Nicholas Bonsignore loved the stage. While working as a payroll manager during the week, Bonsignore spent his weekends turning his passion for theater into a part-time gig. For more than 10 years, he would put on Hawaiian luaus — complete with dancers, music and food — at the American Legion, VFW halls and local churches.
Dancers from his production later became the opening act for Bette Midler’s “The Divine Miss M,” which was under the musical direction of Barry Manilow, at the Palace Theatre on Broadway in the 1970s, his son Craig Bonsignore of Manhattan said.
“I guess he had it in him to be a performer because he was extremely funny,” Craig Bonsignore said. “I remember he always made people laugh … He had no background in theatrics or performing, but I could remember as a young boy, he would hide behind the curtains and as the show would start and as the curtains would open up, he would come out and do a leap.”
Bonsignore, a Carle Place resident, died April 10 from COVID-19 just three weeks shy of his 91st birthday.
He passed his love of performing down to Craig, whom he enrolled in ballet at age 5. Bonsignore would scour Backstage, a magazine advertising auditions in the entertainment industry, to find his son’s big break. He helped his son score a role in "Gypsy" with Angela Lansbury on Broadway and a place in the Bolshoi Ballet at Lincoln Center.
“I had a stage dad,” said Craig Bonsignore, who had a 22-year career as a figure skater. “I didn’t think, ‘why is he doing this for me?’ All I know is if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have gotten any of it. He pushed me because he saw it in me … My father gave me all the tools at a young age for the stage presence, to make me something.”
After graduating from Pace University with a degree in bookkeeping, Bonsignore worked at Willoughby’s Camera Emporium, where he met and fell in love with Cynthia, his wife of 65 years.
Craig Bonsignore explained his father and mother had an “endless” kind of love and often found the two holding hands while they watched television. Bonsignore would pull his son aside as his wife cooked and exclaim, “You see that woman? That’s my girlfriend.”
Bonsignore went on to manage payroll for Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital (formerly Beth Israel Hospital) until the late 1970s. He then became a driver for London Towncars of New York, working his way up to running the office until his retirement at age 80.
“He made sure I had everything I needed,” said Craig Bonsignore, who explained Bonsignore also took on a fatherly role to several nieces after their father passed. “He took care of his family. Sometimes, times were tough, but my father was always there.”
“He was a very good man, very generous,” Cynthia Bonsignore added. “He was always very thoughtful. He loved to entertain. We were married for so long … He always made sure we were provided for.”
An avid New York Yankees fan, Bonsignore also had an adoration for Frank Sinatra, his favorite song being “My Way.”
Bonsignore is survived by his wife, Cynthia, sons Brian of Colorado and Craig, as well as two grandchildren and a number of nieces and nephews. Services will be held at a later date at Donohue Cecere Funeral Directors in Westbury.
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