Bonnie was born Bonita Lynn Fields in Walterboro, South Carolina on July 18, 1944. Bonnie’s parents were Beverly and Woodrow Fields. They moved to Richmond, Indiana when she was still a newborn. In Richmond, she took her first dancing lessons when she was two years old. When Bonnie was nine years old, her family moved to Granada Hills, California. Bonnie continued to take dancing lessons there, at the DeRea School of Dance. She also took singing lessons to help develop her natural coloratura soprano singing voice.
Bonnie excelled at ballet but was also skilled at other forms of dancing that were popular at the time. She performed with small groups of children on local TV, and also live at charity events and for the USO, but did not have any actual professional credits. She began taking tap dancing lessons as an older child, long after she was proficient at other styles of dance. Six months after beginning tap lessons, the Disney Company announced that they would be having auditions for new Mouseketeers for the third season of The Mickey Mouse Club.
The show bosses felt like they already employed most of the local child talent pool, so they auditioned outside of Burbank, California for the first time. Bonnie auditioned to be a Talent Round-Up winner. The casting directors were so impressed with her that they made her a Mouseketeer.
Bonnie had, until that time, went by her middle name of Lynn. In casting her, there was an issue with that, because there was already a boy Mouseketeer on the show named Lynn. Walt Disney asked her to shorten her first name of Bonita to Bonnie, and to go by that on the show, as the two-syllable name Bonnie fit in better with the other two-syllable named cast members.
Bonnie’s persona on camera was a quiet one that hid her true talent and dancing and singing. Just like the other kids cast as replacement Mouseketeers for the third season, she was assigned to the Blue Team, which performed secondary parts on the show to the members of the Red Team. Also, because the Roll Call and Alma Mater segments that opened and closed each show had already been filmed before she was cast, she was not included in those.
In fact, because of the format change of the show in the third season, there wasn’t much in the way of new material for Bonnie to film. Any of the scant new segments that were filmed usually featured members of the Red Team. Bonnie was used mostly in the background chorus of skits. Part of this was because of the change in format of the show, and some of it was because of her height. At twelve years old, she was tall for her age, and taller than the two boy Mouseketeers who were closest in age to her. In addition, there were more girls than boys on the show in the third season. Because dance numbers focused on couples, Bonnie (and her fellow tall female cast member, Sharon Baird) did not have many opportunities to couple up and dance on the show.
This is not to say that Bonnie didn’t get to shine on the show at all. She had her special moments where the focus was on her. She performed as a Talent Round-Up Day winner, and also sang a romantic duet song with Tommy Cole in a skit. Also, she was used, along with Karen Pendleton and Linda Hughes, to introduce recycled skits from the first season of the show. Bonnie also had a few scenes (but no lines) in The New Adventures of Spin and Marty, and in the Annette specials.
One of the last performances she gave at Disney Studios was on an episode of Disneyland called “The Fourth Anniversary Show.” On that show, she sang and danced with the Red Team, doing a skilled soft shoe dance with Lonnie Burr. She also performed live with the Mouseketeers at Disneyland, taking part in daily live shows and parades.
After the show wrapped following the third season, Bonnie went on to dance later that year (1957) with the New York City Ballet’s touring production of The Nutcracker at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. She briefly married a Broadway dancer named Marc Maskin in 1962, but the marriage did not last long. Bonnie appeared as a guest on episodes of various talk shows and scripted shows in the 1960s, and also spent several years of that decade performing on Broadway. She also had bit singing and dancing parts in a few musical movies of that decade. Bonnie’s talent made sure that she did not lack for work when she wanted it.
After a fulfilling career in show business in the 1960s, Bonnie went back to Richmond, Indiana to attend a local business college. After graduating, she moved back to Los Angeles, taking up a career as a business manager of a large commercial real estate and leasing company.
Bonnie appeared on TV again in 1980 for the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary reunion show for The Mickey Mouse Club. From 1981 to 1985, she performed in live Mouseketeer reunion shows at Disneyland. She married a firefighter named Rick Elder in 1989 and was married for twelve years, breaking up when Bonnie moved to southern California.
Bonnie taught tap dancing in Santa Monica and Gardena, California for many years, before moving back to Richmond, Indiana to be closer to her ninety-year-old mom. In Richmond, she opened the Academy of Tap Dance and taught there for many years. Later in her life, Bonnie discovered she was suffering from throat cancer, and she kept it to herself for a long time. She was almost all alone in the world at this time, with no family nearby. A neighbor found out what was going on with her, and became her primary caregiver. A former dance student of hers with whom she kept in touch also found out her secret, and that student alerted the other remaining Mouseketeers to what was going on with Bonnie. Those Mouseketeers were able to reach out to Bonnie and let her know they still remembered her and thought fondly of her before Bonnie crossed over to the other side in November of 2012 at sixty-eight years old.