One of the early (and most perennial) JayRob actors was Fred Bonetti, Jr.
Fred made his first appearance in a JayRob production during JayRob’s fourth season, playing supporting roles in “Make a Million,” and in the following play, “Third Best Sport.”
It wasn’t long before Fred’s deep sonorous voice, exceptional enunciation and comic timing opened up a number of major roles the following season, when he took starring roles in both the first two shows and the final two shows of that eight-play season.
Fred continued acting throughout most of the remaining twelve JayRob seasons and with the production company that followed JayRob’s closing, “Stagedoor Comedy Playhouse.”
Fred’s earlier years were spent in a rather privileged family life. Graduating from McClatchy High School in 1952, he spent many of his post high-school summers traveling to Europe and/or Hawaii with his mother (always on major ocean-going ships, including the Queen Elizabeth and the Lurline).
Fred may have inherited some of his fun-loving attitude from his father, who owned and operated the Sacramento Rubber Company. My wife, Jeanne, remembers Fred’s father attending many of Fred’s performances and, promoting some of his company’s products, would throw SRC rubber dollar bills down the front of her dress as she performed house manager duties at JayRob.
When Jeanne and I were married in September, 1961, Fred’s wedding gift to us was a six-pack of Rustoleum spray paint, undoubtedly gleaned from the stock at his father’s store. Despite it’s uniqueness, it was probably one of the most useful gifts we received at the time.
Fred was married once to Barbara Hays and they had two children, a boy, Frederic James Bonetti, III (now referred to as “Trey,” and a girl, Lindsay H. Bonetti.
Barbara had been married previously and had another child, Kristin Faust, by her first marriage who became Fred’s stepdaughter.
Fred and Barbara divorced in March, 1970 and Fred never remarried.
Fred’s openly humorous attitude eventually diminished and approximately a decade after his last acting role, he ended his life at the age of 70, as described in the obituary below, which was published in the Sacramento Bee.
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Fred Bonetti best known for local stage comedies
By Edgar Sanchez — Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PST Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Fred Bonetti, a retired Sacramento actor who specialized in comedic roles at local playhouses, took his own life in his midtown home on Dec. 6, his family said Tuesday. He was 70.
Mr. Bonetti died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his bedroom, the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office confirmed.
His body was found within hours by son Fred “Trey” Bonetti III when he stopped by to drop off medicines.
“My dad had been depressed because of medical problems,” Bonetti said. “He couldn’t function as he had in the past – and that bothered him.”
Though he hadn’t performed in about a decade, Mr. Bonetti had a dramatic flair to the end.
In a farewell note to his family, he wrote:
“My love to you all. The curtain descends. Everything ends. Goodbye, DaDa.”
Mr. Bonetti, who had fought arthritis on and off for the past five years, also left a second note:
“I can no longer go on. There is no ‘on’ to go onto. I’ve lost everything along the way, including my health.
“I REFUSE to linger. Do not be upset. …”
In requesting a news obituary, his family said Mr. Bonetti had entertained many Sacramentans who deserved to know that he’s gone.
“He gave to the community through theater and tried to see people laugh,” his son said.
At the height of his thespian career, Mr. Bonetti was a salesman by day and actor by night.
Starting in the late 1950s, he appeared in three musicals at the Sacramento Music Circus – “Redhead,” “On The Town” and “South Pacific.”
Lasting about 30 years, his acting career later included performances at other local venues, including 47 times – mainly in leads – at the old Stagedoor Comedy Playhouse, previously known as JayRob Playhouse, which closed about five years ago.
But Mr. Bonetti was best known for playing Oscar the slob in several productions of “The Odd Couple.” In it, he performed opposite a finicky housemate named Felix, resulting in waves of laughter.
“Fred was one of the most naturally funny people I’ve ever been around,” said longtime friend Rodger Hoopman, producer and artistic director of the Chautauqua Playhouse in Carmichael.
“He was a master of the slow-take-and-the-reaction kind of comedy,” he said. “He had an innate sense of comic timing.”
A fourth-generation Sacramentan, Fred James Bonetti Jr. was born in 1934. His father was a businessman and member of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors.
After graduating from McClatchy High School in 1952, Mr. Bonetti attended San Jose State College for 2 1/2 years as a speech and drama major.
He then went to the Pasadena Playhouse, where he honed his acting talents for 2 1/2 years.
In 1954, Mr. Bonetti was a non-speaking extra in the prison film, “Riot in Cell Block Eleven.”
In 1962, he married the former Barbara Hays. The couple divorced in 1970.
“Fred had a beautiful voice and enunciation,” said Joyce Kemper, a retired actress who appeared with him in three plays at the JayRob Playhouse in the 1960s. “He was a very good actor.”
Mr. Bonetti, an Army veteran, held a series of day jobs because acting didn’t pay enough, his family said.
He began as a salesman for his father’s company, the Sacramento Rubber Co. The firm sold industrial rubber products, rainwear and sporting goods.
He later worked for almost a decade for Proctor & Gamble before becoming a legislative aide for the California State Assembly Rules Committee.
Born: June 29, 1934
Died: Dec. 6, 2004
Remembered for: Long acting career and love of family.
Survived by: Daughters Kristin Faust of Washington, D.C., and Lindsay Filby of Sacramento; son Frederick “Trey” Bonetti III of Sacramento; and five grandchildren.
Services: Friends are invited to a memorial service at 1 p.m. Dec. 22 at the Land Park Chapel of Harry A. Nauman & Son, 4041 Freeport Blvd., Sacramento. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that any donations be made in his name to the Chautauqua Playhouse, 5325 Engle Road, Carmichael, 95608, or to the Land Park Lions Club Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 231313, Sacramento, 95823.