie, for the most part, was used in the background chorus of various skits. This was at least partly due to her height; at twelve she was already taller than Lynn Ready and Don Agrati, the boys closest to her in age. Also, like Sharon Baird, Bonnie was caught in the gender crunch of the third season, where for the first time girls outnumbered boys. Given the emphasis on couples in the choreography and storylines of that year, both girls suffered from a lack of age and/or height appropriate partners.
But Bonnie did get a few opportunities to shine. She performed as a Talent Round-Up Day winner with dancing partner Maxine Grossman (link to YouTube Clip)
, and got to sing a romantic duet with Tommy Cole
in a skit called Summer Camp (link to YouTube Clip)
. She also, along with Karen Pendleton
and Linda Hughes
, was regularly seen introducing recycled first-season skits as Mousekommunication switchboard operators. This was a single-take song, followed by a spoken introduction that rotated among the three girls. Bonnie also had a few scenes, but no lines, in The New Adventures of Spin and Marty
One of her last performances at the Disney Studio was for an episode of Disneyland
called "The Fourth Anniversary Show". She danced and sang with the Red Team, and did a neat soft shoe routine with Lonnie Burr
for Walt Disney. Bonnie has said that Walt Disney was present on the set constantly during the filming of the show. She has very fond memories of him, unlike some of her former colleagues, and told interviewers he was a real "doll". Bonnie also mentioned that besides the filming, the Mouseketeers took part in daily shows at Disneyland, and marched in the parades.
Bonnie's first stint as a Mouseketeer wound-up in the fall of 1957, when the show stopped filming. Like Cheryl Holdridge had done two years before, Bonnie danced later that holiday season with the New York City Ballet's touring production of The Nutcracker at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. She was married to Broadway dancer Marc Maskin, then a member of the national touring company of Gypsy, sometime in 1962, but the marriage appears to have been a brief one.
In the early sixties, Bonnie had an uncredited bit part in Bye-Bye, Birdie (1963), and appeared on episodes of The Red Skeleton Show, The Andy Williams Show, and Dr. Kildare. She both sang and danced in the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera company's production of The Great Waltz during 1965.
Bonnie spent several years performing on Broadway during the mid-sixties. She was a dancer in the short-lived musical Kelly, then had a two-year run in the successful production of Half a Sixpence. In the late sixties Bonnie had an uncredited bit part in Funny Girl (1968). Her willowy good looks got her the role of "Miss France" in Angel In My Pocket (1969), while her dancing skills brought her a bit part in the film version of Sweet Charity (1969). She also appeared on an episode of the television series The Courtship of Eddie's Father.
Bonnie returned to Richmond, Indiana to attend a local business college. She then moved back to Los Angeles where she became business manager of a major commercial real estate & leasing business. In 1980 she appeared on the televised 25th Anniversary show for the Mickey Mouse Club, and from 1981 thru 1985 she took part in the live Mouseketeer Reunion shows at Disneyland. Bonnie married firefighter Rick Elder during April 1989. The couple remained together for a dozen years, but parted when Bonnie had to move away from Southern California.
After many years teaching tap in Santa Monica and Gardena, California, Bonnie returned to Richmond, Indiana to be closer to her ninety-year old mother. She opened the Academy of Tap dance studio in Richmond, and taught students for several years. Later, when Bonnie became ill from throat cancer she chose to keep it to herself. She was nearly alone by this time, with no nearby family. Fortunately she found good samaritans in a neighbor who became her primary caregiver and a former student who kept in contact. The latter also alerted other Mousketeers, who were able to reach out to Bonnie before she passed away on November 17, 2012.