Pictured Above: Albert Bonici with sister Rossana [left] and family friends.
Albert Bonici was an entrepreneur who approached life with zest and vision. This is evidenced in the way he lived and used his business sense to create an environment that caused others to excel in life. He was loved and admired by those closest to him. However, his accomplishments are also due to many folk in the north of Scotland who worked with him towards common goals. As a music and entertainment promoter, he depended on talented and dedicated staff members who were willing to multitask often on short notice, besides a plethora of entertainers hired to bring their musical talents to Elgin and many towns in the surrounding region.
Besides the hired help, Bonici’s family were their to pull their resources as necessary to make the team a success. Here is a basic overview of his family life when Albert was starting out…
Albert Bonici [1920-90] was born in Inverness, Scotland to Giuseppi and Angelina Bonici. His sibling were Rossana, Giulia “Julia”, and Aldolpho. His parents returned to Italy in 1923 and resettled in Elgin, Scotland in 1938 when the war broke out. Aldolpho was killed at 16 during the resistance and the rest of the family established themselves in NE Scotland working in business ventures. Albert’s cousin opened the Park Cafe and Bonici family including Giulia’s husband, John [Ugo] Ruggeri, worked together to grow the restaurant business which included making their own ice cream. Under the guidance of Albert Bonici and Ugo Ruggeri, the family owned several business under LCB Agency and later the P.C. Holding Company.
Albert, who was an intelligent child who inherited his father’s interest in languages, went off to St. Joseph’s College in Dumfries and got a degree in Engineering. Though initially employed as an electrical engineer for some time, Albert returned to Elgin and helped with the family business which expanded into various avenues.
In the early 50’s, Albert helped a friend to raise money by staging music shows and dances. He and his wife Betty loved enjoyed dancing to the big band groups who came to Scotland for gigs. He had a connection with agent Tito Burns of London and brought the Ray Ellington Quartet to NE Scotland. They played in Aberdeen, Elgin, and Forres which was a huge success. This helped to establish himself as a promoter, bringing British and American artists to the small towns across NE Scotland and the Highlands.. He also developed connections with director of a popular music television show, “Oh Boy!” and with Jack Fallon of Cana Variety Agency in London.
By 1959, Albert Bonici began plans for a family owned ballroom as he was renting accommodations at Elgin’s Drill Hall besides a variety of venues in Elgin and through the north of Scotland. His sister Guilia and her husband Ugo Ruggeri moved from London to Elgin in 1959 to help with the family businesses known as the PC Holding Company where Cliff and sister Rosanna Williamson and his parents were involved with family interests. In summer of 1960, Albert opened his dance hall which was connected to the Park Cafe, and called it The Two Red Shoes, after the British film http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Red_Shoes_(1948_film
To work with the structures already in place, the stage area had a distinctive shape, which years later, Ringo Starr complained of, as the bands were not centered stage, though the dancers had no problem seeing. It was not L shaped as has been said. John Ruggeri, who took over his uncle’s role as promoter in 1970 wrote in response to Starr’s comment, “The hall was not L shaped but had a slightly longer wall on one side, you could see the stage in all areas although you may not have been able to see the whole stage if you were standing in the far left hand corner when facing the stage, the “bar” which we called the buffet was upstairs, I think Ringo’s memory is somewhat blurred or mixing the shoes up with another venue they played, as I don’t think anyone was wearing wellies.” Note: It may have been that some came with h as there was snow on the ground, but there was a strict dress code and they were clean-cut kids wanting to meet up and dance…
Bonici, having already established connections in London and throughout Scotland, had regular bookings each and every week until the hall closed as Bonici opened a larger venue at the purchased hall, The Ballerina Ballroom, Nairn, Scotland, in 1970.
Ballerina Ballroom Nairn, Scotland. Purchased by AA Bonici 1970
Founded by AA Bonici LCB 1972 [sold 1991]
Family friend Henry “Harry Robinson” Robertson with one of Albert’s nephews at Eight Acres Hotel
Albert Bonici’s nephew, John Ruggeri, hosting “cosmic sounds” disco from the “Straight Eight” in Eight Acres Hotel.
The hotel’s disco proved to be quite popular with Moray youth. Gordon Bray ,with his “ECOSSE DISCO” photographed in the Straight Eight Disco of The Eight Acres,Gordon started Ecosse Disco while serving in the RAF at Kinloss. “the place use to be packed…indeed happy days.”
Young people around Moray who enjoyed dances at the TWO RED SHOES were attracted to the disco featuring two dj’s,
proved to be another successful business venture until noise complaints to council led to closure of the operation.
Dance floor of Two Red Shoes ballroom founded 1960 by Albert Bonici LCB [sold 2008]
The Park Café was an Bonici family restaurant in 1952 [sold 2007]
In Blue Suede Brogans, Jim Wilkie who had interviewed Albert Bonici for his book, wrote of Albert’s promoting business: